Apple’s laptop lineup is as deep as it has ever been. Both the 13- and 16-inch models are among the most svelte and desired laptops in the world. Whether you are a creative professional or a college student, Macs have long been sought for their powerful specs combined with a solid operating system.
That goes for both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, though choosing between the two has never been more difficult. With beautiful retina displays and pricing that frequently overlaps, it is more difficult than ever to decide. Let’s take a look at the 13-inch models of both to help you decide which one is right for you.
At first glance, both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro look very similar. Both machines share Apple’s signature aluminum shells and come in silver, space gray and, in the case of the Air, rose gold. The MacBook Air adds its signature wedge shape to its design which has made it iconic throughout the years. Both models offer a width of 11.97 inches and a depth of 8.36 inches. However, the MacBook Air is just a tiny bit fatter toward the back at 0.63 inches while the MacBook Pro tightens its belt at 0.59 inches all-around. The minimal size difference does lead to a slightly heavier machine in the MacBook Air at 3.02 pounds. The Pro weighs in at an ever-so-slightly lighter 2.8 pounds. One final design caveat for the Air is that it does not include the Touch Bar, something that comes by default on every 13-inch Pro model.
Aside from the physical design, when choosing between both machines, you need to consider the ports as well. In this case, the decision does not get any easier as both machines offer two USB-C ports on the left side and a headphone jack on the right. Only in the case of the larger 16-inch Pro model do you get four USB-C ports.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the design between the Air and Pro is the keyboard. MacBook Pro’s keyboard has long been a headache for users. Fortunately, the 2020 MacBook Air adds the Mac Keyboard also found in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Users have raved about its performance and overall stability. The Pro uses the older butterfly keyboard which has proven to be unreliable time and time again. Beneath the keyboard is Apple’s best-in-class trackpad which has not changed in years. That’s because it never had to.
Both the Air and Pro offer outstanding displays that easily live up to the Retina name. At 13.3-inches, both screens offer 2560×1600 display resolution. At 227 pixels per inch, they are incredibly similar, though the brightness level can vary. The Pro does include slightly better brightness overall, which leads to improved color accuracy. That alone can make it a better option for professional or creative users who live for photo-editing applications like Photoshop. If you are a more casual user surfing the Web or working in Excel or PowerPoint, the Air display is more than adequate.
Among all the factors that will affect any purchase decision, performance should matter most. When push comes to shove, if power matters above all else, the MacBook Pro is the easy choice. Even the entry-level model offers plenty of power with a Y-series 1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor. Configurations can go all the way to a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. On the other hand, the MacBook Air starts with a U-series 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 processor upgradeable to a 1.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7. Like the Pro, the Air can also be configured with extra RAM. No matter which way you slice it, the Pro is more powerful across the board.
Apple promises up to 11 hours of Web browsing on the MacBook Air and 12 hours of video playback. Apple’s choice to use a “slower” processor in the Air does lead to better battery life between the two models. The MacBook Pro is only slated to last up to 10 hours of Web browsing and 10 hours for video playback.
How to Choose
Ultimately, the MacBook Air is both the best value and the best machine for everyday use. Unless you have professional needs like photo or video editing, the Air offers the best combination of price, performance, and power. That it has the more comfortable of the two keyboards is just a bonus.
However, the MacBook Pro’s superior display and performance make it the right choice for any pro-level tasks like photo or video editing. The Air is undoubtedly targeted at anyone who needs a basic laptop for streaming, writing or web browsing. It will far exceed expectations for these tasks. The Air is arguably the most rounded Apple laptop on the market today, period.
No matter which Apple laptop you pick, you are going to get your money’s worth. The company’s history of making a solid product means you will often get far more life than you would with other manufacturers. Ultimately, it comes down to your needs today and what your needs may be tomorrow. One thing, though – the lack of USB ports means you probably have to get a good docking station if you have plenty of accessories to attach to your laptop, and you probably won’t want to get it for gaming purpose either.
Which Apple laptop would you choose?