Should you buy a new MacBook Air now, or wait for a new MacBook Pro later?

Deciding between a new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro? Let us help

At WWDC yesterday Apple introduced new MacBook Air models. They left out new MacBook Pros, which some folks were expecting, which may throw a wrench in your buying plans. Is it better off to get a MacBook Air now, get a MacBook Pro now, or wait until Apple revises the MacBook Pro? Let's weigh the options.

The MacBook Air has been upgraded with new silicon from Intel - their fourth-generation Core processors, known by their code-name, "Haswell." The biggest benefit the new processors offer is dramatically improved battery life - from an estimated five to nine hours on the 11-inch model, and from seven to 12 hours on the 13-inch model. There's also faster graphics by up to 40 percent and much, much faster WiFi, with support for gigabit transfer speeds when paired either with a new AirPort Extreme or another 802.11ac-equipped wireless router. There are some other minor tweaks, like the addition of dual microphones.

All told, it's a solid refresh to the MacBook Air, though it's not an earth shattering change. Surely, anyone who's in the market for a new MacBook Air is going to get a solid value for the money.

The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, remains unchanged. I have to say that I'm rather pleased with this since I just took possession of a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display in April, and I was dreading the prospect of having a suddenly obsolete machine.

Having said that, Intel's fourth-generation Core processors come in many different configurations and clock speeds, so it's inevitable that they will be updated with the new hardware - faster integrated graphics and better battery life is just too much of a draw for Apple not to upgrade the MacBook Pro line to Haswell as soon as it's reasonable to do so.

Intel is rolling out new Haswell chips gradually over the next few months, and I expect as soon as chips with higher clock speeds start to ship in volume, we'll see Apple bump the MacBook Pros with new versions. Otherwise, I wouldn't expect many major changes to the design or feature set of the MacBook Pro.

Bottom line

Obviously if you need the horsepower and the feature set of an MBP today, you should get one. But your patience will be rewarded in due time - Apple's migration of the MacBook Pro to Haswell processors is a virtual certainty. The question is when.

And if you're in the market for a lightweight laptop, step up and buy one of the new MacBook Airs - with better power efficiency and better graphics performance, there's never been a better time to buy.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 24 comments. Add yours.

Kyle Urbashich says:

Good insight here, but what if we want both the horse power of the MBP and the light weight of the Air...what's your suggestion then?

Peter Cohen says:

Pro Retina. It gets closer anyway. Worth waiting for the next refresh if you can.

Kyle Urbashich says:

I'm an avid photographer, so that might help, too.

vdroide says:

The Pro Retinas seem to be rather small machines. I don´t think size is a deterrent with them if power is your principal necessity.

GlennRuss says:

I had no choice, and got the MBP 13". It works great for me. I needed the power of the pro to run Studio One DAW. If my PC was still fairly new, I would wait for an updated MBP.

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Some Random Bloke says:

I don't need the lightness of an Air, but I don't really need the power of a MBP either and I am price sensitive. The heaviest use a laptop is likely to get from me is occasional Aperture and iMovie editing and dual screen projection. My main day to day concern is external monitor support - ideally running dual external monitors when in the office.

I presume the Air would suffice?

Jonathan Moosey says:

I would say a regular non-Retina MacBook Pro would be sufficient in your case. Get more storage (minimum 500 gb) and it would be priced well.

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Derrick4Real says:

i'm price concious and i want power and enough storage so i'm going to wait for the non retina mac book pro upgrades.

The air's are nice but once you start adding, storage & memory the 13 inches get nearly $2000. Which is way to much for me simply to be a bit thinner. And with the Retina, again once you add storage, and memory it get's pricey because like the air it's ssd drives. But the reality is i simply don't care at all about Retina displays or screen resolution so i feel like i'd be paying more for something i don't care much about. I like the thinner form factor but i don't really want to pay a premium for a display and ssd when i was fine with the older cheaper tech. My ideal would be a mac book pro nonretina that loses the hard drive and just goes thinner case with updated processor and still with user upgradable memory. But i'd take a simply processor upgrade. Thus i'll wait and hope for a low level mac book pro update as i don't really need a high end computer.

GreenDize12 says:

I went for the 2012 non-retina pro. Got for $999 on black friday on Amazon (they raised it to $1034 like 15 min after I placed the order), bought a crucial m4 512GB SSD for $394, and 3 weeks later I purchase a 8GB Corair Vengeance RAM for $40, and the 2 screwdrivers I needed for $10, bringing my total to $1445 and 2 hours of time to upgrade it myself. Apple wanted $2079 for Maxed out air, and $2200 for maxed out pro, and almost $2500 for maxed out Retina Pro.

