Cant Decide - 13" Air vs 13" Pro

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Y2HBK, Mar 24, 2011.

  1. Y2HBK macrumors newbie

    Dec 9, 2010
    Hey everyone. Looking for some additional input here. I have been looking at getting a new mac to replace my aging 2008 MBP. I want something smaller and more portable. I will mainly use it for web browsing, video streaming (youtube hd, netflix, hulu+) and light gaming (old school games, nothing new really).

    Here is where I stand and why I cant decide... yes, cost is an issue.

    2010 13" MBA Refurb (4GB RAM & 128GB SD) $1,189
    -Higher res screen
    -Slim profile & lightweight
    -Much more portable

    2011 13" MBP (4GB RAM & Dual Core i5, 320GB HDD) $1,099
    -Backlit Keyboard (I browse a lot at night in bed)
    -Easier to upgrade
    -Dual Core CPU
    -Kind of like the look of the glass bezel, but not the screen res, lol

    First, will either really suit my needs in terms of the GPU?

    Second... I think the biggest thing holding me back on the MBP is the screen. The screen on the MBA just seems so much crisper. Also, the MBA comes with the SSD. I do have a SSD I can throw in the MBP, but its only 60GB.. however I do have an external hard drive and I suppose I could always use the SD card slot for backup.

    While Thunderbolt is kind of new and not really utilized yet, I feel its more future-proofing my purchase in a way. I also have a 27" Dell monitor I might hook the machine up to occasionally.

    Any thoughts?
  2. DrHiggsBoson macrumors newbie

    Mar 23, 2011
    I had the same issue about a week ago. I went ahead and bought the 11" macbook air and loved it. I played a little SC2 on low and it ran fine, but the non-glass bezel (it's my first mac and I've always loved this design) and next to no future proofing was a bit of an issue for me, so I decided to switch it out for the 13" macbook pro. I love the design of it and everything, the only thing I have really had an issue with is the 16:9 display. That is just a personal issue, I've been using 16:9 displays for a while. I did find a dead pixel, so I will probably be switching it out again, but I think I'm going to stick with the Pro.

    I think in your situation you aren't going to have an issue with the graphics or anything, I think it comes down to which you like more. The Air really is amazing when it comes to the weight and design, but if you plan on ever upgrading you might want to go with the Pro. All of the Air Ram is soldered in, so that's a no go.

    Either way, you will be happy. Also, you should think about the fact that you can always sell whichever you choose in a year or so and upgrade again for a few hundred instead of full price. New notebooks every year! :D
  3. solaris7 macrumors regular

    Feb 17, 2008
    MBA 13", 'nuff said.
  4. MoodyMedStudent macrumors member

    Feb 16, 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    I was in this same dilemma. However once I looked at MBA's high resolution screen the MBP just ain't gonna cut it.
  5. aleni macrumors 68020

    Jun 2, 2006
    i'd choose MBA 13", because the screen resolution alone is worth it.

    screen is the only thing that you will see every time u use the computer, so the higher resolution on the MBA is worth anything than what MBP 13" have. especially since u need portability and you computer usage is fairly light.
  6. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    The only real advantage of the 13" MBP is the CPU. Other than that the MBA wins convincingly. I don't understand why it's a difficult decision other than the MBP feeling newer and probably wrongly assuming the MBA could get updated before Fall. The Thunderbolt port will be important in a few years but is almost irrelevant right now. You will probably be onto your next Mac notebook before it becomes highly usable.

    I feel that if anyone used both the MBA for a week and then got the MBP to use for a week, after a couple of days they would beg for the MBA back. The advantages are so great for the MBA and it doesn't need a Sandy Bridge CPU to be amazing.

    I would recommend the MBA to everyone except those that absolutely need FireWire and Gigabit Ethernet or have some other pressing reason of real work to do that cannot be accomplished by the MBA somehow. The prior poster said it, as the hi resolution display is reason enough to go with the MBA and all the rest are gigantic bonuses!

