MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: Which Should Students Get?

MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: Which Should Students Get?

Students and teachers back in school, and hopefully took advantage of Apple’s education discounts. A laptop is a must-have for today’s students, and Apple is currently offering two choices: the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air. Both models were updated in July 2019, and they both have great features, so which one do you choose?

To answer that, let’s break down what each model has to offer.

Processing Power
When it comes to processing power, the MacBook Pro comes out ahead. The 13” model comes with an Intel Core i7 processor, or you can go with the 15” model, which includes an i9 processor. It features a Turbo Boost of up to 4.5GH for the 13” model, or 4.7GH for the 15” model. Whichever you choose, the 2019 MacBook Pro features much faster processing speeds than previous models. This makes it a great choice for students who will be working with video or images, or students who will be doing some complex coding.

The MacBook Air isn’t quite as powerful, with an older Intel Core i5 processor and a Turbo Boost up to 3.6GH. However, that doesn’t mean it’s slow. According to many reviews, it performs day-to-day tasks well even if it’s not the fastest laptop on the market. For students who will mostly be using their laptop to research and write papers or prepare presentations, the Air should be up to the task.

Display
Apple’s computers are well known for their impressive displays, and their newest laptops are no exception. Both models feature Retina displays, which have received a lot of praise for their crisp images and vivid colors. If you’re considering a MacBook Pro, you can choose between a 13” display that features 227 pixels per inch, or a 15” display with 220 ppi. They both look great, but the larger screen may be useful for students who like to keep multiple apps open. Currently, the MacBook Air is only available with a 13” screen, which also has 227 ppi.

As for graphics, the 13” MacBook Pro comes with an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 card, while the 15” model comes with an AMD Radeon Pro Vega 20 card. The Air comes with an Intel UHD Graphics 617 card. If you’re not sure what all that means, the MacBook Pro does have better performance for gaming and watching videos, especially the 15” model.

Both the MacBook Pro and the Air come with True Tone, which was first introduced for the iPad Pro. This is a handy feature that reacts to surrounding lighting and adjusts the display accordingly. This makes the screen more comfortable to view in low lighting and easier to read in bright sunlight.

Memory and Storage
If you’re considering a MacBook Pro, you have several options for both memory and storage. The 13” model comes with 8 GB of memory and 128, 256, or 512 GB of storage. The 15” model comes with 16 GB of memory and 256 or 512 GB of SSD storage. Both models use solid-state drives (SSD) for storage, which allows for fast performance in a compact computer.

The MacBook Air comes with 8 GB of memory and your choice of 128 or 256 GB of SSD storage. Will that be enough for students? It depends on what they’ll need to do with their laptops. Anyone who wants to keep a lot of photos, videos or games on their laptop will probably find it worthwhile to pay for extra storage, but it won’t be a necessary expense for everyone.

Security
Both of the latest MacBook products come with Apple’s T2 Security Chip, which was introduced in 2018. This chip automatically encrypts the data on your laptop, keeping it more secure. It also includes a feature called Secure Boot, which protects your computer from hackers by making sure that only a legitimate operating system can load when you start it up.

Both the new MacBook Pro and the Air also come with Touch ID, a security feature that allows you to use your fingerprint to unlock your laptop. You can also use it to make purchases in Apple apps or while using Apple Pay. If you feel more secure using a password for these functions, Touch ID is optional.

The Touch Bar
Every MacBook Pro now comes with a Touch Bar, an OLED strip that replaces the row of Function keys at the top of the keyboard. Depending on what app you’re using, different tools will be displayed to make them easy to find and use. Like an iPad, the Touch Bar lets you use gestures for certain functions, like changing the volume or adjusting your display’s brightness.

So far, the MacBook Pro is the only Apple laptop that features this technology. Does that make it a better laptop for students? That’s a matter of personal preference. Some Apple users are big fans of the Touch Bar, while others don’t consider it necessary. It’s up to you.

Battery Life
We know a laptop’s battery life is important to students, who may be carrying their laptop around campus all day. Both the MacBook Pro and the Air perform well here, but the Pro is the clear winner. Its battery life is over 10 hours, while the Air’s is almost 9. So, if you need a laptop that can go all day without charging, the MacBook Pro is a great choice.

Portability
One of the MacBook Air’s most popular features is that it’s light, making it easy to throw into a laptop case or backpack and carry. However, the difference between these two models is not very significant. The MacBook Pro weighs 3.02 pounds, while the Air only weighs 2.75 pounds. Both laptops are thin and very portable for the on-the-go student.

