Which is better, Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air or 13-inch MacBook Pro?

“Truly, the 13″ MacBook Pro is a pretty silly choice at this point,” The Brooks Review writes.

Reasons the 13″ MacBook Pro is silly:
• Lower screen resolution than the 13″ Air
• To get everyday use performance equal to a MacBook Air you will need the SSD. Making the cheapest 13 Pro option $1449 1
• Disk drives are going the way of pagers — you are buying something you will never use.
• It’s heavy.

The Brooks Review writes, “Here’s the crux of the issue: you are essentially paying a premium for ‘specs’ that you are likely to never use or notice. While at the same time forgoing things that you will notice every time you use the computer (screen resolution and the performance of an SSD).”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

70 Comments

  1. Unless you want a little more performance from a newer and faster i5 and not a several year old dog slow core 2. Or the option of an external screen. Or a DVD drive. Or a 10 gig thunderbolt port. I think he missed a few things !!!

      1. come with a DVD drive, though it can certainly use one that can be provided – for a price.
        The “external display” argument is bogus.
        The newer,faster, i5 … that’s one heck of an argument! Worth a pound or two all by itself.
        The Air is a beefed-up iPad with a bit more power, a slightly larger screen, a keyboard, and OSX. It is clearly differentiated from both the Pro and the iPad offering features one or the other lacks. Figure the feature set you need before making your buying decision … and buy a bit more than you actually “need”.

        1. The point I think OP is making, and you’d know this if you ever tried a MBAir is that despite its slower CPU it *feels* as fast (and sometimes faster) than the faster MBPro because of the SSD. I will be buying one the day an MBAir is released with Thunderbolt!

          1. … iTunes or iChat – or even Pages or Numbers – the SSD will be more noticeable than the slow CPU. But, if I’m using GarageBand or iMovie, the slow CPU will be the biggest factor. Well, unless you count the loss of storage, which could throw a crimp in your creativity.
            As for the higher resolution … my old eyes will never see it. Or, worse, won’t be ABLE to see the smaller text it displays. These are questions best handled by a simple hands-on test with you doing what it is you expect to do and seeing if the results match the hype.

            1. This Article is the DUMBEST most NAIVE post I have every red….

              Things the Article FORGOT and readers who are deciding to get a MBA or MBP should consider.

              First let me debunk everything I see in this beginning statement:
              Reasons the 13″ MacBook Pro is silly:
              • Lower screen resolution than the 13″ Air–SOME PREFER NOT TO HAVE TEXT SO SMALL.
              • To get everyday use performance equal to a MacBook Air you will need the SSD. Making the cheapest 13 Pro option $1449 WHO SAID RENDERING FILES AND FOR SOME IS NOT EVERYDAY USE…STARTING UP THE COMPUTER AND STARTING UP APPS IS NOT AN EVERY MINUTE TASK
              • Disk drives are going the way of pagers — you are buying something you will never use. HOW DOES THIS MAKE THE AIR BETTER… I NEVER THOUGHT THAT HAVING SOMETHING I RARELY USE WAS A BAD THING
              • It’s heavy. USE HAVE TO BE A WEAK PUSSY TO CALL A 4.5 POUND LAPTOP HEAVY

              he also forgot HD webcam…. I use a webcam everyday so having an HD webcam vs. the Macbook Airs VGA webcam would be very noticable

              Also the backlit keys are something I use many nights… something the Macbook Air doesn’t have

              And the i5 i7 performance of the 13″ Macbook Pro IS noticable… Exporting HD video in 2 minutes vs. 30 minutes is ALOT more noticeable than applications starting up 3-5 seconds quicker

    1. Saved $200 on new MacBook Pro. Added 8GB of very fast DDR3 for $80 and a 750GB 7200 RPM WD HD for $110.
      SIMPLE!

      I have SSD but for now would rather keep the DVD, changing the SSD would have been easy. Sine I hav a 64GB 3G iPad I see more usefullness or the money spent this way. The MBP syncs AND CHARGES the iPad at the same time.

      This MBP runs Windows by itself in dual boot (boot camp) and it runs the exact same Windows license from within OSX using Parallels 6. I still use my large screen monitor in the office and all the wireless keyboards and mice. The speed of the faster ram, i5 CPU, and the much faster and larger storage HD make it hard to even want a MBA for the money spent. 128 GB is a joke, I need 512GB or more. I have maxed out the 64 GB on the iPad which is filled with data and used for many computer like tasks.

      Any HDTV will work as an external display of the same or a completely different image.

      There is a ton more but the above helps one to see the advantages I have using this combo of Apple products.

      BTW I used one of my cheap $40 Windows 7 upgrade licenses to make a fresh install in a new Boot Camp by using the install twice trick. I have bought so many copies of XP which will not install in Boot Camp on a 2011 MBP, that trick did not bother me a bit. Apple no longer provides MBP OSX drivers for obsolete Windows, see Apple KB for 2011 details.

      The air might be a good value to someone who didn’t have an iPad.

      I did not want the size and weight of the 15 and 17 MBP.

