PDA

View Full Version : MBA Processing Power




Slivortal
Jun 24, 2012, 04:56 PM
Hello,

I'm currently writing this from a 2009 13" MBP 2.53 Ghz 4GB RAM. It's been three years, and I want to upgrade my computer.

It's not simply that this computer is "getting old." It's been running pretty slow recently, especially ever since I've started to try Virtualbox. I'm one for performance, and the performance that I've been getting out of this computer doesn't feel acceptable. I was considering waiting out until Haswell next year, but with Intel basically releasing a new chip every year at this point, I figure now is as good a time to upgrade as any (not to mention that I probably need to).

I'm a computer science major in college. Several times I've been told not to buy the MBA because of the ULV processor. This is a big issue, as I have been looking into a Quad-Core i7 processor, especially considering the possibility that I may want multiple VMs running in the near future. The lack of a discrete graphics card and decent VRAM is something that I could also see contributing to poor performance, especially on both emulated OSs as emulated mobile devices. Add in taxing processes on Terminal, and I'm definitely not a computer user that you'd consider lightweight (even though I don't do any video/photo editing). I may game once in a while, but that would be the rare game (although some of those games would also be done in a VM).

Even though I've mentioned that the MBA does not fit many of the things I've thought I've needed (and am still not sure on), it cheaply gives me three things that I do want - IvyBridge, SSD, and a minimum 8GB of RAM.

For this reason I originally considered the new RMBP. Now, the RMBP is quite the investment, and one that probably wouldn't be upgraded for a while (which I'm not too fond of). I'd probably be paying $2,180 for the base model +16GB RAM (after student discount) (about $940 more than the RMBP I would be facing it against). So, allow me to get straight to the point:

Will the 2012 13" MBA @ 1.8 GHz i5 8 GB RAM/$1240 fit my needs? Or do I need to look to a higher model to get the computing power that I desire? Right now I feel that the RMBP is my only recourse, but please sure your experiences of multiple VMs/games - I'd be happy to spend less money (and upgrade sooner in the future).

Thanks.



brentsg
Jun 24, 2012, 05:00 PM
There really isn't a description of your uses that's easy to understand.

If you want a lot of CPU power and plan to run multiple VMs at the same time then you won't want an ULV dual core CPU.

Slivortal
Jun 24, 2012, 05:11 PM
There really isn't a description of your uses that's easy to understand.

If you want a lot of CPU power and plan to run multiple VMs at the same time then you won't want an ULV dual core CPU.

Sorry. My uses revolve around the use of multiple OSs to write and experiment with programs/shell code. Additionally, I'd like to use the sandbox aspect of virtual machines to try and experiment with processes I'd normally consider too dangerous to use on my regular computer. I like to tinker a lot with multiple (virtual) computers, and I'd like to have a computer that could handle (almost) everything that I could throw at it.

I'm rather new to this, but I know what I'm working off of right now (which is the bare minimum of what I'd eventually like to work with) certainly isn't handling it well (speed issues, heating problems, etc).

I've heard wild stories about how the MBA is a far better computer than anyone would expect it to be - in spite of the ULV dual core, limit @ 8 GB of RAM, etc. I was curious if anyone could provide any such examples, or if I'd just have to bite the bullet on a mobile powerhouse.

aristobrat
Jun 24, 2012, 05:30 PM
I've heard wild stories about how the MBA is a far better computer than anyone would expect it to be - in spite of the ULV dual core
IMO, that's because most people had no idea that it was the speed of the disk that was making their system run so slowly, not the speed of their processor.

Computers have traditionally been marketed as "the faster the processor, the faster the computer". And while that's usually true when it comes to serious number crunching (iMovie export, Handbrake rip), having a faster processor rarely makes day-to-day tasks in iTunes, Safari, Mail, or iPhoto run faster. Having an SSD does. This surprises some people, which I think is why you see wild stories sometimes.

Do you run Activity Monitor with View > Dock Icon >Show CPU history set on, so that you can get a real feel for how much processor you're actually using on your current Mac?

Here's what mine looks like on the Air, with a Windows 7 VM running (using VMware). Granted, nothing was going on in the Windows 7 VM at the time (IE and Word were open, but not being used), but still, the processors were pretty dead.

KPOM
Jun 24, 2012, 05:33 PM
The i5 will blow away your 13" MPB. No, it isn't as fast as the Retina MacBook Pro, but it is a very powerful machine. Plus the SSD will speed up anything disk-intensive (which is a lot more than you probably realize). The GPU is also respectable, which is saying something for Intel Integrated Graphics.

I run Windows 7 64-bit in a virtual machine, and it was fast enough for me with 4GB in my 2011. With 8GB in the 2012, it is almost like running it natively in Boot Camp. I can't speak for running multiple VMs at a time. Certainly having 16GB of RAM or a quad-core would help there, but for running a single VM, the MacBook Air is fine.

Slivortal
Jun 24, 2012, 05:44 PM
IMO, that's because most people had no idea that it was the speed of the disk that was making their system run so slowly, not the speed of their processor.

