Color me confused. As a certified road warrior, I need lightweight power. So, I want a new Mac notebook, right? Here’s the problem. Apple’s low end, entry-level Mac notebooks have something of an identity crisis going on.
On Apple’s website you’ll see the Mac line has a number of brightly colored New links before each Mac icon. Only the still popular MacBook Air, the end-of-life Mac Pro and the mostly abandoned Mac mini are not listed as new.
What’s a road warrior to do?
The MacBook Air, at 13-inches seems halfway decent at $999. You get 128GB of SSD storage, an older Intel Core i5 CPU, and 8GB of RAM. The battery can handle 10-12 hours of use, and it’s somewhat lightweight at just under three pounds. This Mac also has standard USB 3 ports, a Thunderbolt 2 port, it has MagSafe power connector, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera.
It’s also close to end-of-life– except for its popularity among the budget minded. There’s no Retina display, either. The MacBook Air is not the future. It’s the past. So I scratched it off my list.
That left me with the entry-level MacBook and the entry-level MacBook Pro. Both are priced at $1,299 but there are distinct differences depending upon your Mac requirements.
MacBook comes in four colors, has a Retina display, 8GB of RAM, and unlike the MacBook Air, 256GB of SSD storage in a two pound package. Not bad, except the CPU is the anemic Intel Core m3. What else is anemic? The 480pc FaceTime camera, the single USB-C port, and it barely gets the 10-12 hours of use.
Let me compare that somewhat anemic $1,299 road machine to the entry-level Pro model.
MacBook Pro has a 13-inch Retina display, comes in Silver and Space Gray, gets an Intel Core i5 Inside, still has 8GB of RAM, but only 128GB of SSD storage, half that of MacBook, but same as the MacBook Air. Graphics on the MacBook Pro should be better, and it comes with two USB-C ports which also double as Thunderbolt 3. This model has a 720p FaceTime camera, and the ability to drive a couple of external displays. But power sucks power and the MacBook Pro barely gets 10 hours of use in a decidedly heavier three pound case.
Which of these $1,299 Mac notebooks you should buy will depend upon the order of your requirements. Weight? There’s only one pound difference but that also means the Pro model is 50-percent heavier and you can tell the difference instantly. If power sets your mojo aflame, the only choice is the MacBook Pro with the updated Kaby Lake Core i5 CPU (with an i7 option) but don’t be too quick to dismiss the MacBook’s somewhat anemic m3. It’s just the little brother to the Pro model’s Core i5 and i7 which are renamed Core m5 and Core m7 chips.
Which model would you get? The lightweight MacBook at two pounds, or the heavier and somewhat faster (but with less storage) MacBook Pro? Since I’m not running Photoshop or Microsoft Office and not editing video in Final Cut Pro X, I went with weight. Rather, the lack of weight, and chose the MacBook.
To get the Pro model I really wanted would have nearly doubled the price tag. A 13-inch MacBook Pro with Core i7 (the good one), 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage, Touch Bar and Touch ID fingerprint reader, and four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports is a dollar short of $2,500.
I don’t recall seeing a fully tricked out Toyota Camry or Honda Accord priced at nearly double the entry-level model.