New MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air review: 13in Mac laptop battle

If you are looking for a new Mac laptop there are a number of factors to consider when deciding which model is the one for you. Should you buy the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro Retina? Do you need the Retina display? Would a lighter and cheaper model be better for you? How much power do you need from your Mac laptop?

The question of whether to buy a 13-inch MacBook Air (from £949) or MacBook Pro with Retina display (from £1249) - after the October 2016 event, Apple brought out three new MacBook Pro models, starting at £1,449 to £1,949 - however last year's model can still be bought from the Apple store for £1,249.

Back in 2013, when there was just £150 difference between the 2013 13in models, our advice was that if you were on the market for a new laptop it was worth paying the extra and getting the MacBook Pro with Retina display. However, now there is a £300 difference between the cheapest 13in models - is it worth paying more? Read on to find out.

There is, of course, a third option in the MacBook line-up as of early 2015. It's a 12in MacBook designed for style and portability, and it is stunning if rather expensive. But here we're comparing the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro's 13in options. To find out more about the 12in MacBook, which was updated in April 2016, read our 12in MacBook 2016 review. You can also click here to view the 12in MacBook on the Apple Store. Also see our Mac buyers guide.

Click here to view the MacBook Pro on the Apple Store. Click here to view the MacBook Air on the Apple Store.

Updated 31 October with the new MacBook Pro used for comparison.

New MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: New Macs are here, but will the MacBook Air be discontinued?

The MacBook Pro line was updated on 27 October 2016 - the standout feature of the new MacBook Pro 2016 is the Touch Bar with the integrated Touch ID sensor (available from the £1,759 and £1,949 models) - however a third MacBook Pro which doesn't feature the Touch Bar is available for £1,449 and the older 2015 MacBook at £1,249 is also available.

The MacBook Air also received an update...one that many won't appreciate - a price increase and an axe of the 11in Air model. The price has gone up £100 for the 13in model, making the cheapest MacBook Air available at £949. This now begs the question: Will the MacBook Air be discontinued? We fear that with the same 'Air' properties found in the MacBook Pro, the Air will slowly make its way out.

In this article, we will outline all the MacBook Pro models available.

Read next: New MacBook Pro 2016 vs new Surface Book 2 with Performance Base

New MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: Dimensions and weight

When it launched in 2008 the MacBook Air was the lightest laptop available. Over the years that followed, where the weight of the MacBook Pro has also declined. We weigh up the differences between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.

The 2016 13in MacBook Pro weighs only 1.37kg, whereas the 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display weighs almost the same as the 2013 and 2014 models at 1.58kg, both of those models were 50g lighter than the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro, at 1.57 kg. The 2014 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is a bit heavier than the 2015 13in MacBook Pro, at 2.02 kg, and the same weight as the 2012 model.

The 2016 13in MacBook Pro is only 1.49 cm thick - this makes it thinner than previous models that were 1.8 cm thick. In 2012 the 13-inch model was a tiny bit thicker at 1.9 cm.

The 2015 13-inch MacBook Air model used to be the thinnest model around, but that's no longer the case with the new 2016 MacBook Pro. The 2015 Air weighs 1.35kg and has a 1.7 cm thickness. 

However, the now-discontinued 2015 11-inch MacBook Air weighed in at 1.08 kg.

You might presume that the dimensions of both 13in MacBooks would be the same, but you may be surprised to learn that not only are they not the same, the MacBook Air is actually a fraction bigger. The 13in Retina MacBook Pro is 30.41cm by 21.24cm (2015 model: 31.4cm by 21.9cm), while the 2015 13in MacBook Air is 32.5cm by 22.7cm.

If you are curious about how the MacBook fits in to this, it weighs 0.92kg - less even than the discontinued 11in MacBook Air, and its dimensions are 28.05cm by 19.65cm, and just 0.35cm-1.31cm thick.

Compare the different generations of MacBook Air: 13in 2015 MacBook Air review, and 11in 2015 MacBook Air review, versus 2014 13in MacBook Air and 2014 11in MacBook Air review.

2015 MacBook Air, 11-inch dimensions (discontinued)

  • Height 0.3-1.7cm
  • Width 30cm
  • Depth 19.2
  • Weight 1.08kg

2015 MacBook Air, 13-inch dimensions 

  • Height 0.3-1.7cm
  • Width 32.5cm
  • Depth 22.7
  • Weight 1.35kg

2015 Retina MacBook Pro, 13-inch dimensions

  • Height 1.8cm
  • Width 31.4cm
  • Depth 21.9cm
  • Weight 1.58kg

2015 Retina MacBook Pro, 15-inch dimensions

  • Height 1.8cm
  • Width 35.89cm
  • Depth 24.71cm
  • Weight 2.02kg

2016 Retina MacBook Pro, 15-inch dimensions (new)

  • Height 1.49cm
  • Width 30.41cm
  • Depth 21.24cm
  • Weight 1.37kg

2015 Retina MacBook, 12-inch dimensions

  • Height 0.35-1.31cm
  • Width 28.05cm
  • Depth 19.65cm
  • Weight 0.92kg

BUYING ADVICE: New MacBook Air v Pro dimensions and weight

The 13in MacBook Air is no longer the lightest 13-inch laptop from Apple, as the 2016 MacBook Pro has taken its throne. Another surprising thing is that the MacBook Pro with Retina display is actually slightly smaller in terms of width and depth, and only one millimeter thicker than the MacBook Air at it's thickest point. You no longer need to sacrifice power for portability. 

