The 15” professional notebook has been the focal point of Apple’s mobile strategy for decades now, going back well into the PowerBook days. So naturally, the MBP 15 (at least the low end SKU) is very well settled in the Apple notebook lineup. 

The 13” Pro though, has been a little bit questionable ever since the SNB MacBook Airs launched last year. And this year, with the price drop of the 13” MacBook Air to match the 13” Pro at $1199, that line has gotten even more questionable. The Core 2-based MacBook Airs were all too slow to be viable machines, but the SNB Air from last year brought it a lot closer to the Pro. This time around, with a 1.8GHz ULV Ivy Bridge and an SSD underhood, the MBA 13” is fast enough to be equal or better to the 13” MBP in normal daily use case scenarios. If the extra computing horsepower matters a lot (and let’s face it, it’s not all that much faster - the extra 700MHz doesn’t make as big a difference as you’d expect because of Turbo, and the Air’s SSD goes a long way towards making the system more responsive and covers up for any CPU shortfall) you’re probably better off either stepping up to a 15” MBP or picking up a discounted 2011 MBP 15”. 

The Air 13” is fast enough for day-to-day use, and the higher screen resolution and significant edge in terms of portability make it pretty compelling versus the Pro’s comparatively portly body and disappointingly low-res 1280x800 display. Which isn’t to say that the MBP 13 doesn’t have its advantages - it’s significantly more upgradable (the Air has soldered in, non-upgradable memory, as well as a non-standard form factor SSD, while the Pro has a bog-standard SATA port), as well as an LCD with a wider colour gamut. Plus, if you rely on physical media, it’s the only one with a DVD drive. 

To me, and I suspect to many consumers, the form factor and screen resolution are enough to sway me towards the Air. As someone who owned and loved a 13" MacBook Pro for a long time (a base 2011 model with a Vertex 3 MAX IOPS), I just don't see the allure in the current one. The custom SSD form factor seems like an overblown issue, because Apple is now shipping SSDs with controllers good enough that I don't think they need to be replaced, and a number of SSD manufacturers make upgrade kits for the Air anyways. With that said, I absolutely don't like what Apple is doing about non-upgradable memory, because it means that if you're not willing to pay Apple sometimes absurd memory upgrade pricing, you're stuck with a system that'll be RAM starved after a couple of years. If you switch laptops frequently, that's not as big an issue, but otherwise, it's definitely something to consider. But to me, the Air just feels more modern than the Pro, and if you're buying a system in the next month or two, I think the base 13" Air is the better one to get.

Now with that said, there are also rumors of Apple launching a 13-inch version of the rMBP before the end of the year. Take rumors with a grain of salt but the possibility is something you'll have to be prepared for. 

The non-Retinized Display: Still Good Concluding Thoughts
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  • dagamer34 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    There is no scaling hardware in the rMBP. Apple instead uses custom software scaling algorithms. Did you really read Anand's review?

    Regardless, with a Mac, you are basically paying for support up front in the form of stores where you can easily get your Mac serviced, and if it's badly screwed up, totally replaced.
    Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    If thats true, how come with every windows laptop, anand is sure to include little macbook and macbook air jabs here and there? Reply
  • robco - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Most likely be cause Apple sweats the details in their designs while others don't. If they can't get something adequate for their goals off the shelf, they design their own. I've yet to see a review of an ultrabook where it manages to have a good display, good keyboard, solid build quality and, the big one - a trackpad that works well. Yet the MacBook Air hits all these points. The panel is decent (not the very best, but good), the keyboard is great to type on and backlit, the unibody design is solid and the multitouch trackpad works great. Battery life is also very good.

    I think it's the frustration that other companies are either unwilling or unable to design laptops with the same level of care and attention to detail. Apple provides a very good end-to-end consumer experience. It's a shame that so far few have come close to matching it.
    Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    No what I'm saying is, if anand truly believes there is no cross shopping between apple and windows machines, why with every windows machine review he has little jabs about how they pale compared to apple and he throws in an obligatory "you can buythis machine but for more money you can just buy apple", but with apple reviews he fails to mention that windows machines exist at all.

    You can't play both sides of the field at once.
    Reply
  • seanleeforever - Thursday, August 02, 2012 - link

    because Anand is a Mac lover (i think he made similar statement in one of his apple product review) and as such, he felt obligated to point out how inferior other PC manufacture is in comparison.

    it is like, when you describe how smart a monkey is, you always list a human as a reference, but you never do the other way around.

    Me, on the other hand, don't care crap about apples' product. it is too limiting and i think OSX is (at least to me) less functional than windows, which fits college girl perfectly since all they do is facebook and youtube, and you don't have to worry as much when clicking randomly ads or fancy icon on the web.

    i have yet to see a serious programmer use mac. just saying.
    Reply
  • mavere - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Considering that only Apple laptops can legitly run OSX, it means that if you're in the market for a Macbook, you're pretty much *only* in the market for a Macbook.

    The sparse comparisons to other Macbooks were warranted in context of a barely upgraded product, and the review even ends in an anti-endorsement!

    Honestly, you're just complaining because you have preconceived notions of the brand, and are just upset (for some reason) that the reviewer didn't build up on those biases, even if he didn't refute them at all.
    Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Not really. There are plenty of people who consider both macs and windows. I consider myself in that category. I'm willing to switch to a macbook air if the price is right, OS regardless. However, I just don't see why I should suffer through an OS switch at those prices compared to what comparable windows machines offer.

    But thats just the thing: when guys like us who have no problem putting bootcamp on say an iMac or something, or having 2 or 3 oses, or dare I say run linux if our mood so fits us read reviews like this, we get no actual information other than "drool anand loves macs... buy one....drool some more".

    How about some objectivity? Some comparisons for people who could buy a macbook pro or could end up going with a nice high end sony vaio or something.
    Reply
  • ggathagan - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    But that has been done to death in so many other articles, it ends up with the reviewer essentially beating a dead horse.

    Seriously, do you really need the reviewer to state for the umpteenth time that if you are platform-neutral, you tend to get better value from a non-Apple product; that you pay extra for the Apple name and look?
    Reply
  • Krane1 - Sunday, August 12, 2012 - link

    I doubt that. Maybe one half of 1%. Other than that, you either buy foreign or domestic Reply
  • ananduser - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    I am eagerly awaiting for the MBP 13" review. Reply

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