MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air

Aug 7, 2015
Joe Buhlig
~4 mins

I’ve recently undergone a work transition that led me to purchasing a new MacBook Pro. My traveling work machine was a MacBook Air and I’ve found a few differences in the two that make me wish I’d done this earlier.

My computer uses

These debates are worthless if you don’t understand the purpose of the machines. Someone who lives in email all day has no real use for a fully upgraded Mac Pro. Unless, of course, they just really like the Mac Pro, have $10,000 to blow, and like watching 18 YouTube videos at once on three 2k monitors. Then it makes perfect sense.

I’m a technology consultant and developer. I’m also starting up a podcast and writing a book. I need a machine that can handle writing (articles, books, emails, and a lot of code) and audio editing. My wife does design work on the same computer, so there’s also a need for a quality screen and the ability to run the Adobe programs.

I used the MacBook Air while working for my previous employer. That job required me to use some PC-based programs, so I used Parallels and Windows. The new computer doesn’t need to do that. I’m 100% Apple at this point.

Here’s the breakdown of the two computers:

The MacBook Air (mid-2013)

  • Screen: 13 inch
  • Processor: 1.7 GHz i7
  • Ram: 8 GB
  • Hard Drive: 512 GB Flash
  • Model: A1466

The MacBook Pro (early-2015)

  • Screen: 13 inch (retina)
  • Processor: 2.7 GHz i5
  • Ram: 8 GB
  • Hard Drive: 128 GB SSD
  • Model: A1502

Downgraded hard drive?

All of the numbers either go up and stay the same except the hard drive. Some of my reasoning for that is price. SSDs are still pretty expensive and I already have 5 TBs of external hard drives that are grossly underused. I don’t need more storage right now.

I did some diagnostics on the MBA and found that if I pulled the Parallels/Windows process from the machine, I would have been using about 125 GB on the hard drive. I also never shifted files from the internal hard drive. So the shift to a much smaller hard drive was easy to justify for me. I could easily use Hazel to help me keep the MBP clean and keep cold-storage files on an external.

1. Screen Resolution

I hadn’t looked at a retina display before I bought the MBP. I had read enough reviews from people that swear by it and say they’re ruined once they’ve used one. Listen to them. They are absolutely right. You can’t go back.

I was setting up the MBP as a new machine while referencing the MBA. I eventually needed to let my eyes adjust to the MBA before I could work on it. Sure I’m neurotic and picky, but yes, the MBP was that much better.

It’s easy to say that the retina display is amazing. I don’t think anyone will argue with that. Is it worth the extra money for a MBP right now? If you’re doing development or design of any kind, the retina display is a must.

2. Weight

I didn’t notice this at first, but I know a number of people complain about it - the weight of the MBP vs the MBA. There’s about one pound difference between them.

I actually prefer the heavier MBP in this case. I’ve always felt that I was about to break the MBA when I’m opening the lid. My wife can attest to me being good at pushing things too far and breaking them (for some inexplicable reason, not everything is as durable as a tractor). So I was always a bit paranoid about snapping off the screen.

The MBP is solid. It doesn’t pick the front of the computer up off the table when I try to open it with one hand. I really like that. It just feels like it’ll last forever and will take more abuse than the MBA. I just need to remember not to take advantage of that.

3. Keyboard

Ok, someone tell me I’m wrong here, but there’s a different keyboard in the MBP. It’s not super clicky, but it’s not real light either. I didn’t care for how light the response was on the MBA and I’ve always felt the Apple Bluetooth keyboards were too much. But the MBP has a nice balance between the two.

My only trouble with this is that I’ll be putting the MBP into a laptop stand of some kind (likely sitting on top of boxes) so I won’t actually be using the built-in keyboard for the majority of the time. I’ll be using the Apple Bluetooth keyboard.

At this point, I’m splitting hairs. There’s only a very slight difference between the two that I can feel. So slight, that it has zero effect on my typing speed and ability. I’m just saying that I prefer the keyboard on the MBP to the external.

Post-mortem

I’m pretty stoked about having the MBP over the MBA. I know I’ll need to clear the hard drive more diligently, but that’s easy enough. Everything else says I made the right decision.