Macbook Which One To Buy

  

Apple quietly launched a new version of its 13-inch MacBook Pro on Monday, quashing rumors (for now) that it's working on a 14-inch Pro.

The new MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 and has an upgraded keyboard and more storage. For big processor and memory upgrades, however, you'll have spend $1,799.

The best MacBook you can buy today. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) 2. MacBook Air (2020) 3. MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019). Number one, Apple doubled the amount of. Jun 02, 2020. Jul 27, 2019.

This makes it an interesting alternative to Apple's MacBook Air, which was launched earlier this year, with the same, improved Magic Keyboard, the same starting storage and RAM, a new (albeit slower) processor, and a lower price tag of $999.

So how do these two machines compare? We can't be sure until we test the new Pro, but what we can compare specs.

Processor, memory, and storage

On paper, the MacBook Pro should be more powerful than the MacBook Air, as it's mainly aimed at professional users, whereas the Air is all about portability. But the situation is actually quite complicated.

Yes, the MacBook Pro's CPU runs on a faster clock, but the $1,299 and the $1,499 variants have the older, 8th generation Intel Core i5 processors, while all available configurations of the MacBook Air come with Intel's new 10th generation processors. If you want a 10th gen Intel processor on your Pro, you'll have to get the $1,799 version.

Also, all variants of the MacBook Air come with the new 3,733MHz LPDDR4X RAM memory. Again, only the $1,799 MacBook Pro comes with these fast RAM chips, while the two cheaper variants have the 2,133MHz LPDDR3 memory.

Macbook pro which one to buy

SEE ALSO: MacBook Air 2020 review: Apple gets this Air just right

When it comes to storage, all these devices are roughly the same — they start with 256GB of SSD storage, which can be upgraded to 2TB on the Air and 4TB on the Pro (if you need that much, though, you're probably getting the Pro anyway).

I'm sure that the new MacBook Pro will ultimately be faster than the Air in most tasks, especially since it will probably have better cooling. But it is odd that the $999 Air comes with a newer processor and faster RAM than the $1,299 Pro.

Display, size, and weight

The MacBook Air is a very light machine. At 2.8 pounds, it's 0.3 pounds lighter than the MacBook Pro. Size-wise, though, they're the same, with the only difference being the Air's slim design.

For a long time, the Air had a considerably worse display than the Pro, but now both devices have Apple's Retina display, with a 2,560x1,600 pixel resolution and True Tone tech. The only difference is Wide color (P3) support on the Pro.

And even if you connect an additional monitor or two, there's no major difference between these two laptops. Both support one external, 6K display at 60Hz, or up to two 4K displays at 60Hz.

Again, it's hard to shake the feeling that the Air is a much better deal here. It's significantly lighter than the Pro, and yet has roughly the same video capabilities.

Battery life

Being slightly fatter than the Air, the Pro should pack a bigger battery, right? That is true, but since it also has a faster processor, Apple says it only offers up to 10 hours of wireless web browsing, while the Air will give you 11 hours. Apple says you can play video for 12 hours on the Air, while the Pro is stuck at 10.

The Pro has one noticeable advantage, though: faster charging. It comes with a 61W USB-C power adapter, while the Air has a 30W version.

Ports, keyboard, Touch ID, Touch Bar

The Air and the Pro start with the same amount of Thunderbolt ports: two. You can get four ports on the Pro if you get the $1,799 version, though, and there's no such option on the Air.

Both models have Apple's Magic Keyboard, which have the same layout (inverted-T arrow keys included). Both laptops have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, located in the upper right corner.

There's one big difference, though: the MacBook Air has physical function keys, while the Pro replaces those with the Touch Bar. Whether you need or want it is a personal preference; for me, the Touch Bar is occasionally handy but in no way essential. It's cool to look at, though.

As far as other details go, you'd expect the Pro to be a lot better than the Air in certain regards, but there's really not much of a difference overall. For example, both models have the same, lowly 720p webcam. Also, both have stereo speakers. In contrast, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has a more advanced audio system with six speakers.

