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Should I Buy A MacBook Pro or Air -Comparing MacBook Pro Retina and Air

Updated on May 3, 2014

Looking for a macBook that suits your needs can be pretty hard task but nevertheless you have landed on the right page. The main question you should ask is should I shell out thousands of dollar to buy a MacBook. To answer this we need to review every aspect of macbook. Just stick around it and we will help you in choosing the right product that will fit your needs. Apple products are the best of the line in their niche. They are carved to perfection and the service offered by apple is unbelievably the best. With the quality comes the price which although may be high but it is worth it. A mac lover will always be a mac lover no matter how much windows tries to surpass. Lets see it like this that you are going to make an investment and it is worth spending a couple of minutes over why you need a mac.


You can see here a quick short video of why you need a macbook and what are the basic features in a macbook.

(The above link opens in a new window)

I love using mac to write articles for hubpages(like this article), photo editing, emailing and lot of other stuff. For these stuff I like macbook over a pc. With release of new versions of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in 2013, a question that I am frequently confronted by many people is whether to buy Macbook air 13” or Macbook pro Retina 13”. So let’s dive in and find out. Shall we !!!


Macbook air 13
Macbook air 13
Macbook pro 13" retina
Macbook pro 13" retina
MacBook air 13
MacBook air 13
MacBook pro 13 retina
MacBook pro 13 retina

Designing, portability and appeal

Macbook air 13” :

Macbook air 13” has not changed in terms of designing and dimensions since last year. It weighs 2.96 pounds with a thickness range 0.11 to 0.68 inches. It has the same solid aluminum framework with aesthetic Apple logo engraved on the nice and smooth body. There is a black keyboard with backlight support for easy operation in dim environments. The touchpad is excellent as it was before.

Macbook pro retina 13”:

The Pro versions have been made slimmer than before. It is 0.71 inches thick and weighs
3.46 pounds. Thus Pro version is heavier than the Air but the difference is practically not much of an issue here because difference of 0.5 pound is virtually undetectable. Both air and pro versions are easy to carry anywhere. It also has the same solid aluminum framework with Apple logo, a black keyboard with backlight and awesome touchpad.

Conclusion:

MacBook air is slimmer and lighter than MacBook Pro but the difference is practically very small to be considered in actual life.

Display and clearity

MacBook air:

It comes with a 13.3 inches (diagonally) LED backlit display with 1440 x 900 pixels. Display is good and clear but nowhere close to that of retina display.

MacBook pro 13” retina:

The major difference lies here. Welcome to a mind blowing new LED display of 2560 x 1600 pixels. Everything on the screen is crispy clear, be it any text or any icon or any image. Text appears a lot clearer and sharper thus web browsing is very easy. With the launch of this display there appears above 260 applications( viz. Diablo III, Photoshop CS6 and Google’s Chrome) in the App Store of mac that work with this retina display. At 320 lux, the Pro was brighter than mac Air which measured at 243 lux.

Conclusion:

MacBook Pro is sharper, brighter and richer screen which helps the MacBook Pro win this round easily. If you are someone who wants to handle multimedia stuff a lot or want to do editing of photos or video clips then buying a retina display could be your best choice.

MacBook air vs MacBook Retina
MacBook air vs MacBook Retina
Retina Display
Retina Display

Ports and external display support

Macbook air:

Macbook air comes with the same port layout as previous year. It has one Thunderbolt port, two USB 3.0 ports and one SDXC card slot. There are less number of ports than retina version.

Macbook pro 13” retina:

It offers more number of ports. It has two Thunderbolt 2 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port and one SDXC card slot.

Conclusion:

Macbook Pro comes with more number and wider selection for ports. It allows you to connect two displays at same time. If you are someone that frequently need to connect your laptop for giving presentations or want to do gaming then MacBook pro should be considered

MacBook air ports(Left)
MacBook air ports(Left)
MacBook air ports(Right)
MacBook air ports(Right)
MacBook pro retina 13" ports
MacBook pro retina 13" ports

Performance and storage

MacBook air:

The mac air now comes with latest Intel’s Haswell ULT processors which are 1.3 Giga Hz dual core Intel’s Core i5 processor or 1.7 Giga Hz dual core Intel’s Core i7 processor. It comes with 4GB RAM. The Haswell processors are quite effective than earlier processors and can do more work per clock cycle. The latest macBook air 13” offers 45 % faster flash memory besides 40% better graphics performance thanks to the use of latest Intel HD 5000 GPU. The latest macbook uses new flash storage instead of hard disks..

MacBook pro retina 13":

They come with a 2.4Giga Hz or 2.6 Giga Hz dual core Intel’s Core i5 or 2.8 Giga Hz dual core Intel’s Core i7 processor. It offers 8 GB RAM. They are equipped with Intel Iris graphics. These can simply outperform rest of integrated GPUs put together. They provide 256 GB PCIe flash storage(upgradeable Up to 1TB).

Peformance tests:

Higher the score in the following tests the better the performance

Geekbench 3 test

Geekbench 3: Macbook air scored 5,657(multi core score) on Geekbench 3 and MacBook 13” retina scored 6263(multi core score).

Geekbench 3 test
Geekbench 3 test

Cinebench openGL test:

MacBook Pro 13” retina scored 20.98 and MacBook air scored 20.53

Cinebench openGL test
Cinebench openGL test

Cinebench CPU test

MacBook air scored 230 and MacBook pro scored 262.

