Apple has unveiled a shiny new MacBook. It's thinner and lighter than previous generations, and just like the iPhone and iPad, comes in Gold, Silver and Space Gray. But it's also a lot like the MacBook Air in terms of build and portability. Is the MacBook's $1,299 price tag worth the premium over the MacBook Air's $899? Read on to find out how the revamped MacBook stacks up against the MacBook Air and which ultraportable is better for business.
If you want the most portable Mac available, go for the MacBook. Although the MacBook Air is designed for ultraportability, Apple calls the new MacBook its "lightest and most compact notebook ever." The MacBook weighs just 2 lbs., whereas the MacBook Air is a slightly heavier 2.38 lbs. for the 11-inch model and 2.96 lbs. for the 13-inch model. The MacBook also sports a slimmer build — it measures just 0.52 inches thin, compared with the MacBook Air's 0.68 inches.
The new MacBook's screen also trumps the MacBook Air's. Sporting a 12-inch, 2304 x 1440-pixel display, the MacBook offers a larger and far superior screen than the Air's 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 version. Even on the 13-inch model, the Air only comes with a 1440 x 900-pixel resolution. Furthermore, Apple has equipped the new MacBook with the stunning Retina display, which the Air is still waiting on. [Best Laptops for Business 2015]Credit: Apple
But if graphics are really important for you and your business, the Air is worth the sacrifice. Not only does the Air come with more power (more on that below), but it's outfitted with an Intel HD Graphics 6000 card and an HD 720p camera, while the MacBook comes with the inferior Intel HD Graphics 5300 version and a mere 480p camera.
Power and battery life
Where the MacBook Air really shines is power and performance. Although both devices can easily keep up with your business needs throughout the day and beyond, the Air is the best choice for the most demanding business users.
The MacBook boasts of 8 GB of memory and the new Intel Core M processor, which gives you the choice of the 1.1 GHz, 1.2 GHz or 1.3 GHz model. The Core M is designed to provide a fanless architecture, longer battery life and better energy efficiency, but at the expense of power and performance.
On the other hand, the 11-inch Air is powered by the superior 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, while the 13-inch comes with the blazing-fast 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor. You also have the choice of either the 4GB or the 8GB model for either device.
Between the two processors, the 13-inch Air can deliver up to 12 hours of wireless Web browsing, whereas the MacBook can give you only 9 hours. Like any other device, battery life will also depend on usage and the apps your business runs.
Redesigned keyboard and other features
There are three major changes that make the new MacBook truly stand out: its very limited port selection, a redesigned keyboard and a new trackpad.
Apple has shaken up the portables landscape, with many tech experts calling the revamped MacBook the notebook of the future for its wireless-centric design. The MacBook is a lot like the iPad in that it comes with a single, multipurpose port. Known as USB-C, this port lets you charge the device, add external storage and connect other devices. Other connections can be done wirelessly, be it through the cloud, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
For those who are used to having separate ports, the MacBook Air would be more ideal. It comes with two USB 3 ports, a Thunderbolt 2 port and an SDXC card slot. This gives you more flexibility and won't cost you any extra, since you'll likely have to purchase additional adapters to get the most out of the MacBook's consolidated port.Credit: Apple
Then there's the MacBook's new keyboard — you've got a full-size, backlit keyboard with thinner, edge-to-edge keys. Though not entirely ground-breaking, this is a design that Apple has never used on a notebook before, so it may take some getting used to. This redesigned keyboard also uses what's called a butterfly switch (versus the traditional scissor switch), a mechanism that Apple says provides "more comfortable, precise and responsive typing."
The Air, on the other hand, uses Apple's traditional backlit keyboard. However, it is smaller than a full-size keyboard and doesn't take up the entire surface like the MacBook's.
Finally, the MacBook comes with the new Force Touch trackpad, which uses haptic touch to bring new click-based functionalities. This technology creates a uniform click throughout the entire trackpad, and force sensors detect click pressure to perform different tasks. For instance, Apple says you can quickly preview a file by clicking on it and continuing to press on the trackpad. The haptic feedback also produces tactile vibration to bring a "sense of touch" based on what's on your screen. This is all in addition to Multi-Touch gestures already available in the MacBook Air's traditional Apple trackpad.
When it comes to the battle of the portables, both the redesigned MacBook and MacBook Air make powerful devices for business users. The choice comes down to personal preferences. If you want the lightest and most portable notebook Apple has to offer, go for the MacBook. You'll also get a superior screen with Retina display — that many had hoped the Air would have by now — and the latest notebook technologies Apple has to offer. But if you want more power, longer battery life and the familiar feel of MacBooks, the MacBook Air is the one for you.