Computers have traditionally been marketed as "the faster the processor, the faster the computer". And while that's usually true when it comes to serious number crunching (iMovie export, Handbrake rip), having a faster processor rarely makes day-to-day tasks in iTunes, Safari, Mail, or iPhoto run faster. Having an SSD does. This surprises some people, which I think is why you see wild stories sometimes.

Do you run Activity Monitor with View > Dock Icon >Show CPU history set on, so that you can get a real feel for how much processor you're actually using on your current Mac?

Here's what mine looks like on the Air, with a Windows 7 VM running (using VMware). Granted, nothing was going on in the Windows 7 VM at the time (IE and Word were open, but not being used), but still, the processors were pretty dead.

When I'm running a single VM (haven't tried multiple VMs yet), the Activity Monitor outside of my VM will report 40-80% CPU usage. The Activity Monitor within my VM will consistently spike to 100%. I rarely actually run out of RAM, but I feel that's because I'm being throttled on CPU usage.

My computer runs hot whenever I'm using a VM, but it will also run hot if Safari has too many tabs - so I'm not sure if that's a good metric.

The i5 will blow away your 13" MPB. No, it isn't as fast as the Retina MacBook Pro, but it is a very powerful machine. Plus the SSD will speed up anything disk-intensive (which is a lot more than you probably realize). The GPU is also respectable, which is saying something for Intel Integrated Graphics.

I run Windows 7 64-bit in a virtual machine, and it was fast enough for me with 4GB in my 2011. With 8GB in the 2012, it is almost like running it natively in Boot Camp. I can't speak for running multiple VMs at a time. Certainly having 16GB of RAM or a quad-core would help there, but for running a single VM, the MacBook Air is fine.

I have no doubt anything IvyBridge and SSD would blow my current computer out of the water - thus why I can't wait to upgrade. My issue though seems to be that my CPU is SO underpowered (and RAM so low) that I really can't judge just how much more I'd need to accomplish my tasks - my RAM and CPU often hit full, but using all of the specs in my current model doesn't exactly say how much I'd need in using future specs.

jsolares
Jun 24, 2012, 05:45 PM
Hello,

I'm currently writing this from a 2009 13" MBP 2.53 Ghz 4GB RAM. It's been three years, and I want to upgrade my computer.

It's not simply that this computer is "getting old." It's been running pretty slow recently, especially ever since I've started to try Virtualbox. I'm one for performance, and the performance that I've been getting out of this computer doesn't feel acceptable. I was considering waiting out until Haswell next year, but with Intel basically releasing a new chip every year at this point, I figure now is as good a time to upgrade as any (not to mention that I probably need to).

I'm a computer science major in college. Several times I've been told not to buy the MBA because of the ULV processor. This is a big issue, as I have been looking into a Quad-Core i7 processor, especially considering the possibility that I may want multiple VMs running in the near future. The lack of a discrete graphics card and decent VRAM is something that I could also see contributing to poor performance, especially on both emulated OSs as emulated mobile devices. Add in taxing processes on Terminal, and I'm definitely not a computer user that you'd consider lightweight (even though I don't do any video/photo editing). I may game once in a while, but that would be the rare game (although some of those games would also be done in a VM).

Even though I've mentioned that the MBA does not fit many of the things I've thought I've needed (and am still not sure on), it cheaply gives me three things that I do want - IvyBridge, SSD, and a minimum 8GB of RAM.

For this reason I originally considered the new RMBP. Now, the RMBP is quite the investment, and one that probably wouldn't be upgraded for a while (which I'm not too fond of). I'd probably be paying $2,180 for the base model +16GB RAM (after student discount) (about $940 more than the RMBP I would be facing it against). So, allow me to get straight to the point:

Will the 2012 13" MBA @ 1.8 GHz i5 8 GB RAM/$1240 fit my needs? Or do I need to look to a higher model to get the computing power that I desire? Right now I feel that the RMBP is my only recourse, but please sure your experiences of multiple VMs/games - I'd be happy to spend less money (and upgrade sooner in the future).

Thanks.

Know this, the new i7 2012 Air is approaching the geekbench scores of my 2010 2.8ghz i5.

I have a 2011 Air and i sometimes run 2 VMs (1 for Visual Studio development, and the other for Linux) i've had 0 problems, the only issue is i was approaching using all 4GB of ram, but with the new ones with 8GB i'm sure you could run many more.

The 2012 i5 might fit your needs, but it'll ultimately depend on how much cpu your VMs actually require when running more than 1.

Slivortal
Jun 24, 2012, 05:56 PM
Know this, the new i7 2012 Air is approaching the geekbench scores of my 2010 2.8ghz i5.

I have a 2011 Air and i sometimes run 2 VMs (1 for Visual Studio development, and the other for Linux) i've had 0 problems, the only issue is i was approaching using all 4GB of ram, but with the new ones with 8GB i'm sure you could run many more.

The 2012 i5 might fit your needs, but it'll ultimately depend on how much cpu your VMs actually require when running more than 1.

