Which MacBook Should You Buy in Late 2019? – Apple has recently made some considerable changes to its MacBook lineup. And a lot of you may be wondering what exactly is different between each MacBook. And which one is the right fit for you. So today, we’ve got Apple’s complete lineup of 2019 MacBooks right here in the office, which should mostly stay the same into 2020. We’ve got the MacBook Air for $1100, the base 13” MacBook Pro for $1300, the higher-end 13” Pro for $1800, and the 15” MacBook Pro for $2400.
MacBook Display & Portability
Now let’s get started with comparing literally everything we can between all of these MacBooks, starting with portability. In terms of weight, the Air is the lightest at just 2.75 pounds, but it’s hardly noticeable compared to the 3 pounds 13” Pro. From above, the Air is basically just as large as the 13” Pro, so portability should be pretty similar, and much more portable than the 15”.
The MacBook Pros also have more of a flat slate shape compared to the MacBook Air. Which has a wedge design that gets thinner near the front end? Each of these MacBooks has a high-quality Retina resolution display, but the Air’s screen isn’t as lovely.
It’s quite a bit dimmer than the Pro that each has an incredible 500 nits of brightness. And it’s definitely not as color accurate since every MacBook Pro has P3 wide color gamut. Which has about 25% more colors than 100% sRGB, which is a must-have for photo editors?
As far as display sharpness, they all have the same Retina-quality 227 pixels per inch. And this year, every MacBook in the lineup finally comes with True Tone technology. Which adjusts the white balance of the display to match the environment around you. Speaker quality and volume is a huge deal for some people, especially to me.
We noticed that the Air has slightly worse speakers than the base 13” Pro. But volume, sound quality, and bass go way up with the $1800 13” Pro as well as the 15” model. So if speaker quality matters to you, you should consider the higher-end models. However, even the Air sounds better and louder than almost every Windows laptop we’ve tested.
Now onto the keyboards, they’re all packing Apple’s latest 4th generation butterfly keys that have new key switch materials that should be more reliable than before. And we’ve yet to hear of any issues with the 4th gen keyboard. But even if you do, all of these MacBooks come with a 4-year free keyboard replacement warranty if you have any problems with the keys.
Apart from that, the MacBook Air’s keyboard slopes downward towards the front edge. So it’s actually a bit more comfortable to type on compared to the Pros. And this year, every single MacBook in the lineup comes with a Touch ID sensor built into the power button. Which makes it really convenient to log in, use Apple Pay online, and install apps off the web without having to enter your password. However, every MacBook Pro this year comes with the Touch Bar, an OLED display that replaces the top row of keys and is fully customizable.
However, not many people like it because it’s more challenging to do things like adjusting display brightness, volume and use the escape key. I personally don’t really like the Touch Bar, but it’s not a big deal at all. And this year, every MacBook also comes with the T2 chip. Which helps with security and provides hardware transcoding of HEVC video footage. Now let’s talk about the ports.
Every port on every MacBook this year supports Thunderbolt 3, but both the 13” MacBook Air and lower-end MacBook Pro come with only two of these ports, compared to four ports on the more expensive Pros.
If you’re a primary user that doesn’t connect to external displays or connect external devices very often. You’ll probably be okay with one of the two-port models. And you also have the choice of buying a Thunderbolt 3 hub just in case you do need more ports. But having four ports from the get-go is definitely more convenient, especially for those who use their ports often.
Now, if you love large trackpads, the 15” Pro has the biggest one of them all, followed by the 13” Pro and then the Air has a slightly smaller trackpad, but it’s still more significant than most Windows laptops.
MacBook Battery Life
For battery life, the new MacBook Air is rated at 12 hours compared to 10 hours on the MacBook Pros. So if battery life is what you’re after, the Air is the best option. And if you love maxing out the brightness on your display, you could see an even more significant difference since the Air has a dimmer screen.
