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What’s the difference between a MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air?

We help you decide between the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air

If you're wondering what the difference is between Apple's MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air then this is the article for you.Updated on 25/07/12.

Choosing a laptop can be hard at the best of times, let alone when the options are very similar. Many of you want to find out what distinguishes the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air so that's why we've put together this comparison. See also: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display 2.6GHz review.

Apple MacBook Pro and MacBook Air 2012

Below you can see the different models of the laptops with prices and their specifications. The laptops we've compared are the default 2012 models, but you can configure them to your liking by upgrading certain bits of hardware.

See also: Apple MacBook Pro UK price and specifications round-up

See also: Apple MacBook Air UK price and specifications round-up

Price

Price will no doubt be a key element to your purchase - you can spend between £849 and £1,799 on these MacBooks with default specification. All models come with third generation Intel Ivy Bridge processors.

Size and weight

The size of a laptop is typically an important factor when choosing which one to buy and this is dictated mainly by the size of the screen. The MacBook Air is available in an 11in and 13in while the MacBook Pro is available in 13in or 15in.

If the size of the screen isn’t enough to decide on then weight and thickness might help. The MacBook Air is the smaller and more portable choice since it's considerably thinner and lighter than the MacBook Pro.

Ports and connectivity

The disadvantage of the small size of the MacBook Air is the lack of an Ethernet port (you'll need to buy an adapter) and an optical drive for CDs and DVDs, only the MacBook Pro offers both of these.

Apple MacBook Air

Other physical ports are pretty much consistent across the laptops. However, it's worth noting that Firewire 800 only appears on the MacBook Pro.

Storage

If storage capacity is pivotal then the MacBook Pro models offer significantly more with either a 500GB or 750GB hard drive. The MacBook Air only comes with a solid state drive (SSD) which improves performance but is only 256GB at its biggest without upgrading to 512GB.

Graphics

Graphics power can also be a vital element for some users. If so, then the MacBook Pro will be a better option. The 13in models come with Intel HD 4000 graphics but the 15in models have an additional nVidia GeForce GT 650M with either 512MB or 1GB of RAM. The MacBook Air only offers Intel graphics.

Battery life

Battery life is similar across the range with Apple quoting seven hours of wireless web browsing. The exception is the 11in MacBook Air which offers a slightly less attractive five hours of juice.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

 

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple MacBook Air

Price

£999 - £1,799

£849 - £1,249

Processor

2.5GHz or 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 (13in)

2.3GHz or 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 (15in)

1.7GHz or 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 (upgradable to dual-core i7)

Display

13.3in (1280 x 800)  

15.4in (1440 x 900)

11.6in (1366 x 768)

13.3in (1440 x 900)

RAM

4GB/8GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM

4GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM (upgradable to 8GB)

Storage

500GB or 750GB 5,400rpm hard drive

64GB/128GB/256GB solid state drive (SSD) (some upgradable to 512GB)

Graphics

Intel HD Graphics 4000 (all models)

nVidia GeForce GT 650M with 512MB of GDDR5 memory (15in with 2.3GHz)

nVidia GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory (15in with 2.6GHz)

Intel HD Graphics 4000

Camera

720p FaceTime HD camera

Wireless

802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0

Optical

DVD 8x SuperDrive

No optical drive

Ports

MagSafe power port

gigabit ethernet

FireWire 800

Thunderbolt

2 x USB 3.0

SDXC card slot

audio line in/out combo

Kensington lock slot

MagSafe 2 power port

Thunderbolt

2 x USB 3.0

headphone port

SD card slot (13in only)

Audio

Stereo speakers

Dual microphones

Headphone port

Stereo speakers

Omnidirectional microphone

Headphone port

Battery life

63.5Wh/7 hours (13in)

77.5Wh/7 hours (15in)

35Wh/5 hours (11in)

50Wh/7 hours (13in)

Dimensions

325 x 227 x 24mm, 2.06kg (13in)

364 x 249 x 24mm, 2.56kg (15in)

300 x 192 x 3-17mm, 1.08kg (11in)

300 x 192 x 3-17mm, 1.35kg (13in)

Software

Mac OS X Lion

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