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View Full Version : 13" Air or 15" classic MBP




BlueOcean
Jun 25, 2012, 11:57 AM
Hi chaps. I'm going to be starting a postgrad degree in a couple of months and though I have an iMac 24" (2008), I'm not sure whether I will be taking it with me (depends if I have enough space where I choose to live). In any case, I want to get a MacBook since it'll probably be less hassle if I need to move about.

I've been doing quite a bit of reading and research on here and on YouTube over the past few weeks, and have considered all models. However, I think I've narrowed it down more or less to two models:

1. MacBook Air 13" 256GB with the i7 and 8GB RAM (about 1300 with HE discount)

2. MacBook Pro 15" base model with 8GB RAM and hi-res antiglare display (about 1400 with HE discount)

Whilst my degree won't exactly require any heavy lifting, I do use my Mac a lot for leisure and this includes things like Logic, Photoshop and iMovie. I also am a gamer, and although I would be taking my PS3 primarily for that purpose, I might play the odd Source game and Minecraft etc on the computer.

I ruled out the retina since it's a bit pricey, and I'd rather not buy a rev A product from what I've read on it anyway. The 13" MBP is tempting as it is cheaper, but if I'm going in the Pro direction, the base 15" is still within my reach and the improvement over the Air is a lot more notable because it would give me the option to play more games with the 650M if I chose to do so, and the quad-core would be nice for my leisure activities I suspect.

I don't usually use my laptop to take notes or anything (I'm a pen and paper type of guy), but I think if I had the Air, I'd be more inclined to carry it around with me and it might be useful if I needed to look stuff up or refer to a PDF etc.

I realise that to a large extent, the choice depends on whether I value power or portability more, and to be honest, I'd like the power but I'm not sure whether I *need* it really, and many have told me that they would trade power for a lighter computer. Also, I'd maybe upgrade to an SSD + optibay in future if I got the MBP but I probably can't afford to do it right away (and prices will surely go down in another year or so). The optical drive is pretty useless to me.

So though I know this kind of thing is asked quite a bit, I'd like to get some opinions. Are there any serious limitations to the Air that mean I would appreciate the Pro coming from an iMac? Is the Air capable enough?



Stetrain
Jun 25, 2012, 12:07 PM
You'll definitely notice the difference in gaming performance between the two.

I think that the Air would be more of a take-it-everywhere computer. It would probably be plenty capable for the things you really need to do.

The Pro would almost be more of a desktop replacement that you could take with you if you needed to. The bigger and higher resolution screen would be nice for things like Photoshop and video editing. You could also get an external display for the Air to get some of that benefit.

BlueOcean
Jun 25, 2012, 04:50 PM
You'll definitely notice the difference in gaming performance between the two.

I think that the Air would be more of a take-it-everywhere computer. It would probably be plenty capable for the things you really need to do.

The Pro would almost be more of a desktop replacement that you could take with you if you needed to. The bigger and higher resolution screen would be nice for things like Photoshop and video editing. You could also get an external display for the Air to get some of that benefit.

Would the SSD in the Air make it (in terms of real world usability) not seem much slower than the Pro, or would the superior processor and GPU make up for the fact that it has a traditional hard drive?

Also, does anyone carry around a 15" Pro with them? Is it really that laborious to carry?

As for the display, I'd be taking my 24" 1080p TV for my PS3 with me, so I may be able to use it as a display if I need extra real estate. The larger display of the 15" would be useful when I'm not in my room, but otherwise it's more the power than the screen of the 15" I'm after (where are you quad-core 13" MBP?!).

Stetrain
Jun 25, 2012, 05:03 PM
Would the SSD in the Air make it (in terms of real world usability) not seem much slower than the Pro, or would the superior processor and GPU make up for the fact that it has a traditional hard drive?

Also, does anyone carry around a 15" Pro with them? Is it really that laborious to carry?

As for the display, I'd be taking my 24" 1080p TV for my PS3 with me, so I may be able to use it as a display if I need extra real estate. The larger display of the 15" would be useful when I'm not in my room, but otherwise it's more the power than the screen of the 15" I'm after (where are you quad-core 13" MBP?!).

The Air will actually probably feel faster for basic tasks. Booting, launching apps, etc. because of the SSD.

If you do go with the MBP, an SSD would be a pretty good future upgrade.

ixodes
Jun 25, 2012, 05:09 PM
Would the SSD in the Air make it (in terms of real world usability) not seem much slower than the Pro, or would the superior processor and GPU make up for the fact that it has a traditional hard drive?

Also, does anyone carry around a 15" Pro with them? Is it really that laborious to carry?