My advice is, if you are in no way scared of opening up the Mac to upgrade it yourself, go for it!! It doesn't void warranty as long as you don't screw it up, and it is still a cheaper alternative. If you are a college student or know anyone who currently is, you too can get for $999.

Jerry Suppan says:

What you don't mention at all, and is awesome IMO, is the awesome boost in performance of the SSDs now using PCIe for I/O (as the new MacPros will do) versus more traditional SATA. Mine easily does and maintain in excess of 700+ MB/sec. I already bought the Macbook Air Core i7. http://9to5mac.com/2013/06/11/new-macbook-airs-offer-blistering-ssd-spee...

Peter Cohen says:

good point, probably worth hitting in a separate post.

Richard Devine says:

I went from an 11-inch Air to a 13-inch rMBP, and I have to say I'm simply staggered at how portable the Pro is. The reason I went for the Air was portability, but the new rMBP is so thin for what's inside, I'd always lean that way now. Though these new battery life figures on the Air are pretty tempting

kralnor says:

Yeah as time goes on, I think its going to be more and more difficult to keep these two product lines separated.

JPiLLa says:

Is it still true that you cannot upgrade the memory yourself on a MBA? How about the SSDs?

Jerry Suppan says:

That is default true, and will always be true going forward. Configure the 'upgrade' in advance prior to purchase in accordance to the desired 'upgrade'. Not a tinker toy machine any longer. For that, visit the windows department. 8-)

JPiLLa says:

ok, but the macbook pro is upgradeable right?

baramuro says:

Only if you go for non retina. That is why a retina is out of question for me. At least if you are not a technician, just like I'm not.

kralnor says:

I know its not the point of the article but can we please stop using the word "obsolete" to describe something that isn't even remotely obsolete? It's like when the iPad 4 came out unexpectedly, everyone with and iPad 3 threw up their hands and acted like theirs didn't work anymore. I feel like I see this in the apple world more than anywhere, if its not the absolutely latest model, it's obsolete and must be replaced.

offdahglass says:

I'm going for the MacBook Pro. Seems it would just last longer. I have heard about the Airs breaking easily.

JPL_325 says:

I'm in this boat - sold my 2011 15' Macbook Pro (16GB RAM, 256 Samsung Pro 840 and 750 GB HD in the optical bay). So now I have money in my pocket to buy a new computer and have been looking at a refurbished Retina Macbook Pro 15' 2.3 vs waiting tell the fall when the new machines come out but would probably then have to purchase the 13" since I only have $1700 to spend. I love the retina screen - bought my wife the 13" version for her photography and she loves it and the weight is great.

Right now I'm making do with a 13" 2009 Macbook Pro - I'm ready for a new Macbook

Sean Peters1 says:

"The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, remains unchanged. I have to say that I'm rather pleased with this since I just took possession of a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display in April, and I was dreading the prospect of having a suddenly obsolete machine."

Wait, seriously? You'd have been mad if Apple refreshed your particular model... because then yours wouldn't be cool anymore? I'll never understand this line of thinking. Dude, your computer's capabilities are going to be the same whether Apple puts out a new one or not - the existence of a slightly newer model doesn't make yours "obsolete".

cyhlau says:

I have decided to buy a Mac Book Pro and what makes me concern most is when will the new MBP will be out.

Is it possible to predict when will MPB be out, or say will it be available before September because I was planning to purchase one on September.

Richard Puddington says:

Heres my prediction and reasons for when I think the new Mac Book Pro will be released:

When: September/October
Why:
1. They need to sell off their overstock of 13" Mac Book Pros that didn't sell as well as they expected.
2. Everyone is buying right now for school, so they want to release after so they can increase sales of their older models.
3. OSX Mavericks will be released then and it would make sense to release together.
4. Thunderbolt 2.

Hope this helps anyone in deciding whether to wait or not. I personally am waiting for the refreshed Mac Book Pros because the updated Haswell chips alone are a huge improvement in performance and will extend the life of the machine.
And remember this is just my educated guess.

justusde says:

Is it still the best time to get a MacBook Air or would you recommend to wait until next June? Any chances the MBA will get a better screen or even a retina display then? Or do you assume that there will be minor changes only? I really can't decide what to do.