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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  • Sunburn74 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    What? you have to buy something in order to be able to rightfully criticize it these days?
  • stimudent - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Another overpriced Apple product.
  • stimudent - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Anything that gives us an alternative to Windows is a good thing. Now if only we could get away from Intel chips.
  • Hendrix248 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    Never heard of Linux? Why would you want to move away from the best chips on the market?
  • Belard - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    As another has posted, its a standard design.... and it is a bit expensive. A ThinkPad T500 with the same specs that comes out of the same FOXCONN company sells for several hundred dollars less.

    okay, where is the full review on the Motorola Atrix HD?!
  • Belard - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    By the way... a physical Ethernet port is still very handy for those times when you cannot get WIFI... there are some hotels/motels who are still wired. Or if you are at a location or family place where the WIFI fails or they lose the WiFi Password.

    Or you are at a clients place and need quick access and they don't want to give your wifi access.
  • inplainview - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    It has Ethernet over Thunderbolt....
  • Hendrix248 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    After you buy the adapter...
  • Grok42 - Sunday, July 22, 2012 - link

    Wi-Fi is great for quickly connecting to the Internet and other casual usage but I think apple has really underestimated the need for a wired connection, at least with current Wi-Fi tech. The problem with Wi-Fi is that it has a MUCH higher latency than a wired connection. This is important for voice, video or remotely viewing desktops. Wi-Fi is also very prone to dropping connections if for only a split second. You would never notice when browsing the web as the connection is stateless. However, if you use any networking services that won't survive a dropped connection it can be frustrating. These services include copying files, SSH, RDP, VNC, etc.

    Probably the biggest need for Ethernet is when dealing with large files. I can transfer a 15GB file from our servers in a few seconds with a gigabit Ethernet port. I have had it take hours to copy the same file over Wi-Fi. That is unless the signal drops at which point you will want to throw things when you have to start over again.

    It seems that Apple or someone should be working on standardizing a slimmer version of the RJ-45 connector. Dongles go against everything Apple stands for on the design side.
  • sandro - Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - link

    This is something I have been wondering since some time. What is in the way of standardizing a slimmer RJ-45 connector? Adapters would be so inexpensive that they could be included with the product. I wonder why Apple went this way instead of making a thunderbolt to ethernet dongle, which by construction costs quite some money and takes away one (to become) precious port.

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