Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

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1stAde Regular Member • Posts: 485
Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

I've been waiting years to buy the right new Macbook Pro. You'll laugh at me when I say I am using an old Macbook Pro from 2009! (The first with the aluminium design, that I could update so with a large SSD, and increased RAM). I can't afford the high end models, and Apple always cripple the lower end 2 Pro models. The last 13" release I would have gone for, if they hadn't got that problematic keyboard. I've been waiting for the new update, knowing they would fix the keyboard likely get a processor update. Of course they have done that for the higher 2 models, but have kept lower end with 8th Gen intel, and slower RAM.

When I compare the i5 Macbook air for 1299 (I'm UK, so will ignore currency), but the Macbook air has slighly slower clock speed, but 10th Gen processor, faster RAM, and double Storage (512Gb SSD rather than 256), as well as being lighter weight.

I think the screens are comparable, but the Air doesn't have the Touch bar, that I think I can live without. Same number of Thunderbolt ports.

So for 1299, surely the Air is better option than the base Macbook pro? I wonder with 10th Gen and faster RAM, that it probably performs similarly to the 13" Pro?

Thoughts!

Adrian

SkiHound Veteran Member • Posts: 3,831
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

I'm in the US and the pricing structure is different. I believe the screen on the Pro has a larger color gamut than the Air. Specifications also say it's brighter. They are virtually the same size. The Pro is a around 136 grams heavier. For quick bursts there is likely very little difference in performance. Because of better cooling the pro will likely be able to sustain higher clock speeds for longer periods. If I'm not mistaken the integrated graphics on the 10th generation chips is better than that on the 8th generation chips. BTW, the graphics on the i5 Air are better than the graphics on the i3 Air. Ram upgrade in US is only $100 on the Pro while it's still $200 on the Air. So at least in the US they are priced virtually identically with 256gb SSD, i5, and 16gb of ram. Price of SSD upgrade is the same. My take is that the way they are configured and priced in the US the Pro would generally be a better choice unless a person feels the low end Air is sufficient. Pricing for you might change that equation. And I also think that if you want to upgrade 1 of either ram to 16gb or SSD to 512 that might change the equation.

PeterGuyton.com
PeterGuyton.com Senior Member • Posts: 2,417
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

1stAde wrote:

I've been waiting years to buy the right new Macbook Pro. You'll laugh at me when I say I am using an old Macbook Pro from 2009! (The first with the aluminium design, that I could update so with a large SSD, and increased RAM). I can't afford the high end models, and Apple always cripple the lower end 2 Pro models. The last 13" release I would have gone for, if they hadn't got that problematic keyboard. I've been waiting for the new update, knowing they would fix the keyboard likely get a processor update. Of course they have done that for the higher 2 models, but have kept lower end with 8th Gen intel, and slower RAM.

When I compare the i5 Macbook air for 1299 (I'm UK, so will ignore currency), but the Macbook air has slighly slower clock speed, but 10th Gen processor, faster RAM, and double Storage (512Gb SSD rather than 256), as well as being lighter weight.

I think the screens are comparable, but the Air doesn't have the Touch bar, that I think I can live without. Same number of Thunderbolt ports.

Is that true? I have a MBP 13" (2018) and my son has a Macbook Air (2019) and the MBP has double the TB3 ports (4 vs 2). I looked at the Apple site and it still appears the MBP has 4 tb3 ports while the Air has 2.

So for 1299, surely the Air is better option than the base Macbook pro? I wonder with 10th Gen and faster RAM, that it probably performs similarly to the 13" Pro?

Thoughts!

Adrian

I will say that the difference in battery life is substantial on the last iteration. Not sure that is still true.  My son's Air can run most the day while I''m looking to plug-in power in a couple hours.   I'm also surprised how fast the Air is even with the slower clockspeed and such.  It really is a sweet machine.

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Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 17,716
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

1stAde wrote:

I've been waiting for the new update, knowing they would fix the keyboard likely get a processor update. Of course they have done that for the higher 2 models, but have kept lower end with 8th Gen intel, and slower RAM.

From looking at the Tech Specs on the Apple site, it would appear that the low-end 13" MacBook Pros have new keyboards.  Not a whole lot else that's new, though.