Price and conclusion

The Air is a very competitive machine, and in some ways surpasses the more expensive Pro. It has faster RAM and a newer CPU (compared to base Pro model). It's slimmer and lighter, while retaining the same display. It even has a better battery life.

However — and this is very important for a lot of users — the Pro will probably be better at handling intensive computing tasks, such as video editing or music production. This is both due to higher CPU clock and better thermal handling. That last bit is a bit of a guess; we know that the Air can get hot quite easily, and the Pro traditionally has more robust cooling, but we can't be sure until we test it.

Still, if most of your work isn't very processor intensive, and you don't care about the Touch Bar or faster charging, the Air is a better deal for most users.

A word on upgrading. Due to a particularly cruel twist of fate decision by Apple, upgrading from 8GB to 16GB RAM costs $100 on the Pro, half as much as it costs on the Air. That means that the base Pro with 16GB costs $1,399, whereas the base Air with 16GB costs $1,199 — not such a huge difference.

Since adding more RAM is a very logical upgrade for many users, this could shift your decision toward the Pro (and spending more money than you initially planned).

Macbook Which One To Buy

Apple has three choices when it comes to MacBooks:

  • MacBook Air 13-inch
  • MacBook Pro 13-inch
  • MacBook Pro 16-inch

But when I consider a variety of options for CPU, RAM, and disk storage, the number of choices increases exponentially.

So, how do you choose?

How do you make sure that you will not regret your decision in a month or two?

Today I will help you to make the best decision you can do based on your unique needs and resources. In case if you don’t want to read all this stuff, feel free to scroll all the way down to the quiz section.

We will consider three approaches to MacBook selection:

Macbook Air 2020 Which One To Buy

  • Functional
  • Budget driven
  • Want based

But let’s first familiarize ourselves with the differences between Apple laptops.

If you prefer video check out my YouTube channel on the same topic:

MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro 13-inch

Here is a table of differences between all MacBooks:

CharacteristicMacBook AirMacBook Pro 13-inchMacBook Pro 16-inch
Starting Price$999$1299$2399
Display13.3 in13.3in16in
Mac Storage2TB SSD4TB SSD8TB SSD
CPU choice343
Max RAM16GB32GB64GB
Weight, lb2.83.14.3
Size, inches11.97 x 8.36 x 0.16-0.6311.97 x 8.36 x 0.6114.09 x 9.68 x 0.64
Battery time12 hours10 hours11 hours
Touch IDYesYesYes
Touch BarNoYesYes

As you can see from the table, the main differences between MacBook Air (MBA) and MacBook Pro (MBP) are:

  • Choice of processors. MBA has only three CPU options, while MBP offers four to choose from.
  • Starting Price. Entry-level MBA is $300 less than entry-level MBP.
  • Storage options. With MBP, you can get up to 4TB.
  • Battery time. MBA lasts for 2 hours longer under the same load as MBP.
  • Touch Bar. MBA does not have a Touch Bar, only Touch ID.
  • Weight. MBA is slightly lighter than MBP.

MBP 13-inch vs. MBP 16-inch

MacBook Pro 16-inch is bigger than 13-inch cousin in all regards: weight, size, storage, RAM, CPU, and of course, price.

There is no point in comparing them. The question is rather – do you need such a best or not? In some cases, you do.

Macbook Which One To Buy

Functional Approach

With this approach you need to answer the following questions:

  • Why do you need a MacBook?
  • Will you use MacBook for work, school, or home?
  • Why MacBook and not a PC laptop, such as Surface?

To help you answer these questions, let’s consider several use cases.

MacBook for data science student

Yap X. reached out to me with the following question:

“Hi, I’m a data scientist and freelance web developer. For data science stuff i can use google colab in a browser. For develop a web, i just need a text editor. Currently, I’m considering picking a MBA or MBP.”

First, I steered him to my article on choosing a MacBook for a college student, which covers this topic in-depth.

Then, the question was whether he needs more space or RAM. I know that data science projects need a lot of memory, but web developers benefit from more storage (for code, assets).

In the end, he went with MBP, 128GB with 2TB external drive.