The 2012 i7 might be better than the 2012 i5, but that has issues of its own. Mainly, the only way to get a cheap i7 chip is to get the higher-end 11" for $1275 (8GB RAM+i7+128GB). To get it on a 13", Apple would force me to upgrade to a 256GB SSD, and 8GB RAM+i7+256GB is $1630, at which point the extra $370 would probably be worth it for a low-end RMBP @ $2000 (the extra $180 going into RAM would also be an upgrade, so I didn't include it).

A 11" i7 is certainly an option - for all the processing power I use, my actual storage usage is surprisingly low (think 40GB even with OSX), but at that point I'd be worried about my main workstation being an 11" screen - a 13" is nice, but I couldn't see myself working with something much smaller than it.

128GB SSD @ 13" @ i7 might be nice - if only Apple offered it (should I ask... ;) )

Note this isn't an argument of budget, but an argument of cost-effectiveness - if I'd be spending $1630 on an MBA, I'd rather just get the RMBP for less than $400 more (the argument for getting an MBA in my case is cost-effectiveness, after all).

EDIT: As for your question of CPU usage, I really don't know - as I said, my Ubuntu VM uses 100% of its virtual CPU by merely existing - but that's off a Core 2 Duo.

aristobrat
Jun 24, 2012, 06:03 PM
EDIT: As for your question of CPU usage, I really don't know - as I said, my Ubuntu VM uses 100% of its virtual CPU by merely existing - but that's off a Core 2 Duo.
That seems odd that it'd be chewing 100% of its (virtual) CPU. Was it running a process you'd expect to be using a lot of the processor, like updatedb or something?

Slivortal
Jun 24, 2012, 06:08 PM
That seems odd that it'd be chewing 100% of its (virtual) CPU. Was it running a process you'd expect to be using a lot of the processor, like updatedb or something?

Not really. It's running Unity, which I thought might be eating away at its CPU, but after a successful download, my attempts to switch to GNOME Classic just caused my VM (as well as my main computer) to crash.

I guess the CPU usage skyrockets when I use any sort of app - so in this case, my hypothesis was that simply by running the Activity Monitor, it was eating away its CPU (ironic, I know), as it was by far the heaviest CPU usage - but not noticeably more heavy than Terminal, Firefox, etc, when I forced Ubuntu to lag-start them up as well.

RAM was only at 300 MB/1 GB allocation, so it was surprising, to say the least.

KPOM
Jun 24, 2012, 09:02 PM
I have no doubt anything IvyBridge and SSD would blow my current computer out of the water - thus why I can't wait to upgrade. My issue though seems to be that my CPU is SO underpowered (and RAM so low) that I really can't judge just how much more I'd need to accomplish my tasks - my RAM and CPU often hit full, but using all of the specs in my current model doesn't exactly say how much I'd need in using future specs.

The Core i5/i7 have 4 "virtual cores." What I've read is that in reality it amounts to about a 10-15% improvement in practice, since the main benefit is that it can keep both physical cores busy more of the time. The bigger difference is that the Sandy Bridge micro architecture (which the Ivy Bridge chip uses) is more efficient than the Core micro architecture.

If you don't mind the added weight and cost, certainly the Retina MacBook Pro with 4 real cores would be better for running virtual machines, plus you'll have the benefit of the nicer screen. However, I think the Air would be quite an improvement.

Slivortal
Jun 25, 2012, 07:43 AM
The Core i5/i7 have 4 "virtual cores." What I've read is that in reality it amounts to about a 10-15% improvement in practice, since the main benefit is that it can keep both physical cores busy more of the time. The bigger difference is that the Sandy Bridge micro architecture (which the Ivy Bridge chip uses) is more efficient than the Core micro architecture.

If you don't mind the added weight and cost, certainly the Retina MacBook Pro with 4 real cores would be better for running virtual machines, plus you'll have the benefit of the nicer screen. However, I think the Air would be quite an improvement.

Yeah, I guess it comes down to a personal decision. But, what keeps pulling me away from the RMBP is that while I can afford the price, it wouldn't be something that I could simply upgrade in a few years - it's a long term (depreciating) investment. And with Intel now releasing a new CPU basically EVERY year, I'm not sure I want to put myself in that situation.

But if I do choose an MBA, should I go 11"/8GB/128GB/i7 2.0 GHz, or 13"/8GB/128GB/i5 1.8GHz? It sounds like the former may be more powerful, but is it actually possible to get real work (across multiple VMs) done on an 11"?

aristobrat
Jun 25, 2012, 08:02 AM
In terms of depreciating value, I'd guess since the rMBP isn't as much of a commodity system as the Air is, it may depreciate less quickly than the Air.

Personally, I prefer 15" screens. I've been using a 13" Air for the last two years (mostly hooked up to an external monitor), and it's OK when I'm traveling with it it. I couldn't imagine using an 11" screen, but that's just the old in me talking. :)

brentsg
Jun 25, 2012, 08:08 AM
You should be able to use 1 virtual machine just fine on a dual core machine without causing any problems. If you can't, then you might have some compatibility or configuration issue.

aristobrat
Jun 25, 2012, 08:09 AM
I've had three going OK on my 2011 13" i7 MBA.

