The 15” professional notebook has been the focal point of Apple’s mobile strategy for decades now, going back well into the PowerBook days. So naturally, the MBP 15 (at least the low end SKU) is very well settled in the Apple notebook lineup. 

The 13” Pro though, has been a little bit questionable ever since the SNB MacBook Airs launched last year. And this year, with the price drop of the 13” MacBook Air to match the 13” Pro at $1199, that line has gotten even more questionable. The Core 2-based MacBook Airs were all too slow to be viable machines, but the SNB Air from last year brought it a lot closer to the Pro. This time around, with a 1.8GHz ULV Ivy Bridge and an SSD underhood, the MBA 13” is fast enough to be equal or better to the 13” MBP in normal daily use case scenarios. If the extra computing horsepower matters a lot (and let’s face it, it’s not all that much faster - the extra 700MHz doesn’t make as big a difference as you’d expect because of Turbo, and the Air’s SSD goes a long way towards making the system more responsive and covers up for any CPU shortfall) you’re probably better off either stepping up to a 15” MBP or picking up a discounted 2011 MBP 15”. 

The Air 13” is fast enough for day-to-day use, and the higher screen resolution and significant edge in terms of portability make it pretty compelling versus the Pro’s comparatively portly body and disappointingly low-res 1280x800 display. Which isn’t to say that the MBP 13 doesn’t have its advantages - it’s significantly more upgradable (the Air has soldered in, non-upgradable memory, as well as a non-standard form factor SSD, while the Pro has a bog-standard SATA port), as well as an LCD with a wider colour gamut. Plus, if you rely on physical media, it’s the only one with a DVD drive. 

To me, and I suspect to many consumers, the form factor and screen resolution are enough to sway me towards the Air. As someone who owned and loved a 13" MacBook Pro for a long time (a base 2011 model with a Vertex 3 MAX IOPS), I just don't see the allure in the current one. The custom SSD form factor seems like an overblown issue, because Apple is now shipping SSDs with controllers good enough that I don't think they need to be replaced, and a number of SSD manufacturers make upgrade kits for the Air anyways. With that said, I absolutely don't like what Apple is doing about non-upgradable memory, because it means that if you're not willing to pay Apple sometimes absurd memory upgrade pricing, you're stuck with a system that'll be RAM starved after a couple of years. If you switch laptops frequently, that's not as big an issue, but otherwise, it's definitely something to consider. But to me, the Air just feels more modern than the Pro, and if you're buying a system in the next month or two, I think the base 13" Air is the better one to get.

Now with that said, there are also rumors of Apple launching a 13-inch version of the rMBP before the end of the year. Take rumors with a grain of salt but the possibility is something you'll have to be prepared for. 

The non-Retinized Display: Still Good Concluding Thoughts
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  • dwade123 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Apple needs to redesign the 13" Pro. Get rid of optical drive, put in Quadcore, Retina, and at least a GT 640m.
  • Airkol - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    I've got the Retina but but I want to make this thing rock. I need a fast 512GB drive. This samsung drive is a slug.

    I see OWC just announced their upgrade for the MBA 2012. Any word on them having an upgrade fro the Retina?
  • EnerJi - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    I was under the impression that Apple was now shipping pretty fast SSDs? So fast that most users (in most use cases) wouldn't be able to tell the difference between their SSD and a top-of-the-line model.
  • Airkol - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    One of the drives used in the MBA is a Toshiba that uses the SandForce controller. That is pretty fast. The Retina uses Samsung based drives and they aren't as fast.

    I went with the base model Retina and the 256GB drive. I'm betting that OWC will have a 480GB drive and an external case for the drive I pull out for less than the difference between the next model up with a 512Gb drive.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link
    Depending on what you do with it, it's pretty fast. :D
  • Paapaa125 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Actually Samsung is the faster of the two AFAIK. It is essentially Samsung 830 SSD drive which is one of the fastest SSDs out there and very reliable. Still the best choice for almost all desktop users. You should feel lucky you got Samsung instead of Toshiba.
  • dsumanik - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    C'mon Vivek, ethernet no longer relevant?

    I concede that using a thunderbolt port for an adapter is an appropriate substitute, i mean what does it matter if you are plugging in a cable with a dongle on the end, vs a plain old rj45 connector.

    But until wireless networking catches up with ethernet in the latency and STABILITY department, it will always be necessary.

    Wireless technology developments seems to keep pushing bandwidth...i want consistent 1ms ping throughput and a 500 meter range without bandwidth/connection loss.

    actually screw that, i want one nanosecond throughput...latency is the biggest holdup for all of us now, just like going from a mechanical HDD to a SSD drive, the difference on a wired vs wireless network is immediately noticeable....especially through apps like VNC or remote desktop.

    Imagine if the entire north american internet infrastructure went It would take 5 seconds just to ping this page and 30 seconds to load....after the third try.

    Eventually, wireless has the potential and will likely replace wired networks...but today is not that day, id say at least 10 years.
  • EnerJi - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Everyone's needs are different. Is a wired connection objectively "better?" Yes. Is wireless considered "good enough" for the vast majority of people? Absolutely yes.

    I've used Ethernet *maybe* three or four times in the past three years for troubleshooting purposes. Will I miss it if I were to get an rMBP? Hard to say for sure, but I'm leaning towards probably not.
  • The0ne - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    I haven't even touch my ethernet port at all. I've traveled quite often overseas as well and still don't even have a need. That is because wi-fi is so abundant and easy to set up that ethernet is just not useful as it once was. Sure it can have it uses when troubleshooting, the only thing I can see myself using it for, but other than that wi-fi serves the 99% fine.
  • zephxiii - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    I definitely need this for large transfers to and from the server. Sure u can use an adapter...but i hate having to fumble with and carry around adapters.

    An optical drive is nice for when u *need* to burn something, or access a disc. Granted i rarely use mine but i like being able to burn something when needed without being inconvenienced.

    Seems like this *tool* has become less of a tool :(

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