As for the display, I'd be taking my 24" 1080p TV for my PS3 with me, so I may be able to use it as a display if I need extra real estate. The larger display of the 15" would be useful when I'm not in my room, but otherwise it's more the power than the screen of the 15" I'm after (where are you quad-core 13" MBP?!).

I have both. No matter what it's installed in, the major speed difference you see with an SSD is reduced boot times, shut down times and app launching times. Yet that said, as compared to a Windows PC, Macs are so much faster even with a regular hard drive. Depending on what type of work is being done there are other advantages, to an SSD, but not as much as many would have you believe. There's a lot of buzz around them because for most people it's their first. But I've been using SSD's for nearly five years now and like anything else you get used to it and it's no longer a big deal.

I carry my 15" MBP a lot and don't mind the size and weight at all, yet I'm very active and really fit, I even carry my 17" MBP around very frequently.

It's the overall bulk that's less with the 13" MBA and most people would probably prefer it. My work is very resource intense, therefore the more powerful MBP is my laptop of choice when it comes to work.

For what you have outlined, either will do quite nicely, as always it's largely personal preference. The only aspect of my 13 MBA I wish was better was the display. It's fine for what it is, but I'd greatly prefer a hi-res option.

BlueOcean
Jun 26, 2012, 04:13 AM
I have both. No matter what it's installed in, the major speed difference you see with an SSD is reduced boot times, shut down times and app launching times. Yet that said, as compared to a Windows PC, Macs are so much faster even with a regular hard drive. Depending on what type of work is being done there are other advantages, to an SSD, but not as much as many would have you believe. There's a lot of buzz around them because for most people it's their first. But I've been using SSD's for nearly five years now and like anything else you get used to it and it's no longer a big deal.

I carry my 15" MBP a lot and don't mind the size and weight at all, yet I'm very active and really fit, I even carry my 17" MBP around very frequently.

It's the overall bulk that's less with the 13" MBA and most people would probably prefer it. My work is very resource intense, therefore the more powerful MBP is my laptop of choice when it comes to work.

For what you have outlined, either will do quite nicely, as always it's largely personal preference. The only aspect of my 13 MBA I wish was better was the display. It's fine for what it is, but I'd greatly prefer a hi-res option.

Thanks. Ha, I even took some of my plates off my dumbbells the other day and put them in my backpack to get an idea (I'm strange I know :P) of the weights. 2.5kg didn't seem bad, but I guess I didn't try putting anything else in it as well.

I remember the last time I went into an Apple store, the not-so-great display of the Air did strike me as being one of the things that stood out (I believe my iMac is IPS so I'm probably spoiled at the moment). Then again, with the money I save, I could always get an IPS monitor, and as I mentioned, I have the TV too.

Although the 256GB SSD in the Air is a little on the small side for me, I think I can make do as I already have 2 external drives. However, the thing I'm concerned about is not being able to upgrade the RAM past 8GB. Do you think it will be an issue a couple of years down the line? I know that doubling the RAM in my iMac from 2 to 4GB made a world of difference a couple of years ago, especially for things like Parallels.

theSeb
Jun 26, 2012, 05:08 AM
I would get both.

ixodes
Jun 26, 2012, 05:21 AM
I remember the last time I went into an Apple store, the not-so-great display of the Air did strike me as being one of the things that stood out.

Although the 256GB SSD in the Air is a little on the small side for me, I think I can make do as I already have 2 external drives. However, the thing I'm concerned about is not being able to upgrade the RAM past 8GB. Do you think it will be an issue a couple of years down the line?
Please don't get me wrong, the display is actually very good for what it is. I do a lot of work when traveling, and have no problem. After 30 min or so it becomes normal. I just can't get over how well thought out this model is.

As far as SSD capacity & ram, I had the same concerns, yet now that I know what 10.8 requirements are, I'm confident 8GB will be ideal.

At the end of the day, I believe you will find the Air as delightful as I do.

Cheers...

BlueOcean
Jun 26, 2012, 05:23 AM
I would get both.

:P If I could afford both, I may as well just get the Ultimate rMBP ;)

BlueOcean
Jun 27, 2012, 12:17 PM
So, I went to the Apple Store today. Impressions:

Retina was nice, but not that great. MS Office looked particularly horrible, but obviously these things will be sorted in future. At the moment, it's not for me. I hated the 13" Pro, and I'm beginning to agree with many that it is a redundant machine, albeit it makes sense for Apple to keep selling it if it's the most popular model.

So that confirmed my theory that it's between the 15" Pro and 13" Air for me. The Air's screen was better than the 13" Pro in my opinion. I prefer the higher res and the lack of glass. I was also impressed by the immensely light weight. However, I did notice a bit of lag in scrolling and the interface.