When I compare the i5 Macbook air for 1299 (I'm UK, so will ignore currency), but the Macbook air has slighly slower clock speed, but 10th Gen processor, faster RAM, and double Storage (512Gb SSD rather than 256), as well as being lighter weight.

Traditionally, the Airs have used lower-power ("maximum TDP") CPUs than the rMBPs; if you push the Air and rMBP CPUs hard, the Air CPUs might throttle first.

Then again, most people don't push their CPUs that hard, and the 10th generation ones might be more efficient (less waste heat for the same amount of work).

I think the screens are comparable, but the Air doesn't have the Touch bar, that I think I can live without. Same number of Thunderbolt ports.

The Air has a sRGB screen with 400 nits brightness.  The 13" rMBP has a DCI-P3 screen with 500 nits brightness, and stereo speakers "with high dynamic range".

Whichever one you pick, I would suggest future-proofing it by custom-ordering it with 16 GB of RAM.

Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 17,716
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

PeterGuyton.com wrote:

1stAde wrote:

Same number of Thunderbolt ports.

Is that true? I have a MBP 13" (2018) and my son has a Macbook Air (2019) and the MBP has double the TB3 ports (4 vs 2). I looked at the Apple site and it still appears the MBP has 4 tb3 ports while the Air has 2.

The high-end 13" rMBPs have 4 Thunderbolt ports.  The low-end 13" ones have only 2.  I can remember this being the case in the past – although there may also have been times when all of the 13" rMBPs in the line had 4 Thunderbolt ports.

Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 17,716
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

SkiHound wrote:

Ram upgrade in US is only $100 on the Pro while it's still $200 on the Air.

On the low-end 13" rMBP.  That one uses LPDDR3 RAM.  The Air uses LPDDR4 RAM.  The type of RAM seems to be the determining factor in the pricing.

OP 1stAde Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

You're right as per the last versions screen is brighter and wider gamut on the pro. Pricing is exactly US$= UK£, so comparisons are same (i.e. all deltas and upgrades I believe are still 1US$=1UK£)

Net comparison

Air v Pro at 1299

1.1 Quad Core v. 1.4 Quad Core (Pro Wins)

10th Gen i5 v. 8th Gen i5 (Air wins)

Iris+  onboard graphics v. Iris onboard (Air Wins)

8Gb DDR4 Ram v. 8Gb DDR3 Ram (Air Wins)

Screen Brighter and Wider gamut on Pro (Pro Wins)

Storage 512Gb v. 256Gb (Air Wins)

Standard keyboard v. Touch bar keyboard (You decide!)

Battery life (hard to prove until tested, but in theory could be Air Wins)

Weight (Air Wins).

Ports are both 2 TB3 on these (i.e. 2 lower end  MBPs) (Draw).

I am annoyed as I feel that if they hadn't hamstrung with processor on the lower end, I would have accepted the loss of storage at the same price, but both less storage, older processor and slower RAM on the Pro, has to push the Air as the value proposition. Better screen would be good, but the Air's is not bad (IMHO).

Adrian

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OP 1stAde Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

PeterGuyton.com wrote:

1stAde wrote:

I've been waiting years to buy the right new Macbook Pro. You'll laugh at me when I say I am using an old Macbook Pro from 2009! (The first with the aluminium design, that I could update so with a large SSD, and increased RAM). I can't afford the high end models, and Apple always cripple the lower end 2 Pro models. The last 13" release I would have gone for, if they hadn't got that problematic keyboard. I've been waiting for the new update, knowing they would fix the keyboard likely get a processor update. Of course they have done that for the higher 2 models, but have kept lower end with 8th Gen intel, and slower RAM.

When I compare the i5 Macbook air for 1299 (I'm UK, so will ignore currency), but the Macbook air has slighly slower clock speed, but 10th Gen processor, faster RAM, and double Storage (512Gb SSD rather than 256), as well as being lighter weight.

I think the screens are comparable, but the Air doesn't have the Touch bar, that I think I can live without. Same number of Thunderbolt ports.