KPOM
Jun 25, 2012, 08:16 AM
And with Intel now releasing a new CPU basically EVERY year, I'm not sure I want to put myself in that situation.

But if I do choose an MBA, should I go 11"/8GB/128GB/i7 2.0 GHz, or 13"/8GB/128GB/i5 1.8GHz? It sounds like the former may be more powerful, but is it actually possible to get real work (across multiple VMs) done on an 11"?

The 11" screen has a 1366x768 display, while the 13" has a 1440x900 display. The latter would be better for running multiple windows, though either model would work equally well with an external monitor, such as an Apple Thunderbolt Display.

If your primary concern is Intel's rapid CPU cycle, you may be better off sticking with the i5. It saves $100 on the 13" model, and it isn't much slower. Next year (Haswell) is the "tock" in Intel's cycle, which means a bigger boost to the CPU and GPU. Broadwell, in late 2014 or 2015, will be the "tick" (die shrink). That way in 2 years you can update to the next version, and maybe Apple will be able to fit a quad-core into the Air by then.

Slivortal
Jun 25, 2012, 10:07 AM
I guess the only issue I'm worried about is whether a 1.8 GHz ULV will really detract from my usage as compared to a regular processor at something closer to 2.5 GHz. I'm no expert on clock speeds - is this a rational worry, or does a combination of SSD and RAM almost make GHz and quad-cores not worth the $1000+?

jsolares
Jun 25, 2012, 10:27 AM
I guess the only issue I'm worried about is whether a 1.8 GHz ULV will really detract from my usage as compared to a regular processor at something closer to 2.5 GHz. I'm no expert on clock speeds - is this a rational worry, or does a combination of SSD and RAM almost make GHz and quad-cores not worth the $1000+?

not a rational worry at all, as i said, the ULVs are approaching the performance of desktops cpus circa 2010

Beau10
Jun 25, 2012, 10:33 AM
I'm no expert on clock speeds - is this a rational worry, or does a combination of SSD and RAM almost make GHz and quad-cores not worth the $1000+?

Hi, fellow former CS student here (BSCS UCSD '99).

The only thing I can say is I had a similar use case with an early 2k8 MBP like you describe, and replacing the spinning disk w/ an SSD (160G Intel X25-M) made a world of difference.

Right now I use a 2k12 11" i5/8/128 but only do open source web dev (primarily Rails right now), so I'm definitely not pushing the machine as hard.

My advice is go pick up the Air first, if it doesn't work out you can return within 14 days without paying a restocking fee.

KPOM
Jun 25, 2012, 11:08 AM
I guess the only issue I'm worried about is whether a 1.8 GHz ULV will really detract from my usage as compared to a regular processor at something closer to 2.5 GHz. I'm no expert on clock speeds - is this a rational worry, or does a combination of SSD and RAM almost make GHz and quad-cores not worth the $1000+?

not a rational worry at all, as i said, the ULVs are approaching the performance of desktops cpus circa 2010

True. Sandy Bridge was a sea change, and Ivy Bridge is a further refinement on that. By the time we get to Haswell next year, the distinction between mobile and desktop will be blurred even further.

The only things I'd be concerned about are gaming and running more than 2 virtual machines. The HD4000 is decent for everyday use, and light gaming, but this isn't a gaming machine by any stretch. As for virtual machines, 1 will run with ease, particularly if you get the 8GB version. 2 would start to slow down, as OS X and the two VMs would need to share the two physical cores. More than 2, and I'd seriously consider the Retina MBP upgraded to 16GB, though that is $2399.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 02:03 PM
True. Sandy Bridge was a sea change, and Ivy Bridge is a further refinement on that. By the time we get to Haswell next year, the distinction between mobile and desktop will be blurred even further.

The only things I'd be concerned about are gaming and running more than 2 virtual machines. The HD4000 is decent for everyday use, and light gaming, but this isn't a gaming machine by any stretch. As for virtual machines, 1 will run with ease, particularly if you get the 8GB version. 2 would start to slow down, as OS X and the two VMs would need to share the two physical cores. More than 2, and I'd seriously consider the Retina MBP upgraded to 16GB, though that is $2399.

I mean, the biggest thing I'm worried about getting an RMBP is that it's so expensive, and I probably will want to upgrade in 2-3 years at the breakneck speed that Intel is moving along. It'll be much easier to upgrade off a $1250 Air than a $2200 RMBP, which is my real hesitation towards the RMBP.

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 02:17 PM
I mean, the biggest thing I'm worried about getting an RMBP is that it's so expensive, and I probably will want to upgrade in 2-3 years at the breakneck speed that Intel is moving along. It'll be much easier to upgrade off a $1250 Air than a $2200 RMBP, which is my real hesitation towards the RMBP.