    Good luck whichever route you go!
  7. aleni macrumors 68020

    Jun 2, 2006
    good explanation. i wish i can use MBA 13" as my primary machine, but i just can't.

    here's my story, i own every mba series since day one.

    my jobs is to do tshirt design, about 4000x4000 px in 300 dpi with photoshop. currently im using a 17" unibody MBP with 2.66ghz core 2 duo, 128GB Corsair SSD and 8GB of Ram. by checking at geekbench result, the 13" MBA ultimate is little bit less faster than my machine, and i really wanted to switch to 13" ultimate MBA because i felt in love with the MBA body since day one. i wish my job is a web developer or an app developer so i can live with MBA as my primary machine. the 2.13 ghz in 13" mba is OK for me, but the lack of ram is my primary concern.

    do u think when will MBA get 8GB of ram as an optional built to order? do u have any idea?
  8. christophermdia macrumors 6502a


    Sep 28, 2008
    I had a 15" i7 w/ssd and my 13" Air "Ultimate" beats it....that being said...13 vs 13, go Air...lifecycle says you will probably upgrade within 2 years so this Air will last you at least that much....just make sure you get the 4gb version, its so fast and portable to where you dont mind taking it with you anywhere...
  9. aleni macrumors 68020

    Jun 2, 2006
    this is interesting. how can the MBA 13" beat your core i5? please explain to me. because i really like to replace my 17" mbp with the 13"ultimate.
  10. christophermdia macrumors 6502a


    Sep 28, 2008
    Depends on what your doing, if your doing a lot of video encoding etc...then of course the i7 will be faster, geekbench scores are substantially lower for the 13" Ultimate than that of the 15" i7, however, with SSD in both, I found the 13" faster at opening files and programs, I am a huge multi-tasker, I watch my son via webcam at his daycare which I need internet explorer to do, so I run parallels with Win 7 alongside doing my daily mac programs work of excel sheets, word documents, outlook, safari browsing, all while listening to Pandora and an occasional logmein to my home computer. Now dont get me wrong, the i7 had no problem handing this either, but apples to apples, the 13" being as small and powerful as it is keeps up with the i7 toe to toe. I think this 13" would be incredible if I could slap a 512 SSD in it, as I decided to just dump all my pictures, movies and music onto a portable external to supplement the lack of drive space. I sold my i7, and will pick up an i7 Mac Mini if it gets released this year as a server and think that will be the perfect complement to the Air as well as take care of encoding dvd's and music when I need to do that occasionally.

    All boils down to what you do and need on a daily basis. For me the Air just works, and works really well.
  11. Precision4 macrumors newbie

    Jul 27, 2010
    Posting this in the MBA thread will lead you to a vote for the MBA, posting this in the MBP thread will go the other way!!

    Anyways, my wife and I had this same debate in Feb. Here is the story.

    My wife needed a new laptop for her PhD, but wanted something lightweight (most important for heR), small and powerful enough to handle her heavily formated/referenced documents (Word is painfull with 100+ citations in a document, anyway). We were keeping our eye on the 11" MBA. However, realized that it may be a little to small when sitting infront of Word documents for extended periods since you can only really view 1/2 a page at a time. So we decided on the 13' MBA. We said that we would pick it up once we got back from our 2 week trip to India. We also decide that we would spend the extra 100 for the 4GB of RAm since the MBA only comes with 2GB.

    We got back from our trip on Feb. 24 and went to the Apple store on Feb. 25 to pick up the MBA. Low and behold, when we get to the Apple store, the new MBPs are out! After playing with the MBP and MBA and looking at the specs, we went with the MBP. Although we were sacrificing weight, which again was a huge thing for her), the specs of the new MBP and the fact that it already came with 4GB of RAM and was still cheaper than the MBA, we decinded on the MBP.

    Now, after having the MBP for about a month, I must say that we made the right decision. This thing is a beast! Yes, the SSD might have been nice, but, truly, it doesnt make that much difference for our purposes. Also, the DVD drive has come in handy for some software installs.

    So, that is my story. I would go with the MBP.
  12. johnhalsted macrumors member

    Nov 3, 2010
    the 13" air can still outperform the 13" pro on most tests, also graphics card is better in the air plus the SSD and better resolution, lightweight etc...

    easy choice :D

    edit: get 4gb of ram in the air though
  13. Manzana macrumors 6502a


    Jul 19, 2004
    Orange County, CA
    browsing in bed macbook air wins and it's not even close.

