College Student- Macbook Air or Macbook Pro?

I am entering college this upcoming fall, and I have about $1400-$1500 to go towards my laptop. I've never owned a Mac before though, so I don't have a bunch of experience with how each computer runs compared to another.

I'm debating between the MBA 13'' or the MBP 13'' (2.9GHz)...

I will be a Physiology Major (which is basically just Human Biology), but may possibly minor in Photography as well, as I am an avid photographer with my own small business.
The only things that I will use my laptop for is writing papers, editing photos, downloading music/apps, and surfing the web (YouTube, Facebook, etc.).

I also will be getting an iPad through a scholarship... so if that makes any sort of difference as to which laptop would be better combined with the laptop...

Portability isn't too much of an issue to me because I'll be living on campus and my classes are fairly close to my dorm. I know that the MBA doesn't come with a CD hard drive, but will that really be that much of an issue? Also, I've heard that if there are new versions/updates, that the MBA isn't a good laptop to have because it can't download/have enough storage space?

10 Answers from the Community

  • Best Answer:

    Since your needs revolve around a better screen and speed , I would suggest you buy the new 2012 MacBook Air 13.
    It is light so carrying it around will never bean issue and it has a 1440 by 900 resolution compared to the 1280 by 800 in the 2012 MacBook Pro 13. This is quite a difference as far as photography is concerned and also your biology diagrams will look better.
    Since the MacBook Air uses ssd, there's no waiting around. You could carry a 32 gb SD card or an USB flash drive as a way of expanding memory. Nowadays, an external hard drive has become a must because of various reasons.
    You might have to upgrade the RAM during your purchase because the RAM is not user upgradable. 4GB is more than enough for using basic applications and running a single OS but if you ever plan on using the same MacBook Air for more than 3 years, I suggest you chose the 8GB option.
    Don't worry about the lack of certain ports. You will hardly use an Ethernet port if wifi is around.
    I really believe that you can benefit more from buying the 2012 MacBook Air 13.

    • Answered by Rishi C
    • 25-Jun-2012
  • I have a 13" macbook air for law school and it is perfect. It goes everywhere with me easily and boots up in a flash which is great when class is starting and you need to take notes ASAP.

    However I am on my second computer since my first Macbook Air was stolen from the library last week. The thief grabbed the computer, left the charger and took off managing to sneak past the security cameras as well as all of the other students.

    I have an ipad but the macbook air is so much more useful for school. I heartily recommend it but get insurance so you don't have to worry if it get stolen. Also don't count on the cloud for backup because I lost almost everything that was in the cloud. The documents were corrupted and filled with nonsense.

    • Answered by Nancy R from Boca Raton
    • 06-Sep-2012
  • If photography is a real passion for you, consider the MBP 13" or the lower end 15". While both machines will be powerful enough for you, the MBA has a substantially smaller hard drive, and HD photo and video content will fill it up very quickly (I'm a college student with a cinema focus, so I know how frustrating full hard drives can be). If you watch a lot of movies or have a big itunes library that's another quick way to fill up the hard drive.

    As far as lack of DVD drive goes, how much that affects you depends on how much physical media you own (music cds, DVDs, games that you install from a disk). If it sounds like a problem, you can purchase an external DVD drive cheaply from the Apple Store or Amazon.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck starting college.

    • Answered by Alexander B from Reston
    • 14-Jun-2012
  • The Macbook Air is great for mobility. Since that is not a big concern with you then the Macbook Pro seems to be the better choice. It comes with a CD drive so you can put in CD's if you need to. If you bought the Macbook Air and you need to use a CD drive then you would have to buy one for around $75. The Macbook Pro is a more powerful computer. While you may not need all of what the Macbook Pro has to offer at least it is there if you need it.

    • Answered by Timmy M from Roanoke
    • 10-Jul-2013
  • You'll be into photography, then go with the Pro.

    There's a considerable difference in weight between Air vs. PRO.
    Some people experience back pains on their backpacks or arm pains after lugging around a Macbook PRO.

    Get the PRO. leave it at home. Just bring it on occasion.
    Then use your iPAD going to class.

    • Answered by Jerico C from Milpitas
    • 24-Sep-2013
  • I really love the macbook pro...

    But when i got the Macbook Air (13") it felt better then my pro. I had a mid (i think) 2010 macbook pro. I dont know it just had that pull on me to use the air. It is lighter which i like. My previous Pro was heavy (it was 17") and it is a tremendos difference in weight. But the macbook pro retina is a "beast" computer.

    All in all i would get the retina mcb.

    • Answered by Muiz A from San Jose
    • 14-Aug-2013
  • This sort of depends on several factors, but the advantages/disadvantages basically stack up like this:

    MacBook Pro:
    - higher screen res with Retina (although Air is no slouch)
    - better processor for doing heavy lifting (HD photo/video editing/rendering)
    - more ports = slightly better expandability
    - much more storage

    MacBook Air:
    - ridiculously light, weighs less than a large spiral ring notebook
    - SSD as opposed to Pro's standard HD means lightning-fast load and boot times
    - much longer battery life
    - generally less expensive

    So in general, the MacBook Pro fits the bill for students involved in digital arts, who need to do a lot of high-processing tasks on a high resolution screen, with lots of storage to boot. This sort of fits Apple's original niche as a company, and its no surprise that Apple's got a laptop specifically tailored to this crowd. Heavy video gamers should probably take this option too.

    For everybody else, however, the MacBook Air fits the profile better. It's a more lithe build, and the weight, battery life, and cost are hard benefits to turn down. A 128GB SSD can be a tad small if you're keeping around HD video or big video games, but if you're doing that you've got the wrong laptop. 128GB is more than you'll ever need for documents, photos, and music. For writing papers, doing small-scale photo editing, music, and web surfing, I would highly recommend the MacBook Air.

    As a side note, the lack of a disc drive is almost a non-issue in today's world. I personally cannot remember the last time I used a physical disc. If somehow the need does arise, use a public computer or borrow a friend's.

    • Answered by Dennison R from Wayne
    • 11-Jan-2014
  • With the education discount you’ll get, the 13” retina MBP is *ridiculously* affordable. The difference between retina is like night and day for photography and reading textbooks.

    • Answered by Kevin C from New York
    • 19-Nov-2013
  • If you are writing papers using biology apps and surfing the web I would recommend a MacBook Pro. That is the most powerful MacBook. The MacBook Pro I recommend is the MacBook Pro 15'' with retina display. It doesn't have an CD drive but the MBP 15'' RD (MacBook Pro 15'' with retina display) does make up for it with it's high quality performance. I have the MBP 15'' RD and I just love it! It's amazing! I think it will be great for a college campus. It comes pre-installed with OS X Mavericks so if your reading textbooks iBooks will be great! Go for the MBP 15'' RD it is one of the best laptops I ever had and it is great for a college campus!

    • Answered by Freddie M from Melbourne
    • 11-Nov-2013
  • You should get the Mac book pro. If you are going to be doing a lot of things in college and play games you should totally get the Mac book pro

    • Answered by Janice A from Plantation
    • 30-Aug-2013