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View Full Version : Another performance question




Dr. McKay
Aug 5, 2013, 04:42 AM
I currently own a mid 2011 iMac (21.5 inch, quad core i5 2.7Ghz, Radeon 6770, 1Tb hard drive, 16Gb of RAM).
I find myself missing a portable computer, though (my wife and kids use the iPad in my signature more than I do :D ), and am thinking about getting a MBA to replace it (don't want to keep both, that would be overkill, really).

In Mactracker, my iMac gets a performance index (Geekbench 2 results) of 7857 ; the MBA I'd like to buy (1.3 Core i5, 8Gb of RAM, 256 Gb SSD) gets a score of 5946.
That seems like a decrease in general performance of about 20% to 25%. Should I worry ?

Now, I mostly use iWork and Textwrangler (I'm a translator), iTunes, iPhoto, some occasional iMovie, web browsing and Youtube plus some VM's of different linux distros, hence the 16Gb of RAM. No doubt in my mind that the MBA will be more than powerful enough for that (although with 8Gb of RAM, I just won't be able to run lots of distros simultaneously).

I'm just concerned about the performance of some games. Not too worried about Valve's games (Half life, Left4dead, etc) as they're older and less demanding games but I'm not too sure about World of Warcraft. Anyone have any hands-on experience with Wow on this particular 2013 MBA with i5 processor, 8Gb of RAM and 256 SSD ? It runs smooth as butter now on my iMac in full HD, but seeing the MBA has a lower native res of 1440x900, is it safe to assume I should be fine ?

Also, I currently have an external FW800/USB2 hard drive I use for Time Machine. My iMac has a FW800 port, but the MBA doesn't. Is it worth it forking out for a thunderbolt-to-FW800 adapter or will USB be just fine (I'm afraid it will bog the mba down when performing a TM backup (it'll be only USB 2). Or maybe I can connect the external drive to my Airport Express (2nd gen) via USB and backup wirelessly ?

As for the optical drive, I hardly ever use it, and when I feel the need, I can always buy an external one.

Lots of questions but any feedback would be greatly appreciated !



monkeybagel
Aug 5, 2013, 05:00 AM
I currently own a mid 2011 iMac (21.5 inch, quad core i5 2.7Ghz, Radeon 6770, 1Tb hard drive, 16Gb of RAM).
I find myself missing a portable computer, though (my wife and kids use the iPad in my signature more than I do :D ), and am thinking about getting a MBA to replace it (don't want to keep both, that would be overkill, really).

In Mactracker, my iMac gets a performance index (Geekbench 2 results) of 7857 ; the MBA I'd like to buy (1.3 Core i5, 8Gb of RAM, 256 Gb SSD) gets a score of 5946.
That seems like a decrease in general performance of about 20% to 25%. Should I worry ?

Now, I mostly use iWork and Textwrangler (I'm a translator), iTunes, iPhoto, some occasional iMovie, web browsing and Youtube plus some VM's of different linux distros, hence the 16Gb of RAM. No doubt in my mind that the MBA will be more than powerful enough for that (although with 8Gb of RAM, I just won't be able to run lots of distros simultaneously).

I'm just concerned about the performance of some games. Not too worried about Valve's games (Half life, Left4dead, etc) as they're older and less demanding games but I'm not too sure about World of Warcraft. Anyone have any hands-on experience with Wow on this particular 2013 MBA with i5 processor, 8Gb of RAM and 256 SSD ? It runs smooth as butter now on my iMac in full HD, but seeing the MBA has a lower native res of 1440x900, is it safe to assume I should be fine ?

Also, I currently have an external FW800/USB2 hard drive I use for Time Machine. My iMac has a FW800 port, but the MBA doesn't. Is it worth it forking out for a thunderbolt-to-FW800 adapter or will USB be just fine (I'm afraid it will bog the mba down when performing a TM backup (it'll be only USB 2). Or maybe I can connect the external drive to my Airport Express (2nd gen) via USB and backup wirelessly ?

