Customer Review

703 of 733 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New 13" MacBook Air vs. New 13" MacBook Pro: A side-by-side comparison, June 29, 2012
This review is from: Apple Macbook Air MD231ll/A 13.3-inch Laptop (OLD VERSION) (Personal Computers)
I purchased both the newly updated 13" MacBook Air and the updated 13" MacBook Pro the day they were announced at WWDC and released for sale in June 2012. After using the two machines side-by-side for a couple weeks now, I can say that the MacBook Air offers superior performance in virtually every respect to such a degree that I've pretty much stopped using my brand new MacBook Pro. Of course the Air (which I got factory upgraded to the 2.0 GHz i7 processor and 8GB of RAM) is lighter, slimmer, and sleeker than the Pro, and yes, it does have a much higher resolution display, but I was surprised just how much faster the MacBook Air is compared to the Pro is despite the Air's slower CPU clock speed. The SSD hard drive on the MacBook Air makes an enormous difference in everything from casual web browsing to video editing.

Speed and Performance: Advantage MacBook Air

Apart from the hard drives and port configurations, the technology inside the machines is virtually identical in both the newly refreshed MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Both Pros and Airs come with either i5 or i7 Intel "Ivy Bridge" processors, Intel HD Graphics 4000, USB 3.0, and lightning-fast Thunderbolt ports. While the MacBook Air models are at a disadvantage to the MacBook Pro models in terms of CPU clock speeds, any performance disadvantage from the processor speed is more than made up for by the lightning fast performance of the Air's SSD hard drive, which Apple markets as "Flash" storage. In everyday tasks from gaming to web browsing to watching Flash movies and editing video, the MacBook Air is faster significantly faster in virtually every task. The Air boots up in less than 12 seconds while the Pro takes upwards of one minute.

Screen: Advantage MacBook Air

Once you get used to the super high resolution 1440 x 900 LED display on the MacBook Air, the 1280 x 800 back-lit LED display on the MacBook Pro looks downright grainy and primitive. Simply put, once you get used to a higher resolution display, the 1280 x 800 display on the 13" MacBook Pro just isn't acceptable. Even for simple tasks like email or word processing where you wouldn't think the resolution would matter, the graphics look grainy and pixelated, which just isn't acceptable for a pro-level laptop in 2012.

Upgradability: Advantage MacBook Pro

One major difference that's important to consider between the Air and the Pro is that the Pro is more flexible and adaptable in terms of upgradability. With only a screw driver and about 10 minutes of your time, you can add more memory to the Pro, replace the hard drive, and even add a second hard drive in place of the optical disc drive. The Air, on the other hand, is stuck in the configuration you purchase it in except that you can opt to replace the SSD "Flash" hard drive with a higher capacity drive. However, both the Air and Pro have USB 3.0 (which is five times faster than USB 2.0 and backward compatible) and Thunderbolt (which is ten times faster than USB 2.0), I see no reason to replace the Air's hard drive any time soon given how cheap external hard drives are and how fast the connection has become.

Design, Weight, Portability, Battery Life, and Form Factor: Advantage MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is the most beautiful computer ever produced by man. The aluminum case is impeccably designed, almost tailored to accommodate the necessary internal components, while maintaining practical ergonomics. It's an incredibly thin, svelte, sexy little notebook. The aluminum case seems sturdy and durable, and its mechanics are very similar to the time-test unibody construction of the MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, is a bit of a dinosaur in its bulky circa 2006 unibody. The Pro is heavier than a half gallon of milk at 4.5 lbs, while the MacBook Air weighs in at less than 2.9 lbs. Battery life is roughly even on both machines at anywhere from 4 to 7 hours depending on workload and settings.

Summary Judgement: Buy the MacBook Air

Simply put, the guts of the two machines are basically the same, but the Air's SSD hard drive gives it a tremendously significant boost in performance. Sadly, the MacBook Pro's 5400-rpm hard drive leaves the machine unable to capitalize on the newest, most expensive Intel "Ivy Bridge" i5 and i7 processors that you're paying a $300 premium for in the newly updated Pros. If you are going to buy a Pro, invest the extra money and get it upgraded with a SSD hard drive and get an extra external hard drive if you need additional cheap storage space for multimedia files. When you also consider the superior display, lighter weight, increased portability, and lower price of the MacBook Air, it's hard to find a reason to justify purchasing the current 13" MacBook Pro, which to me looks like a dinosaur rapidly headed for extinction.

