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Old Dec 15, 2012, 03:02 AM   #1
NilesPaul
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Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: SFO
Student seeks advice: New 13in Pro or Air?

Hello all, first post here.

I need to buy a new laptop. The one I own (Macbook vintage late 2006) is on its last legs, the HDD is about to fail, the fan stopped working and the second superdrive has basically failed. It served me well, lasted six years of intense travel, got dropped a few times and god knows what TSA did to it. It probably could be picked up on a geiger counter its been x-rayed so many times. All in all, I'm really impressed, it was a real trouper.

So here is my situation.

I am a student that needs this next laptop to give me hopefully another 6 years, I would be ok with 4-5. I travel a ton, and I always need my laptop with me, very critical. I do not use the laptop for processor intensive work, rather, a ton of writing. Battery power is very important. I need to keep the cost down on this purchase, but I'll plunk down a couple more bills if it means I will be prolonging the useful life of the product.

Here are the machines I'm looking seriously at:

MacBook Pro 13in (NON-retina)

Option One
2.5GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM — 2x4GB
500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
AppleCare Protection Plan
Today's driveout price: 1372USD

Option Two
2.9GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM — 2x4GB
750GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
AppleCare Protection Plan
1582USD

Macbook Air 13in

Option One
1.8GHz Intel Dual-Core Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz
8GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
128GB Flash Storage
Apple USB SuperDrive
AppleCare Protection Plan
1501USD

Option Two
2.0GHz Intel Dual-Core Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz
8GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
256GB Flash Storage
Apple USB SuperDrive
AppleCare Protection Plan
1891USD

So I have a few thoughts about compromises here.
  • I feel that I will not be using the optical drive often but it would nice not to need to decide to bring it or not. I will buy one anyway if I choose the Air. Should I just go Pro?
  • The Air weighs 3lbs, the Pro 4.5lbs, my old one 5.2lbs. So in either case it will be an improvement. If I go with the Air the improvement in weight will be quite noticable. Will .7lbs be noticable if I go Pro?
  • The Pro can more easily be upgraded, especially in terms of HDD to SSD later on after the AppleCare ends. This makes me wonder if the Pro might have a potentially longer useful life.
  • i5 vs i7? Regretfully the i7 seems to be only available with a few configurations. If I went with the Air and got the i7 would this really be so great an improvement? Would the faster i5 on the Pro cut the mustard over the long term?
  • The pro is more easily serviced by myself if I can get stuck with something that needs fixing while on the road.
  • I really like the AIR, so sexy and light which is sooo good for travel. The Pro looks a lot more sturdy which is good for dealing with TSA (just threw up a bit).
  • The Pro claims 7hrs wireless web, the Air 5hrs. Thoughts?
  • Finally, the Pro is least expensive so that is appealing, especially considering I feel that I am getting more horsepower. The more horsepower combined with more easily upgraded HDD to SSD later on seems like it might help extend the useful life.

Any thoughts you might be interested in contributing I will appreciate greatly.
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Last edited by NilesPaul; Dec 15, 2012 at 03:09 AM.
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Old Dec 15, 2012, 03:19 AM   #2
knarzie
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if it is your only computer, I would go for the MBP. Yes it's heavier and doesn't have the nice SSD, but it's got more storage and an optical drive, a good all in one package.
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Old Dec 15, 2012, 03:22 AM   #3
NilesPaul
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Yes this will be the only computer. Between the two Pro models do you feel there would be a great improvement with the i7 over the i5?

Thanks for your input.
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Old Dec 15, 2012, 04:29 AM   #4
iDutchman
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Location: Amsterdam, NL
Since you really seem to search for a MacBook computer that will serve as long as possible. That is, not interested in resale value and stuff like that, I would go for the MacBook Pro.

The weight has never been an issue since late 2008, when this computer hit the market, so I wouldn't worry about that. Also, the white MacBook was fine in terms of weight right?

The 13" MacBook Pro is upgrade to and SSD, which is something you could do at first hand for a total cost less than the MacBook Air. Same goes for the 8GB RAM that will cost you like 35 dollars aftermarket. This will be a more cheaper option.
The 4GB then, can be kept as reserve.

In the future, say in 3 years, the MacBook Pro will be an better choose due to the processor just being a lot more powerful.

I would go i5, since your student needs really don't desire an i7. It will be just fine. You must keep in mind you're now working on a 1.83 or 2Ghz Core 2 Duo!

The air is a fine machine and will probably also be fine for another 3 years, but reaching the 5-6 year mark, I'd say go Pro and perform the above upgrades right from the start. Including SSD!

I can't work on a traditional HDD anymore. The SSD is so much faster, quiter, less heat and more reliable!

If the SuperDrive is not a real issue, you could consider popping the traditional HDD that came with the Pro in the SuperDrive bay, as a 2nd HD. This will give you ultimate storage and speed.

That's of course also something for further down the road.

Good luck.
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Old Dec 15, 2012, 06:04 AM   #5
nexusrule
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Join Date: Aug 2012
This is what I would do to have a good macbook pro that will last many years:

Take the base model (the $1,199.00 one) without adding nothing.

Buy this ssd on amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Electr...amsung+ssd+256

Buy these ram modules from crucial:

http://www.crucial.com/store/mpartsp...C13291A5CA7304

With $1400 you have all great quality component (and double the disk space) at a lower price than buying them from Apple.
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Old Dec 15, 2012, 03:47 PM   #6
NilesPaul
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Location: SFO
nexus, dutch, and knarzie, thank you very much for your input.

For some reason I forgot I could do the RAM myself as well. Also, the idea of swapping out the superdrive at some point and returning the original HDD to that bay is an interesting option.

I have two questions:

If I do replace the RAM/HDD(SSD) myself, will it void AppleCare?

Should I get Apple Care? With the educational discount it is 183 instead of 249. I did not buy it for the first MacBook and I have to say that I think I should have because the screen started flickering a bit within those three years, the battery had be replaced and the superdrive failed. This was probably due to all the travel. (I was working for an airline at the time, I don't now but I still fly a lot.)

A lot of what you have said has been good to hear because it confirms ideas that I had about this purchase.
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