MacBook Air vs Pro: Which Mac laptop should I get now?

MacBook Air vs Pro: Which Mac laptop should I get now?

How well does Apple’s new MacBook Air stack up against the existing MacBook Pro line? PC & Tech Authority looks at the options.

Apple’s release overnight of new MacBook Air models did eliminate one line (save for education customers) from its MacBook lineup; for most intents and purposes the white plastic “MacBook” no longer exists.

What you’re getting in the new MacBook Air is, for most intents and purposes, a step up from the old MacBook; the processor is better, there’s more inbuilt memory in most of the models, it’s Thunderbolt equipped and Lion comes as standard. There’s no optical drive, of course, and the storage is a little lower, topping out at 256GB, but then it should also be a lot faster running purely from SSD rather than a mechanical hard drive. In any case, except for education customers the Macbook is no longer an option. In a laptop sense, then, the choice is between the Macbook Air and the Macbook Pro.

The 2011 MacBook Air


Back in 2008 when the original MacBook Air launched, the differentiation between the Air and the Pro couldn’t have been more distinct; the Air was an expensive traveller’s-only laptop where the Pro was for the serious types. Having shifted the Air into the space that the old MacBook occupied, how do the two lines actually stack up?

We’ll take as our basis for comparison the 13” Entry level MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. We have to - there’s no 11” Pro and no 15” or 17” Air models to compare.


MacBook Air 13”


MacBook Pro 13”





Physical Specs

1.7x32.5x22.7cm, 1.35kg

2.41x32.5x22.7cm, 2.54kg

Screen Size

13.3” 1440x900

13.3” 1280x800


Intel Core i5 1.7GHz

Intel Core i5 2.3GHz


4GB 1333MHz DDR3

4GB 1333MHz DDR3



320GB 5400RPM HDD


Intel HD Graphics w/384MB of onboard memory

Intel HD Graphics w/384MB of onboard memory

Claimed Battery Life

7 Hours

7 Hours


The Pro still sits in the professional commanding position, although it’s arguably better value if you want the MacBook Pro to step up the pricing a little where you get better screens, discrete graphics processors and even more storage. All of the new MacBook Airs ship with OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) preinstalled, but any new MacBook Pro should be eligible for a free upgrade if it’s not already pre-imaged onto the system.

The Air compares well on paper in a direct comparison on screen resolution and obviously on carrying weight. The use of SSD also means it should boot faster and may respond with certain applications more quickly, although that could be mitigated depending on the size of files you’re chucking about.

The new 13in MacBook Air weighs 1.35Kg compared with 2.54Kg for the 13in MacBook Pro

The only other major difference not covered in the chart is that the new Airs (as well as the Mac Minis announced today) have an EFI revisions that allows you to reimage Lion onto them over the Internet; that’s not something that you can do with a MacBook Pro of any kind, at least not currently. Whether you’d want to drip-feed an operating system install that weighs in at 3.6GB over the Internet is a matter for your taste, naturally.

So what conclusions are there? Apple’s still keeping the two lines fairly distinct. If you want a desk Mac laptop for serious crunching of data, buy a Pro – but probably not the 13in model. If you want a portable Mac laptop, your choice now is only the Air, but it stacks up fairly well against the Pro, especially if you’ve got external drives to store infrequently needed data on.

Also read: Thunderbolt - more than a funky name

Also read: Apple MacBook Pro: we review the Thunderbolt MacBook Pro

Also read: 32 reasons why PCs are better than Macs: are they still true in 2010?




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