MacBook Pro 2016 Review: Why You’re Probably Better Off With The 13-Inch MacBook Air

The MacBook Pro 2016 presents numerous innovations and an equal number of compromises.

Apple’s MacBook Pro 2016 lineup comprises three of the best laptops that the tech giant has created to date. With sleek new looks, upgraded internals and a number of nifty features, the MacBook Pro 2016 stands proudly among Apple’s esteemed line of notebook computers. As much as the new MacBook Pros are great, however, Apple’s veteran ultraportable, the MacBook Air, might still offer a certain demographic with the best value.

The MacBook Pro 2016 without the wildly-hyped Touch Bar starts at $1,499. During Apple’s grand reveal for the revamped Pro line, the tech giant presented this model as the spiritual successor to the MacBook Air. In a lot of ways, this is quite true, since the non-Touch Bar model carries the Pro’s lightweight and sleek look coupled with pretty robust specs. However, numerous Apple fans have remarked that considering the price and features of the vanilla MacBook Pro 2016, the Air still presents a better deal.

It is no secret at this point that Apple is already killing off the esteemed MacBook Air line. Since it was unveiled by the late Steve Jobs, the MacBook Air has become as iconic as it is ubiquitous in the laptop world. Over the years, however, Apple has stubbornly refused to refresh the Air’s design, instead opting for marginal upgrades of the device’s internals every so often. Despite this, the MacBook Air has remained as one of Apple’s best-selling devices. This is because, among Apple’s premium products, the Air is the one that is actually reasonably priced.

Starting at $999, the latest iteration of the 13-inch MacBook Air is equipped with a 5th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, coupled with 8GB of RAM. While the Air’s specs are undoubtedly outgunned by the MacBook Pro 2016’s 6th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, the $500 price difference between the two laptops is very notable. When the price of the vanilla MacBook Pro 2016 was announced, numerous Apple fans immediately lamented that it simply does not offer the Air’s affordable allure.

The size of the MacBook Pro 2016 and the 13-inch MacBook Air are compared during Apple's October 27, 2016 event.

What really irked numerous Apple fans with the 2016 MacBook, however, is the fact that it embodies Apple’s current tendency to force the future on consumers. The tech giant did this with the iPhone 7 when Apple controversially removed the headphone jack primarily because the port was just far too old. While Apple’s reason behind its removal was quite justified in some aspects, it resulted in the most basic of tasks, such as charging the phone while using earphones, becoming a lot more tedious than necessary.

Unfortunately, this very same rationale trickled down to the MacBook Pro 2016. While the device is undoubtedly powerful and beautifully made, the MacBook Pro 2016 is also notoriously missing a number of useful ports. The $1,499 Pro comes with two USB Type-C ports and a headphone jack. That’s about it as far as connectivity is concerned. There’s no USB 3.0 port, no MagSafe port, and no SD card slot.

The absence of these ports, especially the MagSafe and the SD card slot, is quite mind-boggling. Apple already did the same thing with the MacBook, which only had a single USB Type-C port. That device is marketed as an ultraportable; thus, its limitations in connectivity were pretty much a given, considering that the device is geared towards consumers who are going for portability above all else. For a laptop that is marketed as a power device, especially one with the Pro moniker, numerous Apple fans simply found the absence of ample ports downright insulting.

The MacBook Air is equipped with a generous number of useful ports.

After all, one of the MacBook Pro’s target demographics is the photography market. Indeed, the MacBook Pros of years past have become staples for numerous photographers, mainly due to the device’s gorgeous screen, its built-in SD card, and its generous number of ports. Having no SD card reader in the MacBook Pro 2016 essentially forces photographers to invest in proprietary dongles in order to transfer their photos from their DSLRs to their laptops. For those in the photography business, such an extra workaround would simply not be appreciated.

While the 13-inch MacBook Air’s non-Retina screen is hardly the display of choice for photography aficionados, the Air’s robust number of ports makes it a very flexible device. Apart from this, the absence of a Retina display actually works in the MacBook Air’s favor, and the device is rated with the longest battery life. The 13-inch MacBook Air generally runs with 14 hours of battery life, while the 2016 MacBook Pro with its Retina display and lack of ports runs at a lower 10 hours.

Another aspect that Apple fans have pointed out in the MacBook Pro 2016 is the device’s keyboard, which uses the tech giant’s new butterfly-style keys. This keyboard, which debuted in the 2015 MacBook, incited its own little controversy, due to its almost non-existent travel. Compared to the 2016 Pro’s butterfly keyboard, the 13-inch MacBook Air’s classic Apple keys, with their generous amount of travel, feel like a dream.

Those who are looking to purchase an Apple laptop should probably keep their options open since the 13-inch MacBook Air still carries a lot of punch. Despite its age, the laptop is still a very capable device. For consumers who are not too obsessive-compulsive with their screens, the latest iteration of the 13-inch MacBook Air is quite a steal for $999. Considering Apple’s stance on new technologies and forcing new designs, the current-generation MacBook Air might very well be the last of Apple’s laptops that are truly designed for the everyday consumer.

[Featured Image by Stephen Lam/Getty Images]