Choosing Between the 2019 MacBook Air and Entry-level MacBook Pro

With today’s revisions to the Mac notebook line, choosing between a new MacBook Air and a new MacBook Pro has gotten a little more interesting.

The machines are similar in many ways. They both come with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, Touch ID, 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD. Both can be stepped up to 16 GB of memory, while the Pro tops out at 2 TB of storage, as opposed to the Air’s new 1 TB cap.

Once you start poking around, you can see some differences. Upgrading from the $1,099 MacBook Air to $1,299 MacBook Pro comes with these features:

  • A quad-core Intel processor, with twice the cores of the MacBook Air. While the base clock speed is slower on the Pro, its Turbo Boost frequency is higher, and in its higher-TDP application, the Pro should be able to sustain higher speeds for longer.
  • A display that at 500 nits is a full 100 nits brighter than the MacBook Air. The Pro’s display supports the P3 wide color gamut while the Air does not.
  • The Touch Bar. Your mileage will vary on how useful you find it.
  • A slightly more robust Intel GPU. The Pro can push more external pixels, but performance wise, it shouldn’t be a night and day difference.1
  • Worse battery life. The Pro comes with a 58.2-watt-hour battery clocked at 10 hours on Apple’s “wireless web” test, but the Air’s 49.9‑watt‑hour unit tested at 12 hours. I’d blame that core count.

I think for almost everyone, the MacBook Air is the right notebook. It’s thin and light, with plenty of power for most tasks, but if you need a better GPU or more cores, the MacBook Pro is a logical upgrade. I like it when the Mac product line makes sense.

All of Apple’s current notebooks use the same revision of the butterfly keyboard, and all are under Apple’s keyboard repair extension program. That’s not great, but at least it’s better than some of the notebooks using older versions of the keyboard.

  1. The Air comes with the Intel UHD Graphics 617 chipset and the Pro ships with the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645.