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MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro - Comparison

Updated on December 15, 2011

MacBook Pro or Air - Which is The Answer?

Billed as the world's thinnest laptop the Apple's MacBook Air is a mere 0.76-inch thick at its thickest part tapering to 0.16-inch. Otherwise the MacBook mimics the 13-inch silhouette of the current MacBook line But is it worth the money ask the pragmatic. Mac lovers will love the MacBook Air - but the question is - which should you buy? The MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air - and why?

In this review I try to be fair and look and the pros and cons of both models. As usual it comes down to what you want to do with your new MacBook... How you use a laptop is very individual and the thinking about those questions up front will mean that you find the right product to fill your needs

Apple's MacBook Air at a Glance:

MacBook Air World's Thinnest Notebook Photo:CNET.com
MacBook Air World's Thinnest Notebook Photo:CNET.com
MacBook Air  Back lit Keyborad Photo: Apple Inc
MacBook Air Back lit Keyborad Photo: Apple Inc
MacBook Air Photo: CNET.com
MacBook Air Photo: CNET.com

Inside the stylish silver shell you will find a a 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB of RAM, and a choice of either an 80GB standard 1.8-inch hard drive or a 64GB SSD drive. Moving up to the SSD drive and faster CPU drives the price up from US$1,799 to a huge US$3,098. The MacBook Air comes with Bluetooth and wireless networking built-in and standard.

Features of the Apple MacBook Air

The MacBook Air includes a new multitouch track pad, which incorporates a range of gesture controls that will be familiar to iPhone users, in which users can zoom by pinching in or out, rotate images by spinning two fingers, flick through items by wiping left or right and move windows in a new way. MacBook Air's keyboard is full size and similar to that of the standard MacBook. A nice touch is that the Air's backlit keyboard allows you to keep computing when the lights go down.

In addition to being more energy efficient than a traditional LCD panel, the LED-backlit screen also allows for a thinner lid.

The Air also comes with an iSight camera on top of the screen, the same as MacBookPro notebooks. Connections include a 45-Watt MagSafe power adaptor on the left and a USB 2.0 port, micro-DVI port and headphone port under a flip-down panel on the right.

There is no optical drive but the Air can connect wirelessly to an optical drive in another nearby computer. Alternatively you can purchase a USB-powered SuperDrive as an US$99 extra.

Other missing features include any kind of mobile broadband, an SD card slot, FireWire, an onboard Ethernet jack, and Express card slot.

While the MacBook Air may draw you in with its sleek looks, you may be concerned to discover that its battery is apparently not user replaceable. That means an overly complicated and pricey battery replacement procedure when it begins to slowly slip in holding a charge.

The Best Points of MacBook Air

The MacBook Air weighs 2 pounds and Apple claims battery life for the MacBook Air is rated at five hours.

The full size keyboard and generously-sized 13.3-inch, 1280- by 800-pixel, glossy LED screen, using the same LED technology found in the MacBook Pro makes the MacBook Air much more typist friendly than many true ultraportables with their cramped keyboards and smaller screens.

However despite the claims of the world's thinnest notebook the Air's footprint is considerably larger than that of many subnotebooks on the market; in fact, the Air's 12.8-inch width and 8.94-inch depth are each 0.02 inches longer than the corresponding dimensions of the MacBook.

It's in weight and thickness-or, if you will, thinness-that the MacBook Air shines. Whereas the MacBook and MacBook Pro are each around 1 inch thick, the MacBook Air is essentially three-quarters of an inch thick at the thickest point, and less than a fifth of an inch thick at the thinnest. At only 3 pounds, the Air is 2 pounds lighter than the next-lightest Apple notebook.

Apple has made an effort to make the Air environmentally friendly. While the brushed aluminium case creates a lovely exterior, the MacBook Air is also beautiful on the inside. Apple has eliminated mercury and arsenic from display components, and PVCs from the circuit boards. Packaging sizes were reduced, as well.

MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Compared

Apple's flagship notebook line, MacBook Pro, have been around for a number of years now and developed an enthusiastic following.

For those who do not truly need, or want to pay for, the Air's lightness and thinness the MacBook Pro still offers a valuable alternative.

The MacBook Pros include a range of optical drives. Multiple ports abound including an ExpressCard slot, FireWire, Ethernet, multiple USB ports, audio input, and optical audio output.

Also the MacBook Pro ship with faster processors of the 2.0GHz to 2.4GHz compared with the Air's 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo or, a 1.8GHz chip. The Air is limited by heat and space issues.

