macbook pro on a wooden table

Best MacBook for Graphic Design (Pro vs. Air)

The new 2020 Macbook Air has made the choice between a Pro and Air a bit closer. We dive into the differences and what to look for. Gone now are the dreaded butterfly keys and in is new hardware that will keep your machine running fast for years to come.

What You’re Looking for

Whether you’re a newcomer to graphic design/development or a seasoned veteran, you know that color reproducibility is a crucial aspect of design. While the most capable graphic design apps were previously only available only for Mac, that’s no longer the case. Color reproducibility on the better Windows machines has caught up since then.

These days, the most important advantage that Apple’s products offer is how they handle graphics, colors, and fonts. Apple focuses on making everything uniform and compatible across all their devices with minimal effort.

Ease of use is obviously an important part of any device and that’s what Apple does best. They are constantly working to provide updates and improvements to the user experience.

Another important aspect that you’ll need to consider is storage space. If you’re looking at MacBooks, that will probably mean having an external hard drive. Therefore, the hard disk space should be a consideration, but don’t let it be the most important factor in your decision.

Of course, portability is also one of the overwhelming benefits of using a laptop over a desktop. That doesn’t mean that a MacBook is necessarily the best choice, but if portability is a concern the MacBook Air is one of the lightest and most portable laptops ever made.

1. MacBook Pro

Recently, Apple introduced the 16-inch MacBook Pro with souped-up features from top to bottom. Some consider this the best pro laptop and it certainly has a lot of amazing features to back that claim.

This laptop has been designed from the ground up for professionals. With that in mind, Apple listened to thousands of users who plainly described what their needs were. As a result, most designers will find their workflow significantly improved for working on a MacBook Pro.

It has the processing power to make short work of even the most demanding tasks, and enough memory to edit multiple video channels at once.

Professionals in other fields will also find it to be a powerhouse. Developers will appreciate the speed with which they can compile and execute code and run multiple virtual machines. Audio professionals will also love playing around with numerous tracks and running numerous plug-ins seamlessly.

Features

For starters, the MacBook Pro has Apple’s Touch ID hardware (as does the MacBook Air). Once Touch ID is set up, you can use your fingerprint to access most of your accounts, and even make purchases as long as you’re logged in.

It also has a Touch Bar. This is an OLED display that takes the place of the function keys.

It’s a touch display that changes in accordance with the task that you’re working and on to give you a variety of control options. It can let you scroll through videos, quickly adjust colors in a picture, and a myriad of other functions.

The Touch Bar can also be customized to include the most frequently-used shortcuts or the functions that you need within a specific application.

However, the Touch ID and Touch Bar are what some might call accessories. If you’re wondering what’s under the hood, you won’t be disappointed.

Apple’s Retina display is still the gold standard of display technologies and the MacBook Pro also features True Tone technology. True Tone uses multichannel sensors to modulate the color and intensity on the display in reaction to ambient light. The result is colors that appear more natural and images that look crisper and clearer.

For designers, the True Tone Retina display is probably the most prominent feature of the MacBook Pro.

It’s available with an i7 or i9 4- to 8-core Intel processor that has a maximum clock speed of 4.7 GHz. The standard model will give you 16 GB of RAM and up to 64 GB. You can get up to a terabyte of SSD storage as well.

The MacBook Pro supports up to two 4K displays through its Thunderbolt 3 ports, which can handle up to 40Gb/s data transfer speeds and can connect to external GPUs as well.

Last but not least, the MacBook Pro comes with Apple’s latest security hardware. It’s equipped with an Apple T2 security chip that has secure booting and encrypted storage capability. The T2 chip is like a separate processor that handles some aspects of the laptop’s operation and ensures that no unwanted processes are allowed to run on the machine.

Pros

  • Unmatched processing power
  • Retina display with True Tone Technology
  • Excellent security
  • The Touch Bar is indispensable after you’ve gotten used to it

Cons

  • One of the most expensive laptops
  • The processor and RAM cannot be upgraded after purchase

Who Is It for?

As its name implies, the MacBook Pro is ideal for graphic design professionals. People who just want a personal computer may find it overkill for their needs.

2. MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is one of Apple’s best-selling products of all time. It’s long been Apple’s entry-level laptop but it recently received some interesting updates that make it appealing to professionals as well.

The Air has always been considered the lesser but more portable version of the MacBook Pro. That’s still true to an extent, but the Air now has a slew of features that make it a strong contender. People who appreciate an all-in-one machine that can work as their daily driver and workhorse will love the MacBook Air.

Features

The main advantage that the Air has over the MacBook Pro is its weight and size. The MacBook Air is Apple’s lightest laptop and one of the lightest on the market. Despite its size, though, the most recent model has a Retina display like its bigger cousin.

The latest MacBook Air’s 13.3-inch Retina display with True Tone technology features over four million pixels of true-life color. However, it’s not quite as bright and intense as the MacBook Pro’s

The MacBook Air also has Touch ID technology for easy access to payment and other accounts.

Unlike the Pro, however, it does not feature a Touch Bar. That’s not a huge loss, but people who are accustomed to having a Touch Bar will certainly miss it.