Appearance
Many students like their laptops to look stylish in addition to working well, and Apple has earned their reputation for sleek designs. The new MacBook Pro is available in Apple’s two standard colors for laptops: Silver and Space Gray. It’s a slim model, only .59” thick for the 13” screen or .61” for the 15” screen.

If you’re considering how good your laptop will look on your desk or how it might fit with your decor, the new MacBook Air is worth considering. For the first time, it’s available in 3 colors: Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. Like the 15” MacBook Pro, it has a thickness of .61”. Like previous versions of the Air, it has Apple’s classic “wedge” design, meaning its profile is thicker at one end and tapers to a slimmer look at the other.

Keyboards
Both the MacBook Pro and the Air feature the same keyboard, which Apple has been using for its laptops since 2015. In order to maintain the laptops’ thin design, the keys are light and use an underlying “butterfly” mechanism, although that may change in future models. The current keyboards may have issues with keys sticking or being nonresponsive, but Apple does offer keyboard services for anyone who experiences these issues.

Pricing
Most students are on a budget, so we do need to talk about the price tags attached to the MacBook Pro and the Air. The 13” MacBook Pro starts at $1299, while the 15” model starts at $2399. The Air starts at only $1099, which actually makes it a little cheaper than the previous Air model, so it may be a good choice for students who need to save some cash.

However, the MacBook Pro is a more powerful computer with some features the Air lacks, so you are getting improved performance by spending a little more money. Does that make it worth the extra $200? That’s something you’ll need to decide, based on your requirements and preferences.

Quick Questions to Consider
There are a lot of details to sort through when you’re trying to choose between a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air. If you’d rather get right to the point, rather than digging through all the information we’ve provided above, here are some quick questions to consider before you make your decision:

  • How much do you want to spend? For some students, this may be the primary concern. The MacBook Air is Apple’s most affordable laptop, but the price difference between it and the entry-level MacBook Pro is only $200. You’ll need to spend more if you want the maximum amount of storage space and processing power for either laptop, but that may not be necessary if you only need a laptop for day-to-day tasks.
  • Do you work with images or videos often? For students working on graphic design or editing movies, the MacBook Pro is a great option. Its display is vivid and detailed, and it has the processing power to keep up with large files and complex tasks. The Air also has a great display, but it’s a better fit for more ordinary use like watching movies and storing your personal photos.
  • Do you need a good laptop for gaming? If gaming is one of your hobbies, you may prefer the MacBook Pro. It has a more advanced graphics card, particularly the 15” design. The larger screen can also come in handy when you’re playing your favorite games. The increased processing power can also help your games load more quickly and run more smoothly.
  • Are you a multi-tasker? If you like to keep multiple apps running simultaneously, you may need the increased memory and performance of the MacBook Pro. The option of a 15” screen also gives you some more space to work with when you have multiple windows or programs open.
  • Do you work with a lot of large files? The MacBook Air includes up to 256 GB of storage space. For most students, this will probably be adequate. However, some classes involve working with larger than average files, whether they’re student films, data sets, or code that needs to be compiled. If you’re enrolled in a program that requires computers with a lot of memory, you may need to go with the MacBook Pro.
  • How important are appearances? The MacBook Air has always been popular partly because of its sleek, attractive design. The latest model maintains that classic look and offers a new color option: Gold. For fans of the Apple aesthetic, this may be enough reason to go with the Air, although we should point out that the new MacBook Pro also has a slim design and is not much heavier than the Air.
  • Do you need a laptop you can use all day without charging? If you do a lot of your schoolwork in cafes or libraries, it helps to have a laptop that doesn’t need to be charged too often. The MacBook Pro and the Air both have good battery lives, but the Pro does last an hour or two longer on average.
  • Do you like the Touch Bar? Apple fans are divided on the Touch Bar that replaces the row of function keys on the MacBook Pro. Some find it easy and convenient, while others prefer a more conventional keyboard. Depending on how strongly you feel about this, it could make the difference in whether a Pro or Air is right for you.

Our Verdict: Drum roll, please.
Ultimately, the winner of a MacBook Pro versus Air comparison depends on what you’re looking for and what your individual needs are. The MacBook Pro is a great option for students who need a computer capable of handling many complex tasks at once. For other students, the MacBook Air is a reliable and more affordable and sleeker laptop that can transport easily from class to class. The truth is, they’re both great laptops. Whichever model you choose, we think you’ll be happy with it.

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