    I do miss the backlit keyboard but it is so much better to use that the choice is so obvious that I hate using my Macbook Pro now.
  14. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    For ordinary use like web browsing, e-mail, light games, iPhoto, iTunes, either one will work. I'm looking at them myself; a MBP is $1199 but a MBA with 4gb ram is 1399. Don't need the superdrive; I have a desktop and a 2009 13" MBP. I'd miss firewire a bit for superduper backups, but USB 2 would do as I don't do it often. I've compared the two in the Apple store, and either one would do. I'd go on how much you have to carry it around; if you carry it around a lot I'd go MBA. If you need firewire or lots of disk space, go MBP.

    My MBP has less than 40GB space used on it, so disk space wouldn't matter to me; 128 GB ssd would be fine.
  15. ugp macrumors 65816


    Jan 7, 2008
    Inverness, Florida
    I would say the MacBook Air hands down.

    Since I have gotten mine I love it.
  16. DVD9 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 18, 2010

    Major fail.

    Never considered the Air because of this.
  17. Rhyalus macrumors 6502


    Mar 4, 2011
    Hmmm, this was posted in the Air forum...maybe for a little more neutrality it should be in the Buying Advice section...

    Just a thought.

  18. xxplosive1984 macrumors regular

    Jun 7, 2009
    Dallas, TX
    If you didn't have the iMac, would you still say that? Not trying to be a smart *ss, just curious.
  19. stockscalper macrumors 6502a


    Aug 1, 2003
    Area 51
    Air. Whatever advantage the MBP has in the CPU it loses with its crummy graphics card. The Air's Core Duo is no slouch plus it has a much better graphics card and SSD. As for Thunderbolt it's going to be a long time before you see anything that takes advantage of it, so you're basically waiting for the next upgrade cycle anyway.
  20. AppleScruff1 macrumors G3


    Feb 10, 2011
    Browsing in bed shouldn't involve a computer. :D
  21. ecib, Mar 25, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2011

    ecib macrumors regular


    Jan 4, 2011
    I just bought an maxed out MBA 13" a month and a half ago, and bought my girlfriend a new base 13" MBP few weeks ago, so I've been using both extensively, and I can share my experiences with both machines.

    First, neither my girlfriend nor I use our notebooks for anything intensive, -basically the exact same use case as you: Web browsing, online videos, Open Office suite, light photoshop, and music.

    I'll address each of your points on each computer:

    MBA screen: It is fantastic. I like the MBP screen better though. Yes, I understand that the MBA has a higher resolution, but I find that I ALWAYS am pinching out to increase the font size while web browsing and many other tasks. The MBP resolution is simply closer to the resolution I prefer for my content., thought the MBA is obviously crisper, but it's not an insane difference. Aside from that, I find that the colors just 'pop' on the MBP screen better. I enjoy looking at multimedia content more on her machine. Don't get me wrong, the MBA screen is phenomenal, but when they are side by side, I happen to enjoy staring at the MBP screen a bit more. This surprised me, as I thought going in that it was kind of a no-brainer that I would enjoy the higher res MBA screen more. I guess what I'm getting at is don't sweat the lower res on the MBP at all. I mean you can if you want, but I'm not :D

    MBA weight and profile: This is where the MBA shines, as it should. I am one of those that takes my book everywhere, including my couch, chair, and bed while at my house. I cannot tell you how much the MBP feels like a ton of bricks compared to the MBA. The MBA can be lifted with little to no effort from the corner, unlike the MBP. It's a little thing that is a bigger deal than I would have thought it would be. MBA is just phenomenal for carting around everywhere. It makes me feel lazy typing that.

    MBP backlit keyboard: I'm a touch typist, so my MBA is just fine. That being said, I am constantly on my notebook in relatively low light in the living room watching TV, or in bed. I got my girlfriend her MBP and I confess I jelly. It really is just a great feature. For me, it's like heated seats in a car (I live in Michigan). You don't need them, but the first time you get in a car with them in the cold you are instantly very appreciative. If you are not a touch typist and you work in low light a lot you're going to get a lot of value out of this feature.

