MacBook vs. MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Which is the best value?

“Apple made some interesting choices when it designed the new 12″ MacBook, which is the thinnest, lightest Retina Display Mac notebook ever. But its US$1,299 price is higher than the new 13″ MacBook Air, 13″ MacBook Pro, and new 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display,” Dan Knight writes for Low End Mac. “Where’s the best value?”

“If weight matters, the 12″ MacBook wins. If screen resolution matters, it’s also the winner. If battery life matters, it’s probably going to win in that category as well. And if the keyboard matters, it’s new keyboard technology should put it ahead of anything else Apple has today,” Knight writes. “But if legacy ports matter to you, skip the 12″ MacBook. The 13″ MacBook Pro has the widest selection of legacy ports, and it’s the one I would find most tempting with FireWire 800, USB 3, and Thunderbolt. It also lets you upgrade RAM, uses a traditional hard drive or SSD, and has a built-in SuperDrive.”

Knight writes, “In the end, you have to weigh your priorities: size, weight, processing power, compatibility with older version of OS X, screen resolution, battery life, and expansion options, both via external ports and internally.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: So true and this is why Apple offers a range of portable Macs. Everyone has different needs and priorities.

Before the MacBook Air, we were outfitted with 17-inch MacBook Pros. One Mac for everything. On the desktop, it wasn’t optimal – wired everywhere, powering monitors, external drives, speakers, etc. On the road, it was a nightmare of weight and size – it wouldn’t fit on tray tables – and it sucked power that we didn’t need it to have while mobile.

What we have today is much better for our needs: 27-inch iMacs alongside 27-inch external monitors on our desks and 11-inch MacBook Airs in our backpacks. Perfect. Until now. We never use any of our MacBook Airs ports except for recharging, so those can go. We long for Retina displays on the road. The new 12-inch MacBook is a third of a pound lighter than our 11-inch MacBook Air units. The MB offers a 2304×1440 pixel retina display vs. the MBA’s 1366×768 pixel display. The MB offers a Force Touch trackpad and a better keyboard, plus we can even get them in a range of colors.

Can you guess what our next mobile Macs are going to be? It’s like Apple made the new MacBook specifically for us!

Obviously, for anyone doing the “one Mac for everything” thing, their choices are going to be completely different.


  1. Still rocking a 2009 17″ MBP and have been shopping about for a clean used 2012 model. I could get by with a 15″, but I like the PCIe express slot in the 17″

    1. I disagree. Speed is good but there are many other factors involved in determining value because the idea of value is subjective.

      Value is always dependent on intended use, but intended use is never the only factor. I’ll compare two computers that I own, a 2011 MacBook Air and a 2012 Retina MacBook Pro. Both computers contain the highest speed i7s available for purchase from Apple and both contained the maximum amount of RAM. Naturally the Pro cost twice as much as the Air but value and cost are entirely different things.

      For me, the primary gauge of value is the longevity of usefulness. This metric will be different from person to person

      The 2012 retina MacBook Pro is sufficiently fast with its quad core i7 and 16 GB of RAM that I have no need nor desire to upgrade. Barring unforeseen circumstances, this computer will serve me for quite a while longer. This computer has really held onto its value.

      On the other hand, the MacBook Air, being only one year older was only available with a maximum of 4 GB of RAM. While the processor may be up to the task the computer struggles running Yosemite and more than a handful of tasks at one time. Because there was no 8 GB option available from Apple this computer has lost a great deal of value to me.


  2. The MacBook Pro is clearly the best value if you have work to do. It’s faster and more easily connectible to whatever comes your way, without question.

    Those who prioritize thin & light dimensions in their laptop are just missing the point of a computer. If all you need is an iPad, then hurray for you. Paying a premium for an underpowered fashion-first Mac is just ludicrous.

  3. The new MacBook should not be considered a viable option for most users. Those who really need a laptop like this already know who they are and should consider carefully before buying a laptop with so many limitations.

