The MacBook Pro 15-inch has a 16% larger screen and is 24% heavier than its smaller MacBook Pro 13-inch sibling. This extra weight makes it difficult to carry around by its palm rests while open, which is significant as a majority of users don't leave their computers on the desk anymore. While the 15-inch is twice as fast in Geekbench scores, most users will not notice the difference unless performing CPU intensive tasks.
The 13-inch is the perfect size for most users. It has just the right amount of screen real-estate while maintaining its true portable nature. Mac OS 10.7 full screen mode, which will be coming out this summer, will help maximize its screen. Apple offers three different 13-inch MacBooks for different customers: MacBook, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air.
The Plastic MacBooks are for those customers who need more power and screen size than the MacBook Air 11-inch, but don't want to pay $200 more for a MacBook Pro. Apple will keep making them while the demand is still high. Yet, its days could be numbered as the 11-inch MacBook Air may fill the $999 price point in the near future when is improves it feature set.
There are two great options for those who can afford more than the MacBook. They include the MacBook Pro 13-inch and MacBook Air 13-inch and each has its strengths and weaknesses.
MacBook Air advantages include:
- 36% lighter than the MacBook Pro 13-inch
- High resolution 1440x900 screen
- Standard Equipped Solid State Drive (SSD)
MacBook Pro advantages include:
- Thunderbolt and Firewire ports for high-speed data transfer
- Twice the performance as the MacBook Air
- Support for 8GB of processor memory
- Illuminated keyboard
Here is some more comparisons between current MacBooks and previous models
The base MacBook Air 13-inch is fast enough for all day-to-day tasks such as: web browsing, email, watching videos, photo editing with Aperture, music creation with Logic, iWork and iLife programs. The standard equipped SSD will greatly improve the speed of all these tasks. Upgrading the memory to 4GB is a must and should be part of the base model. Those with lots of videos and photos may want to upgrade their storage to 256GB for $300. The 2.1 GHz processor, which is only available with the 256GB SSD, has a 12% improvement over the 1.8 GHz base processor. A maxed out MacBook Air has almost the same speed as the MacBook Pro from last year. If weight is a big factor and iMovie is not heavily used, this is the best option in Apple's MacBook lineup. The next version, which should come sometime this fall, should have an Intel Sandy Bridge processor with twice the performance and a Thunderbolt port.
For those who need more power for video editing and other CPU intense applications, the MacBook Pro is a better option. The MacBook Pro comes with both Firewire and Thunderbolt ports for transferring media files and working with Final Cut Pro. While professional video editors and 3D graphic artists will need to upgrade to the higher end MacBook Pros, the rest will be comfortable with the performance of these new base models with a Sandy Bridge processor. These new 13-inch models are faster than last year's high-end 15-inch models. The i7 is 14% faster than the base i5 processor. Upgrading the hard drive to a SSD would be the first upgrade to make on the MacBook Pro model. Without the SSD, the MacBook Air might be a better option, as the solid state drive provides the most noticeable improvement on today's computers. The two biggest flaws for the 13-inch model is the lack of a good graphics card and a lower resolution display (when compared to the MacBook Air). Hopefully Apple will be upgrading the display in the next version. The smallest MacBook Pro will unlikely have a discreet graphics card in the future, so hopefully Intel can step up the graphics performance in the next version.
After lots of comparisons of the various MacBook models, the ultimate factor in decision-making for most people keeps coming back to the main fact that people get laptops because they don't leave their computers at the desk anymore. They are taking them with as they travel or move around the home and office. The 13-inch MacBooks represent the near perfect sized mobile computer. The MacBook Air is one of the best MacBook options for the vast majority of users today. It has enough power to perform day-to-day tasks and is the lightest version, which makes a big difference for mobile computing. If more power is needed, the MacBook Pro 13-inch with a SSD is the better option with more power than last year's high-end 15-inch models.
Update: Read my latest article on the performance improvements of the new MacBook Airs.
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- MacBook Buyers Guide 2011
- MacBook Air Solid State Drive Comparison
- MacBook Pro’s Next Step
- Macbook Graphics Face-off: Intel HD Graphics 3000 vs NVIDIA GeForce 320M
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