As for the optical drive, I hardly ever use it, and when I feel the need, I can always buy an external one.

Lots of questions but any feedback would be greatly appreciated !

I think you would be fine. The new MacBook Airs are powerful machines, and although I am not a gamer, I don't think you would have a problem running at full resolution.

I don't think the Airport Express supports an external hard disk - only USB printers. I believe you will need and Airport Extreme Base Station to support an external hard disk for Time Machine.

I owned a 2011 MacBook Air with 256GB SSD and 4GB of RAM, and virtual machines ran great on it. Even with the lower amount of RAM, if it does need to swap out memory, it will not be nearly as noticeable on an SSD.

If your HDD supports FW800, I would go ahead and get the adapter to utilize it.

Dr. McKay
Aug 5, 2013, 05:46 AM
Thx for the reply.
I guess, basically, what I'm trying to find out, is whether a MBA is powerful enough to be used as one's main computer...

maflynn
Aug 5, 2013, 06:19 AM
Thx for the reply.
I guess, basically, what I'm trying to find out, is whether a MBA is powerful enough to be used as one's main computer...

It really depends on your usage. What you stated for the most part will be fine, though I wonder about the VMs and games. I'm not a game player so I'll not give any opinion there. As for VMs the more ram the better if you plan on running multiple VMs at the same time.

monkeybagel
Aug 5, 2013, 06:37 AM
Thx for the reply.
I guess, basically, what I'm trying to find out, is whether a MBA is powerful enough to be used as one's main computer...

I think so.

kodeman53
Aug 5, 2013, 06:45 AM
I guess, basically, what I'm trying to find out, is whether a MBA is powerful enough to be used as one's main computer...

While it is stating the obvious, there is no perfect computer and 'powerful' is far from an objective term.

While people do not usually state it this way, you have to list your requirements then rank them.

Since you are getting a laptop, portability is your number one requirement. Portability requires compromises somewhere.

luisito
Aug 5, 2013, 10:18 AM
Thx for the reply.
I guess, basically, what I'm trying to find out, is whether a MBA is powerful enough to be used as one's main computer...

For me, yes, I use it as main computer, this is the only computer I own. I use MS Office, Safari, iTunes, MatLAB (Engineering Program), VLC for my blu ray movies, Mail.

It always boils down to the user, the more PRO applications you use, the more powerful the computer has to be.

I saw that you were also concerned about games, while the MBA handles most games beautifully, I have chosen not to use it for gaming, I've tried Minecraft and StarCraft II, I don't like my computer getting hot nor noisy from the fan. WoW plays very nice on a MBA, might want to check this thread: macrumors forum (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1594690).

mr.bee
Aug 5, 2013, 10:20 AM
this can be useful :)
http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/9280218736

Dr. McKay
Aug 7, 2013, 12:03 PM
Came across a used MB Pro (13inch, 2.5Ghz i5), bought in June 2012. Of course, it hasn't got SSD, but a 500Gb HDD.
In Mactracker, it gets a geekbench score of 6690, obviously lower than my iMac, but higher than the MBA i5 with SSD.
It'd cost me about $100 less than the baseline 11" MBA plus I wouldn't have to buy an external DVD-drive.
I could replace the HDD myself with a SSD (I assume this is possible), which would cost a lot less than an SSD upgrade from Apple (and I guess the geekbench score of 6690 would even be higher with an SSD installed)

Of course, the lower res of 1280x800 (ridiculous, really, but I'd probably get an external display for it anyway - 1440x900 for a 15" is equally ridiculous, I find) and the much shorter battery life of the MB Pro count against it. Positives for the MB Pro are an ethernet port (always faster than any wifi) and a FW800 port.

