MacBook Air versus MacBook – a business traveller’s perspective

Anthony Caruana
26 March, 2015
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MacBook, MacBook Air, business, macworld australiaThe introduction of the new 12in MacBook has forged a new niche in Apple’s notebook product line.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he famously slashed the number of products the company was making. He drew a grid with four boxes, labelling one side with ‘desktop’ and ‘laptop’ and the other with ‘consumer’ and professional’. That led to the establishment of the MacBook and PowerBook product ranges, each focused on a particular type of customer.

The announcement of the MacBook is an interesting one. Apple has blurred the lines between consumers and pros largely because the core components such as processors, memory and storage are so commoditised. When you compare a MacBook Air with a MacBook Pro, other than the size of the devices, the two product line are functionally very similar.

That’s not to say the two lines are identical in every way but in terms of which device a developer, photographer, consultant, writer or video editor might choose, once they decide on the device’s physical characteristics, such as weight and thickness, they can pretty much choose from either product line and know they have a computer that will suit their needs for at least two or three years.

MacBook Air Pricing


The MacBook is a different kettle of fish. With a 12in display, it sits between the 11in MacBook Air and the 13in MacBook Pro and MacBook Air but it’s about 10 percent lighter than the smaller MacBook Air and more than 50 percent lighter than 13in MacBook Pro.

In an era of shrinking baggage allowances for carry-on that can be the difference between getting your bag into the plane with you or having to hastily re-pack or throw something out.

Storage and memory are good enough for most travellers. For $2200 you get 512GB of SSD storage and 8GB of system memory. That’s the same as our current 13in MacBook Pro. While we’ve supplemented the storage with a 256GB SD card to accommodate our iTunes library, it’s adequate for most applications.

Apple’s main compromise with the MacBook has been on the processor. The Intel Core M processor family is specifically designed for mobile devices. As such, it is very power efficient, enabling the MacBook to have a run time of up to 10 hours of movie playback according to Apple. With judicious use, we could imagine getting through most of a long haul flight from Australia to the US west coast between trips to the charger.

MacBook Pricing

For travellers, that better life might be worth the high cost of the MacBook compared to a similarly equipped MacBook Air

The downside – that new USB-C port is the only port, other than the headphone socket, the MacBook has. So, if you’re planning to deliver a presentation you’ll need an adapter, sold by Apple, to connect to projectors or displays VGA or HDMI. The same goes for the 27in Cinema Display you’ve been using in the office. For frequent travellers, we’d expect spending another $160 to buy two – one for the office and the external display and other that stays in your travel bag.

Our suspicion is Apple will rationalise the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro product lines over the next year or so. We’ll see a return to the ‘Professional’ and ‘Consumer’ product differentiation although I doubt we’ll see it articulated in those words.

For travellers, the questions will be around what compromises you’re prepared to make. If battery life is your killer feature and you’re processor needs are modest, then the MacBook makes sense. But if you need more grunt and access to multiple USB ports and an SD card slot then the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro will make better sense.


One Comment

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  1. Rob Stephenson says:

    We keep hearing about Apple and their band of merry executives touting the virtues of MAC for professionals. Really?!
    Unfortunately they seem to have forgotten the core group of ‘professionals’, a small group though we may be, who helped Apple build the brand and reputation they have today.
    We are the designers, film makers and photographers of the world. Unfortunately too, the product managers and designers seem to have lost focus on the importance of screen real-estate.
    As a professional and very mobile designer I despair every time I hear of the latest release of portable Macs from Apple. Where’s my screen space gone?. I can barely fit a document window on screen now, let alone fit any palettes beside the document to work with.
    Lucky for me my ‘old’ MacBook Pro still has some fight left in her. But alas, when she next gets sick, there is no support and no new parts available to make her well again.
    The loss of the 17″ MacBook Pro a few years ago was just the beginning of the current trend to make professional mobile equipment smaller – “Honey, I shrunk the Macs!” the executives cry out with glee. “That should boost sales and cost us less in production”.
    On the flip side of that we are seeing phones getting larger. Interesting…
    I really don’t know the demographics of the ‘professional’ market Apple are aiming at, road warriors and the like I expect. Which is fine, but please, Apple, please please bring back the 17″ MacBook Pro. We, ‘The Professionals’ NEED them back. We NEED the screen real-estate. We are all begging for them. Please, please please.
    I really look forward to once again buying a brand new 17″ MacBook Pro. Hopefully in the not too distant future. Before I retire would be nice.
    I hope you won’t let us down because the ‘shareholders’ might not get their maximum dividend. Maybe they might sit up and take notice after ‘we Professionals’ jump ship to PC….. Heaven forbid….
    I really love the MAC OS, albeit with more and more omissions and a few annoying bugs creeping in, but if push comes to shove, I NEED to function productively and quickly, where-ever I am.
    Expectantly Yours

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