Specs on the models compared:

13" MacBook Air (mid 2012) factory upgraded to the 2.0 GHz dual core i7 processor and factory upgraded to 8 GB RAM (1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM) with standard 256 GB SSD ("Flash") hard drive

13" MacBook Pro (mid 2012) with 2.9 GHz dual core i7 processor, 8 GB RAM (1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM), and 750GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
Both feature Intel HD 4000 Graphics, 3.0 USB, Thunderbolt, 802.11n, etc.
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Comments

Tracked by 14 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 93 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 30, 2012 1:02:31 PM PDT
Tony says:
Thank you for the freaking awesome review!!! Boot times are getting horrific for the MacBook Pros running OSX Lion. Wonder if a SSD will solve that.

Hope you enjoy your laptops. Totally enjoyed your review

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2012 9:14:44 PM PDT
subyfly says:
All you have to invest on is an SSD which you can install yourself. You'll pretty much have a rMBP w/o the Retina and a little thicker but it will be as fast.

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 10:57:13 AM PDT
quiet bells says:
This is one of the most helpful consumer review/comparisons I have ever read.
Thank you for the time and effort.

Posted on Jul 4, 2012 11:23:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 4, 2012 11:36:35 PM PDT
Thank you for the awesome review. I am considering purchasing one, but I am more inclined to getting a 15" MacBook Pro, because of its screen size.

However, as you probably know this comes with certain sacrifices, such as additional weight and bulkiness.

So, here is my question... In your opinion, is it worth going for the 13" Macbook Air for all of its other advantages at the sacrifice of a slightly smaller screen?

Also... You mentioned that you had your MacBook Air customized. Could you tell me specifically what model number this would be?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2012 12:36:36 PM PDT
Farb Dannon says:
15" is a very large screen size. If you're going to get a 15" MacBook, I'd recommend the new 15" MacBook Pro with Retina display. Even though it's substantially more expensive, it's a much, much better value in my opinion. I used one yesterday, and it's a phenomenal machine. The screen is fabulous, and it's lightweight and far less bulky than the traditional unibody 15" MacBook Pro, not to mention it's much faster than the older model 15" MacBook Pro without the Retina display.

Customized MacBooks are only available directly from Apple on Apple's website. On most models you can add more RAM, change the hard drive size, or switch to a SSD hard drive. You can also upgrade to faster i7 processors on most models as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 5, 2012 3:12:59 PM PDT
I see... Well, thank you very much for your reply and advise. I will go to my nearest Apple store to test a MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Posted on Jul 6, 2012 8:52:52 AM PDT
hecules says:
How can I get a 8gb ram version new MBA on Amazon? I can only see the links to 4gb 128/256 SSD MBA. Thanks

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 9, 2012 8:06:15 PM PDT
Farb Dannon says:
You can't get a MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM on Amazon. You'd have to custom order it direct from Apple.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 11, 2012 6:02:12 AM PDT
Oswald63 says:
You don't need 8GB of RAM. You're just wasting money. I have 6GB on a desktop I don't reboot for three weeks sometimes. 200 tabs open in several browsers, word processor program files, PDF files, Gimp, text files, torrent program. All that uses maybe 5GB of RAM.

This is a laptop we're talking about, one that weighs less than three pounds with a ULV processor.

Posted on Jul 12, 2012 8:05:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 12, 2012 8:28:03 AM PDT
Siwen Zhao says:
I think 13" MacBook Air 2.0 GHz dual core i7 processor and 8 GB RAM (1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM) with standard 256 GB SSD ("Flash") hard drive is good choice.

However, Amazon doesn't have this configuration right now. There is a good deal from BH which has this one with $95 AppleCare protection plan. Cheer!

P.S. Mfr#Z0NDMD2322 for this configuration.
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