  4. Agreed, one system for work & leisure is going to have to be the 15″ Macbook Pro.

    The new Macbook is simply too expensive for the beefed-up-iPad that it is. If you’re doing a desktop machine and a laptop, the air is still the better value.

  5. Here’s a concept: ALL Apple MacBooks have ‘the best’ value.

    The actual important question is: Which model does what you require for your work? Which one is going to give you the best Return On Investment (ROI)? That’s called UTILITY and FUNCTIONALITY as well as value.

    1. No, all Apple MacBooks do not have “the best” value. You proved this yourself by introducing objectively verifiable means of calculating what you value: financial ROI, utility, and functionality. All are scales that the individual buyer has to evaluate for himself, but CLEARLY the new MacBook is more expensive for less utility, functionality, and performance. By your own measures of value, the new Mac netbook is the least value of an Mac in the lineup.

      The only people who would find the new MacBook a better value are people who are incapable of lifting the weighty MacBook Pros.

      1. Oops. Evil doppelganger ‘Mike’ is back.

        No ‘Mike’. None of what you say I said is what I actually said. I said exactly what I wanted to say with exactly the intended meaning. I’m a pretty good writer like that.

        As for the ‘weighty’ MacBook Pros, I’m typing on a 15″ version right now and wonder if, from what you say, you’re a ‘little person’. I can’t imagine my old granny having trouble lifting my MacBook Pro.

        Why do you persist in anti-propagandizing around here? You couldn’t possibly be a paid Samsung troll. They gave up on that loss loser adventure over a year ago! Maybe you’re just so desperately hateful that you have to work on Windows boxes all day that you’re driven to take out revenge on those of us who DON’T. In any case: There’s a better real world out here. Pay a visit.

        1. I read the obvious sarcasm in Mike’s last line. At the price of the new MacBook, one would have to be truly wimpy and vain to choose it over a MBP.

          Also, screw you with the troll talk. Mike may be harsh, but he does make a lot of valid points. Geez, why the over-the-top criticism of a guy doing exactly what you are?

          1. ‘Screw you’ is always such a useful statement. It’s yet another litmus test. I’ll let you wonder about what it tests. – – Oh and if you care so much, how about posting NOT as an anonymous coward? It might help all of you haters transition into the position of being taken seriously. Meanwhile: 😛

    2. You mean like the Porsche Cayman, 911, and Macan are all the most valuable Porsches? Whatever. One has to evaluate a product relative to one’s needs. I can’t imagine my needs slacking off so much that the 2015 MacBook makes any sense for me.

  6. I have a late 2011 13″ MacBook Pro . I think my next one will be a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro with 512 gigabytes of storage and the GT 750m. I could use a bigger screen and the built-in graphics card would be great for video editing and playing games. A built-in graphics card would be better than trying to get an external graphics card working and I’d be able to bring that much processing power with me easily instead of leaving the graphics card at home. I would just use a good cooling pad if it started heating up a lot. Of course, I’ll wait at least a couple years before getting a new MacBook. It’ll be interesting to see what I can sell my current MacBook for at that time.

  7. What is with all the nastiness? I have an 11-inch mid-2013 MBA. I love the machine. I also love my iPad mini. I also love my Mac mini that powers part of my audio system. I love my 5k iMac that is my primary desktop at home. I plan to replace the MBA with the new MacBook, because that weight savings and battery life are important for its intended use when traveling over the next year, and I will need functionality that only OS X will provide. Ever since the demise of the 12-inch PowerBook, I have missed that screen size when traveling. The MBA was close, and it is a marvelous machine that one of my daughters will fully enjoy. But the new MB is, for me, an excellent collection of compromises in a beautiful machine with some slick hardware interface improvements. Seems to me that’s my choice [which Apple enables], and it doesn’t have to be justified to anyone else, nor convince anyone else to change their mind.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.