Space and heat issues also limit the MacBook Air's storage options. Because the laptop is so thin, it appears that only single-platter, 1.8-inch hard drives-the same type found in the 80GB iPod classic-fit. These drives are also slower than a typical laptop drive, at 4200rpm compared to 5400rpm, and are ATA rather than the now-common SATA. The only alternative here, performance-wise, is the optional 64GB solid-state drive, although the high prices for such drives adds US$999 to your tab.

Finally, the MacBook Air adheres to the general rule that you pay more for smaller size. Even though it isn't as full-featured as the MacBook, it costs $300 to $700 more than Apple's consumer-level notebook, and for only $200 more you can get a much more capable-but larger and heavier-Mac Book Pro.

The Author

Lis Sowerbutts has been traveling since age 7, and has to date visited over 55 countries. She firmly believes in traveling for the over-30's and that you are never too late to start traveling Lis writes on a broad variety of subjects and you may be interested in other articles by her including:

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    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      GREAT hub on a technology that is not even widely available yet, Lissie! I don't know if I think it's ever wise to buy the "first generation" of an Apple product, but I think that the MacBook Air is a pretty exciting advance in laptop technology. And it's so pretty! :)

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      I don't think its a good idea to buy the first generation of any technology and you would have to be firmly wedded to MacOS to pay Apple's prices for laptops compared to PC laptops!

    • sunshine1221 profile image

      sunshine1221 9 years ago from Pennsylvania

      One USB port and no firewire port? Eek! I think that this alone will turn a lot of people away from the MacBook Air. Even with the Bluetooth capabilities, there are a lot of users like myself who need to have the ability to connect their laptop to other devices that are not bluetooth enabled. Thanks for the informative hub!

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      It has got regular wireless as well as bluetooth but I agree with you sunshine - especially as people tend to use Macs because they are doing graphic intensive stuff!

    • retireyoung profile image

      retireyoung 9 years ago from Bali

      The new air looks nice, but it is expensive for what you get.

    • chinking profile image

      chinking 9 years ago

      Yeah pritty powerfull laptop!! and nice shape but a lot of money on some laptop,

      maybe I wait for the next generation.

      but man I wanna tell you that youIr hub looks pritty. a lot of content,

      thank you!

    • MM Del Rosario profile image

      MM Del Rosario 9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      hmmm... I really like the thinnest laptop in the world, but I think it would cost me me an arm and a leg.....

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      I hear your pain MM However if you can spare you limbs - please feel free to order it via my Ebay or Amazon capsules!

    • profile image

      markion 9 years ago from London

      I think the two are on opposite sides of the scale; one has mobility the other power. some people might buy both!

    • profile image

      Michael Long 9 years ago

      The Air weighs three pounds Sparky, not two.

    • spuds profile image

      spuds 9 years ago

      Great hub. Thumbs up from me. I have to say the MacBook air does look rather impressive. It's a little pricy though.

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      You always pay for first generation tech!

    • TheSocialNetworkr profile image

      TheSocialNetworkr 9 years ago from Australia

      Wow - can't wait to get my hands on one of those... I heard that they're upgrading the macbook pro to include the new multitouch trackpad at some time soon.

      Macs rock. Thanks!

      Dave

    • chantelg4 profile image

      chantelg4 9 years ago from Northern Ontario

      I've been pondering for a few months on which laptop to buy, the Mac or the PC. I've heard such phenomenol things about Mac, but they're so darn expensive. At least now I know the difference between the new Air and the Pro thanks to your article. I don't think I will run out and buy the air, but the pro is looking good. Thanks for the info.

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Glad to be of help Chantel. IMHO the best way to decided PC Mac is to look at what sort of applications (software) you want to run - and then buy the Operating system Mac or PC that runs it best - in general for high end graphics design the answer will be Mac but a lot the progams I use won't run on a Mac

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      This was NO HELP AT ALL, Lissie...Now I want both. Thanks a lot.

      Great hub, though.

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Peter I will send you a link to my next hub when I pubilsh it - I promise you'll hate it even more!

    • caspar profile image

      caspar 9 years ago from UK

      Drool...

      :)

      Excellent hub, Lissie. I've always wanted a laptop I could pop in my bag and be able to carry around everywhere without getting backache, and the Mac book Air seems to be just the thing.

