MacBook Pro Vs. MacBook Air

by David Perez

The MacBook Pro and MacBook Air represent two different classes of laptop. The first is Apple's most powerful portable computer. The second is its lightest and most compact. What the Pro gains in better processing power and larger memory, it loses in size in weight. While the Air is the company's smallest laptop, it is also slower and offers fewer options in terms of connecting to external devices.


MacBook Air 13

As of summer 2011, all new MacBook Pros come with Intel's latest line of Core i processors. Buyers may choose between either the Core i5 or the Core i7 processor, which run at speeds ranging from 2 gigahertz (GHz) to 2.7 GHz. Users may also choose between dual- or quad-core processors. The more cores a processor has, the more software instructions it can execute simultaneously and the faster it performs when running applications designed for this type of processing. In contrast, MacBook Airs use Intel's older Core 2 Duo processors. These are only available with two cores and run at speeds ranging from 1.4 GHz to 1.86 GHz.


MacBook Pro models on display at Apple Store

The MacBook Pro also has the performance edge in terms of random access memory (RAM). Pros can have either 4 gigabytes (GB) or 8GB of RAM. Compare this to the MacBook Air's 2GB or 4GB. Also, the Pro uses a faster type of memory than the Air. According to Apple, the Pro's memory runs at 1333 megahertz (MHz) as opposed to the 1066 MHz memory found in the Air. This means that the Pro can have more applications open simultaneously without a drop in performance.


MacBook Air models

When it comes to data storage, there are three issues to consider: size, speed and reliability. In terms of size, the Pro's hard drive options are superior. The line offers hard drive capacities of either 500GB or 750GB, while the Air offers 64GB, 128GB or 256GB drives. The Air stores data using flash drive technology, however, which delivers information to the computer's RAM more quickly than the hard drives in the Pro. Also, since flash drives have no moving parts, they are less prone to crash due to physical wear and tear, making them more reliable. Apple offers flash drive options for the Pro in 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB capacities for an additional $100, $500, or $1,100, respectively.

Peripheral Ports

MacBook Pro 17

The MacBook Pro offers more peripheral options. Every Pro comes with two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, a Thunderbolt port, a headphone jack, a microphone jack, and an SDXC memory card slot. The Macbook Air has two USB ports, a headphone jack, and a Mini DisplayPort. Both the Air's MiniDisplay port and the Pro's Thunderbolt port allow the computer to connect to external displays. The Thunderbolt port, however, can also be used for external hard drives and is the same size as the Mini DisplayPort, making it compatible with any device that uses that interface.

Size and Weight

A MacBook Air on display at Apple store

Here the MacBook Air wins hands down. The 11-inch version of the Air is 11.8 inches wide by 7.56 inches deep, with an 11.6-inch screen (measured diagonally). The Pro is available in 13, 15, and 17-inch versions. The 13-inch Pro's width and depth are virtually identical to the 13-inch Air's. At 0.68 inches thick, the Air is the slimmest Apple laptop available. Compare this to the Pro's 0.95 to 0.98-inch thickness, depending on the model. Beyond this, the 11-inch Air weighs 2.3 pounds, and the 13-inch, 2.9 pounds. In contrast, the various versions of the Pro weight in at 4.5, 5.6, and 6.6 pounds, respectively.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images