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Apple Has New MacBooks. Here’s What You Need to Know

Apple has refreshed its MacBook lineup with a pair of updates that could appeal to shoppers on a budget.

Apple Tuesday updated its MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Both devices come with a black and aluminum design starting at $1,099 ($999 for college students) for the MacBook Air and $1,299 for the MacBook Pro ($1,199 for college students).

In its announcement, which accompanied Apple's decision to quietly discontinue the 12-inch MacBook that debuted in 2017, Apple tried to pitch the MacBooks as ideal for college students who want lightweight computers. But with Touch Bar and Touch ID, which add touch input and fingerprint security, the MacBook Pro, at least, is more suited for professionals.

Here are some key features in the new MacBooks to help users decide whether they're worth buying.

Display

Both the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air have 13-inch Retina displays, a term Apple uses for its screen technology. The computers are the first 13-inch MacBook Pros and MacBook Air to come with True Tone technology that is supposed show more accurate color tones on their screens.

Aside from that, the Macs' displays have thin black bezels and thin designs. The MacBook Air is just 0.61 inches thick when it's closed while the 13-inch MacBook Pro is only 0.59 inches thick.

Design

The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro's exterior designs are similar. They both have a silver-aluminum finish and black bezels around their screens and the usual Apple logo that lights up when the screen is on.

The most notable design difference is revealed when users open the MacBook Pro's lid and see Apple's Touch Bar and Touch ID above the keyboard. Apple's Touch Bar lets users tap and slide with their fingers to change music tracks and adjust photos in PhotoShop.

Touch ID is a small fingerprint sensor next to the Touch Bar that validates a user's identity by scanning his or her fingerprints. It's an alternative to entering a passcode, like what is required in other Macs that don't have Touch ID.

Apple didn't add Touch ID or Touch Bar to the MacBook Air, likely accounting for why it's slightly cheaper than the MacBook Pro.

Power & Important Features

Like other Apple computers, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air come with plenty of options for improved performance.

The MacBook Air has a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. It also ships with 128GB of storage to start, though you can pay extra to increase that to 256GB.

The specs are high end enough that Web surfing, watching movies, and using somewhat sophisticated apps is fine. Anything beyond that, however, like resource-intensive graphics editing or video processing, and users may want to consider a different computer.

Apple's MacBook Pro has a slightly more powerful Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of solid-state storage. Users who need better performance can pay more for an upgraded processor. But on the base model, expect only a slight performance advantage to the MacBook Air.

While the MacBook Air may not be able to keep pace on power, it tops the MacBook Pro on battery life. Apple's MacBook Air promises up to 12 hours of battery life during continuous Internet use and up to 13 hours for continuous iTunes movie playback, according to Apple. The MacBook Pro only allows just 10 hours under both circumstances.

Value

So, which new MacBook is the better buy?

For people who need a simple computing experience and don't require all the bells and whistles, the MacBook Air and its longer battery life is a better option than the MacBook Pro. And since it starts at $1,099 ($999 for college students), it's more affordable.

But for an additional $200, the MacBook Pro adds some important features that professionals may like, including the Touch ID and more powerful processor options. But whether you'd want to pay $1,299 ($1,199 for college students) for a machine that is nearly similarly equipped as the MacBook Air is up to you.

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