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MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: Which should you buy?

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MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: What's the difference?

In October, Apple appeared to confirm that it'd stop updating its MacBook Air line, concentrating instead on its MacBook Pro line. The Air is still on sale, though, which means comparing the two is more important than ever.

Related: 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) review

Instead, there’s a couple of versions of new MacBook Pro and Apple will keep on selling the older MacBook Air.

With Windows laptops getting better all the time – notably the Surface Book and Dell’s XPS 13 – Apple’s portables have felt stale for a long time. Yes, we’ve had the smaller 12-inch MacBook, but little else and frankly who can survive with just one port?

But what’s new? And which is right for you? Let’s take a look and see.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: The glorious Touch Bar

It has been leaked heavily in the run up to the event, but one of the fanciest features Apple showed off was a new touch sensitive Retina strip that replaces the function keys and sits just below the screen.

It’s called Touch Bar, and you can twiddle the volume and brightness, but it changes depending on what apps you’re using. In Safari it’ll show your bookmarks and a search field, in Photos you can scrolls through pics. It looks fantastic, and frees up space on your display for other things.

There’s auto-correction and it’ll show you suggested words, plus Touch ID finally comes to the MacBook Pro. An Apple T1 chip tucked inside the MacBook Pro lets you make purchases with security at the forefront.

Related: Best laptops

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As it is multitouch enabled, you can scrub through videos without taking your finger of the bar.

You’ll be able to buy a version of the MacBook Pro with or without the Touch Bar, but of course the MacBook Air doesn’t come with anything similar.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: Display size and design

Those longing for the return of the fabled 17-inch MacBook Pro should turn away, Apple’s biggest laptop display still stands at 15-inches. The new MacBook Pro comes in two sizes; 13-inch and 15-inch just like before.

It also looks like a mash-up between the old MacBook Pro and the smaller MacBook, with the same butterfly mechanism for slimmer keys, a trackpad that’s twice as big and Force Touch enabled.

The body is still constructed from aluminium and you certainly will be able to tell it is an Apple laptop. The 13-inch model is 17% thinner than the outgoing model, with 23% less volume, while the 15-inch is also 14% thinner with 20% less volume.

Related: Best laptop for students

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The MacBook Air has become iconic, but maybe the tapered look is starting to feel dated. It hasn’t been freshened up in years and Apple leaving it alone once again feels like it’s the end.

Nothing sums up its age more than the display. The 13-inch MacBook Air has a measly 1440 x 900 resolution panel, which pales when you compare it to Retina display on the MacBook Pro with 2650 x 1600 (13-inch) or 2880 x 1800 (15-inch) resolutions. The updated Pros also have 500 nits of brightness and display a wider colour gamut which makes is screen better in every way.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: CPU, GPU and RAM

As the ‘Pro’ in the name suggests, the MacBook Pro is aimed more at professionals while the Air sits as the choice for lighter users.

Every 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with a quad-core 6th generation Skylake (not the latest 7th generation Kaby Lake chip) Intel Core i7 CPU with a Radeon Pro GPU that boasts the Polaris architecture. The SSDs are quicker, and there’s an advanced thermal architecture that should help funnel all that heat out of the thin body.

Related: What is Kaby Lake?

Macbook Air 2015

The 13-inch version can be configured with either a dual-core Core i5 or i7 processor (again Skylake) and it once again has a much faster SSD, Intel Iris graphics and the advanced thermal architecture.

These are far more powerful machines than the MacBook Airs, but that shouldn’t really come as a surprise. The Air starts with a 5th generation Core i5 and Intel HD Graphics 6000 GPU, with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD. You can double that storage if you fancy, though.

Both versions of the 13-inch MacBook Air come with 8GB RAM, while the MacBook Pros can be configured with either 8GB or 16GB RAM.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: Battery life

Apple glossed over battery life on the new slew of MacBook Pros; simply saying they would all get 10-hours of mixed use. We’ll have to get them in for ourselves to see how well they really last.

MacBook Airs tend to beat this figure, and Apple claims it should give you 12-hours of wireless web browsing and 30-days standby time and that's about right in our experience.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: You'd better like USB-C

Just like it did with the svelte 12-inch MacBook, the new slew of MacBooks are about USB-C.