  2. These are some good arguments for the Air, but not everyone wants higher resolution displays.

    There is no resolution independence in Mac OS X. So, higher resolution displays means smaller text, more eye strain, and a lot of squinting, especially for people without perfect eyesight.

    1. What about concept of “fonts/interface scale”? Obviously, this is not truly vector thing, but rasterised fonts and buttons in bigger scale, but still.

      1. That’s a fine concept, with no practice. Most system text and UI elements have no option of being scaled. Apple certainly has experimented with it, but probably never followed through because scaling UI elements would create layout inconsistencies.

        In iOS, Apple side stepped the whole issue with pixel doubling on retina displays. I think that is the best way to increase resolution. But until Apple can put retina displays on Macs, I think higher resolution displays are more of a shortcoming than a beneficial feature.

        1. If Apple does not want layout mess which Windows (including 7) provides with ability to scale UI, then it is time for them to release Retina-class displays.

          But this depends on the likes of LG Display, and for screen sizes of 17″ and more the resolution is long stuck with not any progress for many years (at least since like 2005 or something).

          Ideally, new displays should support about 260 dpi — similar to the coming iPad Retina — but since the size of the screens are much bigger, it is really hard to mass-produce them cheaply.

          30″ Retina Display would have to have like 6000 x 3800 resolution to keep 260 DPI quality. Even laxer, worse DPI, derived from multiplying standard current resolutions would give 5320×3200.

    2. On the MBP one can zoom the Mac display in with one finger on the control key while using the multi-touch pad with two fingers in an upward swipe, downward swipe to zoom out.

      Much nicer than the Windows 7 zoom feature.

    3. I’m fortunate to have perfect eyesight.
      But I can understand why not everyone wants higher resolution screens.

      However, i just wish Apple gave us the option to choose a higher resolution screen like they do for the 15″ models.

  3. I agree with this, and in fact, I’ll go one step further. I own the 11″ MacBook Air, and it’s far and away the finest Mac laptop I’ve ever used. The SSDs make it blindingly fast at the everyday things we do with our computers (email, Web, most apps). Yes, the spec sheet says it should be pokey and cramped, but in the real world it easily bests machines twice its price.

    The MacBook Pros have become just that – tools for professional videographers/photographers/audio engineers who need the extra peripheral connectivity in a mobile package. For the rest of us, the Airs are exceptional.

      1. This Article is the DUMBEST most NAIVE post I have every red….

        Things the Article FORGOT and readers who are deciding to get a MBA or MBP should consider.

        First let me debunk everything I see in this beginning statement:
        Reasons the 13″ MacBook Pro is silly:
        • Lower screen resolution than the 13″ Air–SOME PREFER NOT TO HAVE TEXT SO SMALL.
        • To get everyday use performance equal to a MacBook Air you will need the SSD. Making the cheapest 13 Pro option $1449 WHO SAID RENDERING FILES AND FOR SOME IS NOT EVERYDAY USE…STARTING UP THE COMPUTER AND STARTING UP APPS IS NOT AN EVERY MINUTE TASK
        • Disk drives are going the way of pagers — you are buying something you will never use. HOW DOES THIS MAKE THE AIR BETTER… I NEVER THOUGHT THAT HAVING SOMETHING I RARELY USE WAS A BAD THING
        • It’s heavy. USE HAVE TO BE A WEAK PUSSY TO CALL A 4.5 POUND LAPTOP HEAVY

        he also forgot HD webcam…. I use a webcam everyday so having an HD webcam vs. the Macbook Airs VGA webcam would be very noticable

        Also the backlit keys are something I use many nights… something the Macbook Air doesn’t have

        And the i5 i7 performance of the 13″ Macbook Pro IS noticable… Exporting HD video in 2 minutes vs. 30 minutes is ALOT more noticeable than applications starting up 3-5 seconds quicker

        1. Funny thing is that there was just some guy named “John” who was making the same exact claims (and misspellings, too!).

          In reading the article in question, the author does have some reasonable points…and more importantly, has been intelligent enough not to box himself in through some paradigm fallacy:

          For example, if you want “Faster”, the same bucks could buy an iMac – – yeah, its a bit heavier, but for someone who doesn’t understand portability comparisons, “Suck It Up”.

          Similarly, boot-up times on a portable computer is by inherent definition expected to be a routine occurrence. But CPU-intensive activity (eg, rendering video) depends very much upon the individual use case.

          And so on.

          FWIW, I am curious as to how one is able to “notice” the difference your own webcam’s resolution being HD when that is actually the outgoing signal that the sender doesn’t really watch.

          -hh

          1. These forums would be better with Disqus..I wrote my comment twice because I did not thing it went through.. So what if I made misspellings, its the comments section NOT a term paper nor a Journal post, But thanks anyways senseless nitpicky grammar police… ANYWAYS.

            Don’t understand why you’re talking about iMacs, but those aren’t the machines being talked about… As for boot up occurrences on a portable machine. That very’s greatly from user to user so how ofter someone boots-up their machine very’s as much as a person’s CPU activity.

