Apple dropped a bombshell last October when it announced three new MacBook Pros and not a single upgrade for its MacBook Air line. In addition, it decided to end the 11-inch MacBook Air series and to simply move forward with the unchanged 13-inch MacBook Air. What’s worse is that the 13-inch Air now internally competes with the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar for market attention. If you are wondering which Apple laptop is better between the two, this comparison review can help you decide.
On paper, the 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar easily trumps the 13-inch MacBook Air because the former comes with either a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor or a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost technology that can speed up the cores for up to 3.4GHz. On the other hand, the the 13-inch MacBook Air only comes with either a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor or a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor. When Turbo Boost kicks in, the Air’s cores can speed up to 3.2GHz. Both have 8GB of RAM, so the two devices are expected to do well in handling multiple tasks.
When it comes to their tested performance, their Geekbench ratings also show the significant difference on the performance they can deliver. The Core i5 MacBook Air has a single-core score of 2624 and a multi-core score of 5210, while the Core i7 got 3019 and 6320, respectively. Contrariwise, the new MacBook Pro with Core i5 processor has a 3600 single-core score and a 6998 multi-core score. The Core i7 variant, meanwhile, scored 3817 and 7501 for the single-core and multi-core benchmarking tests. In spite of its impressive scores, however, 9To5Mac says those who are planning to buy the MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar should not expect for it to impeccably perform at high speeds for an extended amount of time because of its power-sipping 15W TDP.
The Cupertino giant is clearly stepping up its display game with its new laptops. Apple lists on its official site the differences between the display technology present on the two laptops. The 13-inch MacBook Air continues to sport the relatively dated LED-backlit Widescreen display with 1440 x 900 screen resolution. It has 300 nits brightness and standard color gamut. On the contrary, the MacBook Pro comes with Retina display that has 2560 x 1600 screen resolution, 500 nits brightness and wide color gamut.
Notebook Check confirmed early November that the new MacBook Pro does have improved brightness. The computer review site even pointed out that the results of its tests showed that the new laptop has over 600 nits brightness at the center of the display panel, but the luminance slightly dropped toward the edges of the screen. Nevertheless, the distribution of brightness is considered remarkable at 89 percent. Notebook Check also claimed that the luminance of the new MacBook Pro’s display stands out among many other devices on the market, with the Dell XPS 13 9360 being the only one to beat the MacBook Pro in terms of contrast ratio.
According to 9To5Mac, the 2016 MacBook Pro is the first laptop from the Cupertino giant to feature wide color display, which it first introduced on the 5K iMac. This advanced display technology is said to give off more vibrant greens and reds, so images appear more real. This is very evident when the new MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air are placed side by side. Without a high-resolution display, the MacBook Air readily falls behind the new MacBook Pro.
Just like what previous rumors claimed before Apple’s Oct. 27 launch event, the new MacBooks are redesigned iterations of the Cupertino giant’s famous laptop series. The MacBook Pro without Touch Bar is no exception, since it sports a thinner body and a smaller form. Its chassis even looks like a combination of the 12-inch Retina MacBook and the previous version of the MacBook Pro. It does not have the tapered front like the Air series, so it’s thicker at the front. But at their thickest points, it’s easy to see that the new MacBook Air is the thinner device.
Although both laptops sport 13-inch screens, the MacBook Pro manages to afford a smaller form factor because of the thinner bezels surrounding its display. The commendable thing about the smaller frame of the device is it still managed to feature a full-size keyboard and loud speakers on either side. Speaking of keyboard, it is important to note that the new MacBook Pro comes with Apple’s improved butterfly switches, so the typing experience is improved and more satisfying than with the 12-inch MacBook that debuted with the original butterfly key switches. Each key in the new MacBook Pro also has its own LED, so backlight bleeds are very minimal.
The new MacBook Pro sports a larger Force Touch trackpad. Force Touch means the trackpad does not function through a mechanical button anymore. It simply has this force-sensitive technology to identify touch commands and it utilizes haptics and sound to produce clicks that may seem real to the user. Unfortunately, the MacBook Air still has a Multi-Touch trackpad, so clicking anywhere on the trackpad does not feel the same as when pressing the Force Touch trackpad. The main advantage of the latter — aside from saving component space underneath — is how clicks feel the same throughout the entire trackpad. This then allows users to register clicks on any part of the trackpad.
The new MacBook Pro comes with Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports. These ports are fast, reliable and quite versatile. They can be used for data transfer, charging, video output and other functions for different peripherals. Because the Thunderbolt 3 port is highly versatile, Apple designed its new MacBook Pro to come with only this type of port. Thus, users would need to buy dongles if they need to connect their laptop to monitors, or use external storage and flash memory cards. For consumers who still prefer the traditional ports, the MacBook Air features two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a MagSafe 2 power port and an SDXC card slot.
To state the obvious, the MacBook Air has a glowing Apple logo — the one that was considered the trademark of previous-generation MacBook devices. Given that the new MacBook Pro is excessively thin, it wasn’t possible for Apple to include the glowing Apple logo on its back. Instead, the new MacBooks sport a color-matched inset logo. Since it lacks the trademark glowing logo, however, Apple decided to give the new MacBook Pro a new color variant. So instead of just seeing Silver MacBook Pros in Apple stores, there will be Space Gray units for those who want a premium Apple laptop with a different color.
Storage space for the 13-inch MacBook Air starts at 128GB and can go up to 512GB SSD. As for the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar, its storage option starts at 256GB and can go as high as 1TB of SSD. At this point, it is important to note that the SSD module of the new MacBook Pro is removable, so users can still upgrade it after purchase. MacRumors pointed out in late October that with the smaller form factor of the new MacBook Pro, it seemed impossible for it to come with removable SSD just like the previous models.
The 13-inch MacBook Air is powered by a 54 watt-hour lithium-polymer battery that lasts up to 12 hours of iTunes movie playback on paper. The MacBook Pro, on the contrary, has an 54.5 watt-hour lithium polymer battery that is expected to last for up to 10 hours of iTunes movie playback. However, The Verge’s executive editor Walt Mossberg claims there really isn’t an accurate estimate to go by when it comes to the longevity of both laptops. In fact, when he tested the new MacBook Pro, it only managed to stay on for 8 hours and 22 minutes before totally running out of battery.
In terms of pricing, the 13-inch MacBook Air with 128GB SSD sells for $999, while the 256GB SSD variant is priced at $1,199. The new MacBook Pro without Touch Bar, on the other hand, comes with a $1,499 price tag — more affordable than the base model of the Touch Bar version that starts at $1,799. For Mashable, however, the price of the MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar is too much considering it does not feature the advanced OLED strip, has less processing power than the Touch Bar variant and it doesn’t have Touch ID as well.
Which do you think is the better Apple laptop between the 13-inch MacBook Air and the new MacBook Pro without Touch Bar? Sound off in the comments below.