One of the big advantages of the current MacBook Air has over the previous is the keyboard. The keys on the Air use a new “butterfly” mechanism that not only adds stability to the keys but also makes it one of the quietest keyboards you’ll ever use.

The keyboard also has backlit keys with an ambient light sensor, so your keys will always look the same no matter the lighting conditions around you.

In lieu of a Touch Bar, the Air has a Force Touch trackpad that reacts differently to varying degrees of pressure applied to it. It’s 20% larger than that of previous Air models and can be used to interact with the computer in a variety of ways.

As far as the hardware goes, the unassuming MacBook Air packs quite a punch. It comes with up to 16 GB of memory and a terabyte of SSD storage and weighs just over 2.5 pounds. It also features an 8th-generation i5 processor which is enough to handle all but the most demanding professional tasks.

It has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, like the MacBook Pro, but it can’t handle quite the display load that the Pro can.

Another area where the Air outclasses the Pro is in battery life. With 12 hours of active battery life, it’s good to go all day long on a single charge, assuming that you’re not using it at max brightness.

Pros

  • Retina Display with True Tone technology
  • Very light (2.75lbs) and thin (0.61” to 0.16” at the thinnest)
  • 12 hours of battery life
  • Massive Force Touch trackpad

Cons

  • Still expensive as far as laptops go
  • Lacks Touch Bar

Who Is It for?

The MacBook Air is as much at home in a professional setting as it is for personal use. You’ll find it lacking for some very high-demand tasks, though.

3. Old MacBook Air

Although the previous MacBook Air is a little outdated at this point, it’s far from obsolete. Apple continues to sell it and many people are still buying it.

The thing you’ll miss the most on an old MacBook Air is the Retina display. The Retina display MacBook Air is officially the third-generation that first came out in 2018. In contrast, the old model has a much lower-resolution display and looks noticeably less bright.

The processor on the old Air is also a little antiquated. That doesn’t mean that it can’t handle a decent strain, but you’ll find it lackluster for complicated graphics processing tasks.

Perhaps most noticeably, the old Air looks older. It has thick bezels and overall a clunkier feel than the new model. On the other hand, people who were in the design space in the early 2010s will find it familiar and comfortable, like an old pair of boots.

Features

As mentioned, the old Air has one of Apple’s previous generation displays. When it was released, the display was actually pretty good. However, since Retina displays have become the new normal, you’ll notice a stark difference from one of Apple’s new displays.

This particular refurbished MacBook Air doesn’t feature the Thunderbolt ports of its successor, opting for two USB 3.0 ports – one to each side. It also has a MagSafe 2 charging connection at a headphone jack. Unlike its newer version, it’s equipped with an SD card reader that’s still a useful feature for many professionals.

The trackpad on the Air was cutting edge at the time and still holds up pretty well. If you’re used to a traditional trackpad without Force touch technology, this will feel much more familiar. It’s responsive and accurate.

The performance on the old Air is lackluster by today’s standards but not horrible. It features an i5 Intel processor and 8 GB of memory. No one would call that useless but it is a little less than what we’ve come to expect. You can also get more recent versions with an i7 processor.

The standard model has a 128 GB SSD but it goes up to 512 GB, which is quite respectable.

The battery life is also fairly decent. It clocks in at a little over 10 hours, which is around the industry standard for even the latest laptops in the category.

Overall, the old MacBook Air may still be a good investment for many users. If you have demanding workloads, you’ll find it lacking here and there but it’s not a bad choice by any means. However, you should consider that buying an outdated MacBook is not exactly a future-proof decision.

Pros

  • Affordable for a MacBook
  • Good battery life
  • Familiar look and feel
  • SD card reader

Cons

  • Outdated display
  • No Thunderbolt ports

Who Is It for?

Realistically, the target audience for this laptop is people who have used it before or lived through the MacBook Air heyday and still want to own one of the iconic machines.

How They Stack Up

Now that you have all the specs and features, you’re probably still wondering which one is the best for your purposes. Well, that ultimately depends on what you’re looking for.

If you’re in the market for portability at all costs, the new MacBook Air is the one for you. It’s made of 100% recycled aluminum, weighs under 3 pounds, and measures 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.68 inches.

If battery life is your most important criterion, again, the new MacBook Air is the clear winner. It has an advertised 12 hours of battery life and some users report even longer stretches of use without a recharge.

If you’re looking for raw performance, you want the MacBook Pro. It’s easily the most powerful laptop that Apple makes and the fully-loaded model can rival any high-end PC. It can easily handle up to two additional 4K displays and has no problem running complex tasks.

If you’re a professional designer, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is as good of a laptop as you can get for the money. It’s also your best bet if you’re adamant about storing your projects directly on your laptop’s SSD, but the expanded storage options will cost you.

If you want a budget option, well, there are no true budget options when it comes to Apple laptops. The closest you’ll get is the old MacBook Air and that will set you back more than many low-cost windows machines depending on the specs. Still, it has aged well and remains a solid workhorse for both professionals and casual users.

The Daily Logo Challenge is supported by readers. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click on links on our site it is possible we will earn an affiliate commission. This helps pay for the costs of the logo challenge.

Facebook Comments

Staff Writer DLC

Daily Logo Challenge staff writers focus on creating in-depth guides focusing on mastery of design and development. Let us know what you think in the comments section above.