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Old Sep 2, 2012, 02:23 AM   #1
mfa39
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For an art student: 13" Macbook Pro or Air?

Hi all! I've been thinking about switching to Mac from Windows, but can't decide which to get, a 13" Macbook Pro, or a 13" Macbook Air. No upgrades for either as I won't really be able to afford them. But anyway, I'm an art student, so I'll be doing quite a lot of photo editing, graphic design, basically all things Photoshop; I do a lot of video editing as well as a hobby; and a lot of web surfing and media playing. So those are really all I'll be using the laptop for, mostly.

I understand that Macbook Pro is the more powerful laptop, but do I really need all that power or will the Macbook Air suffice? I've been reading a lot of reviews and owners of the Macbook Air say Air is the best. I know portability is a plus for the Air but I won't really be bringing my laptop everywhere I go. Although I still would actually prefer the lighter laptop.

Which one should I get? Can the Macbook Air handle the work I'll be doing with it? Or should I really go for the more powerful, but less portable Pro?

Thanks in advance for your answers!
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 02:48 AM   #2
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both more than capable

get what you can more easily afford
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 02:56 AM   #3
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What's your budget? Max.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 03:04 AM   #4
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What's your budget? Max.
Max budget is how much the 13", 1.8GHz MacBook Air is. Meaning I really can't afford upgrades for both.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 03:15 AM   #5
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If I was in your position, I would get the base model 13" MacBook Pro, then consider upgrading the RAM from 4gb to 8gb+ at a later stage. One thing to keep in mind is that the MacBook Pro is upgradeable, whereas the Air's RAM and SSD are soldered in.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 03:30 AM   #6
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If I was in your position, I would get the base model 13" MacBook Pro, then consider upgrading the RAM from 4gb to 8gb+ at a later stage. One thing to keep in mind is that the MacBook Pro is upgradeable, whereas the Air's RAM and SSD are soldered in.

The Air's SSD is upgradeable, it's not soldered in.


Anyway, to OP, if you don't need a DVD burner then don't bother with the Pro since you don't need specific Pro features (that you've mentioned anyway), and you'd probably appreciate more the higher resolution, the faster speed AND the lower weight of the Air.

That being said, you should try to stretch your budget to get 8 GB of RAM for the base model Air, otherwise it wouldn't really be acceptable in 4-5 years.

I would recommend the base model 13" Air, try to scrounge up $90 for the upgrade to 8GB. Hold off on the SSD upgrade until later, then get a 256 or 512 GB SSD in a year or two when you can afford it from OWC.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 04:43 AM   #7
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both more than capable

get what you can more easily afford
I see - thank you!

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Originally Posted by ep1cn00bt00b View Post
If I was in your position, I would get the base model 13" MacBook Pro, then consider upgrading the RAM from 4gb to 8gb+ at a later stage. One thing to keep in mind is that the MacBook Pro is upgradeable, whereas the Air's RAM and SSD are soldered in.
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Originally Posted by Bauer24 View Post
The Air's SSD is upgradeable, it's not soldered in.

Anyway, to OP, if you don't need a DVD burner then don't bother with the Pro since you don't need specific Pro features (that you've mentioned anyway), and you'd probably appreciate more the higher resolution, the faster speed AND the lower weight of the Air.

That being said, you should try to stretch your budget to get 8 GB of RAM for the base model Air, otherwise it wouldn't really be acceptable in 4-5 years.

I would recommend the base model 13" Air, try to scrounge up $90 for the upgrade to 8GB. Hold off on the SSD upgrade until later, then get a 256 or 512 GB SSD in a year or two when you can afford it from OWC.
Thanks for your answers! But I don't really understand much of the technical stuff, forgive me for my ignorance - why would I need to upgrade? Is the speed/memory not gonna be enough for the work I'll be doing?
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 05:03 AM   #8
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I see - thank you!