    MBP easier to upgrade: I bought my MBA for a 3 year lifetime and maxed out the RAM and processor, so I know I'm good. Anything longer than that is just icing if it's still performing well with regards to what I need it to do. If you are upgrading 2008 to 2011, you can do the same with a MBA and be fine with your use case based off that historical timeline. But yes, if you are looking at 5 years or longer, or have a favorite graphically intensive game you'll want to be playing a MBP might be the way to go.

    MBP dual core CPU: All I can say is my girl and I have similar use cases, and there's no noticeable difference using her machine or mine. Both are snappy, and I've yet to get a spinning beach ball from either. Nuff said. There are many places on this site where people have put both machines through the paces and gathered good metrics if you're interested, but I find that none of that really matters as long as my machine just does what I need it to do. MBA with a SSD = MPB base to my satisfaction. Note that's just my casual perception from using both, -I haven't done side by side comparisons of various apps and processes, etc.

    MBP looks of glass bezel + resolution: Personal taste. Personally, I kind of like the black border around the MBP screen. On e-readers, or anything really, I like a dark border surrounding my content. It makes it easier to focus on and view for some reason, -probably the contrast. Also I think the black border and glass bezel looks a touch classier (but once you close the notebooks MBA wins hands down imho :p). One thing I've noticed is that the MBA screen is superior when viewing in sunlight and other bright light sources. MBP screen is much more reflective and that has bothered me from time to time. As I stated earlier, I personally find the higher resolution of the MBA to be mostly inconsequential. When I'm on her machine I've never once wished the resolution was higher.

    MBP thunderbolt: Um, hmm. The MPB has one. I don't know what else to say. She might use it someday? Honestly, It's something that's cool to have I guess, but could care less if it wasn't there. I'm sure other people have very different opinions but that's just my experience.

    Finally a couple random observations from using both:

    I have found that the downward slant of the MBA is great for typing on for long periods of time. Your wrists don't turn up as much as with the taller edge of the MBP, and it actually makes a big difference in comfort over long periods of time (typing a paper for example).
    I have also found the keypad of the MBP to be a little more 'substantial' with a little more 'bounce-back' from the keys if that makes sense. I like it a little better, but both keypads are great. No complaints.
    The SSD if the MBA is awesome. Love how quick the boot time is. MBP boots slower but is still quick.

    Finally, I attached a pic (sorry for quality) of both notebooks open side by side to the CNN webpage so you can kind of get an idea of the resolution difference when browsing (as far as amount of content on screen). I know when I was at the Apple store they were anchored so I was running back and forth trying to compare both screens. Hope that helps.

    Oh yea, -almost forgot. If neither us had our notebooks and I had to buy one tomorrow, I'd go with the ultimate MBA based on the portability and form factor when typing more than any other factors. But it's damn close. I simply don't think you can make a wrong choice, -you're going to be very happy either way. EDIT: For the record, she would go with her MBP again, so I guess I did a good job there ;)

    EDIT #2: The far right advert column is different between the two in my attached pic, but the other columns are the same, so you can still use it to compare. Interesting though, since I hit refresh at the exact same time on both computers.

    tl;dr: Non-technical review by average guy using both MBA and MBP.

    Attached Files:

  22. gta50419, Mar 25, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2011

    gta50419 macrumors 6502

    Jun 11, 2010
    Macbook pro.

    light up keys
    more ram
    more powerful
    cd drive
  23. aleni macrumors 68020

    Jun 2, 2006
    my 17" mbp feels slow with SSD because of the free space left was about 3GB of 128GB, and sometimes my 11" air feels faster, but after i clean installed SL into the 17" MBP, the MBP feels faster again than the 11" air. yea i know it's not a good way to compare it to the 1.4ghz 11" air.
  24. damnyooneek macrumors 6502

    Aug 14, 2005
    best value is the MBP. if weight is the number one priority get the air but everything else on the MBP is better.

Share This Page