Cinebench CPU test
Cinebench CPU test

World of Warcraft

Macbook air scored 28 fps with resolution adjusted at 1440 x 900 at max. settings whereas MacBook Pro with display adjusted to 1440 x 900 gave an average of 28 fps. On turning down the graphics to Good MacBook Pro averaged 50 fps as compared to MacBook air 42 fps.


OpenOffice test

In this test we give the laptop task to pair 20,000 names and addresses. MacBook Pro completed it in 5 minutes and 3 seconds and MacBook air took 5 minutes and 47 seconds which was about 41 seconds slower.

Copying 10 GB of multimedia files

MacBook pro’s flash storage(299 MBps) surpassed MacBook air’s(242 MBps).

Copying 10 GB of multimedia files
Copying 10 GB of multimedia files

Conclusion of performance tests

MacBook Pro is faster and better than macbook air on every test.

Battery Life

MacBook air:

It comes with an integrated battery of 50 watt hours. It is a lithium polymer battery. The charger unit is a 45W MagSafe II adapter along with cable management system In our battery backup test macbook air 13” held up till 12 hours and 55 minutes with web surfing using Wi-Fi.

MacBook pro 13” retina:

It comes with an integrated 71.8 watt hours. It is also a lithium polymer battery. The charger unit is a 60W MagSafe II Adapter along with cable management system. In our battery backup test macbook pro 13” held up till 9 hours and 37 minutes with web surfing using Wi-Fi..

Conclusion:

With the use of the Intel’s latest Haswell 4th gen processors in all the above models and OS X Mavericks there has been a significant improvement in battery life than was before without them in the previous versions. MacBook air offers about 3 hours longer battery backup than MacBook pro retina. They are way above any standard laptop of their configuration.

MacBook Integrated Battery
MacBook Integrated Battery

Configureability

MacBook air:

Both of the models( $1,099 and $1,299) are upgradeable to a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i7 dual core for $150. They can be upgraded to 8GB RAM for another $100. Only $1,299 model can be upgraded for flash storage. You can upgrade it to 512GB for $300.

MacBook pro retina 13”:

With the base and mid-tier model you can upgrade the processor to 2.8 Giga Hz Intel’s Core i7 dual core for $300. You can upgrade RAM to 8GB for $100 or to 16GB for $300. With the top model you can upgrade CPU to 2.8-GHz Core i7 processor for $200. You can upgrade RAM to 16GB for $200. The flash storage can be upgraded to 1TB for $500.

Conclusion:

For MacBook pro Apple offers greater customization than the MacBook air.

Price
Price

Pricing

MacBook air:

The cheapest version of MacBook air 13” costs $1,099. It has 1.3 GHz Intel’s Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, Intel HD Graphics 5000 and 128 GB flash storage. Its higher version has the exact same RAM and processor as the basic version but has 256GB of flash storage and costs $1,299.


MacBook Pro 13” retina:

It starts at $1,299 and has 2.4 GHz Intel’s Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, Intel Iris graphics, 128GB of flash storage. Its higher models costs $1499 and $1,799. The $1499 model has same processor but 8GB RAM and 256 GB flash memory. The $1799 model has 2.6 GHz version of same processor but 8GB RAM and 512 GB flash memory(upgradeable to 1TB) of the Pro has a 2.6 Giga Hz Intel's Core i5 processor, 512GB of flash storage and 8GB RAM. Have a look at the latest price or configure according to yourself at below link.


You can configure MacBook Pro Retina here and check out the latest price here.


Conclusion:

MacBook Air is about $200 cheaper when we compare the base models. Though MacBook pro 13” retina is a bit expensive but the features offered are worth the difference. Despite the price difference MacBook air is still a value for money product

Comparison summary chart

Feature
MacBook air 13"
MacBook pro retina 13"
Designing
wins
 
Display
 
wins
Ports and connectivity
 
wins
Performance
 
wins
Battery backup
wins
 
Configureability
 
wins
Pricing
wins
 
Final score
3
4

Verdict

Out of all the aspects we compared we find MacBook Pro 13" Retina definitely has an edge over the MacBook air. The price gap of $200 is justifiable. Buying which is a matter which depends on your needs and requirements. For those people who deal with multimedia stuff like graphics work like editing photoshop pics, video editing or you need a fast and responsive device, If you are one of those who just simply surf the Web or use productivity softwares then light design and graphics will work and MacBook Air is a perfect device for that.

Which would you buy MacBook air 13" or MacBook pro Retina 13"?

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    • profile image

      griffinb 3 years ago

      THEY LOOK LIKE THE SAME BRAND AND BUT DIFFERENT CONFIGURATION AND LIGHT DIMMERS.

    • markmorgangenius profile image
      Author

      Mark Morgan 3 years ago

      First of all welcome griffinb to hubpages community.

      Yeah both the products are from apple. MacBook air is the lower version released earlier by apple that was followed by release of MacBook pro and MacBook pro retina 13". The advantages and disadvantages have been explained in the hub, have a look !!!

    • luvtoowrite profile image

      Luvtoo Write 3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thank you for clarifying in your hub the difference between the two. I just purchased a MacBook pro because I do a lot of photo editing. The sales person tried his hardest to get me to buy, MacBook air. He told me there was no difference between the two and the MacBook air was better for better for photo editing, all around. Needless to say, I didn't budge, I'm glad I didn't.

    • profile image

      Cjmac 3 years ago

      Just FYI it's "suits" your needs not "suites" your needs.

    • markmorgangenius profile image
      Author

      Mark Morgan 3 years ago

      @Cjmac Yeah thanks for noticing the typo there, I have corrected it now. I guess I was too much involved in writing the main theme of the page. Moreover both the terms were meaningful so the spell check passed it.

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