    • AaronBeats profile image

      AaronBeats 9 years ago

      great hub lissie! i love all things apple, and own a macbook pro and about 3 other macs. i think i may add the macbook air to the equation as well....we shalt see....those darn apple guys are always trying to make us spend more of our money with these new innovative releases every week! lol!

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      For those of you who can't decide - here are another 4 options on the light notebook front https://hubpages.com/technology/Light-Notebooks---...

    • ChristineRitter profile image

      ChristineRitter 9 years ago from Ohio

      GREAT INFO ! I want one!

    • profile image

      joeplante 9 years ago

      Makes me want one :) But it seems like we live in a PC world

    • creatingwealth profile image

      creatingwealth 9 years ago

      I'd like to have the thinnest laptop in the world, but I never had Mac before.

    • Talem profile image

      Talem 9 years ago from South Carolina

      ^ Mac's are such polarizing machines. I've found fanatics, and haters aplenty, but personally I find them so fascinating. Their GUI, software, and feel is so attractive.

      I would be wary about the macbook air though...the absence of an optical drive doesn't sit with me well, and having to buy a $100 external one just seems a hassle.

    • seamus profile image

      seamus 9 years ago

      I am considering a Mac Air versus a Mac Book. I don't know what to but the downside of buying something new on the market had not yet crossed my mind.

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      Its a real issue seamus - you always pay premium prices for 1st generation anything

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 9 years ago from Texas

      I think a lot of folks get hung up on the "missing features". Admittedly, those features would be a big deal if that was your only computer, but for a travel computer, this looks like a great idea. On my MacBook Pro, I can't remember the last time I used either the Firewire port or the optical drive, but I do have another machine where they get lots of attention. Bottom line, it's not the machine for everyone, but that's why they offer more than one model.

    • myi4u profile image

      myi4u 9 years ago from United Kingdom

      how i wish that i could get my hands on macbook air. however, i can only afford macbook unless i am able to buy a laptop with the price tag of more than £1000 without getting chopped by my gf

    • solarshingles profile image

      solarshingles 9 years ago from london

      I would love to have one of them just for me...no matter which one, thou...they are both just amazing

    • JarrodHaze profile image

      JarrodHaze 9 years ago

      Awesome, but does it come in titanium? You see... I'm not the most careful and would probably end up stepping on my bag, or sitting on it, or something. ;)

    • Lissie profile image
      Author

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 9 years ago from New Zealand

      If thats the case Jarrod u probably need a toughbook or 1 of the other ruggedezied models - I dont think Apple does those !

    • profile image

      adam 8 years ago

      Wonderful Hub about truly amazing laptop. Apple MacXXX and Leopard OS, that's the best possible combination, ever.

    • NateRider profile image

      NateRider 8 years ago from Missouri

      I am someone who enjoys taking computers apart and putting them back together with more powerful parts, such as memory upgrades, additional hard drives, things of that nature. I had never heard all of the specs for the MacBook Air before today, or even the Pro. The more I read about the Air though, the more I think it is before its time. Let the micro technology catch up and the Air will become a better computer.

      Overall, a great, informative hub. Nice Job!

    • profile image

      Ikki Wae 7 years ago

      Macbook Air video capabilities are weak, just sufficient enough to get by, the harddrive speed is noticably inferior--the read access time and write performance are palpably slower but wait harddrive space is limited as well, and considering there's no dvd/cd player, it magnifies the problem

      I'll choose Macbook pro....:P

      the battery life is excellent.great display, MacBook Pro graphics are twice as fast as MacBook graphics, so if you do anything visual with your computer

    • achase profile image

      achase 7 years ago

      Nice review and comparison.

    • 9to5 profile image

      9to5 7 years ago

      Personally, I think the Air is quite flimsy - I know of at least two people who have broke them in the past year! Pro is much better, in my opinion.

    • profile image

      harleen bains 6 years ago

      hi i am new with computers, never really used one, and i was wondering you only talked about the pros design not about the pro itself like what it is useful for and what it could hold and stuff and when i searched which one is better i was hoping to find out if you are going into college which one is more convenient to me.

    • profile image

      rshemeley 6 years ago

      This was an awesome comparison -- it's a pretty tough decision to make between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air, as they're both awesome models and share many common traits. Your overview helps demystify it. Thanks!

    • mashimaroz profile image

      mashimaroz 6 years ago from Palo Alto, USA

      Why the new Macbook Air still has no ethernet port. It's important because I have no WiFi network available all the time. Other than that I prefer the Air. :D

    • profile image

      Anne 6 years ago

      I like the MacBook Pro looks good.

