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View Full Version : Considering a MBA - Honest Thoughts?




Sambo110
Jun 27, 2012, 12:26 PM
I will be starting Uni next month, and decided to get a Macbook to help me. I originally wanted a Macbook Pro (Retina), but am now, surprisingly, considering the Macbook Air. Usually I like power and performance, which at first glance the MBA doesn't seem to have, but I'm thinking I might be wrong?

I will be doing a Bachelor of Multimedia Design. So I will be doing some video and image editing, some kind of music creation/editing, programming, maybe some 3D modelling etc, so I want something that can do that. I also want something that can game. I have a high-end gaming PC, so I don't need anything amazing, but I want to be able to play games like Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, Dota 2, Valve games and other Indie games etc, not exactly taxing on a system.

At first I viewed the Macbook Air as a "casual" system, something that couldn't handle anything the least bit taxing, but I'm starting to think I was way off. So, thoughts on if the Macbook Air would suit this kind of work? Thanks for any responses!



eric/
Jun 27, 2012, 12:32 PM
I play SCII on my MBA regularly (2011 13inch), and it can run D3 and DOTA as well as HoN (on high settings even). You won't be able to play the latest and greatest, but generally I've found you can play quite a few games.

That aside, I'd say it's the best pre-built computer I've ever purchased. I can't speak for the new models, but I'm sure they are even better.

Sambo110
Jun 27, 2012, 12:37 PM
I play SCII on my MBA regularly (2011 13inch), and it can run D3 and DOTA as well as HoN (on high settings even). You won't be able to play the latest and greatest, but generally I've found you can play quite a few games.

That's good to hear. Windows won't be going on it, and I'll only be playing some games casually when I'm away from my PC or something. And mainly Valve/Blizzard/Indie games.

It seems like a great system (light and great battery life would be amazing for Uni!), but I'm still worried about the performance in multi-tasking and (what I assume will be) light video/photo/music editing.

KPOM
Jun 27, 2012, 12:39 PM
The Retina MacBook Pro would certainly handle all those tasks better, with its quad-core CPU and discrete GPU, but I think the MacBook Air would be acceptable. Macworld ran some benchmarks (http://www.macworld.com/article/1167418/ultimate_macbook_air_2012_models_put_to_the_test.html)on some of the games. The HD4000 is equivalent to some discrete GPUs from 2 years ago.

The fast SSD and 8GB RAM (optional) would help on some of the more taxing tasks, though 3D modeling and video editing might suffer a bit from the integrated graphics and dual core CPU. What are you using right now? The base 13" Air w/256GB drive is certainly a bit cheaper than the Retina MacBook Pro, so as a student you should definitely consider it.

Sambo110
Jun 27, 2012, 12:47 PM
What are you using right now? The base 13" Air w/256GB drive is certainly a bit cheaper than the Retina MacBook Pro, so as a student you should definitely consider it.

My main computer is a low-end 2008 iMac running Lion. It is so slow that it constantly freezes on Safari. I also have an i5 2500k, 8GB ram and AMD 6870 PC I use for gaming and some web browsing. I could do my main hardware-intensive stuff on this PC, but I do definitely prefer using Mac's.

Also, is the i7 worth the price? If I got an i7 and 8GB ram, it is close to $2000, which doesn't seem worth it. But if I could get one for less than $1500, then it might be worth the savings over a rMBP.

eric/
Jun 27, 2012, 12:50 PM
I've ran:

excel
powerpoint (on second display)
safari
mail
itunes

at the same time along with RDC to the university servers running W7

and have had 0 issues.

I can't speak for photo or video editing, but multitasking in that sense works fantastic.

I have Steam installed, but can't speak for the games sense I hardly have the time to play video games anymore. :(

KPOM
Jun 27, 2012, 12:52 PM
The i7 offers about a 20% gain in CPU tasks, but it's the same in graphics performance. Take a look at the Macworld benchmarks, and I'm guessing AnandTech will have some good benchmarks in his full review next week. The i5 would be a significant improvement compared to your old iMac, and I think it would be sufficient. It saves $100. I would get the 8GB, though. In the US the base rMBP is $2199 with 8GB and 256GB SSD. The 13" Air with i5, 8GB and 256GB is $1599.

Reha
Jun 27, 2012, 12:59 PM
I would not recommend the air for the described tasks. While it is a powerful PC I believe you will be much better off with a MacBook Pro for Multimedia productions.

