13" MBA vs. 13" MBP 2011 Review

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Help Please, Mar 28, 2011.

  1. Help Please, Mar 28, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011

    Help Please macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #1
    The Purpose:
    To help anyone on the fence between buying a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. Hopefully make their decision a little easier.

    Backdrop:
    I had a tough time deciding which to buy in the first place. I was put into this situation because of HP doing what HP does best...failing. I bought a nice HP Envy 17 and had it for about 2 weeks before ultimately returning it because of a noticeable wobble, screen static, and part of the chasis was out of place. Three Envy's later and I was fed up with HP and PC's in general. It was time to make the switch :)

    I was swayed by the MacBook Pro, solely because it had just been refreshed with the new Sandy Bridge processors, Thunderbolt I/O, and HD Webcams. However, I still had my qualms about it (Screen resolution, Intel graphics, Weight).


    After spending two weeks with the 13" MacBook Pro, I was quite disappointed, so I decided to buy a 13" MacBook Air and compare the two while I had both of them, and ultimately make my decision for that.

    What I use my computer for:
    School work (a lot of Excel and Word), Internet browsing, HD content viewing, Light gaming.

    MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air:

    13" MBP - Intel i5 2.3GHz, 4GB RAM, 320GB 5400RPM Hard drive, Intel 3000.

    vs.

    13" MBA - Intel Core 2 Duo 1.86GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, nVidia 320m.

    Design - Simply put, the MacBook Air is one sexy laptop. Not that the MacBook Pro isn't a nice looking machine, you just can't compare to a laptop that weighs under 3 pounds and is as thin as the Air is.

    Display - The resolution on the Air is a true godsend. I love the bigger resolution on the same size screen. However, the color to the Pro is much deeper when compared to the Air and while it was somewhat noticeable at first, after calibration, there wasn't a major difference in colors.

    Keyboard and Trackpad - The keyboard on the Air is easier to type away on, yet the trackpad on the MacBook Pro seems more responsive. It's also important to note that the Air doesn't have a backlit keyboard, whereas the Pro does. For some this is a big issue, but for me it wasn't a "deal breaker".

    Speakers - I was quite surprised to find that the speakers on the Air were louder and also seemed to have more bass to them when compared to the Pro.

    Ports - Obviously being such a small laptop, the Air is limited to what it has. With only two USB ports, this may be a problem for some people who don't like to use USB hubs. With the Pro there is a plethora of connections for your liking, including the brand new Thunderbolt.


    Performance:

    Hard Drive - There was no need to really even compare the two. The SSD was blazing fast with everything, whereas the hard drive was truly the bottleneck of the MacBook Pro. No doubt, it wouldn't be hard to install a SSD into the Pro, but then you're going to be spending more for what is already standard on the Air.

    • Startup - Air, 13 seconds vs Pro, 30 seconds
      [*]iTunes - Air, 1.4 seconds vs Pro, 8.5 seconds

    CPU - It's hard for me to test this as I'm more of basic user than anything. I don't use too many CPU intensive applications, besides some light gaming. I would assume that Sandy Bridge outperforms the Core 2 Duo by leaps and bounds, but the SSD also makes up for the lower clock speed.

    Gaming - I don't do a large amount of gaming, so I went searching the forums for people who would know more about the nVidia 320m vs Intel 3000 HD graphics.
    HERE -> http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1103257


    The 320m gains about 10 FPS on average over the Intel 3000 graphics.

    YouTube - The Air had no problems playing back the Dark Knight trailer in 1080p, nor did the Pro.

    Conclusion:

    Overall, the MacBook Air was really impressive. I couldn't imagine using the 13" Pro over the Air for my purposes. The Pro is a great machine undoubtedly, but the Air is worth the difference in price.

    This is what I truly thought made the Air stand out over the Pro.

    1. Beautiful display.
    2. Improved gaming performance.
    3. Louder speakers.
    4. Thin and light.
    5. Overall amazing aesthetics.
    6. Keyboard is very easy to type on.
    7. Fast boot and application load times.
     
  2. Help Please, Mar 28, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2011

    Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #2
    Sorry for the poor quality. Photos were taken with my Samsung Fascinate.

    You'll also notice from the pictures, I did order my MacBook Air refurbished.

    Unboxing.
    [​IMG]

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us

    MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
    [​IMG]

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    Thickness compared.
    [​IMG]

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us

    Screens compared. (Air is first picture)
    [​IMG]

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us
    [​IMG]

    Uploaded with ImageShack.us
     
  3. Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #4
  4. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere

    GGJstudios

    Joined:
    May 16, 2008
    #5
    I didn't suggest otherwise. I simply posted links to relevant threads.
     
  5. klaze macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2010
    #6
    Nice review, I'm still deciding which to get. And thanks to GGJstudios for posted some more links. More to read and decide :)
     
  6. hellfire88 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2008
    #7
    Thanks for your review, I'm in the same boat now (deciding between the exact same models: base 13" MBA with Core i5 2.3GHz or base MBA 13" with upgraded RAM to 4GB). My usage is similar to you so I just have to get over the "spec-whore" in me and overlook the Core i5 > Core 2 Duo.

