WWDC was fully of new goodies for any Apple Fan. A complete overhaul of iOS, a beautiful new Mac Pro and not forgetting the newly updated MacBook Air. It can be quite easy to overlook something that is little more than a spec upgrade but this time it’s rather significant. Why? Well the Macbook Air now features the new Haswell Intel CPUs while the MacBook Pros are stuck on last generation Ivy Bridge. Ok before you say it I shall, yes you can get a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display but I’m not comparing that one, I’m looking towards the 13″ MacBook Pro vs 13″ MacBook Air. So lets compare them shall we and see what we find?
*Note this compares the two base models at time of posting and UK Pricing and availability.
Power and Technical Features
MacBook Air 13″
- 1.3Ghz Intel Haswell Core i5 – Boosts to 2.6Ghz
- 128GB Flash Storage
- 4GB DDR3 Ram
- Intel HD Graphics 5000
- 1440x900px Resolution
- 802.11ac Wireless
- 2x USB 3, 1x Thunderbolt, SDXC Card Slot, Bluetooth 4.0
MacBook Pro 13″
- 2.5Ghz Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 – Boosts to 3.1Ghz
- 500GB Hard Drive
- 4GB DDR3 Ram
- Intel HD Graphics 4000
- Nvidia GT 650M 512MB
- 1280x800px Resolution
- 802.11n Wireless
- Gigabit Ethernet, 1x Firewire, 2x USB 3, 1x Thunderbolt, SDXC Card Slot, Bluetooth 4.0, 8x Superdrive
Display- MacBook Air Wins – Higher number of Pixels give greater clarity.
Both feature the same sized 13.3″ LED Backlit displays but the MacBook Air comes out on top with it’s Higher resolution. The MacBook Air features a resolution of 1440x900px whilst the MacBook Pro features a 1280x800px resolution. It might only seem a small difference but it’s a significant one. A couple of hundred pixels makes a huge difference in terms of screen real estate which tends to be a premium anyway on a smaller device. Overall the MacBook Air tops the screen comparison.
Portability and Design – MacBook Air Wins here – Elegant, Thin, and Lightweight.
No one can argue Apple doesn’t know how to design elegant Notebooks, Laptops, Ultrabooks whatever you want to call them Apple has mastered design for years. But the marvel that is the Macbook Air cannot, in my opinion be beaten. It’s so incredibly thin and lightweight it is the ultimate in portability without going into the Tablet realm, and it even beats some of them. When the lids closed the Macbooks Air thickest point is just 1.7cm deep. The MacBook Pro is 2.4cm hardly huge but wow, 1.7cm is incredible for a laptop style device and it actually gets thinner than that. It’s also just 1.3KG in weight that’s half a Macbook Pro. You may worry about it’s fragility being so thin, so you might want to take a look at MacBook Air 13 cases to protect it!
Battery Life – MacBook Air Wins – 12 hours vs 7.
The MacBook Air features great Battery Life. Apples tests of browsing the web while using the wireless lasted an amazing 12 hours. That’s more than the iPad. The MacBook Pro achieved 7 hours. The MacBook Air features an amazing 30 days standby too. Just lift the lid and your away a truly amazing achievement from a laptop style device.
Wireless – MacBook Air Wins – Using the latest Wireless technology boosts performance and range.
This is easy, the MacBook Air has Wireless in the bag. It makes use of the latest Wireless standard, 802.11ac. Fully backwards compatible with older wireless networks 802.11ac offers improved transfer rates, performance and range.
Storage – Macbook Air Wins – 128GB is less storage, but far quicker!
You might look at the MacBook Pros storage and think that beats the Air too but have a look again. The base MacBook Pro comes with a 500GB 5,400rpm Drive i.e. it’s about the slowest Hard Drive you can get. While the base MacBook Air comes with 128GB of Flash Memory. Flash Memory is much quicker than a Hard Drive due to the lack of moving parts which also makes it reliable. Also it’s much smaller helping to reduce the size of the overall MacBook. A tip I know the famous Geek Chris Prillo does is he adds a 128GB SD Card to the SD Card slot effectively doubling his storage. Sure its not as fast but for documents or videos its ideal. Really here you have to weigh up do you want speed or storage room. Personally I’d go for Speed. It’s pretty amazing how much quicker a system feels with an SSD or Flash storage! This round goes to the MacBook Air
CPU – MacBook Pro Wins – Raw Speed beats entry level Air
This one is tricky as at this time of writing I could find no real benchmarks for both the MacBook Pro Ivy Bridge i5 2.5Ghz vs the MacBook Airs i5 1.4Ghz Haswell CPU. A quick glance at the numbers will surely have you looking towards the MacBook Pro but there is more than Speed to consider here. The new MacBook Air CPU has better built in Graphics and a lower power usage than the previous generation aiding battery life. So it depends how you look at it really. In terms of raw power though it’s likely the MacBook Pro wins here. Remember all the CPUs can be upgraded though to faster models if you wish!
Memory – Tie – Both base models feature 4GB Ram
Both the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, can be upgraded with higher Ram Capacity. However in this test both the base models come with 4GB so it’s a tie.
Graphics Power – MacBook Pro Wins – A dedicated Graphics Card is way ahead of integrated graphics.
The MacBook Air Features Intel’s HD 5000 Graphics whereas the MacBook Pro features the previous generation 4000 Graphics. Intel states the difference is around 2x the performance but benchmarks show the difference is not as dramatic as that. However the 5000 Graphics do support up to 4k Resolutions which is great if you want to link your MacBook Air to a 4k Monitor. But trust me performance at this resolution in all but the desktop environment would be abysmal. The MacBook Pro also features Nvidia Graphics. The base model features an Nvidia 650m which in the benchmarks isn’t a bad graphics card at all. If your a Mac gamer you will be able to play some of the latest games at not too bad quality relatively well so if you fancy a look at the upcoming Sim City Game the Pro is for you!
IO – MacBook Pro Wins – Extra IO wins here.
While the Air offers great connections the majority of us would use, USB 3 and Thunderbolt and SDXC Card Reader, the MacBook Pro offers a Gigabit Ethernet Connection, the 8x Superdrive for those of us that still use CDs (anyone?) and Firewire (again anyone?). Extra IO means size suffers though but in this case Macbook Pro Wins.
Price – MacBook Air Wins – £50 Cheaper than the base MacBook Pro
At the time of writing the base 13″ MacBook Air is £949 in the UK. The base 13″ MacBook Pro is £999 in the UK.
MacBook Air – 7
MacBook Pro – 3
If you want the best portability, the best battery life, the best wireless connection and great fast storage then a MacBook Air is for you. If your after raw power in terms of CPU and Graphics the MacBook Pro might be more suitable. However if you are looking towards the MacBook Pro I would recommend saving a bit of your cash and go for the Retina 13″ model. For just an extra £250 over the base 13″ MacBook Pro you can get the better Retina IPS display, the faster 128GB Flash storage and 8GB of Ram. But for portability go for the MacBook Air all the way!