Bang For Buck: 2020 Quad-Core MacBook Air Vs MacBook Pro Vs The MacBook Of The Future — The 2020 12.9-Inch iPad Pro With Magic Keyboard (Specs, Benchmarks, Price)

2020 MacBook Air makes a good run at the mid-2019 13-inch MacBook Pro.


Credit: Apple

Apple has made it harder than ever to choose a new MacBook.

Why it’s harder to choose:

Apple now offers (1) an excellent new quad-core MacBook Air, (2) the existing 13-inch MacBook Pro, and (3) a versatile new 13-inch-class iOS “MacBook,” aka, 2020 iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard.

Compare — 2020 MacBook Air vs mid-2019 MacBook Pro 13-inch:

MacBook Air processor 👍: MacBook Air 2020 is now quad-core like the MacBook Pro. But the MBA packs Intel 10th Generation silicon vs Intel 8th Generation processors for the mid-2019 13-inch MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air benchmarks / draw — it’s close: MacBook Air quad-core CPU performance is on par with the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Single-core Geekbench 5 scores for Core i5 (1.1 GHz) MBA model are very close to Core i5 MacBook Pro (1.4 GHz), see benchmarks here and here, respectively. Multi-core favors the 13-inch MacBook Pro, however. Particularly for the 28-watt processors on the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro configs. (see below).

MacBook Air graphics 👍: 202o MBA has new 10th Gen Iris Plus graphics vs older Iris Plus graphics on 13-inch MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air memory 👍: 2020 MBA has 3733 MHz LPDDR4X memory versus 2133 MHz LPDDR3 memory on 13-inch MacBook Pro.

—-MacBook Air keyboard 👍: 2020 MBA gets the same new scissor-switch keyboard as the 16-inch MacBook Pro; 13-inch MacBook Pro has old Butterfly keyboard.

MacBook Air weight 👍: 2020 MBA is lighter than mid-2019 MacBook Pro by about 0.2 pounds.

MacBook Air price 👍: well-equipped 2020 MBA with quad-core Core i5, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SDD is $1,499 compared to similarly-equipped MacBook Pro, which is $1,899. The upshot, at any price point the MacBook Air is a better deal.

—Display 👎: MacBook Pro 13 has a better display with wider color (P3) color gamut and it’s brighter.

—High-end processors 👎: High-end MacBook Pro 13 uses faster 28-watt processors, 2020 MacBook Air uses 10-watt processors, which tend to be slower on multi-core benchmarks than higher-wattage processors.

And the winner is…

Bang for buck 👍: As of March 2020, overall (all models considered), the 2020 MacBook Air is the best bang for the buck vs the 13-inch MacBook Pro considering the newer silicon, newer keyboard, better portability, and lower price.

The 2020 12.9-inch iPad Pro is packed with advanced tech such as face ID, LiDAR Scanner, Three-axis … [+] gyro Accelerometer, and Barometer. MacBook Air does not have these kinds of features.


Credit: Apple

Compare — 2020 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard vs 2020 MacBook Air:

iPad Pro camera 👍: In short, no comparison. The 2020 MacBook Air has no advanced camera system to speak of. The camera system on the 2020 iPad Pro is close to what you get on the iPhone 11. Not to mention up to 4K video recording at 60 fps on the 2020 iPad Pro.

iPad Pro processor 👍: 2020 iPad Pro’s A12Z processor scores better on multi-core (Geekbench 5) benchmarks than the 2020 the MacBook Air.

iPad Pro display 👍: 2020 iPad Pro has a higher-resolution display that’s brighter with a wider color gamut (P3).

iPad Pro 4G/LTE 👍: If you’re on the road a lot, LTE is practically a must. MacBook Air has W-Fi connection only.

iPad Pro microphones 👍: 2020 iPad Pro has more microphones for audio recording: 5 mics on the iPad Pro versus 3 mics on the MacBook Air.

iPad Pro sensors 👍: 2020 iPad Pro has Face ID, LiDAR Scanner, Three-axis gyro Accelerometer, and Barometer. You get none of those on the MacBook Air.

iPad Pro weight 👍?: 2020 12.9-inch iPad Pro is about 1.4 pounds. We don’t know how much the Magic Keyboard weighs yet. But even if it’s a pound, that still makes the combination 12.9-inch iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard lighter than the MacBook Air, which is 2.8 pounds.

—iPad Pro Magic Keyboard / draw?: Apple advertises the new iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard as being similar to the MacBook Air’s. It could be a draw. We’ll have to see, though.

Legacy professional applications 👎: Not in the iPad Pro’s favor. There’s a long list of legacy professional applications that run better on the MacBook. Not to mention third-party applications in general (think: Microsoft Office) that have deep roots in macOS from way back.

—Multitasking 👎: Sorry, multitasking (think: floating, overlapping windows) is still better on a MacBook.

—iPad Pro as pure macOS laptop 👎: if you’re wedded to the traditional MacBook/laptop experience, the iPad Pro will frustrate when doing some (many?) tasks.

And the winner is…

Bang for buck 👍: You’ll get more for your money with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard, as spelled out above. While the raw specs may look better for the MacBook Air (storage, RAM), the iPad Pro is packed to the gills with advanced tech. And it’s Apple’s future.

  • A 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Wi‑Fi + Cellular, 256GB SSD ($1,249) with Magic Keyboard ($349) is $1,598.
  • The 2020 MacBook Air with 512GB SSD and 8GB is $1,299. But I’m going to (strongly) suggest you’ll need 16GB of RAM to make it as fast/smooth as the iPad Pro. That brings the price up to $1,499.

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