Thanks for your answers! But I don't really understand much of the technical stuff, forgive me for my ignorance - why would I need to upgrade? Is the speed/memory not gonna be enough for the work I'll be doing?
SSD is the new era, it makes everything significantly faster than a nirmal HD with smaller chance of it being ruined. Solid State Drives will make your laptop for example turn on in 20 seconds rather than 80 and apps as well.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 05:12 AM   #9
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SSD is the new era, it makes everything significantly faster than a nirmal HD with smaller chance of it being ruined. Solid State Drives will make your laptop for example turn on in 20 seconds rather than 80 and apps as well.
I see, thanks! I'll worry about the SSDs in the future since it's upgradeable. As for the RAM, what's the difference between getting the 4GB and the 8GB? Isn't 4GB sufficient enough considering the tasks I need the computer for? And in case this has anything to do with it and would affect whether the 4gb is sufficient for me - I wouldn't actually use Photoshop and Final Cut Pro (or any two ~heavy programs) at the same time.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 05:24 AM   #10
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I see, thanks! I'll worry about the SSDs in the future since it's upgradeable. As for the RAM, what's the difference between getting the 4GB and the 8GB? Isn't 4GB sufficient enough considering the tasks I need the computer for? And in case this has anything to do with it and would affect whether the 4gb is sufficient for me - I wouldn't actually use Photoshop and Final Cut Pro (or any two ~heavy programs) at the same time.
No get an 8, 4 will be too stressed upon causing problems, go for an 8 for sure, and in a year SSD would be cheaper so you could get them. You can't upgrade RaM so if you want a laptop for a few years then 8 it is
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 05:27 AM   #11
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Given that you've said you'll be getting the base level of either model. I'd go for the Pro. Yes the Air's SSD is upgradeable but it's a bit of a hack. The Pro on the other hand is designed to allow upgrades (there are even instructions of Apple's website on how to do this).

If you decide in a year that you want some extra RAM you'll be able to upgrade the Pro. If you go with the Air you're stuck at 4gb with no upgrade path. You can buy extra RAM for an MBP for half of what Apple charges, if you go for the Pro DON'T pay for the build to order stuff. Apple price gauge like crazy.

I've run CS3 on an MBP with 4gb of RAM, it's ok as long as you're not throwing high DPI files with hundreds of layers at it.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 05:45 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by mfa39 View Post
Hi all! I've been thinking about switching to Mac from Windows, but can't decide which to get, a 13" Macbook Pro, or a 13" Macbook Air. No upgrades for either as I won't really be able to afford them. But anyway, I'm an art student, so I'll be doing quite a lot of photo editing, graphic design, basically all things Photoshop; I do a lot of video editing as well as a hobby.

Which one should I get? Can the Macbook Air handle the work I'll be doing with it? Or should I really go for the more powerful, but less portable Pro?

Despite what people are saying Air IS NOT suitable for you if you are going to make graphic/design and video editing. I work in web graphic design with a macbook pro 15'' with 8gb ram and 256 sdd and dedicated graphics. It's a great machine and the speed is adequate. I could work with a macbook pro 13' but not with an Air. Air means a thin form factor so a lot of heat (that is detrimental to performance) and fan always on. Air has low voltage cpu that are les sperfomant than pro one, and for photoshop cpu performance is of paramount importance. Low voltage cpu is definetly not for cpu intensive taks. It also means you are stuck with what you get (ram, ssd); while with a pro you can update ram and disk when you have money. The thicker form factor of the pro also means less thermal/noise issues and so better performances. On macbook pro you can also add, I think second drive in place of optical in the future.

Don't believe who says Air is good for graphic/video editing. I really can't understand why people talk about thing they don't know at all.

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The Air's SSD is upgradeable, it's not soldered in.
Anyway, to OP, if you don't need a DVD burner then don't bother with the Pro since you don't need specific Pro features (that you've mentioned anyway), and you'd probably appreciate more the higher resolution, the faster speed AND the lower weight of the Air.

That being said, you should try to stretch your budget to get 8 GB of RAM for the base model Air, otherwise it wouldn't really be acceptable in 4-5 years.

I would recommend the base model 13" Air, try to scrounge up $90 for the upgrade to 8GB. Hold off on the SSD upgrade until later, then get a 256 or 512 GB SSD in a year or two when you can afford it from OWC.
Don't give advice if you don't know what you are talking about. Air is not a good machine to do graphical/video editing. Thin form factor means it get hot fan are always on and the machine is less performant. You can't upgrade ram in an Air, and 4 gb is not enough (he says he can't buy upgrades). Adding an ssd to a pro in the future wil be less expensive (no proprietary ssd format). Air has low voltage low perfomance cpu compared to pro, for photoshop cpu performance is really important. Air "may" be (almost) good if you can change machine once a year not if you are on a budget.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 05:52 AM   #13
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Don't give advice if you don't know what you are talking about. Air is not a good machine to do graphical/video editing. Thin form factor means it get hot fan are always on and the machine is less performant. You can't upgrade ram in an Air, and 4 gb is not enough (he says he can't buy upgrades). Adding an ssd to a pro in the future wil be less expensive (no proprietary ssd format). Air "may" be good if you can change machine once a year not if you are on a budget.
I think it's you who doesn't know what you're talking about. I have both a 15 inch MBP and an Air. I use both for web design, if anything it's the Pro that's prone to spinning fans.

