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There are myriad versions of 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro, 13-Inch MacBook Air, and regular “pre-Retina” 13-Inch MacBook Pro models. Here at Techable, we have meticulously documented all the distinct lines that have been launched and released over the years.


Based on consumers’ feedback, many clients who prefer the smallest notebook are most likely to choose an 11-Inch MacBook Air; besides this, the 11-Inch MacBook Air and 12-Inch Retina MacBook models are also included in the list. Anybody who prefers a bigger display and faster performance selects a 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro. The decision of which to buy is simple to make if these are the only criteria. But, buyers who look for value instead of battery life, size, upgrades, performance, and cost would most likely end up with the 13-Inch options available in the market.


For your convenience, we have provided technical comparisons between the 13-Inch and 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro and 11-Inch and 13 Inch MacBook Air lines. Let this be a less technical answer to questions about the best 13-Inch Apple notebook.

13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro (Photo Credit:

External Differences

There are interesting differences in the external and design of the mentioned models.


It doesn’t matter what the release date is, the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro version utilizes an efficiently and effectively sealed, uniformly thin design that is a three-quarter inch thick. The line is also 3.5 pounds heavy. These features are difficult to upgrade. There are even times when it is not possible.


On the other hand, the regular versions of the MacBook Pro including the still available MacBook Pro “Core i5” 2.5 13-Inch Mid 2012 employ the “Unibody” design that appears to be the same, but this line is easier to upgrade so it becomes thicker and heavier. The model is less than an inch thick which a bit heavier at 4.5 pounds. Anyone who is very particular about this can think about these external factors.


Most of the MacBook Air models have a tapered design which makes them thicker at the back, then thinner at the front as compared to other versions. New models along this line are only 0.68 inches at the rear and 11.0-inch razor thin at front. They also weigh under 3 pounds that users find them more portable and compact.


The 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro versions are trusted for their “pixel doubled” at 1280×800 display which is four times more detailed than the traditional monitors around. The 13.3” widescreen 2560×1600 or 227 ppi is an accurate visual for users who are meticulous with graphics. The regular MacBook Pro, on the other hand, has a 13.3” 1280×800 glossy display that is considered to be a sophisticated and high-end resolution for its physical dimensions. It has the specifications of 13.3” 1440×900 but they are not at par with the Retina Display line.


All of the units feature a full-size “chiclet-style” backlit keyboard that makes typing more accurate and quieter. They also have a glass “no button” trackpads that are equipped with “inertial scrolling” support or even more. There are integrated stereo speakers, a microphone, and an integrated 720p FaceTime HD webcam that is reliable for video chatting.


It is worth considering that neither the MacBook Air models nor the Retina Display Pro have a built-in optical drive that reads data easily. This sets a regular MacBook Pro model apart because it does.

13-Inch MacBook Air (Photo Credit:

Connectivity Differences

The connectivity of these versions is not very similar. They have evolved over the years. But, all of them provide Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, headphone jack and USB ports. Many of the current releases have an SDXC-capable SD card slot that allows Mac to read and write data to SD media including those from digital camera memory cards.


Generally, the 13-Inch Retina Display lines flaunt a more advanced connectivity for users. This is through the two Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 ports with an HDMI port on the side as well. The interconnect technology enables a combination of six peripherals such as monitors and storage devices so that they are daisy-chained together as one.


The “regular” MacBook Pro, on the other hand, uses a “legacy” connectivity. This offers functionality with higher speeds that are all present in a more compact design. The Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire “800” support are the addition to the usual single Thunderbolt port found on the recent models. These functions are useful for increasing the number of network hard drives that are beginning to be available in the market these days. The recent MacBook Air versions have a Thunderbolt or Thunderbolt 2 port as well; however, none of the units in this model includes a Gigabit Ethernet or Firewire “800” capabilities which are notable differences too.


Identification Differences

Techable has diligently and carefully consolidated the various unique identifiers for every Mac model out there. The important features include the EMC Number, Model Number, Model Identifier, and many more.


