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MacBook (2015) vs. MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: What's The Best MacBook To Buy?

12 March 2015, 9:06 am EDT By Nicole Arce Tech Times
Apple's new 12-inch MacBook is gorgeously slim and light and is equipped with a Retina display to provide beautiful graphics. The refreshed MacBook Pro and MacBook Air also have other things to offer that the new MacBook cannot.  ( Benjamin Nagel | Flickr )

Apple has unveiled a new 12-inch MacBook that embodies what Apple has in mind for personal computing of the future. It is ultra-thin and carries a lone USB-C port, which means Apple has begun setting the stage for wireless portability in its future products, including its computers.

Before you excitedly go ahead into a world of extremely thin laptops and Bluetooth-enabled accessories, the MacBook is not the only laptop Apple unveiled at Monday's Spring Forward event. Apple also took the wraps off the refreshed models of its 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air. While both these laptops retain plenty of the features found in the original models, there are important improvements that may sway you into going for the refreshed versions instead of the brand new MacBook.

Let's take a look at why you should go for a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, or a MacBook Air.

Display

The new MacBook is simply as gorgeous as any Apple product can be. The 12-inch Retina display has a resolution of 2,304 x 1,440, providing rich, vibrant images that the 1,440 x 900 regular widescreen display of the 13.3-inch MacBook Air cannot. However, the MacBook Pro has a bigger screen, also at 13.3 inches like the MacBook Air, and a higher resolution of 2,560 x 1,600.

No doubt that both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro will deliver stunning graphics, and the differences will be minimal to all but those with the keenest eye for pixel detail. However, if you're after a slightly larger screen, the MacBook Pro wins in this department.

Performance

Under the hood is where Apple introduced the changes to the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, and this is also where both laptops outpace the new MacBook. Apple replaced the old 2.2 GHz dual-core processor on the old MacBook Pro with a slightly faster 2.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor and up to 16GB of RAM. Meanwhile, the MacBook Air has a new 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 and 4GB or 8GB of RAM to replace the 1.4 GHz dual-core processor in the older model. Both laptops start at 128GB of disk storage, with the MacBook Pro offering up to 1TB and the MacBook Air to 512GB.

The MacBook, on the other hand, has a less powerful 1.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor with 8GB of RAM. It also has 128GB of disk storage for the entry-level model and up to 512GB for the high-end model. Now, the MacBook's lower-level specs shouldn't automatically mean the MacBook Pro is the best choice across the board. The MacBook should work pretty well for simple, single-core tasks that most people do, such as browsing, emailing, and word processing. However, users that frequently do processor-heavy tasks (video editing, working on multiple spreadsheets, and playing video games) are better off with the powerful processors of the MacBook Pro.

Portability

At a meager 0.51 inch at its thickest point, the MacBook is one of the thinnest laptops in the world, with only the Acer Aspire S3 having the same measurement. Apple was able to whittle down the weight of the MacBook to 2.03 pounds, which is far lighter than the nearly 3 pounds of the 0.68-inch MacBook Air and the 3.5 pounds of the 0.71-inch MacBook Pro.

On paper, those numbers don't really make a difference. If you're carrying your laptop only a few times each day, you probably will not notice that the MacBook Pro is such a burden to carry around. However, a worker on go most of the day will appreciate how easy it is to lug around the new MacBook.

Battery Life

For Apple to be able to slim the MacBook down to its size, it had to make several compromises, the most notable of which is the battery life. Inside that thin new MacBook is a 39.7 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery that is significantly smaller than the 74.9 watt-hour battery powering the MacBook Pro and even the 54 watt-hour battery inside the MacBook Air.

This makes for up to nine hours of wireless usage on the web, according to Apple, which is only slightly less than the 10 hours on a single charge for the MacBook Pro and the 12 hours for the MacBook Air. The absence of a Retina display, which eats up a lot of power, accounts for the better battery life on the MacBook Air. Still, nine hours of continuous use without charging should be enough for plenty of users, even workers who go through the typical eight-hour workday. If battery life is the single biggest determining factor of your purchase, get the MacBook Air, although you won't get a Retina display with that purchase.

Other Features

Another eye-catching difference on the MacBook is the absence of virtually every port except for the single USB-C port on the side of the laptop. USB-C is a new USB standard that is faster, more powerful, and easier-to-use than regular USB, and Apple has adopted the new standard ahead of other electronics makers. Its relative newness, however, makes USB-C an inconvenience to use, since you will have to purchase at least one of the USB-C adapters Apple sells as accessories to the MacBook, which cost anywhere from $19 for a single USB-C to USB adapter to $79 for multiport adapters with HDMI or VGA ports.

Both the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air have two USB 3.0 ports and two Thunderbolt 2 ports, with the addition of an HDMI port for connecting the MacBook Pro to a TV screen. For now, the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air offer more convenience in terms of the number of ports they have, but as we move forward into a wireless society, it's likely the MacBook, with its single USB-C port, will become the norm as we get rid of the mess of cords.

Price

If price is your only consideration, go for the $999 13-inch MacBook Air. For that amount, you can get the best battery life among the three laptops and a better processor than the new MacBook. The 11-inch MacBook Air with the same processor is even less expensive at $899, but some users simply find that an 11-inch display is too small to work on.

Both the MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Pro start at $1,299 each, but the MacBook will cost you slightly more if you want to purchase a USB-C adapter for all your connections. If you're mainly choosing between these two laptops, here's the rule of thumb for making your decision. Get the MacBook Pro if you're a heavy user with processor-intensive tasks, but if you're like most people, and your computing tasks consist mainly of typing and web browsing, get the MacBook instead.

 

MacBook

MacBook Pro

MacBook Air

Processor 1.1 GHz, 1.2 GHz, or 1.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core M 2.7 GHz or 2.9 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or 3.1 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 or 2.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
RAM 8 GB 8 GB up to 16 GB 4 GB up to 8 GB
Storage 128 GB up to 512 GB flash storage 128 GB up to 1 TB of flash storage 128 GB up to 512 GB of flash storage
Display 12-inch LED-backlit Retina display 13.3-inch LED-backlit Retina display 13.3-inch LED backlit widescreen display
Resolution 2,304 x 1,440 pixels 2,560 x 1,600 pixels 1,440 x 900 pixels
Battery 39.7 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery 74.9 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery 54 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
Battery Life Up to 9 hours wireless web usage Up to 10 hours wireless web usage Up to 12 hours wireless web usage
Power Adapter USB-C power port MagSafe 2 power port MagSafe 2 power port
Ports 1 USB-C port 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, HDMI port 2 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt 2 ports, HDMI port
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Keyboard Full-size backlit keyboard with butterfly mechanism Full-size backlit keyboard Full-size backlit keyboard
Trackpad Force Touch trackpad Force Touch trackpad Multi-Touch trackpad
Operating System OS X Yosemite OS X Yosemite OS X Yosemite
Colors Gold, silver, space gray Silver Silver
Price Starts at $1,299 Starts at $1,299 Starts at $999

 

Photo: Benjamin Nagel | Flickr

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