Comparing the Specs
To get a better idea of what each of the systems has to offer, let’s do a side by side comparison of what each of the base systems has to offer:
|MacBook Air 13||MacBook Pro 13 with Retina|
|Processor||1.2GHz Core i5 Dual-Core||2.4GHz Core i5 Dual-Core|
|Storage||128GB SSD||128GB SSD|
|Memory||4GB 1600MHz DDR3||4 GB 1600MHz DDR3|
|Display||13.3″ 1440×900||13.3″ 2560×1600|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 5000||Intel Iris Graphics|
|Camera||720p Facetime HD||720p FaceTime HD|
|Connectors||Two USB 3.0
|Two USB 3.0
Two Thunderbolt 2
|Running Time||12 hours||9 hours|
|Weight||2.96 pounds||3.46 pounds|
Now that we have the specs up there to look at, let’s take a closer look at some of the areas that one might be comparing the two against one another.
If you look at the pricing based upon the memory and storage capacities of these systems, the MacBook Air 13 comes out $200 less than the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina Display. This may be a big factor for some people but there are still some significant differences between the two where the $200 isn’t that much of a barrier. After all, the Retina Display alone could more than make up for the price difference between the two so many people will probably be less concerned on this factor alone.
If you are planning on getting one of these systems to do some tasks that require performance, the clear choice is the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina Display. This has to do with the fact that it uses a processor with twice the clock speed of the MacBook Air. Since they are both Haswell based, this should translate into double the performance when it comes to serious number crunching such as desktop video work or even high resolution digital imaging work.
Whether you or doing digital photography or video work, the Retina display on the MacBook Pro 13 offers over three times the total resolution of the MacBook Air with its extremely dated display. In addition to this, the color and brightness levels are just far superior to the aging display panel used in the MacBook Air 13. In addition to the display, the MacBook Pro is also equipped with the better Intel IRIS graphics systems compared to the older HD Graphics of the MacBook Air. This still isn’t going to make it a gaming platform like a dedicated processor will but the IRIS offers better flexibility and performance for accelerating those same photography and video tasks.
This is almost a toss up as to which it really should be. Sure, the MacBook Air 13 is thinner and a half pound lighter but overall it is a fairly minimal concession given how much more performance you get out of the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina. If portability is really the major reason at getting a system, then you would probably end up looking at the MacBook Air 11-inch model because it is even smaller and a full pound lighter than the MacBook Pro 13 and a over a half pound lighter than the MacBook Air 13.
For Battery Life
If you need to have extremely long running times, there is no question that the MacBook Air 13 offers some of the best overall running time on the market out of pretty much any laptop. Its 10 hours of video playback is sufficient for watching videos on a trans-Pacific airline flight. The question comes down to how much battery life you will need. For many people, the nine hours of running time in the MacBook Pro is sufficient for all-day computing but the MacBook Air does give you that extra buffer to ensure it will last all day.
If you need to use a lot of external peripherals with your laptop, there is no question that the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina offers a big advantage. The inclusion of two Thunderbolt 2 ports gives it the ability to hook up to more than one external display as well as high speed external storage arrays while the MacBook Air has just a single of the original ThunderBolt port. If you want to use the laptop with an HDMI equipped monitor or HDTV, the MacBook Pro also has you covered with one of these ports rather than needing to use an adapter cable.
If you look at the two as a whole, the MacBook Pro 13 with Retina Display just has so much more to offer over the MacBook Air 13 now. It is faster, has a better display and more than enough running time for the average user. Sure, it weighs a half pound more but it is still extremely light when you consider the amount of performance that it packs and it isn’t really that much larger. If size was really the issue, most people would probably be looking at the MacBook Air 11-inch these days.