Apple has a reputation for keeping its product lines streamlined, so that users never have to choose between two near-identical choices. The current MacBook line is a rare exception: with two 13-inch laptops–the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro–both offering style, speed, and power, they’ve become the subjects of a longstanding debate. Which 13-incher is the better buy?
In a nutshell, the differences come in terms of portability and power. The MacBook Pro is a more powerful machine, but it’s bulkier than even many comparable PCs. The Air doesn’t have the same computing power or number of ports, but it’s light and thin, and undeniably more stylish. It all boils down to what you’d rather pay for.
If your goal is portability and you won’t be modeling 3D cities anytime soon, the Air is the better pick. The Pro outweighs it by more than 1.5 pounds, which could be the weight of another laptop altogether. And as we’ve mentioned, it gets plus points for being one of the thinnest laptops in the market, if not the thinnest.
Performance-wise, the match is surprisingly close. CNET even puts the score at a tie, as updates to the MacBook Air have allowed it to catch up in terms of speed. Its Core i5 processor and SSD storage allows for lightning-fast startup, even with the Pro’s slightly faster CPU. And that doesn’t even take a toll on battery life, as both machines last an impressive 6.5 hours off the socket.
The Pro has more generous features, mostly owing to its size. The 1-inch side offers plenty of room for a sizeable hard drive, optical drive, an Ethernet port, and a FireWire port–all of which are lacking in the Air. The hard drive difference is especially striking: the Air offers 128GB of storage space, upgradable to 256GB, while the Pro comes with 320GB. While 128 is plenty for someone who does Word documents and spreadsheets, it’s a lot of storage space lost in the name of sleekness. To its favour, the Air has a higher resolution: 1440×900 compared to the Pro’s 1280×800. The reason for this gap is unclear.
CNET gives an edge to the Pro for value for money, as you get more features for the same price. But if you don’t need any of these features and would rather have a backpack-friendly computer, then you might be happier with the lightweight Air. You may even want to consider the 11-inch version, which is more than enough for basic use and while being as portable as you can get.