Apple MacBook Air (2020) vs MacBook Pro 13-inch – Tricky Territory

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MacBook Air Ecosystem

Recently, Apple updated their cheapest laptop, the MacBook air with some much needed changes that people have been asking for the last few years. For starters, the new MacBook Air comes with Intel’s 10th gen processors, more storage and a better keyboard. All this for a cheaper price now at $999, which is quite a ways below the MacBook Pro retails for. So, with all these new changes, what’s the difference between it and the 13″ Pro machine?

Well, that’s a question you’ll surely be wondering about, as Apple is still keeping mum about the rumored 14″ MacBook Pro. If you’re in the market for a premium ultrabook, then Apple has some seriously competitive hardware with the 2020 MacBook Air. Its bigger brother starts at $1299, a hefty $300 more over the cheaper Air, but the specs look almost the same.

2020 MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro

  • Apple New Macbook Air 2020
  • Apple MacBook Air 2020 Keyboard

Let’s get started with that then, shall we?

MacBook Air (2020 Updated)MacBook Pro 13″ (2019)
CPU1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i3 (10th gen)1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 (8th gen)
GPUIntel Iris Plus GraphicsIntel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM8 GB8 GB
Storage256 GB128 GB
KeyboardScissor-switchButterfly
Price$999/ ₹92,990$1299/ ₹1,19,900 
2020 MacBook Air vs 13″ MacBook Pro (2019)

The biggest difference among the two, at least on paper, are the processors and the storage. Here I’ve included the base options for both devices, which sets a nice reference for all the points I’m going to mention below. Now, at $999 you’re getting a dual-core chip, which many will object against. I get that, as I’ve become accustomed to using high-performance PC parts over the years. But there’s one thing that those people are missing – macOS.

  • Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch
  • Apple MacBook Pro 13 Butterfly Keyboard

For people who are looking to get the base MacBook Air, it’s generally the macOS experience that they’re looking for. The MacBook Air has always been the go-to laptop for everyday casual use. No one (if you’re smart) buys a MacBook Air to edit 4K videos on.

MacBook Air (2020 Updated)MacBook Pro 13″ (2019)
CPU1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 (10th gen)1.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 (8th gen)
GPUIntel Iris Plus GraphicsIntel Iris Plus Graphics
RAM8 GB8 GB
Storage512 GB128 GB
KeyboardScissor-switchButterfly
Price$1299$1299
2020 Upgraded MacBook Air vs 13″ MacBook Pro (2019)

Now, with that said, let’s shift gears a bit. Paying about $300 more will get you the quad-core i5 processor which is the same one you get in the 13″ MBP. Now, this is where things start getting interesting. At $1299, both MacBooks have an i5 processor, but the MacBook Air has an updated one at that. Moreover, it also has a better keyboard and more storage over the original. Now the Air seems to have quite an advantage over the Pro, doesn’t it? On paper, this should translate to better performance & usability on the Air. While the latter part is true if you ask most people, it’s the performance part where things tend to get a little tricky.

A Confusing State

Intel CPUs
Intel CPUs

Let it be known here that the MacBook Air laptops (or ultrabooks, if you prefer) are passively cooled. What that means is that the fan inside them isn’t connected to the heat pipe over the chip. In fact, there is no heatpipe! In theory, it makes some sense as the new chips are low-powered Y-series processors, which aren’t really meant for long-term loads. The new Intel chips in these laptops are really meant to provide short bursts of speed when you need it. So if you’re doing any heavy work on the notebook, you’ll find the fans spinning quite a lot more when compared to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Not only that but the thermal limitation also hinders the performance of that i5 chip, so you won’t be noticing any gains when, say, rendering a video on Premiere Pro.

This puts the 13-inch MBP in a tough spot. On one hand, you have a laptop which is built for more stressful work. On the other hand, nearly all of its other headlining features are bested by the similarly priced model of the MacBook Air. It also doesn’t help that Apple updated the Pro’s now 16-inch version with a bigger screen, better processor(s) and the better keyboard. With that said, both notebooks are running Intel’s onboard graphics instead of the dedicated AMD GPUs that you’ll find on the 16-inch MBP. And coming back to the older processors, there’s still time before Apple decides to part ways with Intel and go all out on ARM-based CPUs.

It’s certainly a weird lineup which really puts some pressure on the 13-inch. We’ve known for a while that Apple’s working on a 14-inch version of the MBP just as they updated the now-defunct 15-inch model. With that it’s almost a given that the 14-inch MacBook Pro will come with the newer processors, and a better keyboard at the very least. But it won’t be coming anytime soon as the latest rumors point to it launching sometime around April at the earliest. Right now though, the company is focused on getting the iPhone 9 (or SE 2, whatever it ends up being called) out on the market.

Apple MacBook AIR

If you’re on the market right now for a Mac, we’ll honestly suggest waiting. If you’re looking for something that’s really intended for more light use, then, by all means, go for the base MacBook Air. Intel has come a long way and the 10th gen processors are quite efficient. The dual-core i3 might seem quite weak, but when compared to the competition it’s still a strong package.

If all the rumors end up being true, then we might have the 14-inch updated MBP in our hands by this time next month (or soon thereafter). We’ll keep you updated on the arrival of the new Mac, so check back here on this space when that drops.

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