Guess I'm just a bit worried about the performance of the MBA as opposed to my current iMac. Maybe it's the 'pro' missing from the name of the 'Air'... Always my problem, indecisive :D

Ronnoco
Aug 7, 2013, 02:07 PM
Came across a used MB Pro (13inch, 2.5Ghz i5), bought in June 2012. Of course, it hasn't got SSD, but a 500Gb HDD.
In Mactracker, it gets a geekbench score of 6690, obviously lower than my iMac, but higher than the MBA i5 with SSD.
It'd cost me about $100 less than the baseline 11" MBA plus I wouldn't have to buy an external DVD-drive.
I could replace the HDD myself with a SSD (I assume this is possible), which would cost a lot less than an SSD upgrade from Apple (and I guess the geekbench score of 6690 would even be higher with an SSD installed)

Of course, the lower res of 1280x800 (ridiculous, really, but I'd probably get an external display for it anyway - 1440x900 for a 15" is equally ridiculous, I find) and the much shorter battery life of the MB Pro count against it. Positives for the MB Pro are an ethernet port (always faster than any wifi) and a FW800 port.

Guess I'm just a bit worried about the performance of the MBA as opposed to my current iMac. Maybe it's the 'pro' missing from the name of the 'Air'... Always my problem, indecisive :D

I find my new 13" i7 8gb RAM 512 SSD to be faster and more powerful than my upgraded 2010 15" MBP 2.4GHz i5 with 8 GB RAM and 500GB Seagate Momentus Hybrid drive. Plus, it has USB 3 and Thunderbolt port. The PCIe SSD just TOTALLY blows away the Momentus Hybrid drive, which was pretty fast just a few years ago (with its 32gb SSD buffer it really does act like an SSD drive for opening recent apps nearly instantaneously).
Anyway, this new MBA is SERIOUSLY fast and very powerful for a mobile ultra-light computer with an INSANE battery life. I've owned may Macs over the years and several MacBook Pros and this new Air is the best one of the lot. Build quality is outstanding.

Dr. McKay
Aug 7, 2013, 02:16 PM
Plus, it has USB 3 and Thunderbolt port.

Well, actually, the used MB Pro I'm talking about is a mid 2012 model which also has 2 USB3 and a Thunderbolt Port. It even uses faster RAM (1600Mhz) than my current iMac (1333 Mhz)...

Anyway, this new MBA is SERIOUSLY fast and very powerful for a mobile ultra-light computer with an INSANE battery life.

Yeah, I know. Performance wise, I guess the 2012 MB Pro with SSD and the new 2013 MBA will be equally matched. I think that making the step from a large iMac screen to a small MBA screen also makes me doubt. But on the other hand, although I don't really NEED a laptop, it would surely make my life a lot more convenient...

Ronnoco
Aug 7, 2013, 02:27 PM
You can, of course, always add a larger display to the MBA later if you feel the need. I connect to a 27" ACD and it works beautifully.

Dr. McKay
Aug 11, 2013, 04:05 AM
You can, of course, always add a larger display to the MBA later if you feel the need. I connect to a 27" ACD and it works beautifully.

Yes, of course. That would happen over time anyway. I was even considering buying an external display right away (although not an Apple one, too expensive for my taste). However, I believe it's wiser to spend that money on a bigger SSD (512Gb) now and get an external display later on. Somehow, I think I might regret going for a 256Gb SSD ; coming from a 1Tb HDD on my iMac, I believe the shock might be fatal :D

Dr. McKay
Aug 11, 2013, 11:02 AM
I was wondering : how many of you use the MBA as their main computer and can you live with 256Gb ?

Ronnoco
Aug 11, 2013, 01:03 PM
Yes, of course. That would happen over time anyway. I was even considering buying an external display right away (although not an Apple one, too expensive for my taste). However, I believe it's wiser to spend that money on a bigger SSD (512Gb) now and get an external display later on. Somehow, I think I might regret going for a 256Gb SSD ; coming from a 1Tb HDD on my iMac, I believe the shock might be fatal :D
I opted for the 512 myself...no regrets :D

koulmj
Aug 11, 2013, 01:23 PM
I was wondering : how many of you use the MBA as their main computer and can you live with 256Gb ?