No, I got your point. The MacBook Air is the "safer" choice because it costs less. In general, "buying up" does a lot less "future proofing" than it did 10-15 years ago, or even 5 years ago because Intel sells a single micro-architecture at a time, which they didn't always do. There were real differences between a 486 and Pentium, for instance (or even Core 2 vs. original Core i3/i5/i7) that just aren't the case with the current line. Today, though Intel sells a single icroarchitecture, just with different speeds and features. Now that Ivy Bridge is out, Sandy Bridge will be gone from the supply chain.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 02:33 PM
No, I got your point. The MacBook Air is the "safer" choice because it costs less. In general, "buying up" does a lot less "future proofing" than it did 10-15 years ago, or even 5 years ago because Intel sells a single micro-architecture at a time, which they didn't always do. There were real differences between a 486 and Pentium, for instance (or even Core 2 vs. original Core i3/i5/i7) that just aren't the case with the current line. Today, though Intel sells a single icroarchitecture, just with different speeds and features. Now that Ivy Bridge is out, Sandy Bridge will be gone from the supply chain.

So, do you think Intel will keep with the current i3/i5/i7 setup, then? I'm not really worried as much about losing out on a small upgrade as I am getting the equivalent of a C2D and watching as the next i3/i5/i7 come out (as Haswell will be the first tock since the C2D/SandyBridge switch).

But I guess the question is if a 13" i5 1.8GHz/8GB RAM will actually fulfill my needs, and if it would detract from my experience as much as a 15" MBPR. From my perspective, as long as it would perform as well as the MBPR would (in spite of smaller/non-Retina screen), it doesn't really matter which one I actually get (my experience would be the same).

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 02:39 PM
So, do you think Intel will keep with the current i3/i5/i7 setup, then? I'm not really worried as much about losing out on a small upgrade as I am getting the equivalent of a C2D and watching as the next i3/i5/i7 come out (as Haswell will be the first tock since the C2D/SandyBridge switch).

But I guess the question is if a 13" i5 1.8GHz/8GB RAM will actually fulfill my needs, and if it would detract from my experience as much as a 15" MBPR. From my perspective, as long as it would perform as well as the MBPR would (in spite of smaller/non-Retina screen), it doesn't really matter which one I actually get (my experience would be the same).

We pretty much know Intel's road map for the next few years. My guess is that they will stick with the branding, sort of like how they called everything "Pentium" for a few years even though the architectures changed radically.

Ivy Bridge will give way to Haswell, which is a "tock" on Intel's tick-tock strategy. A "tick" is a die shrink. Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge have the same CPU architecture. It's just that Sandy Bridge is made on a 32nm process, and Ivy Bridge a 22nm process. The smaller die lets Intel make the chips modestly faster without using up more power. It also lets them make the chips smaller. With Ivy Bridge, Intel also improved the GPU. Haswell will be a new microarchitecture, so we'll see more CPU improvements than we did this year, along with a significantly improved GPU. The main focus will be on power consumption, though. It will still be made on a 22nm process. Broadwell after that will be another "tick," taking Haswell and shrinking it to a 14nm process. Skymont is the next "tock."

If everything goes as planned, Haswell will be out late next year, with Broadwell in early 2015. By then, the difference between Ivy Bridge of any kind and Broadwell will probably be as significant as the leap from Core 2 to the original Core i5. By Haswell, we might see quad-core chips make it to the MacBook Air, at least as options.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 02:56 PM
We pretty much know Intel's road map for the next few years. My guess is that they will stick with the branding, sort of like how they called everything "Pentium" for a few years even though the architectures changed radically.

Ivy Bridge will give way to Haswell, which is a "tock" on Intel's tick-tock strategy. A "tick" is a die shrink. Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge have the same CPU architecture. It's just that Sandy Bridge is made on a 32nm process, and Ivy Bridge a 22nm process. The smaller die lets Intel make the chips modestly faster without using up more power. It also lets them make the chips smaller. With Ivy Bridge, Intel also improved the GPU. Haswell will be a new microarchitecture, so we'll see more CPU improvements than we did this year, along with a significantly improved GPU. The main focus will be on power consumption, though. It will still be made on a 22nm process. Broadwell after that will be another "tick," taking Haswell and shrinking it to a 14nm process. Skymont is the next "tock."

If everything goes as planned, Haswell will be out late next year, with Broadwell in early 2015. By then, the difference between Ivy Bridge of any kind and Broadwell will probably be as significant as the leap from Core 2 to the original Core i5. By Haswell, we might see quad-core chips make it to the MacBook Air, at least as options.

So in that case, will it be better to just spring on a quad-core RMBP now? Or do you feel that whatever I could get for $1200-$1300 2-3 years from now would be better?

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 03:19 PM
So in that case, will it be better to just spring on a quad-core RMBP now? Or do you feel that whatever I could get for $1200-$1300 2-3 years from now would be better?

If resale is a concern, stick with a lower price now. Higher priced items tend to lose a bit more. The only difference might be between the completely decked out Air (i7/8GB/512) vs. the base Retina MacBook Pro (i7/8GB/256). With only $50 difference, I'd expect the base Retina MacBook Pro to hold its value a bit better because it's the base model of its kind, and because the Retina MacBook Pro is an all-new product while the 2012 MacBook Air is the third of its current design.