            As for the webcam….. obviously you must not talk much to others over the net via facetime, iChat. Skype, Yahoo, etc…. Of course anyone video conferencing with another would be concerned about their image quality coming from their end… plus people use their webcam for other things than chat (Example: Vlogs, Self-Portraits, Photobooth) …

            All I’m saying is this article is downplaying an Apple product that would serve as an incredible sweet spot between power, portability, and price for many buyers out there…

            FTR. Claiming the 13″ Macbook Air is pointless to buy over the other Apple laptop choices IS boxing yourself in through a paradigm fallacy

  4. Tom – agreed that the case is overstated. But I got a 13in Air in Nov after my old MBPro died and I do not find myself missing the features in the new and very cool 13in MBP. I use the Air for all my day-to-day computing needs, including some light statistical data analysis. When i really need heavy-duty crunching i use a MacPro desktop or our university cluster/cloud computer. And I am constantly amazed at the lightness of the Air and the 17-sec boot time. So while it would be a close call if i had to buy something new today, the general point stands that the Air is a very compelling option: sufficient for most users and with some unique advantages.

  5. I think it is not a question of which is a better Mac, it is more of what Mac fits your lifestyle.. Maybe for you the MBA is a better choice because firstly, you own one & secondly, it fits you on how the way you use it. To say that getting a 13″MBP is a silly choice is I would say.. you guess it right – downright silly because every line of Macbooks has their own distinct personality to match different kinds of people..

  6. Interesting article, make you think about your purchasing decisions. That is why I am delaying my upgrade till the new Maxbook air come out later this summer. With the iPad I am even looking at an iMac. Neve though I be buying a desktop again, how things change.

    1. I entirely agree. My 2007 MBP is now used as an under-powered desktop tethered to a 24″ LCD. The iPad has completely eclipsed my need for a laptop. My next Mac will be an iMac. Even the entry-level 2011 iMac is killer.

      1. My sentiments exactly. When the original iBook AirPort were released in ’99 I swore I’d never buy another desktop. Now here I am about to buy an iMac!

  7. I agree that SSD’s are waaaay faster and much preferred (if expensive is no option). But I need my laptop to be full featured. I need to burn DVD’s all the time for work, need external connection to my 52in LCD TV (for Netflix, etc), if I want (or need) to do real audio recording (ProTools) I can (or other high end computer needs like Photoshop).

    For roughly the same $1199 price, I’d rather have the Macbook Pro over the Air.

    If I was rich beyond my dreams, yes I’d have the MBP, the Air, Mac Pro all to use when I needed. Since the only new Mac I have is my laptop, I want/need the full featured Macbook Pro. Heavy? Get over it…. It’s not “that” heavy…

    1. Let’s not forget the Macbook Air does have a super drive.
      It’s an optional USB attachment. People who burn disks either do it at home or at work – I’ve never heard of anyone burning a disk while on the move. I think it would be great to leave a super drive at the one place you use it, and not have to lug it every time you move your laptop.

  8. Some people need that DVD drive and would not want to lug around an external one.

    My next laptop, will be the air.. But I love my mbp. And yes, I’ll be buying an external drive for the air I burn DVD’s alot.

  9. If I were looking for a second/travel computer, the Air would be be a very attractive alternative to the 13″ MBP, but I think the Pro is still a much better choice for a main computer.

    My wife will soon be looking to replace her “do everything” 13″ Macbook, and the 128 GB SSD in the 13″ Air would hold the OS and all of her applications, but almost none of her user data (photo/video projects, iTunes content, etcetera). Even the 256 GB SSD is still 150 GB short of holding all her current data.

    We could throw a 1 TB HDD in the 13″ Pro (or even two, if we replace the optical drive, but with the Air we’d be stuck with relatively small and expensive SSD drives (and not even 2.5″-format SSDs, at that.)

    And this is on top of the points already made about processor power and expansion ability. Even the top-end 2.13 GHz C2D in the Air would be a step backwards, processor-wise, from the Macbook she’s had for three years – that would be a hard sell, to say the least.

  10. I purchased the 13″ MBA to replace my quad core 17″. I tested the 13″ air extensively before makin the decision to sell the 17″ quad. While it was definately faster than the air in times of video processing, I have moved those tasks back to my iMac and absolutely love the speed of the 13″ Air (top model). In everyday use it absolutely spanks my quad 17″. Everything. It is the SSD that makes the difference. It is unbelievable. If you need to burn Dvd’s of course it is not suitable but I dont personally believe I have enjoyed a single one of my macs as much as I enjoy the air. It is that good!

  11. Agree, I love my 11″ Air …..

    As for fast, you betchya …. From a stone cold off to fully loaded OS on machine it takes about 20 seconds ….. And for everyday use, nothing more is needed ….. And even working on photos goes pretty fast too, but I am only cropping, scaling, shading, etc …. No
    heavy lifting stuff – Just typical consumer grade work ….

    And best deal from Apple is a refurbished 11″ at $849, what a deal, it is like new …..

  12. It’s not quite a no brainer for everyone at this point but the mbp and mba are on track to coverge soon enough. That’s gonna be just about the right time for me to go all in on a MBA as my only Mac.

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