The MacBook Pro ditches the separate USB Type A and Thunderbolt ports and replaces them with four USB-C ports. These are compatible with Thunderbolt too, so all your displays will still work. Still, the change will likely be a pain to some, but we’re sure they’ll be lots of dongles available.

Related: What is USB-C?

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The iconic MagSafe port is gone too, so you’ll be charging your laptop through USB-C. We’re going to miss that magnetic safety net, though. The SD card slot is another, somewhat painful, loss.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro: Price and verdict

Ah, now we get to the good stuff. In the space of an hour Apple’s cheapest laptop went from £749 (for the now KIA MacBook Air 11-inch) to £949 for the 13-inch MacBook Air. That’s a frankly outrageous price for a laptop this old. Want 256GB storage? You’re looking at £1,099.

Buy Now: Macbook Air at Amazon.com from $902

Best Deals for Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2014

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The new slew of MacBook Pros aren’t light of the wallet either, especially if you live in the UK. The non-Touch Bar toting Pro starts at £1449/$1499, while it jumps up to £1,749 for the base model with Touch Bar and Touch ID.

If you want the 15-inch model you should pony up £2,349 for the 2.6GHz model with 256GB storage, while £2,699 gets you 512GB storage and a 2.7GHz processor.

In short, Apple has all but eliminated good reasons to buy the MacBook Air. It's running old tech, the screen isn't great and the price hasn't dropped by much. But if your budget will only go as far as the MacBook Air, you definitely won't be able to afford any of the MacBook Pro models. Instead, we have a list of Windows-powered MacBook Air alternatives that might take your fancy.

What do you think of the new MacBook Pros? Let us know in the comments below

Jennifer

May 11, 2014, 1:07 pm

Thanks for the article. Still, I'm not sure. I can't make up my mind betwen the MBa and MBPr both intel core i5 8GB and 256 SSD. I'll use it mostly with scrivener, Antidote, Spotify, Scapple and Chrome running all. I kind of guess I don't need extra power but more RAM but I hope to keep it five-six years and if possible still freash and perky. You'd save my day with an advice ^^ (and sorry for my english, french girl here)

Jennifer

May 11, 2014, 1:10 pm

Oh and I forgot, I'll use it for at least 4 hours sessions. Around 2 per day. Experiences taught me it can be more intense.

MattMe

May 12, 2014, 8:30 am

Being as that the software you mentioned has very low requirements in terms of processor specification, you would likely be fine with an Air. For longevity you may want to choose a pro as the better hardware specs will not seem dated so quick. If you carry it around a lot go for the Air, definitely. If the size or weight is not an issue you had may as well go with the Pro.
Basically, what the article says!

Jennifer

May 12, 2014, 7:00 pm

Well, I guess I'll go back test this precious to make up my mind. Never been on the indecisive side but there's a first to everything.
Anyway, thanks for your time

David Shefchik

June 10, 2014, 4:22 pm

I'm a software engineer running very resource-intensive applications constantly. I have the MBA with 8GB and 256GB SSD and could not be happier. The battery life is insane and that i5 turbo-boosted to 2.7Ghz is no slouch. The only thing I wish it had was the retina screen, but the battery, size and weight are a good trade off. The power difference is negligible IMO

Jennifer

June 11, 2014, 10:58 pm

Thanks for your advice. I'm still not sure but the air seems a little bit more attractive. The retina's not really relevant to a writer, or at least to me. It was more of a longevity matter and well, to be able to carry it around in my purse is a plus.

Jennifer

June 16, 2014, 9:53 am

Hi, I forgot about one thing. Does your MBA get hot when used on word processor/web?
Thx

David Shefchik

June 16, 2014, 3:25 pm

It only gets a little hot when I'm gaming (which it's surprisingly decent at) or streaming HD video to my Apple TV. Otherwise it's nice and cool.

