A MacBook Air user’s take on the new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro

13-inch MacBook Pro retina with 13-inch macBook Air

I’ve been using a 13-inch MacBook Air — two of them, actually — since early 2011. And as I tell anyone who asks, it’s my favorite computer I’ve ever used. So I was honestly not very interested in auditioning a replacement because Apple’s other 13-inch computers were too heavy. When I was given the opportunity to try out the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display I was pretty sure the only thing that would tempt me would be the super high-definition screen.

Surprise! The display is as good as I expected — it is very easy on the eyes and makes using many of the websites and apps I look at every day oh-so-much crisper and noticeably brighter. But what intrigued me was the size and weight.

By design, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is not as thin and light as the Air. It occupies the middle of Apple’s notebook lineup, fitting between the Air and the larger 15-inch MacBook Pro. But this computer is deceptively small. It measures 0.75 inches thick and weighs 3.57 pounds, according to Apple. That’s a pound lighter and 20 percent thinner than the older model 13-inch MacBook. But I was interested in how it matched up to the 13-inch Air, which weighs 2.96 pounds and measures 0.11 inches at its thinnest point and 0.68 inches at its thickest.

It’s true that the Air is thinner. But the 13-inch Pro somehow seems to take up less space, in terms of surface area. You can see it in the photo. The smaller bezel puts the screen closer to the hinge. The Air, on the other hand, has a larger bezel and more extra space around the keys, on the sides and especially in the wrist-rest area. The Pro is still a bit heavier, sure. But the interesting thing is that it feels like Apple cut it down a lot, getting rid of extraneous surface areas, so what you have is just the amount of space that you need.

The 13-inch MacBook Air, on the right, is thinner and lighter, but its screen and body are slightly larger than the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Going into this test, I was sure the extra weight and thickness of the Pro would disqualify the device for me. I love the Air because I work remotely and change locations often, from my living room to a variety of local coffee shops, airports and a number of press events. The Air doesn’t weigh down my computer bag, so I’ve never minded dragging it anywhere with me. And it’s plenty powerful for my work and personal needs, which are mostly browser-based, in addition to managing iTunes content and photos.

But the 13-inch Pro makes a good case for itself. Besides the display and size, the build quality feels a bit higher-quality than the Air. The keys have a somewhat more satisfying click — likely because it’s newer — but the track pad feels more solid too. The black bezel around the display is sleeker than the cheaper-feeling silver one lining the screen of the Air. The Pro’s 2.5 Ghz Core i5 processor makes it plenty speedy for my needs; but again, my everyday use of my computer consists of me uploading photos and having two browsers with a dozen tabs open simultaneously.

While I really am impressed by the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, it’s a personal policy of mine not to buy a new computer every year when a better one comes out. I like to get several years of use out of each machine. If I were in the market, however, I would give the 13-inch Retina MacBook a really close look. For now though, I’ll wait.


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