If you’re deciding between the MacBook Air and Pro models, the decision is more complicated than ever. For 2013, the Air is more powerful and the Pro is lighter, thereby closing the gap between the two main differences in user preference. For people on the extreme ends of user needs, it’s a no-brainer, but for those in the middle, for people who are starting to use computers in more aspects of their lives, it can be a challenge to prioritize. That’s where the following guide comes into play. The prioritizing has already been done for you. Once you make your choice, check out this course on how to organize your mac to keep your computer clean and easy to use from Day One.
The models in question are the most recent 13” MacBook Air ($1099) and the 13” MacBook Pro with Retina display ($1299). I opted to compare the Retina display version because it’s only a hundred dollars more, weighs a pound less and is a quarter-inch thinner than the non-Retina display version, making it a more suitable competitor with the ultra-light Air.
Light As A Feather
The MacBook Air, with its tapered silhouette, looks like it would be significantly lighter than the MacBook Pro. Truth be told, looks can be deceiving. The new Air weighs three pounds (I know we’ve gotten used to these numbers, but still, let us take a moment and appreciate just how amazing that is). On the other hand, the new 13” Pro weighs just 0.5 pounds more; at 3.46lbs, it’s a full pound lighter than the previous MacBook Pro. If you’re taking your computer on a backpacking trip, sure, half pounds can add up. But if it’s going in the briefcase or backpack with everything else you cram in there, it’s a negligible difference. And here’s the real kicker: while the Air does taper to a super-fine point on the front of the computer, it’s 0.68 inches at its thickest. The MacBook Pro? 0.71 inches. Sure, you don’t have the tapered edge, but consider this: where the Air is 9.0 inches wide, the Pro is 8.6 inches deep; further, the Air is 12.8 inches long, whereas the Pro nudges it out again at 12.4 inches. At this rate, the Air will irrelevant by the next press release.
0.5 Pounds of Power
That extra 0.5 pounds more than makes up for its weight when it comes to power. The Air has a very respectable 1.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, if you opt for it (it comes standard with a 1.3GHz i5). You can surf the web and download video on about fifty web pages before you’re going to run into trouble. Photo and video editing can be done to a lesser degree, but as long as you’re not using the Air for professional, deadline-based editing, you can do almost everything you would ever want to do in your spare time. On the other hand, consider the 2.8 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 of the MacBook Pro. It’s like the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, except the Hare never gets proud and the Tortoise is smoked by a mile. There’s just no competition. Add to this the fact that you can opt for up to 16 GB of memory (the Air tops out at 8 GB), and the performance of the Air become non-competitive.
The MacBook pro is simply one of the most powerful laptops available. The Pro gets an edge up on flash storage, as well: up to 1 TB vs. the 512 GB of the Air. Yes, you have to pay for all these options, but almost nobody buys a base-model computer these days, so options are critical. Once you have your MacBook decked out, boost productivity by learning how to use your Mac to its fullest potential.
Burn Your Retinas Out
We already know who wins this one. The Air has a great display (1440 by 900 pixels), but the Pro is a thing of beauty (2560 by 1600 pixels). Keep in mind, these are both 13” screens. The Pro gets added props because the Retina display actually reduces the weight of the Pro; the non-Retina model is a full pound heavier.
Some of the Retina’s weight is gained back by the 71.8 watt battery of the Pro (the Air, by contrast, has a 54-watt battery). And even with all that extra battery power, the Pro is only good for 9 hours of wireless web use. The Air easily wins this one with up to 12 hours of wireless web use.
Let’s take a look at some of the other differences that don’t get as much media attention. Both the Air and Pro get the best of Apple’s lap-top features, including a backlit keyboard, OS X Mavericks (check out this definitive Mavericks server training guide), an SD card slot, FaceTime HD camera, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and two USB 3 ports. The Pro gets a slight nod because it has an HDMI port (when you need one, you really need one) and two thunderbolt ports to the Air’s one.
Ultimately, it comes down to price and how much you care about weight and power. Let’s look at some realistic prices first. There’s just no way that $1099 price tag on the Air is going to stick. Once we upgrade to the 1.7 GHz i7 processor, 8 GB memory and 256 GB flash storage, we’re looking at a $1549 computer (and that doesn’t include the highly recommended $249 Apple Care Protection plan). On the other hand, if we take our $1299 Retina, upgrade to the 2.8GHz i7 and 16GB memory (it comes standard with 512 GB flash storage, so we’ll sit on that), we’re dealing with a $2199 computer. And again, that does not include Apple Care. Whatever decision you make, get the most out of your MacBook by learning advanced techniques for securing, fixing and administering your new Mac.