Macbook Air 13 vs Macbook vs Macbook Pro

* Weight: First things first. I’m going from 2.03 Kg (4.5 pounds) to 2.9 pounds (1.32 kg). My main motivation for the change was to reduce the total weight and 680 grams is really a lot lighter, in fact a 35% lighter.

* Temperature: Using it in the sofa is not only the weight, but also how warm it gets the Pro over my lap. It’s not only warm… it gets really hot even if you’re just browsing the web. I expect the Air to be much cooler.

* Processor: I’m loosing some raw power the Air clock speed of the Air is 1,86 GHz and 2,26 GHz in the MacBook Pro. Both are Intel Core 2 Duo manufactured with similar 45nm technology, both have 2 cores and 2 threads by core. The one in the Air is a SL9400 with 6 MB cache and the one in the Pro is a P7550 with 3 MB cache. Air’s processor is cooler with a maximum TDP of 17W vs 25W in the Pro and both admit Intel VT-x virtualization technology and 64 bits instruction sets. Who will win?


* Main Memory: A half. Going from 8GB to 4GB, although 4GB is a respectable figure that will let me virtualize a computer to run Windows or work comfortably with simultaneous RAW files without problems. The main memory is soldered to the mainboard so it’s now or never. Some reports say that it will run faster but I’m quite sure I won’t notice it. It’s just SDRAM running at 1066 MHz.

* Screen: The size is going to be the same 13,3″ and resolution is going to be a bit higher from 1280×800 to 1440×900 resulting in smaller dot size. It’s still a bright glossy screen with LED backlit with the same 16:10 aspect ratio.

* Graphic card: From nVidia GeForce 9400M to a nVidia GeForce 320M. Both graphic cards take 256 MB from the main system memory, thus making your total RAM even lower. It’s not a much better graphic card, but slightly more powerful, GT216 core based supporting PureVideo HD to decode high def video, CUDA, OpenCL, and DirectCompute to use the graphic chip directly with programs supporting it as Photoshop CS5. You can take a look at benchmarks of 320M here and 9400M here. 13845 points 3DMark2001 for the 9400M in a MacBook (not a Pro) and 18744 in the new 13″ MacBook Air.

* Storage: Moving from a 128 GB SSD hard drive to a 128 GB SSD hard drive so in terms of capacity there is no improvement, but the technology used by each drive is quite different and I expect some speed improvement and on-drive garbage collector will be taking care of the once-occupied-now-free space, not a decisive factor this one, but welcome.

* Optical drive: I’m losing the Superdrive unit, but to be honest I wasn’t using it. I manage ISO images stored in a USB drive, much faster and convenient and for anything related with CD or DVD burning I go to my main PC.

* Backlit keyboard: I don’t understand why Apple has removed this feature. It was really helpful sometimes and made the computer look even Pro. If they put it back on in the future I will be really disgusted. I can live without it and it’s not a reason to forget about the change.

* Remote control: The same story here. I’m going to loose the ability to remotely control the MacBook Air. I can use the iPhone but both devices need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

* Network Connectivity: Both units offer an Airport wireless device supporting 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.1 EDR, but the Air has lost the Ethernet port. Sometimes I use this kind of connection (mainly at the office) and I’ll need to buy a separate USB dongle, and Apple should include this with the MacBook Air. It should also include a WWAN port to insert a MicroSIM “ala iPhone” to get 3G connectivity and will make the laptop much more useful on the road. Right now I have to deal with the jailbreak on my iPhone 4 to run MyWi to get a mobile hotspot.

* Connections: 2 USB ports on both, loosing Firewire. It’s not really a concern to me because I don0t have devices with this interface.

* Mini DisplayPort: I hope that this MacBook Air could send the audio stream through the Mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable. The 2010 MacBook Pro can and this is really an advantage if you want to hook it to your A/V receiver, simplifying the setup with only one cable instead of two, and mor importantly letting me a direct connection to my plasma screen, passing the audio directly to the TV set.

* SD card reader: Included in both. It’s quite funny that this has to be remarked, because we all consider Apple able to remove it, right?

* Battery: Both announce 7 hours of battery life (2010 Mac Pros go up to 10 but mine is mid-2009), 58 wat/hour in the MacBook Pro vs 50 wats/hour in the Air. If Apple announces the same battery life it’s clear they have come with a lower consumption but I’ll be reporting the real thing in everyday use. I bet for a slight reduction in battery life.

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