MacBook Air vs MacBook comparison

MacBook Air vs MacBook: Screen & resolution   

The biggest difference is the fact that the MacBook offers a Retina display. That display is LED-backlit display with IPS technology, and offers a 2304x1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch, as well as support for millions of colours, and a 16:10 aspect ratio.

The MacBook Air, on the other hand, offers 1366x768 (native) resolution at 16:9 aspect ratio.

The MacBook Air has attracted criticism for the quality of its screen, and the fact that the 16:9 aspect ratio means that the screen depth is much shallower – this matters to you if you want to see the maximum number of lines of a document on your laptop screen. Although it may suit those who watch widescreen movies as the 16:9 aspect ratio is suited to that kind of use.   

And there is also the fact that the 12in display is by definition, bigger than the 11in display. The bezel around the edge is smaller, too, so you get more screen without having a bigger laptop. 

BUYING ADVICE: Screen & resolution  

The MacBook offers the superior display, both in terms of screen size and resolution. If it’s a good quality screen you need then the MacBook Air probably won’t cut the mustard. If you like to watch films on your laptop you may be thinking that the MacBook Air would be better with its 16:9 aspect ratio – but the quality of the display is poor in comparison so you probably wouldn’t benefit all that much. There are a couple of options if you are concerned about screen quality. Either plug your MacBook Air into an external screen when you are sat at your desk, or opt for the MacBook Pro with Retina display – at £999 the 13in entry-level model is still cheaper than the MacBook.

MacBook Air vs MacBook: Graphics    

The MacBook sports the Intel HD Graphics 5300 and supports dual display and video mirroring. It can support up to 3840x2160 pixels on an external display.  

The MacBook Air offers superior graphics: the Intel HD Graphics 6000 and supports dual display and video mirroring. It can support up to 2560x1600 pixels on an external display, less than the MacBook. The MacBook Air does offer Thunderbolt digital video output however.

We have tested the graphics card in the Air and found it was no better than the previous year's model. When we ran the Batman: Arkham City benchmark test, the 2014 and 2015 MacBook Air models both averaged 29 frames per second in medium detail; and 24 fps in High detail.

We haven't yet tested the MacBook graphics, so we can’t comment on how good they are. However, like the Air, it seems unlikely that the graphics in the MacBook would be suitable for game play.

BUYING ADVICE: Graphics   

Both of these Macs have inferior graphics cards compared to the Retina MacBook Pro, so if good graphics capabilities are necessary for you, you should consider opting for the MacBook Pro instead.