I wouldn't recommend the Air for video work but there's nothing wrong with it for doing design work. I frequently have Photoshop and Illustrator CS6, Parallels with Windows 7 running, no spinning fans.

I would agree that the Pro is probably a better fit for the OP but that's got more to do with trying to future proof than the abilities of hardware.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:00 AM   #14
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I think it's you who doesn't know what you're talking about. I have both a 15 inch MBP and an Air. I use both for web design, if anything it's the Pro that's prone to spinning fans.

I wouldn't recommend the Air for video work but there's nothing wrong with it for doing design work. I frequently have Photoshop and Illustrator CS6, Parallels with Windows 7 running, no spinning fans.

I would agree that the Pro is probably a better fit for the OP but that's got more to do with trying to future proof than the abilities of hardware.
Well maybe we use different mac from different worlds. Could you post a 10 minutes video showing how fluid you Air is when working with PS and AI CS6 + Parallels? (with files open inside the applications). I don't know what you mean for web design, usually i have very big webpages, with lots of images and content that are heavy and takes lot of memory). I do webdesign for a living. Also, web design is meaningles in this contest, the user says he will need to do graphic desgign (bigger files, higher dpi) and video editing. (I said I do webdesign because it's usually less heavy on machines compared to print and video and still I deem a macbook pro the minimum to work pleasantly.)

Photoshop make intensive use of cpu. Macbook Air has low voltage cpu, that means you have less performance also with the same amount of ghz (and air anyway has less and less L3 cache) than on a pro. No professional would suggest a low voltage cpu for graphic and video editing.

The Air form factor, together with that cpu, means you always have less performance than with a pro. When temperature goes up, performances goes down.

Suggesting to buy an Air means having this boy throw aways his money, just to continue this Apple myth that Air are super fast; they arent. When you read that an Air has similar performances than a macbook, it's because they talk of generic benchmarks for common daily use (browsing, listening to music, emailing). Look at photoshop/video benchmark and a pro is clearly superior than an Air. For obvious reason.

EDIT: sorry if I sound harsh to you, english is not my first language. What makes me a bit nervous is, systematically, when some one come to the forum and says "my budget is limited" what should i buy, people suggests the inferior machines, because (at least to my eyes) they simply think "is cooler" and they don't have enoguh informations, with no respect for the people finances, and I consider this childish behavior.

Last edited by nexusrule; Sep 2, 2012 at 06:11 AM.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:11 AM   #15
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Well maybe we use different mac from different worlds. Could you post a 10 minutes video showing how fluid you Air is when working with PS and AI CS6 + Parallels? (with files open inside the applications)

Photoshop make intensive use of cpu. Macbook Air has low voltage cpu, that means you have less performance also with the same amount of ghz (and air anyway has less and less L3 cache) than on a pro. No professional would suggest a low voltage cpu for graphic and video editing.

The Air form factor, together with that cpu, means you always have less performance than with a pro. When temperature goes up, performances goes down.

Suggesting to buy an Air means having this boy throw aways his money, just to continue this Apple myth that Air are super fast; they arent. When you read that an Air has similar performances than a macbook, it's because they talk of generic benchmarks for common daily use (browsing, listening to music, emailing). Look at photoshop/video benchmark and a pro is clearly superior than an Air. For obvious reason.
No, I'm not wasting my weekend posting a video, I've got better things to do.

Where did I say the Air is as powerful as the Pro? What I said was that for my design usage (professional web designer) I don't notice any difference in running on either system. If I was editing high resolution, double page spreads with hundreds of layers I might well notice. Depending on the type of design work the OP is doing the difference between the two systems in real world usage terms might be unnoticeable.

Oh yes, if you read my first post you'll see I recommended the Pro in the first place. I just felt the need to correct your misinformation.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:13 AM   #16
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I'd suggest going with the Pro for the reasons a few have mentioned here. I started with a basic 13" MBP as a design student and I still use one (newer model) as a full time graphic designer.

The 13" Pro is easily portable, it's not that heavy and it's small enough to carry around.

You can upgrade to a SSD and more RAM down the track. I've upgraded mine to a SSD and 16GB RAM and it runs Adobe CS6 beautifully.