Yeah for an ultra portable i just keep 90% of my movies and some music on a usb drive...

ayres
Aug 11, 2013, 01:44 PM
Yes, of course. That would happen over time anyway. I was even considering buying an external display right away (although not an Apple one, too expensive for my taste). However, I believe it's wiser to spend that money on a bigger SSD (512Gb) now and get an external display later on. Somehow, I think I might regret going for a 256Gb SSD ; coming from a 1Tb HDD on my iMac, I believe the shock might be fatal :D

i currently have a 15mbp with a hi-res screen. i passed along my 13mbp to my dad. and my sister has a 2011 13-inch mba. this past week, i had the opportunity to use both of their computers after using only my 15-inch for almost a year. i can move to the 13 mba's screen size with no issues due to its resolution. it feels right. the 13 mbp, i immediately feel claustrophobic due to how much space the windows require in order to properly do work of any kind. the 13 inch's color and sharpness have never bothered me, but that window feels so damn cramped. i must admit i also have always loved the glass over top the screen.

Dr. McKay
Aug 11, 2013, 02:13 PM
i currently have a 15mbp with a hi-res screen. i passed along my 13mbp to my dad. and my sister has a 2011 13-inch mba. this past week, i had the opportunity to use both of their computers after using only my 15-inch for almost a year. i can move to the 13 mba's screen size with no issues due to its resolution. it feels right. the 13 mbp, i immediately feel claustrophobic due to how much space the windows require in order to properly do work of any kind. the 13 inch's color and sharpness have never bothered me, but that window feels so damn cramped. i must admit i also have always loved the glass over top the screen.

I know what you mean. I feel that a 1280x800 resolution is ridiculous nowadays, even for a 13" screen (scandalous how Apple still charge that much money for a Macbook Pro with that res). My wife has a 15" Dell with 1366x768 res (about 4 years old already, though), but I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. The 1440x900 res of the 13" MBA sounds just right, however. Retina seems a bit overkill, I believe. My G5 iMac 20" had a resolution of 1680x1050, my previous 24" imac had a 1920x1200 res whereas my current 21,5 inch has a 1920x1080 res. None of them felt awkward, but I wouldn't go back to the old configs.
We're all moving more and more to iDevices and I believe that big screens are rapidly becoming a thing for the pros. I mean, I've got a Mac Pro at work with dual monitors, one 1920x1200 and one 1680x1050 and it feels right for the things I'm doing at work. This setup would be total overkill at home, however.
I don't even feel the need anymore for a desktop at home. We have an iPad 2 (which will be passed on to the children as we're replacing it with an iPad 4), I've got an iPhone 4S, and my 21.5" iMac will soon be replaced by a MB Air. No need for a Retina MBP, too expensive for my needs.

I've got two external hard drives, one 1.5Tb and one 2Tb (which I use for TM). I will be replacing my Airport Express 2d Gen with an Airport Extreme to which i'll hook up the 2Tb Drive.
Strange, but I really start to understand what Jobs was talking about, with the truck analogy. I found it silly at the time, but it's starting to sink in. Pity he went so soon...

hindmost
Aug 11, 2013, 02:14 PM
I was wondering : how many of you use the MBA as their main computer and can you live with 256Gb ?

My daughter has a 2011 MacBook Pro i5/8/256 OWC SSD.

I installed the solid state drive myself.....256gig was all I thought affordable last year. Well, she has over 30,000 pics in iPhoto and with her other apps she is using nearly 200gig of the SSD right now.

Yes, yes, I know she could lug an external drive around with the photos on it and/or use the 'cloud'. But that stuff has drawbacks (weight and cables, and inconvenience with an external and we don't 'trust' the cloud).

So? So, I got her a new mid 2013 MacBook Air i5/8/512 as it fits her profile for plenty 'fast' enough, max RAM and a lot of head room for storage. My recommendation? Go with the biggest SSD if you are going to use your machine daily and don't want to be hobbled with sweats for SSD space. YMMV.