Shiva

July 17, 2014, 6:39 pm

I am a developer and using Macbook Air for quite some time. Really impressed with it's performance. I do agree that Macbook Pro is better in terms of performance, but my point is - Air itself is powerful enough to handle anything it is thrown at. Overall my order will be - Air 13.3 > Macbook Pro 13.3 > Air 11 > Macbook 15.6

Why? Because Air is really very portable and so slim to fit in any heavily loaded travel bag. Air also lasts longer in terms of battery (mine runs 10hrs easily with wifi on and moderate use). It consumes less power. And delivers lot of awesome juice. I am loving my experience with this laptop!
Just one con though - Disk space. But with an Apple AirPort capsule it is really not a worry anymore.

ianthetechman

August 21, 2014, 7:38 pm

I use the macbook air and absolutely would recommend it to anyone looking for small compact and pretty powerful not to mention also beautiful.
But i do wish i would have gone with the larger 13" model rather than the smaller 11" one.
But after using for more than a year i have sort of got used to even that now however i still wish for a larger screen sometimes.

Rohit

September 25, 2014, 12:09 pm

Macbook users,I have a Dell Latitude E6430 and an iPhone 5S and I'll soon buy a next generation iPad.I am willing to sell my windows laptop for Macbook because I am tempted with the continuity features and I like the fact the OS X has better productivity apps and Apple productivity apps are easy to use.I'm thinking of getting a Macbook and the main purpose to buy it would be for video editing on iMovie or Final Cut Pro.I would also keep movies and music in it.Which Macbook would be the best for me?

Prem Desai

December 9, 2014, 6:35 pm

Both are bargains compared to the competition - not something you usually associate with Apple.

In my opinion, the 13" pro with the retina screen is the one to go for.

Make sure you find a university student to get maximum student discount and warranty extended to 3 years. Apple's warranty is one of the best in the business.

After getting it, you can even runs windows on it ......

Ivera Uller

January 3, 2015, 1:42 pm

I'm a University student and I'm willing to buy a laptop. I got here searching for an answer to my question of Which one it's better for what I need or which one would work better for me? By reading this I really did not get an answer. The Air model only says from what I understand that is lighter and much prettier and the pro model is like the perfect laptop or desk computer from what I get. So I think that if I'm willing to buy a computer so expensive I need to buy the one I would get more. Can somebody give an advice please?

Ivera Uller

January 3, 2015, 1:45 pm

Does this warranty extension and the student discount works on PR too?

Jozo Saravanja (RazeR)

January 4, 2015, 7:16 pm

hi i want to get in programming and photo (maybe video) editing
i will use lightroom and photoshop and maybe some other programs for photography.
And programs for coding (what programs i need to use)??
maybe also little in music editing,

is OSX better for those two (or 3) or i can use Windows also (7,8.1,or new 10 when it get out)
Im planing to get gaming laptop anyway so i would have power to run all those programs but im confused whats better OSX or Win.

Ishaan Alidina

February 5, 2015, 5:16 pm

I would probably say the macbook pro 15 inch, 512 GB SSD. It has the storage to keep movies and music while having extra for anything else, and the video quality and RAM is great enough to be perfect with videos, and music is great on the side speakers.

LeeTronix

March 28, 2015, 10:53 pm

This site really needs to change its name to Apple Trusted Reviews...it is that obvious....Cannot say anything negative about apple that would be a revenue killer.

So.

Buy the Surface Pro 3 (which I also use), it is far more cost effective, decent battery life, light for sure, flexible as a tablet with a great on screen keyboard or with the detachable keyboard that flips over the screen to make it compact and part of the tablet. Has superb wifi connectivity with micro SD card slot and usb 3, also the charger has usb point built into it as well. While some might not like windows 8.1 which is fair enough the whole set up is very good and works super smooth and windows 10 looks to put OS X (apple) into touch very soon, either way it is by far far far the best value for money and spec's including far a superior screen.

The apple products are as usually greedily overpriced paying a lot more for less material what a con, lack of business external connectivity without SD drive potential, inferior screen and latest OS which looks like it designed by Toys R Us. Why pay for an apple log to be on the back of a device absolutely amazes me. It is sad they dropped the 17" MBP that was in my opinion their best device, but like a fashion model they are obsessed with thinness, smallest proportions and a fixed dress that you can not alter and you pay more for it! It will not be long be for we see the next gen imac's be portable, so it will be imac air, mac air, mac book, mac book pro hehe so stupid... Oh and as kind of already mentioned you cannot upgrade the ram as they are soldered in, what a joke, so they force you to make a choice and remove the freedom of choice at the same time...how so apple of them rotten to the core...