If the choice is between a $1200 MacBook Air or a $2200 Retina MacBook Pro, though, you'll be better off with the Air in 3 years time. You might get $400-$500 for that Air vs. $1000 for the Pro.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 03:28 PM
If resale is a concern, stick with a lower price now. Higher priced items tend to lose a bit more. The only difference might be between the completely decked out Air (i7/8GB/512) vs. the base Retina MacBook Pro (i7/8GB/256). With only $50 difference, I'd expect the base Retina MacBook Pro to hold its value a bit better because it's the base model of its kind, and because the Retina MacBook Pro is an all-new product while the 2012 MacBook Air is the third of its current design.

If the choice is between a $1200 MacBook Air or a $2200 Retina MacBook Pro, though, you'll be better off with the Air in 3 years time. You might get $400-$500 for that Air vs. $1000 for the Pro.

I'm not really worried about resale - I'm not a big fan of eBay/Craigslist. Rather, I'm worried more about which one will last the longest and be the most worth it after 2-3 years. I usually keep my old products, or sell/give them away to my family (for a nominal price, if anything).

If this computer somehow keeps me going for 5 years, it becomes only $400/year vs $240/year, in which case the MBPR could be worth it.

Ex. If I get an MBPR and then need to get another computer only 3 years from now, I spent $700+/year on that MBPR. On the other hand, if I get an MBA and get a computer 3 years from now, I only spent $400/year (or $1100/year and $600/year after two years, respectively).

Now, if the performance I get out of an MBPR is far better than the performance that I would've gotten out of the MBA, it will have been worth that extra $300 a year. But if performance is similar, I just spent $300/year on screen real estate that I really didn't need anyway.

Basically, I'm trying to:

1. Find a machine that can do what my current machine can't.

2. Make sure that I spend the least money on it, assuming equal efficiency.

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 03:48 PM
The Retina MacBook Pro is more likely to last for 5 years, particularly if you upgrade it to 16GB for $200. The quad-core processor, discrete GPU, and RAM would do a lot for longevity. You may run out of storage room, but external drives or third party replacements might work.

That said, the new MacBook Air ought to be good for quite a while, particularly if you get the 8GB model. Most tasks aren't processor intensive, and the faster SSD is quite a treat. It depends on what you do. If not for your extensive use of VMs, I'd say the Air would be fine for years to come. Mountain Lion is quicker than Lion, for instance, and Windows 8 has the same minimum requirements as Vista. We don't know what OS X 10.9 or Windows 9 will bring, and Apple has been making notebooks "obsolete" a bit quicker than in the past (Mountain Lion drops compatibility for the original MacBook Air, for instance, and most other Macs built before 2008).

I'm guessing it will be at least 3 years before Apple releases an OS that is incompatible with the current MacBook Air, and perhaps longer. At some point they may require a quad-core processor, but probably not until well after all their Macs are quad-core.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 04:00 PM
The Retina MacBook Pro is more likely to last for 5 years, particularly if you upgrade it to 16GB for $200. The quad-core processor, discrete GPU, and RAM would do a lot for longevity. You may run out of storage room, but external drives or third party replacements might work.

That said, the new MacBook Air ought to be good for quite a while, particularly if you get the 8GB model. Most tasks aren't processor intensive, and the faster SSD is quite a treat. It depends on what you do. If not for your extensive use of VMs, I'd say the Air would be fine for years to come. Mountain Lion is quicker than Lion, for instance, and Windows 8 has the same minimum requirements as Vista. We don't know what OS X 10.9 or Windows 9 will bring, and Apple has been making notebooks "obsolete" a bit quicker than in the past (Mountain Lion drops compatibility for the original MacBook Air, for instance).

I'm guessing it will be at least 3 years before Apple releases an OS that is incompatible with the current MacBook Air, and perhaps longer. At some point they may require a quad-core processor, but probably not until well after all their Macs are quad-core.

The thing is, I don't necessarily need a laptop that would last for 5 years. The reason I bring up the time thing is that in just 3 years, a MBA would have cost me $400 a year. It would take an RMBP 5+ years to cost me $400 a year. Would it be better to get an MBA and upgrade it in three years or an RMBP and upgrade it in 5 years?

The RMBP is far better than an MBA at the moment; however, it would have to remain a powerhouse in years 4 and 5 in order for it to obtain the same sort of long-term value I would get from an MBA. Of course, this assumes that the MBA would fit my needs over the next few years as good as an MBPR would.

So, if I get this straight, an MBA should fly off of just 1 VM and possibly still work well off of 2 VMs. While the MBA is not built for games, it should be able to play simple titles such as Portal and Portal 2 if I really wanted, correct?

On the other hand, the MBPR, with a quad core, should handle almost anything I could possibly throw at it (at the cost of an extra $1000+)?

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 04:14 PM
So, if I get this straight, an MBA should fly off of just 1 VM and possibly still work well off of 2 VMs. While the MBA is not built for games, it should be able to play simple titles such as Portal and Portal 2 if I really wanted, correct?

On the other hand, the MBPR, with a quad core, should handle almost anything I could possibly throw at it (at the cost of an extra $1000+)?

