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View Full Version : yet another MBP vs MBA thread




michaelrp
Nov 10, 2011, 04:22 PM
Hello, everyone. :)

I know there are numerous threads already about whether to get a MBA or MBP. Naturally, it seems to come down to the user's needs, so I was hoping to get some input for my particular situation.

We currently have a 2006 vintage iMac (17" monitor, 3GB RAM, 2Ghz processor), which is my primary computer, and a 17"MBP from 2010 that my wife uses. We've decided we want to replace the iMac.

I'm torn between a 15" MBP and a 13" MBA.

Here's all the relevant information I can think of:

Cost: The price difference between the two isn't really a big deal. Less important than getting the right machine.

Processing needs: My work mostly just involves using FireFox with 6-8 tabs open. I also use MS Excel often and MS Word on occasion. That's about it. So my understanding is that either computer should be plenty in terms of processing power.

Portability: I work from home, so it's not as if I'll be hauling the computer around between home and the office everyday. Still, we do travel every once in a while, and having one lighter computer would be nice for that

Usability:
a)When at home, I'm working at a desk 99% of the time. So how the computer feels in my lap isn't an issue.
b)I'm used to a 17" monitor and am a bit concerned how I'll do with a 13" monitor. (That said, prior to this iMac, I used an old white Macbook, which I measured as having a 12" monitor. So perhaps I'll just get used to it.)

Other tech spec preferences: Not much here really. Because we have the 17" MBP, I won't need an optical drive. And the 128gb of storage on the MBA will be plenty for my needs.

Summary: I like the idea of a super-portable computer. And I like how speedy the MBA feels at the mac store for simple browsing stuff (which is most of my work). But I'm concerned about the 13" monitor for a primary-use machine.

Any input would be appreciated. :)



johnhurley
Nov 10, 2011, 04:32 PM
Nothing wrong with an mba 13 connected to an external monitor. You can get a decent 24 inch ( or 20 inch if you prefer ) monitor that does 1920 x 1080 for under 200 bucks.

I use my mba both at home and at work and always have it attached to an external monitor dual screen setup.

Having the mba available for air travel or other places where you only use it's screen it also works just peachy and the 1440 x 900 screen resolution is more than decent.

A superdrive external also travels with me but I rarely use it plus always the option of remote drive access on a different machine if you don't carry around an external superdrive. These days rarely needed.

For day to day normal usage no real tangible performance difference between the 2011 13 inch ( mine is an i5 with 4 gb of memory ) and the processors in the macbook pro line. In other words they are all so fast ...

Having an ssd drive versus a normal disk drive is however a huge performance difference for day to day normal usage. If you do get a macbook pro I would recommend an ssd drive ( which you can upgrade yourself ).

sostoobad
Nov 10, 2011, 06:46 PM
Hi I am brand new to the whole Mac thing, but I will give my 2 cents.
I dove into the mac pond with the new MacBook air 13".

After many yrs with "pcs" I was totally frustrated, and found them as advanced as churning butter.

What sold me was the SSD, moving parts are a thing of the past, and after i bought the Air, I read review after review of people who owned BOTH, the macbook pro and the Air, and they said, they spent all of their time on the Air.

And their uses were much more than mine.

I am totally digging the Air.

thenumbersrbad
Nov 10, 2011, 07:27 PM
Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3)

I have a 13" air and am loving it. Only thing I'm frustrated by is the Remote Disk, or either I'm using it wrong lol I can't figure out how to use it to add a cd to my iTunes library and I am also curious about how I would redeem a digital copy of a movie using it. If anyone here as any experience let me know!

Seasought
Nov 10, 2011, 08:41 PM
It doesn't really sound like you need a portable solution given that you don't travel all that much - but that's irrelevant as you want either a MBP or a MBA anyway.

Go with the MBA - you might want to even consider the 11" and use an external monitor (as mentioned by others) at your desk. The 11" is nice to pick up and take to the couch, the porch, bed, etc. Try out both at an Apple store or a Best Buy and you'll have a better idea (I was convinced I wanted the 13" until I tried out the 11" in person). I wanted "ultra portable" and the 11" won out over the 13". Just my thoughts on this.

VMMan
Nov 10, 2011, 11:25 PM
MBA 11" or 13" or MBP 15" with SSD

Xikum
Nov 11, 2011, 02:47 AM
Sounds like the MBP is better for you, as you dont travel much.

