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13-inch MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: Buy this or buy that?


If you’ve been itching to buy a new MacBook, the time has arrived. Over the past six months, every laptop Apple makes has gotten a significant upgrade, so barring a spec bump in the fall, Apple’s lineup for the rest of 2020 is set with three models: the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

But even with just three models, deciding which laptop to buy isn’t so easy. While we assume 16-inch MacBook Pro buyers know who they are, the difference between the 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air isn’t as great as you might think. I’ve taken a deep dive into the specs of both devices and came to a startling conclusion: Even if you have enough money to afford the 13-inch MacBook Pro, you might want to get a MacBook Air instead.

Design

It’s clear from Apple’s website that the 13-inch MacBook Pro is nearly identical to the previous model, with very similar dimensions to the MacBook Air. According to Apple’s specs, they both have a body that measures 8.36 inches by 11.97 inches, but the MacBook Pro has a consistent thickness of 0.61 inches while the MacBook Air is just 0.16 at its thinnest point and 0.63 inches at its thickest. As a result, the Pro is a bit heavier at 3.1 pounds versus the Air’s 2.8 pounds.

When you open them up, they’re very similar as well. Both have fairly sizable bezels around the screen with its name on the bottom edge. A pair of vertical speakers flank the sides of the keyboard with a giant Force Touch trackpad below. The main aesthetic difference is that while both laptops come in space gray and silver, only the MacBook Air is available in gold.

Buy this: It’s hard to argue with Apple’s laptop design in any of the colors here, but if you like gold, you’re kinda stuck.

Display

As with the previous generations, the MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro have the same 13.3-inch Retina display with the same 2560×1600 resolution and True Tone technology built-in. The display specifications differ in the brightness (the Pro’s 500 nits is a little brighter compared to the Air’s 400 nits) and color gamut (the Pro has an expanded P3 color gamut, while the Air supports sRGB), but those are relatively small differences. Tuned eyes will see richer colors when viewing images on the MacBook Pro, but for the most part, the specs suggest you’re getting very similar displays.

13 inch macbook pro colors Apple

The MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air have very similar screens.

Buy this: Most people will be plenty happy with the MacBook Air’s narrower color gamut. Professionals in design or video will want the MacBook Pro.

Keyboard

With the launch of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, Apple has officially bid adieu to the butterfly keyboard, so both laptops have the same backlit Magic Keyboard with 65 keys, including four arrow keys in an inverted-T arrangement. Based on my experiences with the 16-inch MacBook Pro, I can safely say that it’s a huge improvement over the prior version.

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