13-inch Apple Face-Off: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro

If you’re looking to get the Mac experience in a notebook, there are now two very compelling options with the same size dispaly: The 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Air.  Both machines offer the latest Snow Leopard OS, excellent software, and seductive aluminum unibody designs. Still, there are crucial differences. The new $1,199 MacBook Pro has a blazing 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, future-proof Thunderbolt data connection, and a FaceTime HD camera. On the other hand, the $1,299 Air is superthin, weighs just 2.9 pounds, and uses flash memory to turn on almost instantly.

Sure, both Apple notebooks are LAPTOP Editor’s Choice winners, but only one portable can reign supreme. Let’s get ready to rumble!

13-inch MacBook Face Off

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  1. zach Says:

    Interesting comparison, but one thing you left out is that if you config the macbook pro with the ssd option (~$250 on apple’s online store) you would get much of the performance of the Air for file transfers and boot times. It wouldn’t quite match the startup time of the air, but it will be much closer and combined with the much faster processor you now have a machine that the air can’t touch in terms of real-world performance all for $1449, or only $150 more than the air. Or, you can get a 3rd party SSD that will be even faster than the apple offered option for about $200 and be even faster. Just a thought if you care about quick startup and application launch times. Basically, the only reason to get the air is the light weight and higher-res screen, which Apple should have put on the Pro anyway.

  2. filecat13 Says:

    Thanks for the comparison. It’s a nice, balanced approach that illuminates a number of key points of difference. One point I think was underdeveloped and should have been two points is the section on performance. Data processing prowess clearly belongs to the Pro, while data transfer clearly belongs to the Air. For me, data transfer is far more useful than processing power, as long as the processing power is adequate. In that respect, the Air is a better performer and that would be more important to me.

    Of course, it you separated the two, your article would have ended in a tie, and that would have been called a cop out by someone, so you can’t win. (grin)

  3. Solo500 Says:

    The fact that the MBA has moved from easy-to-dismiss to competitive with the MBP is great.

  4. B Says:

    I own the new 2010 MBA 13″, 2.13ghz, 256gb SSD and i know for a fact it runs faster then the 15″ pro. I’ve used both of them in regular day to day tasks and u can definitely notice the difference in load times. Obviously for 3D rendering would be quite a bit better on the pro due to the power drain on the cpu but in my opinion its not what the hardware is capable to do its more about what it really does and the macbook air is nothing short of impressive. Its all about what you do with your mac. I personally am amazed with the performance of something thats so thin!!! MBA over Pro all day!!!

  5. david stillwell Says:

    How about getting your hands on a Samsung 9 Series notebook and testing that against these two?

    The Samsung makes these two Apple notebooks look ancient.

  6. REALLY Says:

    Are you kidding me!?! Speaking of ancient, what, ARE YOU LIVING IN THE 90’s!!! You did not dare just say Samsung (which is practically a virus net, because of windows) makes the top line, virus once every 12 years, fast and not slow over time, super-duper Macbook Pro look ancient?!? Since when can windows EVER, EVER even come close to competing with Macintosh!!!! Here’s a tip, DONT EVER SAY STINKIN SAMSUNG COULD EVER COMPETE WITH THE AWESOME APPLE!!!!!! -sheesh, its ppl like you who give me headaches.-

  7. Bluegreeneye Says:

    I go back to the early 80’s with PC’s and have survived!

    I broke down before Christmas last year and purchased a Macbook Pro, 15″ for my wife to browse the internet and do cloud mail. I must admit, it is a beautiful piece of hardware, so much so, that I am considering running my day-to-day strategy consulting business with a Mac using VMWare Fusion 3.1, which I loaded successfully on my wife’s Pro.

    Today, can I easily run Fusion on the Macbook Air? If the next refresh, if the Macbook Air is upgraded to 4Gb, Sandybridge, etc, I should easily be able to run Fusion, correct?

  8. cptcolo Says:

    2011 13” MacBook Air vs. 2011 13” MacBook Pro
    Both are the base models, the Pro has the optional 128GB SSD to match the Air.
    MacBook Air – $1299
    Macbook Pro – $1449
    Winner = MacBook Air
    MacBook Air – 13.3” 16:10 1440×900
    Macbook Pro – 13.3” 16:10 1280×800
    Winner = MacBook Air
    CPU Performance:
    MacBook Air – i5-2557M
    Macbook Pro – i5-2410M, Single Thread 5.5% faster, Multithread 13.5% faster
    Winner = MacBook Pro
    GPU Performance:
    MacBook Air – 384MB Intel HD 3000 (Integrated Graphics)
    Macbook Pro – 384MB Intel HD 3000 (Integrated Graphics)
    Winner = Tie
    MacBook Air – 0.68 in thick max, 45.2 in^2
    Macbook Pro – 0.95 in thick max, 108.5in^2
    Winner = MacBook Air
    MacBook Air – 2.96 lbs
    Macbook Pro – 4.5 lbs
    Winner = MacBook Air
    Battery Life:
    MacBook Air – 50WHr, 7 hours
    Macbook Pro – 63.5WHr, 7 hours
    Winner = Tie

    13.3” MacBook Air by A LOT
    So you give up slight loss in single thread speed, for something that is much heavier, much larger, and has a worse screen. Basically you would be mad to pay more for a MacBook Pro.

  9. Martin Says:

    If, as you state, ‘Both the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Air use stereo speakers hidden underneath the keyboard but both notebooks provided identical sound quality’, why does the MacBook Air have superior stereo separation while the MacBook Pro seems to have none whatsoever?

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