I use a new mac pro (that't the black bin looking thing) for my music studio and now I wish I had used a windows PC. While apple OS is good for design and music that is where it ends. It is not good for mainstream business, the OS X software is toy-ish and pretty but not functional for mainstream business. They function well as for a self employed individual maybe but that is as far as it goes for professionals as for an established business or corporate operation they are not capable. I think if I was a student these days an apple would just an over exaggerated expensive fashion statement and so I would really would consider a windows or even a chrome book.

For that matter the Google Pixel is an amazing device that is a chrome book and it surely is a piece of art and a fashion statement that beats the apple hands down with the same price tag. You also get an SD slot, 3 USB connections and excellent WIfi, and a decent battery life, in fact I am typing this on mine right now. Plus you can use any web based solution for business solutions or student projects such word processing etc, it is ideal if your desperate to look good but get a better experience than the apple garbage.

Just think you can do more on a smart phone for £$500-700 than what you pay for a glorified light thin piece of tin ehem apple.

LeeTronix

March 28, 2015, 10:56 pm

Funny how every time its an apple article you get this from Trusted Reviews : Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by TrustedReviews.

Amazingly they will not publish my comments even though they are not offensive in any way but if I dislike an apple product then....not going to happen on here, well lets see maybe you will be reading 2 comments from me on here? haha..you never know!

andyvan

March 30, 2015, 8:41 am

Sorry, they weren't published because it's the weekend and we don't have anyone moderating comments at the weekend.

andyvan

March 30, 2015, 8:53 am

We've reviewed the Surface Pro 3 and really like it -- in fact, you can read the review here: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

I don't really understand your anger at this piece, though. It's a guide to which MacBook to buy for people who want to buy a MacBook. That's it.

It's not substantially different to this piece where we compared the Surface Pro 3 and Surface Pro 2: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

LeeTronix

March 30, 2015, 6:03 pm

I Think your right here I am not a fan of apple for sure and maybe I should of been more sensible about things in respect of this article and that is fair enough thanks for the feed back.

Rohit

April 14, 2015, 11:55 am

Thanks Ishaan

Zachary Jameson

May 18, 2015, 3:42 pm

2015 refresh of 15inch macbook pro is in-play with likely announcement at developers conference in June 2015. Within past few days Apple website and resell partners are signaling inventory drawdown of 2014 model by only offering base configurations while some partners such as B&H have already discontinued 2014 model. Don’t hold your breath for any improvements beyond those already announced for 2015 13inch model.
2015 Macbook Pro Chassis will likely to remain the same as 2014 model with boost in battery life from broadwell chip, marginal speed improvement, graphics upgrade, faster flash storage and new Force Touch trackpad. Btw, Higher screen quality of Macbook Pro compared to Air model makes the Pro an easy choice for me.

PD

May 22, 2015, 1:26 am

I think had the macair had a retina screen i would opt for that...
But i want something that is a little more future proof -- ive been using my 15" macbook pro since 2011... i dont need the large size anymore, and certainly dont need high end graphics or quad core... i have upgraded to a SSD harddrive and maxed the ram to 16gb... but with age it is slowing, and the fans are not cooling as well...

So, down sizing to a 13" is my aim - of course i don't want to be spending too much money, hence why i was leaning towards the macair - but the fact the screen and design is old is off putting for me... the new macbook looks beautiful BUT this is too under power (although a nice screen)... i can imagine that they will add the same screen tech, and keyboard to the macpro which will create a slimmer and slighter pro version - but im not keen on waiting another year for that...

So, based on this article and other advice... i think the macbook pro 13" is the one for me - so now i best get saving (although being a teacher helps... i get a discount )

Marie Jacqueline Lee

June 7, 2015, 7:17 am

I've just paid a deposit on a MacBook Air 13" 256GB, but will be changing my order to the MacBook Pro 13", with or without Retina. I prefer the raised keys and the extra features. I've read a number of negative comments about the MacBook Air's screens and I want better value for my financial outlay, even if the MacBook Pro, minus Retina, has an older processor. With 500 GB hard drive, it will serve my needs adequately, while providing me with a diverse range of options should I wish to use them. But I will keep my 2009 white plastic MacBook, which still operates quite well despite its age. The 'latest' model isn't always necessarily the best!

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