As expected, the differences in build, design and portability are small but may be significant. Both MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are stunningly built and finished devices, but the 2014 11-inch MacBook Air was 490 g lighter than the lightest Retina MacBook Pro, at 1.08 kg. While the MacBook Air gives the impression of being slimmer, it's still 1.7 cm at the thickest point, just a millimeter different. The 2013 11-inch MacBook Air weighs the same as the 2014 model.
The 2014 13-inch MacBook Air model is probably a fairer comparison, and that weighs in at 1.35 kg, just 220 g less than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina. The 2013 13-inch MacBook Air weighs the same as the 2014 model. Let's take a closer look.
The MacBook Air is the ultimate ultraportable laptop. It has a beautiful unibody chassis that's just 18 mm thick. This is rigid, exceedingly tough and impeccably finished in satin sand-blasted aluminium. Expect Apple's usual high quality.
The Apple backlit keyboard now so widely copied by others is improved over earlier unibody MacBooks, such that light bleed through the sides of keys is greatly reduced. And that keyboard is one of the best in the business, with very short travel keys that we found made typing comfortable and nearly effortless.
The Apple MacBook Air sports the same supreme all-metal build quality that we've yet to see surpassed in other brands' laptops, styled with a wedged taper from rear to front edge. Despite Apple's reputation for assembling premium products at premium prices, we've not seen any Microsoft hardware partner match the features, build and attention to detail, either at the same price or higher.
One small visible change for the new MacBook Air is an extra pinhole on the left flank, marking an additional, second microphone. This trusted tech trickled down from the Retina MacBooks, adding noise cancellation to improve voice clarity in FaceTime and Skype calls.
The MacBook Air weighs in at a swallowable 1.35 kg. Switch to the MacBook Pro and you get a good selection of ports around the chassis, with Thunderbolt now at version 2. Unfortunately the HDMI output looks to be set to the older HDMI 1.2 standard or below as we still couldn't get any better than 1920 x 1200-pixel output through this port. This won't be an issue when connecting to full-HD televisions or projectors, but it does mean you need to use a valuable Thunderbolt port to connect a high-resolution monitor with, eg, 2560 x 1600 display.
You can expect the same quality of design and finish as with the MacBook Air, but in a marginally larger and heavier chasis. The 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is 50 g lighter than the 2012 Retina MacBook, it's now just 1.57 kg. As we said: marginal. The 2013 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is a bit heavier than the 13-inch, at 2.02 kg, but the same weight as the 2012 model. Both models are just 1.8 cm thick. Last year the 13-inch model was a tiny bit thicker at 1.9 cm, the thickness of the 15-inch model hasn't changed. These are not big laptops in any respect other than workspace, and we consider the MacBook Pro to be an ultraportable just the same as the MacBook Air.
The MacBook pro with Retina Display benefits from an incredible 2880 x 1800-pixel IPS display, configured in HiDPI mode to look like the 1440 x 900 layout of every 15-inch MacBook Pro since 2006. Ports around the chassis are the same: two Thunderbolt 2, one USB 3.0, audio headset jack with Toslink digital audio, and MagSafe 2 power connector all to the left.
Simply: if absolute portability is your thing you may wish to opt for the MacBook Air. But you won't curse lugging around a MacBook Pro. These are all super portable PCs.
Next section: MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air comparison: specifications and performance