MacBook Spes & Performance
Finally, let’s talk about performance, starting with the processors. This year. The base $1300 MacBook Pro finally gets a quad-core processor. So the MacBook Air is now the only one in the lineup with a dual-core CPU.
The $1800 Pro has a quad-core, and the 15” Pro has a six-core that can actually be upgraded to an 8-core if you’re willing to spend $2800. Looking at raw processing power using Geekbench 4’s multi-core test. We can see that the MacBook Air, with its dual-core CPU, is way behind the MacBook Pros. And surprisingly, the $1300 Pro performs almost the same as the $1800 model. And the 15” gives you a pretty good jump in performance as well.
So we decided to look at performance per dollar, using the full retail price of each MacBook. And the new $1300 base MacBook Pro comes out way ahead, with incredible amounts of raw power for the cash. With the Air being a terrible value, performance-wise. One thing that you won’t find on the spec sheet is that the $1300 base MacBook Pro has only one fan. Just like on the MacBook Air, while the more expensive $1800 and $2400 Pros have dual fans.
Something like this could definitely limit performance for more extended workloads. So we also ran Cinebench R20, a more realistic benchmark that is long enough to heat the systems up and see how well the cooling systems work. And surprisingly, the single fan on the $1300 Pro didn’t really limit performance like we thought it would. So we’re really impressed with it.
However, we noticed that while the dual fans on the higher-end models were louder at first. They eventually slowed down a little bit as the system stabilized. But the single fan models kept running at full blast until the end of the test. We also tested SSD speeds, and here we see a pretty big difference when going to the more expensive MacBook Pros. But even the less expensive models are still fast enough for most people, especially primary users.
So if you’re still confused about which MacBook you should buy, let me break it down for you. The $1300 base 13” MacBook Pro is by far the best value you can get in terms of performance and overall MacBook experience. But if you don’t really need a great display or high performance. And you’d instead save a couple of hundred bucks, you can go for the MacBook Air instead.
The Air is excellent if you’re a writer, a student, or someone who just wants a premium reliable laptop for doing basic computer tasks. Like web browsing, working with documents, and sometimes watching some Netflix. As well as getting some extra battery life out of it. For primary use, then the MacBook Air will be the best option for you.
Now, if you’re doing any kind of professional tasks like photo editing, video editing, 3D animation, or anything like that. And you love having the best display you can get with better speakers than the Air. Then I would highly recommend going for the $1300 MacBook Pro instead.
It’s the best value MacBook we’ve ever seen. Now the $1800 13” MacBook Pro is for those people who have a bit more cash left in their budget. And are willing to spend it to get a few more luxury improvements. Like an extra two Thunderbolt 3 ports, better speakers, faster storage speeds, slightly faster performance, and two cooling fans, which should lead to an overall quieter laptop during heavy workloads.
All of those things aren’t really dealbreakers, but if they matter to you, you should consider that model. It already comes with 256 gigs of storage. So, in reality, it’s $300 more than the base model with a matching SSD. And finally, the 15” MacBook Pro is for those who know that they need the extra performance from the six-core CPU or even upgrading to the 8-core. If you’re a severe 4K or RAW video editor, this is the one to get since it has dedicated graphics.
It’s also the only model that can come with 32GB of RAM, so it’s excellent for high-end photo editors or programmers. It’s for people who want the absolute best, with the biggest trackpad, best speakers, the most prominent display, and the highest performance you can get. And to finish it all off, here are some general purchasing recommendations. If you’re anything more than a primary user, we’d recommend getting at least 256GB of storage.
And if you’re working with professional tasks almost every day. We’d also recommend getting 16GB of RAM, especially if you’re a photo editor. We also recommend that you never upgrade the processor. Unless you’re getting extra cores out of the deal, which is only available on the 15” model. Upgrading from an i5 to an i7 doesn’t change anything other than a slight performance boost, which almost always isn’t worth the price.
And if you’re a severe video editor, get the best graphics you can afford, especially the Vega 20 graphics. And for photo editors, graphics will do basically nothing for you. So focus on RAM first, and then the processor.
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