Is that true? I have a MBP 13" (2018) and my son has a Macbook Air (2019) and the MBP has double the TB3 ports (4 vs 2). I looked at the Apple site and it still appears the MBP has 4 tb3 ports while the Air has 2.

You have to pay 1799 (go the the higher 2 spec models) to get the 4 TB ports. Base 2 models only have 2. The marketing spiel on the front doesn't disclose this, but the tech specs do.

So for 1299, surely the Air is better option than the base Macbook pro? I wonder with 10th Gen and faster RAM, that it probably performs similarly to the 13" Pro?

Thoughts!

Adrian

I will say that the difference in battery life is substantial on the last iteration. Not sure that is still true. My son's Air can run most the day while I''m looking to plug-in power in a couple hours. I'm also surprised how fast the Air is even with the slower clockspeed and such. It really is a sweet machine.

Yes, if you do the 1299 model comparisons the Air looks like the value.

Would love to see proper benchmarks to see if the Air is throttled back in other componentry.

Thanks

Adrian

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Tom_N Forum Pro • Posts: 17,716
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

1stAde wrote:

Battery life (hard to prove until tested, but in theory could be Air Wins)

According to Apple, the Air wins.  Even with a moderately-higher-capacity battery, the Pro turned in a slightly shorter battery life.

Jim in Hudson Senior Member • Posts: 2,432
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

If you anticipate "pushing" your machine, the base MacBook Pro might be the better choice.  Used lightly, the MacBook Air (similar configuration) might be better.  The key is the MBP was designed to be a workhorse computer with better cooling whereas the MBA not so much.

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Loganberry Forum Member • Posts: 56
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

The MacBook Pro may have a brighter screen but does that really matter? When calibrating a screen I have usually had to reduce the screen brightness to maybe 50%. Thereafter I have always run the computer with whatever screen brightness was necessary for the calibration, inorder to view my photos correctly.

So the less bright screen of the MacBook Air might not really matter. Unless I am missing something.

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CBR1100XX Senior Member • Posts: 1,028
Re: Macbook Air better buy than new low end Macbook?

1stAde wrote:

You're right as per the last versions screen is brighter and wider gamut on the pro. Pricing is exactly US$= UK£, so comparisons are same (i.e. all deltas and upgrades I believe are still 1US$=1UK£)

Net comparison

Air v Pro at 1299

1.1 Quad Core v. 1.4 Quad Core (Pro Wins)

10th Gen i5 v. 8th Gen i5 (Air wins)

Iris+ onboard graphics v. Iris onboard (Air Wins)

8Gb DDR4 Ram v. 8Gb DDR3 Ram (Air Wins)

Screen Brighter and Wider gamut on Pro (Pro Wins)

Storage 512Gb v. 256Gb (Air Wins)

Standard keyboard v. Touch bar keyboard (You decide!)

Battery life (hard to prove until tested, but in theory could be Air Wins)

Weight (Air Wins).

Ports are both 2 TB3 on these (i.e. 2 lower end MBPs) (Draw).

I am annoyed as I feel that if they hadn't hamstrung with processor on the lower end, I would have accepted the loss of storage at the same price, but both less storage, older processor and slower RAM on the Pro, has to push the Air as the value proposition. Better screen would be good, but the Air's is not bad (IMHO).

Adrian

A few additional things.

The air actually loses on the 10th gen vs 8th gen i5 in terms of the CPU. There are 2 ways that this happens, in terms of single threaded performance for short bursts they should be similar since the 10th gen while a new architecture is clocked lower. But if you're doing anything that takes longer like say a Lightroom import or export the Air just wont do well with it since it has no direct cooling for the CPU, there is a fan in the Air but there's no attachment to the CPU via heat pipe limiting what it can do. That means it'll quickly thermal throttle while the Pro will have more headroom.

The Air has faster RAM that's for sure but that LPDDR3 is clocked at 2133 MHz which is just below the 2400 which was the initial standard for DDR4 so it's no slouch and Intel CPU's are less dependent on fast RAM. For GPU intensive things this could matter but again with the Air you'd run into the problem that if it's not a quick job that the chip will hit the thermal and possibly power limits since that's much lower than the MacBook Pro's as well.

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