If you're looking for the thinnest and MacBook with the lightest weight for its size, the MacBook Pro is the 2016 winner - despite being only 0.02kg heavier, it is thinner and has a smaller form factor than the 2015 MacBook Air. Although, it should be noted that the regular 2015 MacBook weighs only 0.92kg!


New MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: Price and specs comparison

Prices for both MacBook Air and Pro have fluctuated over the years - however after Brexit, UK prices have gone up for all models in 2016. Prices went up by £200 on the 12in MacBook, £100 on the 13in MacBook Air and a whopping £250 on the 2015 13in MacBook Pro!

There are some key differences in specs between the 13in Air and 13in Pro:

  • The Pro has a faster processor (2.0-, 2.7- and 2.9GHz compared to 1.6GHz)
  • The Pro comes with Intel Iris Graphics (6100 and the newer 540) as opposed to the Air's Intel HD 6000 Graphics
  • The Pro has a native Retina resolution of 2560x1600 with 227ppi, whereas the Air has a native 1440x900 resolution with 127ppi
  • The Pro comes with 8GB 1866MHz and 2133MHz memory (depending on the variant), the Air comes with 8GB 1600MHz memory

There are other specs that we should also talk about - such as included ports.

Thankfully, both models have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but it's when we look at the new vs old Pro, when it gets confusing! 

Starting with the 2015 Air, it features, 2x USB-A 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt 2, an SDXC card and MagSafe 2 charging ports. The 2015 MacBook Pro has 2x USB-A 3.0 port, 2x Thunderbolt 2, a HDMI, SDXC card and MagSafe 2 charging ports. The new 2016 MacBook Pro has 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, while the more expensive models have two additional Thunderbolt 3 ports - tallying to four ports.

It's disappointing to see the SDXC card, HDMI and MagSafe 2 ports scrapped from the MacBook Pro lineup.

Next up is storage - which is configurable on all models, but as a standard, you'll get 128 and 256GB flash storage in the Air. In the Pro you'll start off with 128GB in the 2015 model and go from 256 to 512GB flash storage in the 2016 Pro models.

Storage can always be upgraded, and despite it being quite expensive to add additional storage internally on Apple's website (as internal SSD upgrades aren't possible) - you can always add additional storage externally - see our best SSD for Mac roundup.

MacBook Air

MacBook Pro


2015 MacBook Air, 13-inch, £949

  • 128GB PCIe flash storage
  • 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz
  • Intel HD Graphics 6000
  • 8GB 1600MHz memory
  • 12 hour battery

2015 MacBook Air, 13-inch, £1,099

  • 256GB PCIe flash storage
  • 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz
  • Intel HD Graphics 6000
  • 8GB 1600MHz memory
  • 12 hour battery

2015 MacBook Pro, 13-inch, £999

  • 128GB PCIe flash storage
  • 2.7 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
  • Intel Iris Graphics 6100
  • 8GB 1866MHz memory
  • 10 hour battery

2016 MacBook Pro, 13-inch, £1,449

  • 256GB PCIe flash storage
  • 2.0 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
  • Intel Iris Graphics 540
  • 8GB 1866MHz memory
  • 10 hour battery

2016 MacBook Pro, 13-inch, £1,749

  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • 512GB PCIe flash storage
  • 2.9 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz
  • Intel Iris Graphics 540
  • 8GB 2133MHz memory
  • 10 hour battery

2016 MacBook Pro, 13-inch, £1,949

  • Touch Bar and Touch ID
  • 512GB PCIe flash storage
  • 2.9 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor
  • Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz
  • Intel Iris Graphics 540
  • 8GB 2133MHz memory
  • 10 hour battery

BUYING ADVICE: Price and specs comparison

The MacBook Air might be the cheapest option, but you get a lot more power and features from the MacBook Pro with Retina display. The one place where the Pro lets itself down is its ports - the new ports are a nice addition, but with a removal of some key ports for professionals, we feel that they will be missed.

On the plus side, in the new 2016 MacBook Pro models, you have the Touch Bar and Touch ID - making the new models more secure and more customisable than ever before. Click here to view the MacBook Pro on the Apple Store. Click here to view the MacBook Air on the Apple Store.

Go to the following page to see a comparison of the power and processors, battery life and specs.

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