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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  • snajk138 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Well, the graphics in the MBP is faster when it comes to games and such, but the NVS is a professional grade card that is tuned for reliability in CAD/CAM applications and the like. Not really comparable to the consumer grade card in the mac.

    And you are mistaking perceived quality for actual quality. The MBP is one of the best when it comes to the perceived quality but it doesn't hold a candle to (real) thinkpads when it comes to actual quality. Iv'e dropped thinkpads on a concrete floor, spilled coffee in them and really just abused the hell out of them and I've still haven't had one break before their time. Try that with any mac and you'll see the difference between perceived quality and actual quality.

    I'm not saying that a MBP is a bad choice. I mean, it is thin, light and the performance isn't bad, and a lot of people seem to think they look nice in spite of the dated aluminium design. But a lot of people prioritize differently.
  • Malih - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    yeppp, a macbook is a brick once you spill liquid over it, for most people that have them.
  • pmhparis - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    So, for the 0.01% of the people who need to perform CAD/CAM work on it the Lenovo is better. Good to know.

    As for build quality, It'd be nice if the series of lenovo's my company gave me that I
    passed of to my son would have been able to withstand the same level of abuse that my daughters MBP got. The Lenovos broke. The MBP just got dented for whet seemed to me to be worse treartment. I had to get the Lenovo's replaced 3 times but the MBP is still running solidly.

    I think your "percieved" is an artifact.
  • dartox - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    i've dropped my macbook pro several times, on hardwood here and the tile floors of india with no damage to the screen, just scratches and scuffs on the unibody casing. don't underestimate the build quality of a macbook pro. not to mention that non-unibody computers can have the casing compromised and parts start to come apart after drops. the "roll cage" is only good for saving the screen if you're lucky (and it's not perfect either).
  • The0ne - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    I whole heartily agree with you. Most members here have this perceived quality about Macs, Apple products in general, that they can't seem to think beyond it. The main reason for this perception is inexperience and, for some, ignorance. I should state that ignorance is from the lack of not knowing because you were too young, never read about it, never researched, etc. I don't mean it to be condescending. The other is because of personal, very subjective opinions such as your laptop, usually PC in this case, breaking down first before your Mac.

    Thinkpads are great industrial laptops and can stand whatever force you put on them. That is really why they are so popular. If you haven't used them you don't know how valuable they really are, more so than any review can do for you imo.

    Having said that though, the sheer amount of cheaply priced laptops nowadays should be avoided at all cost. They are horrendously made and it would be worthwhile for you to spend a little more for a good quality build laptop. If Mac makes you feel good and safe owing it by all means own one, just know that there are laptops on the PC side that are very very well made for professionals, especially for those that travel often.

    The MBP is good product and I absolutely love the retina display but for the price it is very difficult for me to make a purchase for myself or have reasons enough to persuade the company to consider them.

    Lastly, I agree that Mac reviews here are really left alone without comparisons to Windows counterparts. Whatever the case may be, it is the same for Windows base laptop reviews with the difference you have choices on the Windows side to actually have comparisons between them. This is the key difference in the reviews. While acceptable the way Anandtech does the Mac reviews, they are in some ways very limiting. You basically just have a review/update of a product with no choices to consider. As someone already said, when you consider a Mac you want a Mac and will get a Mac. There's no other choices when you dive in the Mac side.
  • The0ne - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    It seems other have responded before my post went live about the quality of MBP and thinkpads. Again, comparing what your daughters does to a thinkpad and MBP is ludicrous. You don't know what each has gone through to be broken with. Here's what you should be looking for when you shop, the tests and facts.

    Thinkpads are tested and qualified to sustain damage, to a certain high degree. I don't know about the MBP and whether it goes through the same types of test so I can't say much (my ignorance here). I've done my share of destructive testing on products and I don't doubt the MBP has gone through some. But these thinkpads are sturdy and are made to be that way.

    When you're making comparisons that is what you should be looking for, not making irrelevant justifications because your kids, your wife or the dog can break your windows laptop quicker than your Mac. That's just insane.
  • Super56K - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    So you say: "When you're making comparisons that is what you should be looking for, not making irrelevant justifications..."

    And you even began your initial post critiquing others on "perceived quality about Macs."

    But, aren't you yourself doing that? You say you don't know what kind of testing they go through, but that doesn't stop you from indirectly hinting that they're not durable. Seems like very contradictory reasoning.
  • snajk138 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    The Thinkpads go through MIL-SPEC tests for use in field and vehicle semi-ruggedized computing environments such as in public safety, utilities, construction and the military. That is why they are used by the military, by NASA in space and so forth. Macs don't go hrough that kind of testing and therefore are not used in those types of environments.
  • joelypolly - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Well the Thinkpad is 1.25~1.40" thick and heavier than the 15" MBP.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    The GPU in that Thinkpad is much slower, plus you're also getting less storage. This is before we get into things like trackpad and keyboard quality, magsafe, an OS optimized for laptops, etc etc

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