Dr. McKay
Aug 12, 2013, 09:51 AM
Right, more or less decided on the i5/8 Gb/256SSD model.
I've got two external HDD's, one 1.5Tb Samsung which I use for general storage, one 2Tb Western Digital MyBook (mac edition with metal look), both USB2 (the WD also has FW800).

Now, I've got an Airport Express (2nd gen) which I would sell and replace with an Airport Extreme. I would hook up the WD drive to the USB on the Airport Extreme (which has USB2, if I'm not mistake) to be used as a TM backup disk, one partition TM, another partition for my iphoto and iTunes library (which I've got backed up both on the Samsung)

My question : how's the speed using such a setup i.e. wireless TM, playing music and viewing pictures wirelessly. I'd even maybe add an Apple TV to that a bit later on...

Boyd01
Aug 12, 2013, 04:52 PM
I was wondering : how many of you use the MBA as their main computer and can you live with 256Gb ?

It will be fine for many (most?) people. I got a 2011 13" i5 MBA with 4gb/256gb and it served me well. Up until a month ago I still had 100gb free space. However I needed to delete/archive old Logic Pro files, and kept a smaller iTunes library than I would have liked.

Then I started working with video again and after two days was down to less than 50gb free. I could have dealt with it by using an external Thunderbolt drive, but I had the chance to sell the 2011 MBA so I took it. I actually went down to the 2013 11" MBA this time, but with the i7, 8gb and 512gb. I feel like I have a little more "room to breathe" now.

Get the biggest SSD you can possibly afford. The economics of aftermarket SSD upgrades aren't so attractive at the moment IMO. You will be glad you spent the extra money a year or two down the road.

Dr. McKay
Aug 13, 2013, 08:29 AM
One more question : I'm new to SSD's and was wondering whether they need special maintenance. I believe that OS X has TRIM support so I don't need to worry about cleaning up the SSD regularly ?

robvas
Aug 13, 2013, 10:41 AM
One more question : I'm new to SSD's and was wondering whether they need special maintenance. I believe that OS X has TRIM support so I don't need to worry about cleaning up the SSD regularly ?

Right.

Dr. McKay
Aug 14, 2013, 04:57 AM
OK, one more before I fork out for my MBA.

I've heard stories about not every headphone working with the MBA ? Can anyone confirm/deny this ?
Also, I've been told to keep my fingers crossed when ordering an MBA. If I'm lucky enough to get one with a Samsung display/SSD, I'm in the clear. If I get an LG display/Toshiba SSD one, I won't be that lucky...
Again, confirm or deny...

Primus84
Aug 14, 2013, 05:02 AM
OK, one more before I fork out for my MBA.

I've heard stories about not every headphone working with the MBA ? Can anyone confirm/deny this ?
Also, I've been told to keep my fingers crossed when ordering an MBA. If I'm lucky enough to get one with a Samsung display/SSD, I'm in the clear. If I get an LG display/Toshiba SSD one, I won't be that lucky...
Again, confirm or deny...

The headphones thing is nonsense.

The screens are not an issue now, I've recently received an MBA with an LG screen and it's great.

Dr. McKay
Aug 14, 2013, 10:11 AM
Right, that's that then. Think I'll stick with 256Gb, though. I'll spend the money for the 512SSD upgrade on an Airport Extreme and hook up my external WD 2Tb drive to it.
My wife has her eyes on an iPad 4 (to replace the iPad 2 which we'll pass on to the children), so I'm not made of money :D
My iMac and Airport Express are going up for sale soon ! Thanks for all the feedback.

Ronnoco
Aug 14, 2013, 12:36 PM
My wife has her eyes on an iPad 4 (to replace the iPad 2 which we'll pass on to the children), so I'm not made of money :D

Be aware, the newer iPad 5 is right around the corner...:D

Dr. McKay
Aug 14, 2013, 12:58 PM
Be aware, the newer iPad 5 is right around the corner...:D

I know, I'm planning on getting the iPad 4 at a discount, possibly a refurb... which is what our iPad 2 was.