When you do want to get a new machine down the track you can just buy a base model, pull out the RAM and SSD of the old one and plug it in - instant upgrade and no data lost. You'd easily get 4 or 5 years out of your machine.

If you want more space, you can buy a kit that removes the optical drive so you can install a second HDD. You can't do that on an Air.

You'll get more longevity out of a Pro. You can't afford the upgrade now, but in time you can and you'll get more years out of it.

Edit: I should qualify my advice to say that when working I hook it up to an external monitor, and any serious designer would appreciate the extra work space. The times when you need to use the built in screen are fewer than you'd think, so the higher resolution Air doesn't really matter that much.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:15 AM   #17
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It's definitely the Air.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:18 AM   #18
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I think it's you who doesn't know what you're talking about. I have both a 15 inch MBP and an Air. I use both for web design, if anything it's the Pro that's prone to spinning fans.

I wouldn't recommend the Air for video work but there's nothing wrong with it for doing design work. I frequently have Photoshop and Illustrator CS6, Parallels with Windows 7 running, no spinning fans.

I would agree that the Pro is probably a better fit for the OP but that's got more to do with trying to future proof than the abilities of hardware.
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Originally Posted by nexusrule View Post
Well maybe we use different mac from different worlds. Could you post a 10 minutes video showing how fluid you Air is when working with PS and AI CS6 + Parallels? (with files open inside the applications). I don't know what you mean for web design, usually i have very big webpages, with lots of images and content that are heavy and takes lot of memory). I do webdesign for a living. Also, web design is meaningles in this contest, the user says he will need to do graphic desgign (bigger files, higher dpi) and video editing. (I said I do webdesign because it's usually less heavy on machines compared to print and video and still I deem a macbook pro the minimum to work pleasantly.)

Photoshop make intensive use of cpu. Macbook Air has low voltage cpu, that means you have less performance also with the same amount of ghz (and air anyway has less and less L3 cache) than on a pro. No professional would suggest a low voltage cpu for graphic and video editing.

The Air form factor, together with that cpu, means you always have less performance than with a pro. When temperature goes up, performances goes down.

Suggesting to buy an Air means having this boy throw aways his money, just to continue this Apple myth that Air are super fast; they arent. When you read that an Air has similar performances than a macbook, it's because they talk of generic benchmarks for common daily use (browsing, listening to music, emailing). Look at photoshop/video benchmark and a pro is clearly superior than an Air. For obvious reason.
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I'd suggest going with the Pro for the reasons a few have mentioned here. I started with a basic 13" MBP as a design student and I still use one (newer model) as a full time graphic designer.

The 13" Pro is easily portable, it's not that heavy and it's small enough to carry around.

You can upgrade to a SSD and more RAM down the track. I've upgraded mine to a SSD and 16GB RAM and it runs Adobe CS6 beautifully.

When you do want to get a new machine down the track you can just buy a base model, pull out the RAM and SSD of the old one and plug it in - instant upgrade and no data lost. You'd easily get 4 or 5 years out of your machine.

If you want more space, you can buy a kit that removes the optical drive so you can install a second HDD. You can't do that on an Air.

You'll get more longevity out of a Pro. You can't afford the upgrade now, but in time you can and you'll get more years out of it.

Edit: I should qualify my advice to say that when working I hook it up to an external monitor, and any serious designer would appreciate the extra work space. The times when you need to use the built in screen are fewer than you'd think, so the higher resolution Air doesn't really matter that much.
Thanks again for your answers! I honestly don't see myself going for upgrades now, maybe even ever? I checked my desktop computer's RAM and it's only 2GB, but I have no problems with the speeds when video editing (except that I have to buffer them before I can play them smoothly) and definitely no problems when working on Photoshop. I only usually use about 20 layers; will never reach 100.

Both the Air and the Pro will obviously be upgrades from my computer now. I guess the question is which will be better for me given my tasks, and which has more advantages. For example - Pro definitely has better performance, but the portability of the air is something I would consider (and in my research process I have to admit I'm very attracted to the Air because of it).

The Air can't handle heavy duty video editing, but I'll only really be working with 720p files at most (but almost always just 480p files). Can it not handle that still? I think it's also important to know that I will never be using these along with several other heavy programs simultaneously.

Given this information, is it still advisable to get the 8GB version?
And given the advantages of both machines - which will suit me better (see I'm considering not ONLY the performance - convenience, portability, design, etc as well)?

Thanks guys!

PS. I'm a girl.