Yes, that's how I'd characterize the current situation. Note that if you can get $400 for the MacBook Air in 3 years, assuming you pay about $1300 including tax for the 13" with 8GB, it will cost you about $300/year. The Retina MacBook Pro would need to be worth $1500 to cost you the same (since you'll also pay close to twice as much in sales tax).

kobyh15
Jun 26, 2012, 04:38 PM
I'd go base 13" Air with 8 GB. Upgrade in 3 years. It's the most cost-effective solution.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 04:43 PM
I'd go base 13" Air with 8 GB. Upgrade in 3 years. It's the most cost-effective solution.

Do you have any experience with virtualization on the MBA? Because this needs quite a bit more processing power than just text editing and games. Also, I'd prefer it if it wouldn't get to well over 100F doing so.

Typing this from an extremely hot and laggy 2.53 GHz C2D '09 MBP (and with only 1 VM up).

jsolares
Jun 26, 2012, 04:45 PM
Do you have any experience with virtualization on the MBA? Because this needs quite a bit more processing power than just text editing and games.

Typing this from an extremely hot and laggy 2.53 GHz C2D '09 MBP (and with only 1 VM up).

it only takes more power if what you run inside the virtual machines use a lot of CPU.

i use a 2011 MBA with a Virtual Machine with Windows Server 2008 R2 for developing with Visual Studio, and it runs better than on my iMac due to the SSD.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 04:49 PM
it only takes more power if what you run inside the virtual machines use a lot of CPU.

i use a 2011 MBA with a Virtual Machine with Windows Server 2008 R2 for developing with Visual Studio, and it runs better than on my iMac due to the SSD.

I'm running a few browser windows, a few programming utilities, some Terminals (running medium intensity scripts), System Monitor, and a few directory windows in each. And it's not working well.

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 04:52 PM
Do you have any experience with virtualization on the MBA? Because this needs quite a bit more processing power than just text editing and games. Also, I'd prefer it if it wouldn't get to well over 100F doing so.

Typing this from an extremely hot and laggy 2.53 GHz C2D '09 MBP (and with only 1 VM up).

it only takes more power if what you run inside the virtual machines use a lot of CPU.

i use a 2011 MBA with a Virtual Machine with Windows Server 2008 R2 for developing with Visual Studio, and it runs better than on my iMac due to the SSD.

I run Windows 7 64-bit from within my 2012 MacBook Air with 8GB and it runs fine. It ran fine on my 2011 with 4GB RAM. For the heck of it, I installed OS X 10.6 Server in a VM, though all I usually ever run are Quicken and/or Internet Explorer from within the VM. It was slow attempting to run it at the same time as Windows on my 2011 (I think RAM was the issue). I haven't tried it yet on the 2012.

The SSD helps a lot. With 1 VM sometimes the fan will kick in eventually with little in the background, but it sometimes does that when the VM isn't running, so I don't regard it as a big deal. Based on my usage, I usually exceed 4GB only when I have a VM running.

So the bottom line is that today, the 2012 MacBook Air should be fine for what you want it for. It will probably work well next year and the year after that. The Retina MacBook Pro may work well for another year or two, but in 4 years time both will likely feel "old" and may not support Apple's latest operating system.

jsolares
Jun 26, 2012, 04:53 PM
I'm running a few browser windows, a few programming utilities, some Terminals (running medium intensity scripts), System Monitor, and a few directory windows in each. And it's not working well.

If you're in the US take advantage of the 14day return policy, go buy the i5/8GB 2012 Air and copy your virtual machine over, if it works great, great, if not return the MBA :p

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 04:55 PM
I run Windows 7 64-bit from within my 2012 MacBook Air with 8GB and it runs fine. It ran fine on my 2011 with 4GB RAM. For the heck of it, I installed OS X 10.6 Server in a VM, though all I usually ever run are Quicken and/or Internet Explorer from within the VM. It was slow attempting to run it at the same time as Windows on my 2011 (I think RAM was the issue). I haven't tried it yet on the 2012.

The SSD helps a lot. With 1 VM sometimes the fan will kick in eventually with little in the background, but it sometimes does that when the VM isn't running, so I don't regard it as a big deal. Based on my usage, I usually exceed 4GB only when I have a VM running.

So the bottom line is that today, the 2012 MacBook Air should be fine for what you want it for. It will probably work well next year and the year after that. The Retina MacBook Pro may work well for another year or two, but in 4 years time both will likely feel "old" and may not support Apple's latest operating system.

Out of curiosity, do you run the i5 or the i7?

If you're in the US take advantage of the 14day return policy, go buy the i5/8GB 2012 Air and copy your virtual machine over, if it works great, great, if not return the MBA :p

Probably what I'll end up doing (although I'll probably start from scratch - I like starting fresh on my new computers). Buying online and having to return it through the mail is hassle some, though - to say the least.

jsolares
Jun 26, 2012, 04:57 PM
Probably what I'll end up doing (although I'll probably start from scratch - I like starting fresh on my new computers). Buying online and having to return it through the mail is hassle some, though - to say the least.