For this Q&A to be less technical, it is ideal to take note that most of the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro versions do not show a name on the display bezel. Instead, they are only identified and referred to as “MacBook Pro” at the bottom of the unit. The same way that the 13-Inch “Regular” MacBook Pro versions are labeled “MacBook Pro” on the display bezel, on the right-hand side is the optical drive. The 13-Inch MacBook Air versions are also the same because they say “MacBook Air” on the display bezel.


If you intend to buy one of these units in the used or secondhand market, it will be necessary that you are well-versed with specific identification details. They are vital.


Here at Techable, we have a lookup feature that will make research simpler. You can identify the exact system you are using with the EMC Number, Model Number, and Model Identifier. Even the Serial Number can be of help too.


Internal Differences

These systems on these models have differences from year to year. But, the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro lines are way too powerful than the 13-Inch MacBook Air. However, the MacBook Air versions have a longer battery life than its precedents. Since the 13-Inch “regular” MacBook Pro models are from the previous releases, they feature a less sturdy architecture that is of a shorter runtime as compared to the current MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models. These are crucial considerations users must make.


But, the regular models of the same line have a RAM that can only be upgraded with an additional cost right after the initial purchase. This can be expensive for anyone planning to. However, it is the answer to a 16 GB upgrade for current models, whereas the Retina Display MacBook Pro and MacBook Air versions have RAM attached in place by default. This is not upgradeable.


Furthermore, the recent 13-Inch MacBook Air versions are upgradeable to 8GB RAM only during the purchase, and the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models are also the same too. However, the recent Retina Display MacBook Pro models have an expandable RAM of 16 GB at the time of its purchase too. It is important to note that this should happen after the initial purchase.


Based on the original settings, the regular MacBook Pro comes with a large capacity but slow hard drives. However, this breed has fast removable SSD modules which are also found in the MacBook Air and Retina Display models. Users can upgrade the regular models easily so that they can have fast and large capacity SSDs. And this can be done affordably during the initial purchase. This is the answer to a faster and larger capacity of SSD which can be inexpensive after the purchase. Having this upgrade is a way to stay competitive in carrying out various tasks. So if you are thinking of maximizing the performance of your unit, this should help. There is even an option at the aftermarket to install a second hard drive or SSD in the optical drive. This can be useful too.


There are also differences in their batteries too. For example, the battery in most of the regular versions has shorter capacity and life compared to Retina Display MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. They are simple to replace too. At present, even the batteries of MacBook Air are replaceable too. The 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro versions feature an internal battery design that is attached to a place. This cannot be replaced or altered.


Comparison Chart

Understand the difference of the 13-Inch “regular” MacBook Pro, 13-Inch MacBook Pro, and 13-Inch Retina through this comparison chart:



  13” Retina Regular 13” Pro 13” Air
Key Advantages:

Display Resolution

Overall Speed

Easy & Fast Upgrades

Internal Optical Drive

Size & Weight

Battery Life

Key Disadvantages:

Limited Upgrades

Battery Glued In

Size & Weight

Slower Architectures

Limited Upgrades

Relatively Slow

Approx. Weight: ~3.5 Pounds ~4.5 Pounds <3 Pounds
Design: Unibody Unibody (Upgradable) Tapered
Std. Resolution: 2560×1600 1280×800 1440×900
Std. Storage Type: SSD Hard Drive SSD
Storage Upgrades: Yes Yes Yes
Optical: None 8X DL None
Max RAM: 16 GB 16 GB 8 GB
RAM Upgrades: No Yes No
RAM Slots: None 2 None
Thunderbolt (½): 2 1 1
HDMI: 1 None None
USB (2.0/3.0) 2 2 2
FW 800: None 1 None
Ethernet: None Gigabit None
Battery Design: Glued Integrated Integrated


What’s ideal for your needs?

If you give high priority to weight, size, battery life and connectivity, you can think about getting a MacBook Air. If connectivity and performance are not very crucial, a Retina MacBook may do. For simple and inexpensive upgrades with an optical drive and legacy connectivity, a regular MacBook Pro can be a viable option.


As for a vibrant, high-resolution performance and display, without much concern about the physical built of the unit, battery placement, and sealed design, the best choice will surely be the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro.


At the end of the day, the choice still depends upon what your needs are.

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