Sambo110
Jun 27, 2012, 01:03 PM
Yeah, I'm starting to think I should get a rMBP. An Air with 256GB HD and 8GB ram costs around $1800, which is only around $400 cheaper than the rMBP. $400 isn't enough of a saving to me, I wanted to save around $1000 for it to be worth it, but a 128GB hard drive is just pathetically small. Ah well, at least I tried :p

KPOM
Jun 27, 2012, 01:13 PM
Yeah, I'm starting to think I should get a rMBP. An Air with 256GB HD and 8GB ram costs around $1800, which is only around $400 cheaper than the rMBP. $400 isn't enough of a saving to me, I wanted to save around $1000 for it to be worth it, but a 128GB hard drive is just pathetically small. Ah well, at least I tried :p

I think in Australia the i5/8GB/256 air is about $700 less than the rMBP, as the latter is A$2499.

Sambo110
Jun 27, 2012, 01:19 PM
I think in Australia the i5/8GB/256 air is about $700 less than the rMBP, as the latter is A$2499.

It's less than $2300 with education pricing. either way, the MBA with the 256GB HD and 8GB of ram was around $1800, whereas the rMBP is around $2270, I think...

KPOM
Jun 27, 2012, 01:26 PM
It's less than $2300 with education pricing. either way, the MBA with the 256GB HD and 8GB of ram was around $1800, whereas the rMBP is around $2270, I think...

Can you get education pricing on the Air? That would push the price down.
Anyway, the rMBP would certainly have a lot of processing power.

Sambo110
Jun 27, 2012, 01:27 PM
Can you get education pricing on the Air? That would push the price down.

Both of them were with the education pricing. Still, however much the Air was, paying close to $2000 for something with that little power just seems over the top to me. If I could get an Air with 8GB of ram and a 256GB HDD for around $1300, I'd definitely be considering it right now. Ah well, nothing wrong with having an extremely powerful laptop!

eric/
Jun 27, 2012, 02:20 PM
Both of them were with the education pricing. Still, however much the Air was, paying close to $2000 for something with that little power just seems over the top to me. If I could get an Air with 8GB of ram and a 256GB HDD for around $1300, I'd definitely be considering it right now. Ah well, nothing wrong with having an extremely powerful laptop!

Yeah the rMBP is definitely more powerful, but the 2012 air can probably handle everything you're going to throw at it. Don't underestimate it. :cool:

powsucks
Jun 27, 2012, 02:47 PM
If you're going to be doing a lot of 3D modelling, video editing and you think it will be too much for the MBA and you need to be doing it on the move then go for the pro. Have you considered a powerful desktop pc + a base level MBA 11"? It would probably work out the same price as a RMBP and couple provide you with an all round good set-up.

I've had the 13" 2012 MBA for 2 days now and can confirm photoshop and final cut work very well from what I've seen so far. Can't comment on 3D modelling though.

Beanoir
Jun 27, 2012, 02:55 PM
A multimedia course is quite demanding these days on your hardware, and a MBA (as great as they are) would not be my choice of machine over a MBP for several reasons;

1) you need processing power

2) you need RAM

3) you might want a larger screen (although you could use an external monitor)

4) connectivity - more ports etc (i'm sure you'll be using plenty of peripherals)

5) Graphics card

6) easier upgrade options (HDD, SSD, RAM)

If I was doing a science degree i'd say different as the MBA is much easier to cart around with you, but I actually removed most of my multimedia stuff off the MBA and left it all on the iMac and the MP at the office.

An MBA is often mistaken as being as quick by the casual user as much more powerful machines, but it's down to the SSD that gives the impression of instant reaction to opening programs etc. When you start doing the grunt work like heavy graphics processing, 3D rendering and the like then you'll really start to see the void between the machines.

You can speck your MBP to a 2.7 Quad Core, that is a huge step up from an MBA with 2.0 dual core I can promise you.

Sambo110
Jun 27, 2012, 03:02 PM
Thanks, that was pretty much what I thought. I'll be getting the base retina Macbook Pro with the i7 2.6ghz and GB ram.

powsucks
Jun 27, 2012, 03:06 PM
Whoops, just actually read all of the OP (laziness is a bad trait) and see you already have a powerful desktop, so my idea is obsolete... Enjoy your RMBP.

mattopotamus
Jun 27, 2012, 03:13 PM
Can you get education pricing on the Air? That would push the price down.
Anyway, the rMBP would certainly have a lot of processing power.

you only get $50 of an Air and $200 of the retina. The base retina (before tax) is $1999