​Apple's Touch Bar-less MacBook Pro is Apple's closest thing to a new MacBook Air

Does the Pro replace your old Air? Apple is counting on it, but it's not exactly the same thing.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read
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Watch this: Apple debuts MacBook Pro

So, deal with it: there's no new MacBook Air. But Apple really, really wants you to consider the cheapest MacBook Pro as your alternative.

There's just one problem: it costs $1,499. You do get 256GB of storage and 8GB of RAM in that configuration. But it also only promises 10 hours of battery life, versus 12 on the Air.

The Air was a perfect little laptop, with an amazing battery life. It never got the Retina Display everyone wanted. Apple's smaller and more limited 12-inch MacBook was one alternative to the Air, but it lacked ports and had less beefy performance.

All the action at Apple's Hello Again event

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The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, announced today, is different. But, as Apple took great pains to explain, it weighs the same as the 13-inch Air (3 pounds). It's not as wedge-shaped, but it's technically smaller and has a tinier footprint. It also has a Retina Display, and a faster processor.

It lacks a few things, though. MagSafe, that nice easy-disconnect power cable we've taken for granted, is gone: instead, you'll need to charge via one of two USB-C-like Thunderbolt 3 ports. Also, the SD card slot is gone. So are standard USB ports. The headphone jack remains.

The entry 13-inch MacBook Pro also lacks Touch ID, and the bold new OLED Touch Bar, the touchable screen-strip that stole the show at the Apple event. To get those features, you'll need to pay up to at least $1,799 (with a faster Core i5 processor, and two more Thunderbolt 3 ports).

Does that add up to an Air replacement? Not to me. But it probably comes a lot closer than the 13-inch MacBook Pro I bought last year, which weighs more and does less. If you disagree, you can still buy the exact same MacBook Air as last year. Or, buy a smaller, more affordable, less powerful 12-inch MacBook. Or, look elsewhere.