    • profile image

      MacBook Laptops 6 years ago

      Great Comparison! Pro is more powerful while the Air is more portable. It really depends on what the intended use of the MacBook is to determine which is better.

    • profile image

      Anon 6 years ago

      There is no backlit keyboard display in the MacBook Air!

    • profile image

      abrt 6 years ago

      MACBOOK PROPROPRO (eco) thumbs up

    • profile image

      m8rkC 6 years ago

      Lissie, This isn'tt the first generation of the MBAir, its an evolution of the previous model. I think it's the second or third.. not 1005 sure. EVeyone else who isn't sure weather to go MacOS or PC...GO into your local store na dplay with both...I can assure you, which you'll be paying for!!!!!

    • Joyce F profile image

      Joyce F 6 years ago from USA

      Nice Hub on the MacBook Air vs Pro. I'd take either if someone were giving them away, but I'd prefer more power over light and easy to carry any day. Voted up and useful.

    • FuzzyCookie profile image

      FuzzyCookie 6 years ago

      Great hub, Thanks for providing a great review, I was confused if I should get a Macbook pro or Macbook air, I guess I'll go for Macbook pro.. Thanks again! :D

    • profile image

      K9 Coach 6 years ago

      Nice info. Just sold my home and am off to live in Hawaii... and add more travel to my life. Still hard to decide... they are both cool but think I'm going to go with the Air. Just got rid of most of my stuff and am enjoying the whole idea of traveling light! :)

      Wag!

    • profile image

      james 6 years ago

      Mac book airs rock

    • profile image

      Daveyyy 5 years ago

      I'm really struggling with which macbook i should go for, Air or Pro? You see i'm looking for a laptop which is capable of running Avid (editing system) and requires You a lot!! Please help!!

    • myi4u profile image

      myi4u 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Finally, I bought the new Macbook Air recently. It has been a struggle as to which one to choose; 11" or 13". I didn't really consider Macbook Pro because I am after a real portable laptop.

      Unfortunately, the new MacBook Air doesn't come with backlit keyboard.

    • profile image

      kanishk saraf 5 years ago

      I was confused if I should get a Macbook pro or Macbook air, I guess I'll go for Macbook pro.and that is very good

    • profile image

      Aamir 5 years ago

      Well, I already have MacBook Pro 13 inch but I am now thinking to buy MacBook Air due to its lightweight feature. Finding it difficult to decide.

    • profile image

      Caio 5 years ago

      @Aamir

      Don't go for it, it may be portable but there are many features that backfired on it, but if you don't listen, rent on for a week and test it out.

    • profile image

      Tushar 5 years ago

      Hey

      Can anyone tell me the new Mac book pro comes with lion os or the older one?

    • profile image

      popop 5 years ago

      ugh cant choose! i really want an apple laptop but i dont know which one

    • profile image

      James 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great article. For a grade 4 - 8 classroom, which would you recommend? The 13 inch Air or the 13 inch MBP? I am leaning towards the MBP because I don't need it to be extremely portable. And correct me if I'm wrong, the clock speed is slower on the Air.

    • profile image

      eric 5 years ago

      tushar, the new pro comes out with the older snow leopard whereas the new air comes out with the new lion.

    • profile image

      Troy 5 years ago

      No@ Eric the new Macbook pros do come with Lion if you get an older one you can upgrade to lion for free...

    • profile image

      Jack 5 years ago

      Can somebody confirm that with both of these macbooks, it's possible to scroll down using two fingers on the touchpad?

      Also, i've read somewhere about macs not getting any viruses, or less likely, can somebody breifly explain that to me too

    • profile image

      aladdin 5 years ago

      still undecided but when i read this comments i am sure to go for macbook pro. more power more battery life can be use in games and editing,

    • profile image

      SMcK 5 years ago

      Need to upgrad from MBP 2006 model for classwork, just going back for a doctoral degree. Anyone have some input? I'll will be doing LOTS of writing, editing, all APA style.

    • profile image

      CheckTwiceBeforeBuying 5 years ago

      Returning my Macbook Air due to the networking issue - Airport utility completely sucks, constantly losing connection due to Apple settling on one standard for connectivity. Go to the Apple support site to see what I am talking about. Over a 1,000 posts on one thread on this topic, multiple threads, over 266,000 views should tell you that it is a huge issue.

    • profile image

      kadiyalasiddhu 5 years ago

      hi hub

      i am trying to buy an apple laptop in with graphic card and a speedy processor, does the mac OS works only in the apple laptop... can u suggest me the laptop suitable for me!!

