Pro, Air or New – Which MacBook Is For You?


All MacBooks are created equal, right? Wrong. There might be design parity across Apple’s range of notebook solutions but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the same performance for your premium payment from everything in the lineup.

There are factors to consider, from size and weight to what it has inside to what you’re planning on using it for. And, of course, how much of a gouge it’s going to leave in your bank account. While the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the wordsmith weapon of choice in the Stuff offices (yes, we all use Macs for work), that’s not necessarily going to be the case for everyone else. How will you know which of Apple’s mobile machines is right for you? Just read on.

Size Matters?

MacPro15Yes, size does matter and don’t let anyone tell you any different. Er… unless they’re talking about something other than laptop computers. If you’re making your MacBook purchasing choice – in South Africa at least – based purely on screen size and resolution then you’re going to have an easy time of it.

Here’s the long and short – if you’re keen on the 11-inch form factor, then you’re going for the MacBook Air. That’s it. Want an extra inch? Then Apple’s new MacBook range, 12-inches across the board, is for you. An addition inch on top of that and the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are running head to head while needing 15-inches of screen makes the MacBook Pro your best friend.

But that’s without considering the resolution. If you’re adamant that you want a Retina display then you can kiss both the 11- and 13-inch MacBook Air models goodbye for now – they don’t have one. Everything else in Apple’s 2015 range is blessed with Retina so go wild there, though it’s still possible to source non-Retina MacBook Pro models in this country at the moment.

Specs For Days

MacBook12FTWe’re assuming that you’re not going to be running any CAD software on these things but you still might need something with more grunt than the average notebook. It might also happen that you’re just looking for something fairly reliable that handles word-processing and a few basic apps. Apple’s got you covered.

In terms of power, here are your tiers:

MacBook Pro 15-inch – Most powerful
MacBook Pro 13-inch
MacBook Air 13-inch
Macbook Air 11-inch
MacBook 12-inch – Least powerful

Apple’s never been very forthcoming about which components exactly appear in their notebooks but let’s examine their high-end MacBook Pro for a moment. The 15-inch big-boy model arrives with a Core i7-4870HQ processor from Intel, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of flash storage and a Radeon R9 M370X 2GB GPU from AMD. It’d make a fair gaming PC if it wasn’t running OS X, which makes sense because it costs about the same amount as one. The 13-inch Pro is carrying a Broadwell CPU but the 15-incher is still faster.

Mac12 SideThe same goes for the MacBook Air models for this year. Both the 11- and 13-inch Airs feature Core i5 Broadwell processors but they’re still slower than the Haswell Core i7 in Apple’s high-end Pro. The best 13-inch MacBook Air rounds out its processor with 4GB of RAM, 256GB of flash storage and Intel’s HD Graphics 6000 – a step below the Pro.

Which brings us to the new MacBook. Or New MacBook, if you’re feeling like a member of Apple’s PR team. This in-betweener uses Intel’s Core M processors and up to 8GB of RAM with up to 512GB of flash storage. What would you use it for? We can think of a few things, most of them leisure-related.

Function and Form

MacAir13Nobody buys anything based off a single aspect of it. You don’t get a car because you like its rims, you won’t buy a house because the ceilings are well painted – it might influence your decision, but it’s not the only reason for it. You might like the Air’s thin profile and the Pro’s power but what you’re really looking for is a long battery life. Then you should be considering the New MacBook instead.

It’s not just about having a MacBook, it’s all about how you’re intent on using it.

If you’re going to be replacing a desktop or a Windows-based office machine then a MacBook Pro is the go-to. Whether you’re going for the 13-inch or 15-inch versions is up to you – shell out for the Core i7 15-inch model if you’re going to be doing heavy video or image editing or you just really, really hate having a slow computer.

On the other side of the spectrum is the New MacBook. This is a lightweight Mac, suitable for basic document editing, apps and video consumption but there’s more to consider here – more storage space and extra RAM can make the New MacBook quite formidable. This is the most efficient machine in Apple’s stable at the moment, so the battery life is crazy-long, and this is the only way (right now) to get a Force Touch trackpad underneath your fingertips.

Sitting in the middle is the MacBook Air. Harder to quantify, the Air strikes a balance between size, power and battery life, making it an all-round notebook. You can use it for most of the same tasks as the Pro but it’ll outlast the larger brother in terms of powered-on time. If you’re looking for bang-for-buck (more on that in a moment), the Air range is the clear winner. We do have to say that extended work on the 11-inch Air is hard on the eyes so bear that in mind if you want a workhorse.

The Cost of Living

Air13 CrackedOnce you’ve made your choices based on the above, it’s time to see how much it’ll cost you to follow through. You could consider price first, like so many South African shoppers do, but then you run the risk of purchasing something that isn’t fit-for-purpose. This applies to everything you’re considering buying, by the way. Quality and purpose first, cost second.

Right now the cheapest you’re going to be paying for a MacBook Anything is R13,600 for the MacBook Air 11-inch base model – not counting retailer-specific product specials. The most you can expect for pay is for the full-fat 15-inch MacBook Pro, a bank-robbing R37,000.

Unless you’re set on the New MacBook’s battery life, it might make sense to opt out of the 12-inch 512GB model‘s R24,000 price tag and get yourself a slightly more expensive and (mostly) better specced 13-inch MacBook Pro 512GB, which comes in at R27,000.

But you could also be faced with a very hard choice: The 12-inch New MacBook 256GB (R19,000) or the 13-inch MacBook Air 256GB (R18,500) or the 13-inch MacBook Pro 128GB (R19,000)? They’re all pretty close together, with minor ups and downs in terms of pricing, features and usability. All told you should be jumping on the MacBook Air 13-inch, which is also the notebook to get when you can’t decide which Apple MacBook is the ideal one for you. The sweet spot, as it were. But then, they’re all sweet spots at the end of the day.


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