Macbook Pro 13 Retina vs Macbook Air 13: Which one should you get?

Apple Macbook Pro 13 Retina vs Macbook Air 13: Which one should you get?

Apple are renowned for producing beautiful quality products and the Macbook Pro Retina and Macbook Air are perfect examples of Apples obsessive attention to detail. The Macbook range presents some of the best laptops money can buy and in 2013 they got even better. Both the Pro retina (late 2013) and the Air (mid 2013) benefit from Intel’s latest processors and graphics, significant improvements in battery life and both have been subject to competitive price cuts. Whilst both of these machines cater to different needs, they are both exceptional products. I have had time using both so hopefully I can give you a better idea of which one is best for you.

Performance and battery life.

Both the Pro retina and the Air use Intel’s latest fourth generation Haswell processors, with integrated graphics. Both machines as standard run on Intel’s i5 CPU but that is where the similarities end. The i5 inside the Air is clocked at 1.3GHZ whereas the Pro is clocked at 2.4GHZ. With speed boost technology however both are capable of running at higher clock speeds when necessary.

Macbook Pro Retina
Macbook Pro Retina

With regards to graphics the Air uses Intel’s HD graphics 5000 and the Pro uses Intel’s upgraded Iris chip which is necessary to power the Pro’s retina display. Both are integrated however and if you want independent graphics you will have to fork out for the rather more expensive Pro retina 15. A few years ago integrated graphics meant poor performance but this isn’t the case today. The 5000 and Iris are both very capable and coupled with the fourth generation i5 they handle graphics with ease.

Performance wise both machines run buttery smooth and both can handle video editing and moderate gaming. I was playing Civilisation 5 on both machines and both handled it with ease. The Pro was a bit smoother however with the extra processing power and upgraded graphics. Internet browsing is also great on both and multi tasking is a breeze. Both the Pro and the Air come as standard with with 4GB RAM. Both also have super speedy SSD’s (solid state drive) and come with a 128Gbps drive as standard. These are soldered directly onto the motherboard meaning faster speeds. This does however mean its non user expandable so make sure you upgrade if you think you will need more storage. Remember however you can also use cloud storage or an external hard drive.

Macbook Air
Macbook Air

With the latest power efficient CPU’s, both unsurprisingly have excellent and much improved battery life. The Air is quoted as having a massive 12 hour endurance and the Pro 9 hours. This is a real achievement although the Air clearly has the edge if battery life is your thing.

Display.

Macbook Air
Macbook Air

There are big differences in the display department and this may be the reason why you buy one over the other. The Pro comes with Apples gorgeous retina display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600  pixels. This works out as 227 PPI (pixels per inch). The Air on the other hand uses a standard 1440 x 900 display. The PPI is a much lower 128.

Retina close-up
Retina close-up

The retina display on the Pro is simply stunning with a remarkable clarity. It is breathtakingly sharp and has brilliant viewing angles. This extra resolution does however mean a slightly worse battery life. This is not to say that the Air’s display is not good however. In fact its really great. It still looks like a premium display and actually still represents a relatively good resolution. Viewing angles however are not as good as on the retina.

Design and portability.

Both MacBooks are sublimely designed. Clad in slick aluminium and incorporating contemporary design, both the Air and the Pro are a joy to look at and caress. There is a difference however in portability with the Pro weighing in at 3.46 lbs and the Air 2.96 lbs. The Air is also considerably narrower at the front. It is worth noting however that at its thickest end, the Air is actually slightly fatter than the Pro. It also has a slightly larger footprint with the Pro just fitting inside it.

Compact Pro
Compact Pro

The Air does however feel much lighter and and more portable than the Pro and is really well designed. If I’m being honest, the Air does seem a little cooler than its big brother the Pro. The Pro is still incredibly compact however and is nearly as narrow as the intel sponsored Ultrabooks. Either way though both machines are excellent to use and both are very portable. This is a real achievement.

Slimline Air
Slimline Air

Connectivity.

The Macbook Air comes with 1 x Thunderbolt port, 2 x USB 3.0 ports and an SDXC card slot. It also  supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking and Bluetooth 4.0.

The Macbook Pro has 2 x upgraded Thunderbolt 2 ports, 2 x USB 3.0 ports, 1 x HDMI port, SDXC card slot and supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking and Bluetooth 4.0.

Both machines are well equipped in the connectivity department but the Macbook Pro clearly has an edge here. Where the Thunderbolt port included in the Air supports speeds of up to 10 Gbps, the Pro sports 2 x Thunderbolt 2 ports with speeds of up to 20 Gbps. The Pro also has the HDMI port giving it more flexibility. In the wireless department both support the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies.

Conclusion.

Wether you opt for the Macbook Air or Pro, you will be getting a super high quality and powerful laptop computer. The considerations you should be making are wether you desire ultra portability or power. Both are decently powered but the Pro clearly has the edge with the higher CPU clock speed and better graphics. The brilliant better than HD display may also sway your decision. If you are somebody who does a lot of video editing or design work then the Pro will be the one for you. From a connectivity point of view the Pro also has more flexibility and will likely be the better option for accessories.

The Air however is an exceptional machine with superb portably and excellent battery life. If you don’t need a retina display and that extra power, then the Air is a very desirable option. As I mentioned earlier, the Air also has that coolness about it which makes it very desirable. This is why it made my list of best tech: http://livelystate.com/2013/12/25/livelystates-best-tech-of-2013/. Another consideration will be price. In the Uk the Macbook Pro with retina display starts at £1099, but the Air comes in nearly £150 cheaper at £950. The Pro is definitely the more powerful choice but its a question of wether you can justify that extra money.

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