This year’s models of the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are now out, and both bring new features to the old favorites – even if both the designs of the laptops haven’t changed.
Despite sharing similarities, including the Apple’s stylish design ethos, the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are aimed at very different audiences. The MacBook Air is the entry-level Mac, and the most affordable way to get one of Apple’s laptops. Because of this, it’s aimed at casual users for day-to-day tasks such as creating documents and browsing the web.
Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro is Apple’s most powerful laptop and is aimed at professionals. That means it’s packed with cutting edge components – and a very high price tag to match.
So, which one is best for you? We pit Apple’s latest and greatest laptops against each other.
Price and specs
As we mentioned earlier, the MacBook Air is Apple’s most affordable laptop. That doesn’t mean it’s cheap, but if you’re set on an Apple laptop and are on a budget, then this is the one to get.
The good news is that with the 2019 model, the MacBook Air is now more affordable than ever. The entry-level model costs $1,099 (£1,099, AU$1,699). This model comes with a 1.6GHz dual-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz, 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 128GB storage and Intel UHD Graphics 617.
There’s also a model with the same specs, but with twice the storage at 256GB, which costs $1,299 (£1,299, AU$1,999).
So, it’s far from budget, but it’s a heck of a lot more affordable than the MacBook Pro (2019).
The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 (£1,299, AU$1,999) for the entry level model with a 1.4GHz quad-core eighth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 and 128GB SSD.
If your budget can stretch to it, we recommend getting the MacBook Pro over the Air for the quad-core processor alone.
There’s also a 15-inch model of the MacBook Pro, which costs $2,399 (£2,399, AU$3,499/AED9,999) for the entry-level model with a 2.6GHz 6-core 9th generation Intel Core i7 processor, Radeon Pro 555X GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 RAM and 256GB SSD storage.
If budget it the most important thing to you, then the MacBook Air (2019) is definitely the best choice – but if you’re after high performance, you’ll want to spend more to get the MacBook Pro (2019).
Both the new MacBooks keep the design of their previous models. That means, for the MacBook Air (2019) you get an impressively thin and light laptop with dimensions of 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm) and a weight of 2.75 pounds (1.25kg).
This is a svelte design the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019) does well to match considering the more powerful components inside. Its dimensions are 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.49cm) which is pretty similar – in fact you’ll notice that at 0.59 inches, its slightly thinner overall than the MacBook Air.
However, the MacBook Air’s thinnest point is 0.16 inches (0.41cm). The 13-inch MacBook Pro is slightly heavier at 3.02 pounds (1.37kg).
So, the MacBook Air has the edge when it comes to size and weight – but the difference isn’t quite as big as you’d think. Apple has done a fantastic job of making the MacBook Pro 13-inch impressively thin and light as well, so if you’re after more power, you’re still getting a very portable laptop with the Pro.
Meanwhile, the MacBook Pro 15-inch’s dimensions are – as you’d expect – a lot bigger at 13.7 x 9.48 x 0.61-inches (34.92 x 24.07 x 1.55) and a weight of 4.02 pounds (1.83kg).
One of the most notable changes to the MacBook Air (2019) is that its screen now supports True Tone technology, brining it in line with the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019).
True Tone automatically adjusts the color temperature shown on the screen depending on the ambient light, and it can do a good job of making colors look more natural – especially in some conditions.
However, if you want color accuracy – if you’re a photographer or video editor, for example – then you’ll probably want to turn this off.
The screens of the MacBook Air (2019) and the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019) are very similar in other respects. They are both 13.3-inches, with LED backlighting and IPS technology, and both have native resolutions of 2,560 x 1,600. That results in a pixel density of 227 pixels per inch on both screens. This leads to both screens looking incredibly sharp.
However, the MacBook Pro’s screen does have the edge thanks to it being much brighter (500 nits), and it also supports the wide color P3 (also known as DCI-P3). This means the screen is able to show far more colors, and drastically increases the color accuracy of images shown on screen.
P3 is an industry standard for movie production, so if you’re a professional, then the MacBook Pro’s screen is the clear winner. However, the MacBook Air (2019)’s screen is still fantastic, and with True Tone looks better than ever.
The MacBook Pro 15-inch (2019)’s screen is a further step up, with a 15.4-inch size and a resolution of 2,880 x 1,800. This resolution over a larger size leads to a slightly lower pixel density of 220 pixels per inch, but images are still bright and vibrant. Like the 13-inch model, it also features 500 nits brightness and P3 support.
All three 2019 models have slightly improved keyboards. You may have seen that Apple has come under some criticism about the keyboards of previous MacBooks. The ‘Butterfly’ switch Apple uses for the keyboards has been prone to issues – including stuck or non-responsive keys.
For the 2019 models, Apple has tweaked the materials used with the Butterfly switch, which the company promises should reduce the likelihood of the keyboards becoming faulty. While this is welcome, many people had hoped that Apple would ditch the Butterfly switch altogether and introduce a completely new keyboard.
Apple’s Keyboard Service Program, which will replace a faulty keyboard free of charge, extends to this year’s MacBook Air and both MacBook Pros, and also suggests that the issue is still persistent.
However, in our time with all three devices we did not experience any issues with the keyboard. Hopefully Apple’s fixes have done the trick this time.
Meanwhile, both the MacBook Pro 13-inch and 15-inch 2019 models now feature the Touch Bar, a thin glass touchscreen that runs along the top of the keyboard, displaying context-sensitive buttons on its 2,170 x 60 resolution screen. These buttons change depending on the application or task that you’re performing, and are designed to give you quick shortcuts for a more seamless workflow.
The MacBook Air (2019) doesn’t include this, but it does have a Touch ID fingerprint sensor (as do both Pros) for logging in and paying for things online securely.
If the Touch Bar is something you really want, then either MacBook Pro will be the one to get – as of 2019, Apple no longer does a MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar.
MacBook Air 2019 vs MacBook Pro 2019: which one should you buy?
So, which of the 2019 MacBooks should you buy? If you’re on a budget and want the most affordable laptop, then the MacBook Air (2019) is the one to get. Although it’s the cheapest MacBook, you’re still getting some of the best recent features to grace modern MacBooks, including True Tone and Retina technology in its display and the Touch ID fingerprint scanner.
However, if your budget can stretch further, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019) is definitely worth getting. The improved components – including a quad-core processor – makes a real difference to how the laptop performs, with the macOS operating system feeling a lot faster.
It’s also not hugely more expensive than the MacBook Air (2019). Plus, while it’s not quite as thin and light as the MacBook Air, it’s not far off. That means you’re not sacrificing too much in the way of portability for more power.
But, if you want the most powerful laptop Apple has made – something that can cope with intensive tasks like video rendering and 3D modelling – then the 15-inch MacBook Pro (2019) is worth considering – though you’re going to pay a lot more for it.