    • profile image

      Ana 5 years ago

      Can't wait to get a Mac still can't make up my mind as to which one. After getting an iPad my pc seems useless.

    • profile image

      Birhanu 5 years ago

      Thanks for the the lovely article. I was struggling which Mac to choose but now I will go for PRo.

    • profile image

      CAgirl 5 years ago

      Hi I'm 10 and just bought a MAcBook Pro and just wanted to let you know my neighbor has an Air. I was going to buy the Air but decided to stick with the Pro because on hers you can't put in CDs or multiple USB plugs or whatever those things are. Now the Pro has a large multi touch pad and I'm very happy with my choice.

    • profile image

      Amy 5 years ago

      I'm so glad I bought an Air. The portability factor outweighs the small inconveniences by a million! It fits in my camera bag and I can edit on the go.

    • profile image

      NzWonderstruck 5 years ago

      I want a macbook that I can do like Lyrics vids on,vid call and play some games ^_^ i think the Pro a=can do all those but how much does it weigh?

    • profile image

      ujjal 5 years ago

      i cant understand the price with configuration, because here given one price and also i have seen another price for same configuration.why this ?

    • profile image

      aaliyah 5 years ago

      i want a macbook air so bad im going to save my money until my birthday

    • profile image

      aaliyah 5 years ago

      eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee i am so excited to get a macbook air ...i want it even if it is thin ... its still nice oh my bithday is january 29 but i have to wait till next year well next two years

    • profile image

      buddy 5 years ago

      aawweessoommee OMG MACBOOK AIR IS AAAAAAAAWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HA HA MACBOOK PRO my cousin likes macbook pro he has a macbook pro i like both eqealy i like macbook pro and macbook air

    • FuzzyCookie profile image

      FuzzyCookie 5 years ago

      I got Macbook pro but I can say I am stupid being a windows user all my life, the switch was not that smooth, specially I missed the keyboard shortcuts in excel, word powerpoint (there are shortcuts but not the same) I could nt accomplish tasks in time, so had to add windows 7 on bootcamp. nevertheless, i am happy with my macbook pro, specially because its got more harddisk capacity and a cd drive lol and all that.lol

    • profile image

      Fishy 5 years ago

      Nice hub lissie, i used to have a macbook pro but ive sold it on ebay for a macbook air 2010, had it for a year and ive sold it again for a new air with the backlit keyboard *sigh. Tell u what apple made me lose money on their products. They keep upgrading an i keep selling the older one for muuuuch cheaper than ive bought it for. And now i want to sell my current air to get back to pro. In my opinion, get a macbook pro. Its probably bigger than air but not much, You will not having trouble carrying it, it has everything you need and it is better value for money.

    • profile image

      Lexie 5 years ago

      I really want a macbook pro!!!

    • profile image

      fai'za 5 years ago

      very well said.. ill go with the macbookPRO ;)

    • profile image

      Carlos 5 years ago

      I regret not buying the MacAir 13 inches earlier. I was working on an old Dell and what a difference. It is worth every penny. If you divide the price difference from a PC by the number of months you will be using it, it is a steal, compared to a slow and heavy OS such as Windows. You will not regret buying a MacAir.

    • profile image

      gargi arora 5 years ago

      i have mac book pro and i really liked it !! moreover , i am glad that i don't have macbook air as its really delicate . i am not good with handling stuff like that !!

    • profile image

      Newbie 5 years ago

      Just wanted to say thank you for a great review - I am quite a newbie with all these technical terms and loved how I could actually learn something and understand the difference between Air and Pro. Trust me, I have read about 10 reviews and I did not understand half of it.Thank you :)

    • profile image

      Abdullah 5 years ago

      Iwish have mac air but ithink mac pro better ......

    • exthus profile image

      exthus 5 years ago

      Awesome hub :) I'm all about PC, but I am tempted by a mac air - they look great... what I would use it for though, I don't know.

    • profile image

      Whatthisgamecalled? 4 years ago

      I have both a Macbook air and a Macbook pro. I think the Macbook pro is way better. Air is delicate and I might break it. Also the Air does not have a Disc slot or multiple usb slots.

    • profile image

      Joe 4 years ago

      pro's the best

    • profile image

      Jyotirmoy 4 years ago

      Macbook air, even though its a beautiful piece of machinery, is undoubtedly overpriced..

      Its way out f da hands of common people...

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