MacBook for a law student

Hassan H. asked me “I am a law student in UK. I have come across your article of macbook storage size. I want to buy macbook (latest) but i am not sure which one would be better for me..! Either macbook air or macbook pro.”

Which One To Buy Macbook Pro Or Air

Hassan didn’t need a lot of power. He needed a light laptop that can hold as much battery as possible. So, he chose the MacBook Air.

MacBook for a programmer

I had the same approach for the last two MacBooks I ordered at work. They both 15-inch (now it would be 16-inch) MacBook Pro with 16GB RAM and at least 512GB storage.

I opted for the least powerful processor available because, for coding, it is more important to have more on-board storage and RAM than CPU. Besides, even the least powerful CPU in the big MBP is way better than the one in 13-inch Pro.

Also, I wanted to have a bigger display so I could work at home without an external monitor.

So, what does it mean for you?

If you know exactly how are you planning to use the laptop, then the decision is simple.

Go for MacBook Pro 16-inch if you need a bigger display and for more CPU, RAM, and disk.

Go for MacBook Air if you value battery time, and you travel a lot. Also, the MBA makes sense if you don’t expect to do anything other than working with documents, send emails, and browse the internet.

When in doubt, go for MacBook 13-inch. It’s a perfect balance of power and usability.

Budget Driven Approach

In the perfect world, we would just buy the biggest, the baddest and not worry. However, all of us have budgets. And often, our budgets don’t align with our needs and wants.

If you are short on money, here are my observations and/or suggestions.

MacBook Air is a good laptop

In most cases, the MBA would be enough for most people. Even for web developers. If you are just starting studying web design or software development, it will take a while until you outgrow MBA resources.

When you become a professional, you most likely be able to afford a more powerful machine.

Consider used or refurbished

If you really need a 15″ or 16″ inch MBP, but can’t afford it, then consider used or refurbished options.

I wrote a whole article on how to choose a used MacBook and which Apple laptop is the best in terms of price to performance ratio.

What Macbook Should I Buy

Don’t pay retail

I never buy Apple products in the Apple store. I always shop online, and I always save at least $100. You can do it too with some tips from me.

Also, don’t forget that you can get credit to pay for the device, which makes it easier.

Want Based Approach

Buy

Three months ago, Daniel S. sent me the email:

“I can’t decide what to buy for my girlfriend as a gift. MBP 128 gb or MBA 256 gb. They come at the same price. MBP wins on all parameters except memory. Although my girlfriend needs nothing but a browser, easy photo editing, office work and movie watching. I want my computer to last longer and given the trends in application development, it may be more profitable to take on more power, as the power consumption of applications increases every year.”

After some back and forth, we finally figured that his girlfriend already made up her mind. She liked the TouchBar option, and she was Ok with smaller disk as she didn’t plan to store a lot of photos, documents, or videos.

Bottom line: if you can’t choose between the two, go with what you like. Whether it’s a look, a color, or TouchBar.

Macbook Pro 16 Which One To Buy

New MacBook Pro 13″

If you already decided to go with a MacBook Pro 13″ check my post about selecting right options for a new laptop:

It’s a super detailed post where I tried to go over all options, including CPU, RAM and storage.

Final Tips

Now, when you decide on a type of MacBook, the next step is to know whether it is worth to spend on additional storage and memory, or faster CPU. Over time, I’ve built a bunch of resources to help you with upgrade questions.

Is extra storage worth it? My post “Is 128GB Enough for MacBook Pro/Air? Storage Guide” will help you to understand your options when it comes to disk space.

Similarly, this link will guide you through RAM questions.

This post will help to decide which CPU do you need for MacBook Pro. If you remember, Apple has 8 CPUs to choose from for MBPs.

Since Apple introduced 3 CPU choices (i3, i5, i7 ) choosing the right one got tougher. I touched on this topic here.

And finally, you will have to make a decision on the warranty. My post about AppleCare+ for Mac lists the pros and cons of AppleCare.

Quiz

As promised, here is a short quiz which can help you decide which MacBook should you buy.