    Thanks GGJstudios for the additional links/reads.
     
  7. tim100 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    May 25, 2009
    #8
    moving parts

    mbp has
    1) dvd drive
    2) hhd
    3) low res

    why get a mbp?
     
  8. AbyssImpact macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    #9
    more power and upgradeable components.
     
  9. Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #10
    For people that don't mind the low resolution screen, need more processing power, use a DVD drive regularly, can also upgrade the RAM to 8GB.
     
  10. Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #11
    Took me awhile to get over the fact that it's a Core 2 Duo, trust me, I didn't get over it overnight. I read many reviews about the MacBook Air and saw how everyone was saying the processor performed just fine if not well.

    After only spending a little time with the Air, it was obvious to me what my choice was going to be. Who knows, may'be your experience will be different, but I dare you to use the Air for a week and not fall in love with it. :)
     
  11. hystery macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2010
    Location:
    Japan
    #12
    Why?
     
  12. aristobrat macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #13
    My usage isn't much different from you guys.

    Coming from an 15" i7 MBP, I was gambling that the Core 2 Duo+SSD would make for a faster overall experience for me than the i7+7200 RPM HDD, and man, I couldn't be any more pleased! :eek: :D
     
  13. hellfire88 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2008
    #14
    Yea I had the 11.6" MBA "Ultimate". Loved the thing and it handled my daily tasks quite well (was even able Yo hook it up to my 28" 1920x1200 monitor and do a full days work with VPN and MS RDC with it and firefox with lots of tabs an other background tasks.

    Had to sell it though as it was just a tad too small for me (11.6" 1366x768) the text was a bit too small. Hopefully the 13" MBA with 1440x900 is a bit better.
     
  14. Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #15
    To put it simply, I probably set my expectations too high. I figured I could live with the low resolution, Intel 3000 graphics, and the weight, if it meant having an updated / faster processor, backlit keyboard, and at a good price.

    I soon found out in my circumstances, I couldn't live with those things considering the processor on the Air does everything I need just fine. The backlit keyboard is not a huge issue for me and if it becomes one, I'll buy one of those keyboard skins that has glow in the dark features. Also, buying mine refurbished was a great idea. I got mine for $1,189 + tax and shipping...The laptop arrived with no scratches and ZERO charges on the battery - basically a brand new machine.
     
  15. entatlrg macrumors 68040

    entatlrg

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Waterloo & Georgian Bay, Canada
    #16
    Great review! Thanks for taking the time to post it. My findings where similar to yours, in fact the 13" MBP's where the most poplular in our offices unit the the Air arrived, since then everyone has switched over. Speed and weight is great!
    Sounds like you're waiting for your new 13" MBA to arrive, good luck and post back how you like it.
     
  16. Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #17
    Thanks for the positive feedback Entatlrg.
     
  17. AppleScruff1 macrumors G3

    AppleScruff1

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    #18
    What's the difference between the keyboards on the MBA and MBP?
     
  18. halledise macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    May 7, 2009
    Location:
    Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, QLD Australia
    #19

    answer = Mac Book Air
     
  19. HiddenGem macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    #20
    Wish I'd seen this thread on Sunday before I returned my Air as screen colours were not as good as MBP 15" and couldn't adjust them to get close (ended up more blue).

    Gone back to using my 2007 MBP 15" and may just wait until the next Air refresh, which I hope will be June as don't want to wait until October.
     
  20. aristobrat macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #21
    The Air's doesn't have a backlight.
     
  21. HiddenGem macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2007
    #22
    Can still see the keys pretty well in pitch black as the screen lights it up sufficiently, if not the letters then the key outline.
     
  22. vader_slri macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2009
    #23
    Apple offers a 128GB SSD as a BTO option for the 13" MBP. The cost difference would be $50 over the 13" MBA as you have it configured. That would be a better comparison. However, I agree with your conclusions about screen resolution and portability being better on the MBA and if those are priorities, the MBA will be the better machine.
     
  23. Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #24
    Agreed. That's exactly why this wasn't a huge issue for me. Some people on these forums act like not having a backlit keyboard is truly the end of the world.
     
  24. Help Please thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Location:
    Iowa
    #25
    For some, the color difference is more noticeable, but for me I didn't really notice or care. The colors still look fine.

    As for the refresh, it wasn't a priority of mine to wait, considering I needed a laptop at the time. However, I like the idea of not having to use Intel's graphics, because there is no doubt that will be in the new Air's. Also, if you read this link... http://www.engadget.com/2011/03/28/no-iphone-5-at-wwdc-this-year-thats-how-it-looks-from-here/ .... about 4 lines down they say that there may be NO hardware related announcements at WWDC (June) and most likely will be in their Fall event.

    Just some food for thought :)
     

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