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MacBook Air 2010 Configuration vs MacBook Pro

Last updated 2011-01-09 - Send Feedback
Related: laptop, MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Macs, memory, SSD, USB

The MacBook Air cannot be upgraded (as this was written), so it is essential to get the 4GB memory option when you order. Anything less than 4GB is a problem unless all you do is web browsing and mail and similar lightweight tasks.

Prioritize upgrades in this order unless disk space really doesn’t matter to you.

  1. 4GB memory option.
  2. Larger SSD
  3. Faster CPU.

You can add extra external storage with USB, so long as you have a lot of patience.

In general, I advise choosing the fastest CPU and the largest SSD that Apple offers, at least until 3rd parties figure out how to crack open the case and update the SSD (perhaps voiding the warranty in the process). Exceptions abound, namely that if your usage is for web browsing and email and little more, then all upgrades can be skipped, but you’ll have a dead-end Air should your needs evolve.

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Questions to ponder before buying

The MacBook Air is expensive, so unless you have money to burn, consider these factors in comparison to a MacBook Pro alternative:

  • Is more intensive usage of the machine in your future?
  • Which machine can be dual purpose for work or pleasure; will two machines be needed, and what about the hassles of syncing them?
  • Which machine will hold better functionality and value over time?
  • What do you do when the drive fills up? The MacBook Air has zero options for anything but molasses-slow external storage.
  • Is the weight savings enough to warrant crippled expansion and slower speed? (when you add in the power brick and DVD drive, the weight difference shrink).
  • Does the MacBook Air meet some need because of its light weight and smaller form factor that makes it compelling in comparison to the MacBook Pro?
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Comparing the MacBook Air to the 13" MacBook Pro

Prices could vary over time. Check current prices.

Compare to the MacBook Pro 13"—

  • $1878 MacBook Air 13" 2.13Ghz with 4GB memory, 256GB SSD*, two USB ports, Mini DisplayPort, Superdrive. (no backlit keyboard).
  • $1784 MacBook Pro 13" 2.4Ghz with 8GB memory, 240GB fast SSD, two USB ports, Mini Display Port, built-in Superdrive + Firewire 800 + gigabit ethernet + SD card slot + backlit keyboard (price takes into account $58 OWC rebate for original 4GB memory + 250GB drive). Battery rated for up to 10 hours.

If you need the DVD drive, the MacBook Air isn’t so sleek anymore; you’ll need to spend about $80 to get one, and it plugs in externally, a hassle, especially on an airplane. The DVD drive is built-in on the MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air   MacBook Pro 13"

MacBook Pro advantages

These two setups shown above are about the same price, but the 13" MacBook Pro is cheaper and far more capable.

Advantages of the 13" MacBook Pro over the MacBook Air 13" 2.13GHz:

  • 12% or 24% faster CPU clock speed than the fastest ’Air;
  • More than DOUBLE the usable memory once the 256GB graphics memory is accounted for, about 2.3X in actuality;
  • Can add relatively fast external drives via Firewire 800 (much faster than USB);
  • A drive can go onto Firewire 800, leaving the USB port free.
  • Fast CompactFlash card reader via Firewire 800;
  • Fast networking with real gigabit ethernet (100+ MB/sec for big file transfers);
  • Add a second internal drive via the OWC DataDoubler;
  • Upgrade the internal drive easily, to 750GB, or a 480GB SSD.
  • User can upgrade the MacBook Pro; upgrades for MacBook Air (if and when they appear) are likely to void the warranty.
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