If you really want the Air, go with the 11" and spend the extra money on a 20-24" monitor for about 200~

Anastacio
Nov 11, 2011, 03:15 AM
Do you mind if I borrow this thread, instead of creating a new one? As my worries are around the same as yours.

So I'm contemplating buying a MacBook today, and I have thought about it for some days already. My Samsung NC10 netbook broke down recently and I can't get it repaired, so I'm looking at Apples computers.

I'm thinking of either the base MacBook Air (64GB SDD, 2GB RAM), the MacBook Air (128GB SDD, 4GB RAM) or the MacBook Air 13" base model or MacBook Pro base model.

It comes down to this: I'll primarily use it for writing articles for my work. I will have a heavy use of Pages, a bit of Numbers and light editing in Photoshop (I'm not sure yet), and then just the basic tasks like calendar, internet browsing, reeder etc.

Will 2GB of RAM be good enough? Because I don't wanna pay for the more expensive one if 2GB can do it, as I don't need more than 64GB SDD etc. I will never take it outside with me, so it doesn't matter how portable it is. And I will buy the expensive iMac 27" next year, so it doesn't matter how powerful the Air is, it just needs to be able to write pages and have a whole lot of tabs open at once in Chrome/Safari.

cactus33
Nov 11, 2011, 03:52 AM
Do you mind if I borrow this thread, instead of creating a new one? As my worries are around the same as yours.

So I'm contemplating buying a MacBook today, and I have thought about it for some days already. My Samsung NC10 netbook broke down recently and I can't get it repaired, so I'm looking at Apples computers.

I'm thinking of either the base MacBook Air (64GB SDD, 2GB RAM), the MacBook Air (128GB SDD, 4GB RAM) or the MacBook Air 13" base model or MacBook Pro base model.

It comes down to this: I'll primarily use it for writing articles for my work. I will have a heavy use of Pages, a bit of Numbers and light editing in Photoshop (I'm not sure yet), and then just the basic tasks like calendar, internet browsing, reeder etc.

Will 2GB of RAM be good enough? Because I don't wanna pay for the more expensive one if 2GB can do it, as I don't need more than 64GB SDD etc. I will never take it outside with me, so it doesn't matter how portable it is. And I will buy the expensive iMac 27" next year, so it doesn't matter how powerful the Air is, it just needs to be able to write pages and have a whole lot of tabs open at once in Chrome/Safari.


I would suggest that you always go for 4GB of ram. People often go for more, but honestly 4GB is pretty perfect. 2GB is quite low and you might notice some slowing downs.

wiegerr
Nov 11, 2011, 03:53 AM
I know the pickle you're in. It took me a year to decide between 15" MBP and a 13" MBA. In the end I got the MBA with a 256GB drive and I've been very happy with my decission.

A few notes... I have a large library on iTunes and I hate hauling around protable hard drives. That ruines the whole mobilty experience. On my old laptops I would replace the CD-Rom drive with a HDD-caddy, but on Apple products that option isn't available. In that light a 256GB drive is on the small side anno 2011 and I found myself forced to remove some videos from my iTures library.
Considering that unlike music you often only watch a movie once that turned out quite manageable. One might say that a big hard drive is like a large attic, great for letting stuff collect dust rather than chucking it where it belongs... the bin.

Then the screen: Contrary to my own expectations I do not find 13" too little. It's actually just fine. I've editted pictures in Lightroom, browsing is fine and the forseen purchase of 27" Thunderbolt display has been pushed back. Afterall, who wants to sit at a desk, when you can work from the sofa, kitchen table, toilet, balcony, coffeeshop or anywhere else you can imagine.

My conclusion, the MBA is faster, sexier, more practical and more mobile than anything else. It has degraded my iPad to an eReader and all that I miss is a slot for a sim-card, so I don't have to use that fugly dongle.

If money isn't an issue, go for the MBA. The i5 is fine, the speed gain lies in the SSD and the biggest available is recommendable.

Xikum
Nov 11, 2011, 04:17 AM
Do you mind if I borrow this thread, instead of creating a new one? As my worries are around the same as yours.

So I'm contemplating buying a MacBook today, and I have thought about it for some days already. My Samsung NC10 netbook broke down recently and I can't get it repaired, so I'm looking at Apples computers.