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It's definitely the Air.
Definitely? For a graphic design student? How come? Thanks!
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:20 AM   #19
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No, I'm not wasting my weekend posting a video, I've got better things to do.

Where did I say the Air is as powerful as the Pro? What I said was that for my design usage (professional web designer) I don't notice any difference in running on either system. If I was editing high resolution, double page spreads with hundreds of layers I might well notice. Depending on the type of design work the OP is doing the difference between the two systems in real world usage terms might be unnoticeable.

Oh yes, if you read my first post you'll see I recommended the Pro in the first place. I just felt the need to correct your misinformation.
The video part was ironic.
But mine is not misinformation. Low voltage cpu are less powerful. Thin form factor mean more heat so less performances. These are facts.
Also: the OP said he needs to do graphic/video editing, my (mis)informations considered that usage not yours or mine. I used the webdesign example to mean: you would be better with a pro than an air even for webdesign, more so for print/video. Hope you understood what I meant now (already said, english not my first language).
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:22 AM   #20
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Sounds like the OP has her heart set on the Air. Go for it, it'll still work for you, it just won't be as powerful or be as future proof as the Pro.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:27 AM   #21
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Sounds like the OP has her heart set on the Air. Go for it, it'll still work for you, it just won't be as powerful or be as future proof as the Pro.
I'm not! The portability just seems like a big deal. I see a lot of MBA users who emphasize how heavy the MBP is compared to it, and they also say how when they've gone Air they really can't go back - which I assume is because they're generally satisfied with its performance. I've also checked out videos that compare the speeds of the two when rendering videos thru Final Cut Pro and importing photos on Photoshop and it seems they're almost the same.

I really don't know. I'm looking to getting whichever has the more pros for me, also considering how I don't really see myself splurging on the upgrades.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:30 AM   #22
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If you're going to be working with a lot of video I definitely think the Pro would be better. I'd say that type of usage has to trump the portability. They are heavier but if you get a comfortable backpack it should mitigate that a bit.

The RAM upgrade will cost you more if you get it as a BTO option but if you're not reasonably confident or know someone who is about fitting it yourself it might be safer to pay the premium.

I don't do any kind of video editing so I'm not going to comment on whether a RAM upgrade would be necessary for that.

Yes, the Air is more portable but I think in this case you'd be sacrificing too much for it given you want to edit video.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:32 AM   #23
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Thanks guys!

PS. I'm a girl.

Definitely? For a graphic design student? How come? Thanks!
If you are a graphic design student, definitely get the pro. You are already putting artificial limitations on your usage (not more than a program at once) that shouldn't be an issue in 2012. What if you find yourself needing to use more than on app at once? (photo editor + layout program; photo editor + color tools; etc-) this is common when working in design. Rarely one is able to work with one program at once (I use photoshop + bridge + dropbox + color schemer studio practically always, having to switch beetween these program, I would loose a lot in productivity). You say you could probably never upgrade your machine, but this is not correct. 2 years ago 2 gb was enough to run OSX, now 4gb are needed; in 2 years you could find yourself in need to upgrade the ram or suffer for performance and fludity issues.

Also: study a bit about the technical stuff, in our field is needed to know at least the basics
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:34 AM   #24
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Thin form factor mean more heat so less performances. These are facts.
Ok. I guess what I was trying to get across (albeit badly) was that these days the theoretical maximum output of these machines is high enough that you might not ever approach the limits of either machine, depending on what you're using them for.
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Old Sep 2, 2012, 06:39 AM   #25
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I'm not! The portability just seems like a big deal. I see a lot of MBA users who emphasize how heavy the MBP is compared to it, and they also say how when they've gone Air they really can't go back - which I assume is because they're generally satisfied with its performance. I've also checked out videos that compare the speeds of the two when rendering videos thru Final Cut Pro and importing photos on Photoshop and it seems they're almost the same.

I really don't know. I'm looking to getting whichever has the more pros for me, also considering how I don't really see myself splurging on the upgrades.
In the next years you will find that studying/doing graphic design is more than rendering videos and importing photos. Also, as i already said, rarely one ha sa workflow including just one program at once. Performance ľareľ important, the simplest example of that is that with an air you will probably need more time to complete your assignments, not so smart.

I don't know why you are so anti-ugrades, take in mind apple' upgrade prices are artificially higher, 8gb ram are 45$ right no, will be 30 in year. If you are "anti upgrade" because of budget reasons, well, you should really buy the machine that wil last more not the one that is nicer.
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