As for the MBA, now in doubt whether to get i5 or i7... sigh.
Been reading (too much, I'm afraid). Now, I know the i7 is faster, but I couldn't care less if rendering footage in iMovie or Handbrake takes 2 or 5 minutes.
What I DO care about, however, is performance when surfing the web. Some report jerky scrolling on content heavy websites with the i5, whereas the same sites are perfectly fine with an i7.
Others say that's nonsense. Anandtech, however, recommended the i7 if you use the MBA as your primary and only computer, because you might be disappointed with the i5...

So, who has the 2013 MBA i5 with 8Gb of RAM and the 256gb SSD ? Is there any truth to the above or is it just nonsense ?

Boyd01
Aug 14, 2013, 01:29 PM
As mentioned earlier, I had a 2011 13" i5 4gb/256gb MBA and just replaced it with a 2013 i7 8gb/512gb MBA. Performance difference is definitely noticeable in Final Cut Pro rendering and Logic Pro latency.

But for "everyday" stuff like web browsing, MS Office, etc... I was surprised how similar they are. I had them side by side while setting things up and couldn't really notice the difference for those kind of things. The 2013 i5 machine is surely even faster than my 2011 model also.

I didn't do any real "testing", but that was my subjective impression. The internet connection was not especially fast however, so maybe you'd see more of a difference on a fast cable or FIOS line?

But really.... since you have this question in your mind now, I suggest that you get the i7. If you don't, then there will always be that nagging "what if..." doubt. :D

Ronnoco
Aug 14, 2013, 01:37 PM
If you are within reasonable driving distance of an Apple retail store (or Certified Apple Reseller), why not just try the i5 and if there are any issues, return it for the i7 and see if that settles the issue.

jadAce
Aug 14, 2013, 01:51 PM
If you are within reasonable driving distance of an Apple retail store (or Certified Apple Reseller), why not just try the i5 and if there are any issues, return it for the i7 and see if that settles the issue.

Ronnoco, that i7 is starting to look like a great upgrade now. :D

Dr. McKay
Aug 14, 2013, 01:58 PM
But really.... since you have this question in your mind now, I suggest that you get the i7. If you don't, then there will always be that nagging "what if..." doubt. :D

I guess you're right. I believe the upgrade price for the 512Gb SSD is ridiculously high, but the i5 to i7 upgrade, I can live with.
As for being within driving distance of an Apple Store : I live in Belgium, so no Apple stores here, but we do have Apple Premium Resellers, which is the next best thing. Problem is that they only stock the i5 models, so no way to do a comparison. But I guess I could go and take a look to see if I like the i5 enough.

My internet connection is about 100 Mbps down and 5mbps up. I'll be adding a new Airport Extreme to the mix so I don't think internet/networking speed is going to be a problem.
However, I think Boyd01 is right : it's nagging me now so I don't think it'll go away anytime soon :D

Ronnoco
Aug 14, 2013, 02:08 PM
Ronnoco, that i7 is starting to look like a great upgrade now. :D

jadAce, I'm happy for you. I couldn't be happier with my Ultimate! :D

Boyd01
Aug 14, 2013, 03:21 PM
My internet connection is about 100 Mbps down and 5mbps up. I'll be adding a new Airport Extreme to the mix so I don't think internet/networking speed is going to be a problem.

You might have missed the point when I mentioned internet connection speed above. The speed of my internet connection is slow (2.5mb). Therefore, I might not notice a browser perfomance difference between the i7 and i5. If your internet is fast, then maybe you will notice a browser difference between the i5 and i7. ;)

In other words, internet speed is a bottleneck for me when browsing the web, and a faster CPU probably won't matter much.

Dr. McKay
Aug 14, 2013, 03:35 PM
I think internet connection speed will only have an effect on the speed with which the page loads, not with the fact that scrolling up and down is jerky or not...

Boyd01
Aug 14, 2013, 04:13 PM
I have never noticed "jerky scrolling" on either my 2011 i5 or 2013 i7 MBA....