I'm thinking of either the base MacBook Air (64GB SDD, 2GB RAM), the MacBook Air (128GB SDD, 4GB RAM) or the MacBook Air 13" base model or MacBook Pro base model.

It comes down to this: I'll primarily use it for writing articles for my work. I will have a heavy use of Pages, a bit of Numbers and light editing in Photoshop (I'm not sure yet), and then just the basic tasks like calendar, internet browsing, reeder etc.

Will 2GB of RAM be good enough? Because I don't wanna pay for the more expensive one if 2GB can do it, as I don't need more than 64GB SDD etc. I will never take it outside with me, so it doesn't matter how portable it is. And I will buy the expensive iMac 27" next year, so it doesn't matter how powerful the Air is, it just needs to be able to write pages and have a whole lot of tabs open at once in Chrome/Safari.

2 GB is RAM is enough for the light work you are doing. I use 2 GB of RAM, and I don't notice any slowing down at all when doing Pages (or in my case MS Word)/Safari/iCal/etc work.

4 GB is of course better and will allow you to do more of those things at the same time, but it isn't 100% necessary.

Abazigal
Nov 11, 2011, 06:08 AM
The only concern I have is that when playing around with the MBA in my nearby store, the 2gb ram of memory seems to be used up fairly quickly, even with apparently no programs open (or perhaps I missed some). So it might be just enough for you, with little or no allowance if you ever need to run additional programs simultaneously for any reason.

If you are sure that typing in pages and light net surfing is all you are going to do for the next 2-3 years, then the entry level 11' MBA should suffice. I do have a friend who went with the 2gb ram version for university. It is still serving him very well, last I heard. :)

Anastacio
Nov 11, 2011, 06:46 AM
I'm pretty sure. I mean, a lot of people tell me to go with 4GB, but I only need to use Pages/Word and Safari/Chrome simultaneously, maybe with 10 or more tabs open - probably use the Twitter and Reeder apps as well. Nothing else. So 2GB is good enough? Ill make a decision in a few hours. And I'll buy e iMac 27" Ultimate next year where I will do all my medias, edit photos and videos etc., but that's for iMac, not the Air. =)

BadaBing!!
Nov 11, 2011, 06:50 AM
I'd go for 4Gb anyway. While 2Gb might be enough today, you don't know if it'll be enough in 1 or 2 years.

Anastacio
Nov 11, 2011, 07:14 AM
I'd go for 4Gb anyway. While 2Gb might be enough today, you don't know if it'll be enough in 1 or 2 years.

You're totally right about that. But if I'll only be using it for the same tasks 2 years on, then it should surely be good enough, if 2GB does it now? Maybe an OS update comes out or a newer version of the OS X will launch, but then I can at least update it on the iMac 27" and just let the MacBook Air be were its at.

Besides, I want to save as much money as possible, as it won't be my primary computer next year, it'll become the alternative.

Vantage Point
Nov 11, 2011, 07:21 AM
I often use up all my 8Gb in my 15" so I would strongly recommend getting the 4Gb instead of the 2Gb. Consider it insurance and higher resale value down the road when you want to sell it

michaelrp
Nov 11, 2011, 07:23 AM
OP here. Just wanted to say thank you to everybody for the feedback -- it's been very useful.

For whatever reason, I hadn't really considered the possibility of buying a 13" MBA, trying it for a couple months, then just getting an external monitor if I really feel the need for a bigger screen. At this point, that's the option I'm leaning toward.

That said, still very happy to get any further input. :)

Thanks again!

Anastacio
Nov 11, 2011, 07:26 AM
I'll consider the 4GB, I'm looking at it on Apples website now.

Though, it have to be said, that I were perfectly fine with my Samsung NC10 which started out with 1GB of RAM until I added one more for 2GB with Windows XP and Word - that worked perfectly for my needs of web browsing and writing.

PS: Sorry for derailing a bit, guys keep focusing on michaelrp as well. =)

Anastacio
Nov 11, 2011, 07:48 AM
If I buy a MacBook Air used, will I be able to completely reinstall the operating system and wipe all of his stuff from the computer? Should a USB stick be packaged in to do so?

Edit: Arg crap, double post, and I can't erase this one..

