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MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air 2018: Which one should you buy?

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Comparing the design, features, and specs of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air 2018

It’s been quite a busy year for Apple laptops. The venerable MacBook Pro was refreshed earlier in the year, which improved the internal specifications, and the almost four-year-old MacBook Air has recently received a fresh lick of paint, too. It’s slimmer, smaller, and lighter than the old Air, and includes a Touch ID key for secure unlocking.

Now that the new MacBook Air has started appearing on shop shelves, how does Apple’s new lightweight laptop compare to the terrifyingly-powerful MacBook Pro? Let’s find out which Apple laptop is best.

READ NEXT: MacBook Pro review

Apple MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air 2018: Specifications

For this comparison, we’ll be using the base-level specifications for each machine, though it is important to note that the MacBook Pro specs here are for the 13in, non-Touch Bar model.

MacBook Pro 2018 base-level specifications

  • 2.3GHz Intel Core 7th Gen i5 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
  • 13in 2,560x1,600 retina display
  • 1.37kg

MacBook Air 2018 base-level specifications

  • 1.6GHz Intel Core 8th Gen i5 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • Intel UHD Graphics 617
  • 13in 2,560x1,600 retina display
  • 1.25kg

There might not be a lot in it when it comes to entry-level specifications, but as soon as you begin tinkering with various configurations, you’ll notice the differences quite quickly. The Pro is the most powerful laptop of the two, owing to its beefed-up processors, despite them being marginally older. The new Air is fitted with an identical retina display, though, which is most welcome.

WINNER: MacBook Pro - While both laptops are exceptionally speedy, the Pro has many more configuration options to choose from, and the base-level configuration is far more impressive.

READ NEXT: Apple announces MacBook Air 2018

MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air 2018: Design

This year’s MacBook Pro can be picked up in either 13in or 15in variants, while the MacBook Air can only be purchased with a 13in display. Its screen-bordering bezels are 50% slimmer than the last MacBook Air, though, and its footprint is also 17% smaller.

But we’re not here to compare previous versions of the MacBook Air, and it’s in the comparison with the new MacBook Pro that you won’t find much between the two. The 13in MacBook Pro is 149mm thick with the lid closed, while the Macbook Air is slightly chunkier at 156mm. This is at its thickest point, mind you, and actually tapers off to a nice and skinny 41mm at its thinnest. Both machines are also matched in width and depth.

WINNER: MacBook Pro - Both laptops are closely matched, but the MacBook Pro comes out slightly ahead. Coming in two sizes, Apple’s flashy ultrabook is a little bit more versatile than the Air, but both laptops will still draw admiring glances on the morning commute.

MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air 2018: Features

Apple’s new MacBook Air finally has an opportunity to shine in this department. The new Touch ID key enables you to unlock your device or pay using Apple Pay with a single finger press, and the rest of the keys have been given individual LED backlighting. The touchpad has been replaced with a 20% larger Force Touch trackpad, and the 720p HD FaceTime camera returns at the top of the screen. The new Air also comes in a range of coloured metallic finishes, if you want something a little more stylish.

The Air also supports Thunderbolt 3-enabled external GPUs, as well as hooking up to external monitors with a resolution of up to 5,120 x 2,880. The Pro, however, also offers all of this, as well as both the new trackpad and the 720p camera, and can be configured to include a Touch Bar.  

WINNER: Draw - The MacBook Air has the slight advantage in that it offers the very latest hardware, and the individual LED backlights and Touch ID key are brand new. Aside from these two new features, though, both laptops are pretty much the same.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best laptops

MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air 2018: Price

I’m sure we’re already aware that neither of these machines are cheap. The 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,249, and is capable of hitting astonishing peaks of up to £3,599 should you opt for the Intel Core i7 configuration with 16GB RAM and a 2TB SSD.

The MacBook Air meanwhile, starts at a slightly-cheaper £1,199, with an upper price of £2,579 for the model with 16GB RAM and a 1.5TB SSD. It remains a decent option for those on a tighter budget, sacrificing only minor processing power for the (relatively) low-cost, low-weight notebook feel that is typical of the Air range.

WINNER: MacBook Air - But only slightly. The MacBook Pro is now fiercely competitive, with the non-Touch Bar 13in model filling the spot that was once held by the MacBook Air. If you’re not after top-end tech specs, however, and you want to save a little bit of money, the Air remains the clear choice.

MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air 2018: Verdict

This comparison ought to have been clear cut. The MacBook Pro has always been marketed as the professional’s choice of laptop; exorbitantly priced, exceptionally powerful, and usually physically hefty. The MacBook Air was always the student’s machine, bringing lightweight and affordable(ish) offerings to the Apple lineup.

But things have changed in the last four years, and the Air now faces stiff competition from a MacBook Pro range that spans every conceivable configuration, with prices that start surprisingly low.

Certainly, the Air is everything you’d expect, but its most unique features have been appropriated. We would still recommend it for the average consumer, particularly as its the cheapest MacBook on the market, but if you’re willing to spend a little more you can grab the 2018 edition of the MacBook Pro and gain more in power than you’d lose in features.

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