At least you can actually do it, theres no apple stores down here, just resellers, and unfortunately they don't have the same policies, you can return it, but not for money back just store credit :S

brentsg
Jun 26, 2012, 05:05 PM
So, if I get this straight, an MBA should fly off of just 1 VM and possibly still work well off of 2 VMs. While the MBA is not built for games, it should be able to play simple titles such as Portal and Portal 2 if I really wanted, correct?

On the other hand, the MBPR, with a quad core, should handle almost anything I could possibly throw at it (at the cost of an extra $1000+)?

I usually work from a hex core Mac Pro and I'll run anywhere from 1-4 virtual machines with 16GB RAM. When I had my old C2D late '08 MBP with 4GB RAM it sucked a ton with 2 VMs.

I have a 2011 13" MBP base model that's been upgraded with an SSD and 8GB RAM. I'll toss some of my VMs on there later and see how it feels with 2+ running. That should be similar.

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 05:05 PM
Out of curiosity, do you run the i5 or the i7?


I have the i7. Note that this year's i5 is about the same speed as last year's i7. As often as I upgrade, I'd be better off sticking with base models, but since I bought the i7 last year I decided to stick with the i7. If Haswell tempts me next year I'll consider the i5, though I'll see if I can hold off until the 2014 MacBook Air this time (watch Apple add a Retina Display next year, though :D).

brentsg
Jun 26, 2012, 05:06 PM
Probably what I'll end up doing (although I'll probably start from scratch - I like starting fresh on my new computers). Buying online and having to return it through the mail is hassle some, though - to say the least.

A significant point of virtual machines is to have a sandboxed environments that are hardware independent. I'm not sure why you'd start over.. it's not like it's the main OS on the computer.

Slivortal
Jun 26, 2012, 05:22 PM
I usually work from a hex core Mac Pro and I'll run anywhere from 1-4 virtual machines with 16GB RAM. When I had my old C2D late '08 MBP with 4GB RAM it sucked a ton with 2 VMs.

I have a 2011 13" MBP base model that's been upgraded with an SSD and 8GB RAM. I'll toss some of my VMs on there later and see how it feels with 2+ running. That should be similar.

Your late '08 MBP's probably a pretty good approximation of how my current MBP's working right now.

Thanks, that should be a big help - although how does the 2011 MBP's processor compare to the MBA's ULV?

A significant point of virtual machines is to have a sandboxed environments that are hardware independent. I'm not sure why you'd start over.. it's not like it's the main OS on the computer.

Oh, I often create Virtual Machines for individual projects (or use snapshots cleverly). I like the concept of being able to create whole environments for projects, as well as being able to easily sandbox in case of accidentally deleting system components (a lot of what I do now is kind of playing around).

Though you're right, porting them may be a good idea (they are projects, after all).

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 05:26 PM
Your late '08 MBP's probably a pretty good approximation of how my current MBP's working right now.

Thanks, that should be a big help - although how does the 2011 MBP's processor compare to the MBA's ULV?



The base 2.4GHz Core i5 in last year's was about 15-20% faster than the i7 in the top-of-the-line Air last year. This year's i7 should be about the same as last year's base MacBook Pro.

KPOM
Jun 26, 2012, 08:46 PM
I have a 2011 13" MBP base model that's been upgraded with an SSD and 8GB RAM. I'll toss some of my VMs on there later and see how it feels with 2+ running. That should be similar.


Thanks, that should be a big help - although how does the 2011 MBP's processor compare to the MBA's ULV?


I just ran the Windows Experience Index test on my Win 7 64-bit VM in Parallels Desktop 7 with OS X 10.6 Server running in another VM. It was acceptable. The fan hit about 4000rpm, but wasn't too hot. It actually got warmer just with the 10.6 Server VM downloading and installing a bunch of software updates (it's been a while since I fired it up).

kobyh15
Jun 26, 2012, 10:54 PM
Do you have any experience with virtualization on the MBA? Because this needs quite a bit more processing power than just text editing and games. Also, I'd prefer it if it wouldn't get to well over 100F doing so.

Typing this from an extremely hot and laggy 2.53 GHz C2D '09 MBP (and with only 1 VM up).

Nope. I have a 2011 13" Pro with the 2.7 i7, an Intel 320 SSD, and 8 Gb. I can run Windows 7 64-bit in Parallels very easily.

brentsg
Jun 28, 2012, 10:51 PM
Sorry for the delay.

I just loaded up 3 of my WinXP VMs and launched them at the same time. I also opened some browser windows, Outlook, Excel, etc.. just some general stuff.

I then started a compile of Handbrake for OSX as well. CPU usage was pretty much nailed, I got a very minor amount of page-out on the RAM side. Fans were definitely spinning up.

I wasn't doing anything crazy like encoding videos with this, but I never felt like it sucked. Generally I'd say you would want to keep it at 1-2 VMs just to keep things snappy but 3 wasn't a bad experience at all.

Specs: Sandy Bridge i5 @ 2.3GHz, 13" MBP
8GB RAM, 300GB Intel SSD