Edit 2:

Alright, you have convinced me to buy a MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD tomorrow, when the stores open (so I won't buy it through Apple, but it shouldn't make a difference). Now's just the question if it should be the 11" high-end or the 13" base model.

The differences are screen resolution, size of screen, size of the computer, an SD slot, better battery and that's it?

Besides, I got an iPad 1 with a 9.7" screen, so a 13" Air would fit better alongside the 27" iMac next year, but I really like the form factor, the small size of the 11".

Anastacio
Nov 11, 2011, 09:12 AM
- Erase this post -

ecib
Nov 11, 2011, 10:37 AM
I'm torn between a 15" MBP and a 13" MBA.

Cost: The price difference between the two isn't really a big deal. Less important than getting the right machine.

Processing needs: My work mostly just involves using FireFox with 6-8 tabs open. I also use MS Excel often and MS Word on occasion. That's about it. So my understanding is that either computer should be plenty in terms of processing power.

Portability: I work from home, so it's not as if I'll be hauling the computer around between home and the office everyday. Still, we do travel every once in a while, and having one lighter computer would be nice for that

Usability:
a)When at home, I'm working at a desk 99% of the time. So how the computer feels in my lap isn't an issue.
b)I'm used to a 17" monitor and am a bit concerned how I'll do with a 13" monitor. (That said, prior to this iMac, I used an old white Macbook, which I measured as having a 12" monitor. So perhaps I'll just get used to it.)

Other tech spec preferences: Not much here really. Because we have the 17" MBP, I won't need an optical drive. And the 128gb of storage on the MBA will be plenty for my needs.

Summary: I like the idea of a super-portable computer. And I like how speedy the MBA feels at the mac store for simple browsing stuff (which is most of my work). But I'm concerned about the 13" monitor for a primary-use machine.

Any input would be appreciated. :)


I own an MBA 13" Ultimate, and my girl has a new MBP, but it is also 13":

Cost - As you said, this is not an issue really

Processing Needs - Both machines can do what you described perfectly

Portability - You travel only occasionally. Here the MBA will clearly shine. I notice that you said you use it mostly on a desk at home. I think one thing you are NOT anticipating should you purchase a 13" Air is that that will no longer be the case once you own one. They are so light and portable, that you'll find yourself carrying it with you from room to room, using it on the couch, in the kitchen to look up a recipe while cooking, etc. I used to use a larger laptop on a desk, but it's surprising how much your usage behavior can change depending on the device. That's my thoughts on that.

Usability - I can't answer this for you since it is personal preference. I find that I do research, word processing, and spreadsheets on my 13" just fine. That being said, I've only downsized from a 15", so the difference was not as large.

Other Specs - One thing I would say is that the MBA is going to feel A LOT faster than the MBP for everyday use (opening up applications, etc) because of the SSD. It's awesome. Of course, you mentioned money is not a huge issue, so you could upgrade your MBP to SSD as well. At any rate, this is just a nice technical aspect of SSD devices that you don't appreciate till you use one.

It seems like the screen is your biggest sticking point to me. You can always pick one up and actually use it. You can return it within a certain amount of time if you don't like it...but...I have a feeling you will.

One last thought I'm having is noting that your old machine is pretty old. Do you plan on actively using this for a long time like your iMac? If so, you might want to look at the MBP, since you can upgrade the RAM and memory. It futureproofs better.

Those are my 2 or 3 cents.

----------

I'm pretty sure. I mean, a lot of people tell me to go with 4GB, but I only need to use Pages/Word and Safari/Chrome simultaneously, maybe with 10 or more tabs open - probably use the Twitter and Reeder apps as well. Nothing else. So 2GB is good enough? Ill make a decision in a few hours. And I'll buy e iMac 27" Ultimate next year where I will do all my medias, edit photos and videos etc., but that's for iMac, not the Air. =)

Dude, just go 4GB. It's the cheapest 100 bucks you'll ever spend.

Yes, 2GB is fine for now with your use case, but if your use case changes, then maybe not so much. Also, there may also be a future OS upgrade that has some great features you want, but really wants 4GB to run smoothly.

If you could upgrade later, I'd say 2GB 100% of the time for your case. But since you will never get that option again, 4GB all the way.

dmk1974
Nov 11, 2011, 10:45 AM
I too was debating the 13" MBP vs 13" MBA. I'm keeping the Air. You can see in my poll, the majority agreed with me as well.

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1270691