The 15" Pro seems perfect in every way apart from the weight, so it's really down to a size issue I think in the end. The Hi-res antiglare screen was immense. I preferred it to the retina at the 1680x1050 actually. Also, the hard drive didn't seem that slow compared to the SSD in the MBA for general use. I don't particularly care about boot times since it's not something I'm going to do all the time anyway.

I guess I'm back to square 1, but at least I know I can't go wrong with either machine really. All I know is my heart says Air but mind says Pro!

mattopotamus
Jun 27, 2012, 12:20 PM
if you want to game, you want the quad core.

BlueOcean
Jun 27, 2012, 01:32 PM
Hmm.

To the guys that have both - does the Air slow down considerably vs the Pro when unplugged from the mains?

jkun
Jun 27, 2012, 05:10 PM
Hmm.

To the guys that have both - does the Air slow down considerably vs the Pro when unplugged from the mains?

I'm not sure what you mean... I've never had a macbook slow down on me because I unplugged it..

BlueOcean
Jun 28, 2012, 03:53 AM
I'm not sure what you mean... I've never had a macbook slow down on me because I unplugged it..

Maybe I've misinterpreted what I've seen around the internet. I figured the processor speeds might be throttled a bit to save battery when unplugged, and for some reason wondered whether the effect would be more pronounced on the ULV processors.

I guess my point was, the Air with the i7 seems quite quick when looking at benchmarks, but if there's a lot of power management stuff slowing it down when not plugged in, then performance might not be as impressive as I imagined. Especially if I lean towards the i5 as I'm thinking now.

iKIKO
Jun 28, 2012, 09:46 AM
i also carry around the 15 a lot, and its not a big deal. get a 15 pro with ssd and you'll have the best of both worlds :p

BlueOcean
Jun 28, 2012, 11:48 AM
i also carry around the 15 a lot, and its not a big deal. get a 15 pro with ssd and you'll have the best of both worlds :p

I would eventually, but I'm not sure I can afford to do it right away. Besides, I'm sure prices will have dropped even further by next year or so.

Do you carry other stuff with it too? Doesn't feel awkward to you?

The 15" is definitely the more cost effective and longer lasting option, but the Air being half the weight is rather appealing still.

iKIKO
Jun 28, 2012, 12:21 PM
I would eventually, but I'm not sure I can afford to do it right away. Besides, I'm sure prices will have dropped even further by next year or so.

Do you carry other stuff with it too? Doesn't feel awkward to you?

The 15" is definitely the more cost effective and longer lasting option, but the Air being half the weight is rather appealing still.

i carry it around daily, from my house to work, and all around. and i dont ever bother the weight and size. i just carry it with a good sleeve. its not that big and that heavy. (at least not to me) and im not a big guy. around ( 5'10'')

i think if you can aford the 15 and the size and weight isnt a big deal for you go for it. its a very powerfull machine, way more than the air, and its not that big of a difference in weight and size

BlueOcean
Jun 28, 2012, 01:42 PM
i carry it around daily, from my house to work, and all around. and i dont ever bother the weight and size. i just carry it with a good sleeve. its not that big and that heavy. (at least not to me) and im not a big guy. around ( 5'10'')

i think if you can aford the 15 and the size and weight isnt a big deal for you go for it. its a very powerfull machine, way more than the air, and its not that big of a difference in weight and size

Yeah I'm 5'10" too. It doesn't seem too bad on its own, but it seems like it might get heavy if I were carrying textbooks too. But I guess I probably won't need to carry everything that often.

Well, with the student discount, the MBA w/8GB RAM and i7 costs about 1250 whereas the MBP with hi-res antiglare and 3rd party 8GB RAM costs 1400 so the difference isn't much in relative terms.

I was almost about to go for the Air, but now I'm reconsidering! :p

jon123
Jun 29, 2012, 04:37 PM
BlueOcean,

I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, trying to decide between 13" Air or 15" Pro with AG screen. Right now I have a 14.1" laptop that weighs about 4lbs (with Ethernet and Optical Drive) and it seems to be a good middle ground for me, but alas, it's not a Mac. I really wish apple would come out with a 14" MBP.

Thanks for posting this tread, because I'm interested in what choice you make.

BlueOcean
Jun 29, 2012, 05:39 PM
BlueOcean,

I'm pretty much in the same boat as you, trying to decide between 13" Air or 15" Pro with AG screen. Right now I have a 14.1" laptop that weighs about 4lbs (with Ethernet and Optical Drive) and it seems to be a good middle ground for me, but alas, it's not a Mac. I really wish apple would come out with a 14" MBP.

Thanks for posting this tread, because I'm interested in what choice you make.

Well, ideally it would be a 13" Retina MBP I think for me, which would fill that gap if they manage to put a dGPU and a quad-core in it. I wonder if I might just stick with my iMac for now and see what transpires, but I am tempted by the Air.