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Compared: buying a 13-inch MacBook Air versus a 13-inch MacBook Pro

Now that Apple has finally updated MacBook Air, a lot of people are trying to figure out if they should buy the new model over the comparably priced 2017 non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro. AppleInsider shows you all of the benefits and shortcomings of each model, so you can make your decision today.

External differences

The new MacBook Air finally gets a Retina display, which is great, but compared to the 13-inch MacBook Pro's display it's a lot dimmer. The Pro's screen supports P3 Wide-color gamut, which the Air does not, making it much more color accurate as well.

In terms of portability, the Air weighs a quarter of a pound lighter than the Pro, and stacking them on top of each other, they're basically the same size. From the side, the Air has more of a wedge shape when compared to the Pro, tapering from back to front.

A brightness comparison of the 2018 MacBook Air and the 2017 MacBook Pro

Interestingly, at their tallest points, the Air is thicker than the Pro, but the front edge is quite a bit thinner. Because of this, the Air's keyboard slopes downward for a much more comfortable typing experience. The Pro also has sharp edges that can sometimes dig into your wrist when typing.

The 2018 MacBook Air is taller than the 2017 non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro
The 2018 MacBook Air is taller than the 2017 non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro

The Air also gets Apple's third-generation butterfly keyboard, which incorporates a silicone barrier under the keys to block debris from entering the switch mechanism. This thin shield makes the Air's keyboard more reliable and less prone to breakage than the second-generation mechanism found in the Pro.

The trackpad on the MacBook Pro is significantly larger, even though the notebooks are practically the same size.

Comparing the trackpad sizes of the 2017 MacBook Pro and the 2018 MacBook Air
Comparing the trackpad sizes of the 2017 MacBook Pro and the 2018 MacBook Air


The speakers on the 2017 MacBook Pro are quite a bit better than the audio components in the new MacBook Air. Played side by side, the Pro's speakers are clearly better.

Beyond design, the MacBook Air has a leg up on the Pro in a few key areas. First off, it comes with Touch ID, which is really useful for logging in and using Apple Pay.

Registering Touch ID on a 2018 MacBook Air
Registering Touch ID on a 2018 MacBook Air

It also comes with Apple's T2 security chip, which enables Hey Siri and takes care of a lot of tasks on behalf of the processor, such as automatic file encryption.

The MacBook Air is rated at 12 hours of battery life compared to 10 hours on the MacBook Pro, but unfortunately, it only gets a 30-Watt charger compared to the 61-Watt charger Apple supplies with the Pro model. That means it could take a little longer to charge the MacBook Air.

That said, one of the reasons the MacBook Air gets such great battery life is because its processor and GPU are not designed for performance. In Geekbench 4's multi-core test, the Pro scored quite a bit higher, and we saw the same thing in Cinebench R15's CPU test.

The MacBook Pro is around 50 percent faster in Geekbench 4 graphics testing, which is its biggest advantage. The extra horsepower makes tasks like professional video editing possible.

Breaking it down

If you care about performance, especially graphics performance, and you sometimes use your MacBook outside, go for the MacBook Pro.

If you absolutely must have the best battery life, then the MacBook Air is the obvious choice. It's also the better option if you do a lot of typing every day, since it's more comfortable and more reliable. To me, the front edge on the MacBook Pro isn't bothersome and I love the larger trackpad.

Comparing the overall size of both models
Comparing the overall size of both models

If you're a fan of loud and clear speakers, the MacBook Pro is your best bet.

Touch ID and the T2 chip are nice, but personally, those features are neither dealmakers nor dealbreakers.

Where to buy

Apple's 2018 MacBook Air and 2017 MacBook Pro are both on sale for the Black Friday weekend. Adorama currently has the standard 2018 MacBook Air on sale for $1,049 and the 256GB model discounted to $1,249 with coupon code APINSIDER. Both are record low prices.

Apple's standard 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys is also marked down, this time by $200, with coupon code APINSIDER.

More info, including how to redeem the coupon code, can be found in this Black Friday roundup. And to find discounts on every Mac, visit our Apple Price Guide.