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Old Jan 11, 2013, 03:50 AM   #1
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Maxed out MBA versus MBP

Hi All,

I'm looking for some advice to help guide me on a new laptop purchase - my first macbook - and am curious about the thoughts of the MBA versus the Pro, given the following needs/wants:

- I will mainly use it for work/browsing, maybe some coding work on personal projects; work is primarily building large excel-based models so I need to have good processing power (e.g. some models are quite large and take quite a few minutes to recalculate on my windows laptop).

- I would probably look to run my existing windows Excel program on the machine rather than get the mac version; and I need to be able to run Crystal Ball for Monte Carlo simulations - so either using crossover, parallels, vmware or bootcamp would be needed.

- Portability is a factor - I travel to a lot of client sites and my existing machine is around 2kg - a massive pain in the neck!

- I store most of my stuff (work files, music, etc) in the cloud.

So my questions I guess are whether a Maxed out (or almost maxed out - except for storage - 256GB) MBA could easily handle the work above, or whether I should look at the Macbook Pro (probably the new retina one with the SSD because of weight etc.).

If I did go down the rMBP path, would I notice much difference between the i5 2.5Ghz & i7 2.9Ghz processors?

Any thoughts/suggestions appreciated!


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Old Jan 11, 2013, 04:22 AM   #2
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I assume you're talking only 13" models.

Personally, if I had the budget I would aim for the 13" MBP with the i7. Normally it wouldn't make a huge difference but for the kind of work you're talking about I can see that it might.

Without anything much of a budget it's hard to say really, also the 11" is incredibly portable, how important is the portability factor here?
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 04:33 AM   #3
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Hey - thanks for coming back to me Charlie.

Yes - I'd not be looking at anything under 13" - I' like to balance the size against the need to have enough screen to work on the models where I don't have access to an external monitor. In terms of importance, mobility is a close second to performance.

In terms of budget, I've a target of up to GBP 2k, but if its compelling I'd maybe look a bit higher.
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 04:43 AM   #4
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Go with the Air but keep in mind there's no user upgradable parts so storage is the only area where I wouldn't go all-out. If you think you might install Windows later, definitely don't go smaller than 256GB. Also, with all those columns, I wouldn't consider the 11".
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 05:30 AM   #5
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Even a Retina MacBook is non-user-upgradeable.

That aside, for sheer desktop space in a small package, you could opt for the 13-inch rMBP, and install a plugin to use it as a non-Retina MacBook, but I can't say for stability.

Though last I read, if you boot a rMBP in Boot Camp, there is no Retina and you get a massive resolution.
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 11:29 AM   #6
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Thanks for the responses - this is all very helpful
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 12:10 PM   #7
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I use a non-Retina MBP15 with anti-glare and 1680x1050. For the first time I feel un-cramped on my laptop. I have previously used a MBP13, and conventional MBP15 (1440x900).

Just bought my wife a MBA13 with i7 and 8GB RAM. She uses it primarily for programming, and it seems to work pretty well for her.

I use VMware, also for Excel (note that the Mac and PC versions are not 100% compatible -- I guarantee that with models as large and complex as you develop, you will bump up against it). Excel under VMware runs better/faster than native Mac Excel.

That said, I think by the time you add up what you want (8-16 GB memory, SSD, enough pixels to see data and not just application menus) I think you'll want an rMBP-15.
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 01:10 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by kohlson View Post
Excel under VMware runs better/faster than native Mac Excel.
This point is 100% accurate, Mac Excel / Office is extremely sluggish still.
MBP 15 , MBA 13 , iPad Air 64 , 92 lb Chocolate Lab
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 03:05 PM   #9
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Screen Size Considerations

MBA 13" screen is small for Excel. I work on much smaller spreadsheets than do you, and the 13" screen is bothersome with spreadsheets. Suggest you look at 15" MBP, Retina or otherwise. I don't know about the rMBP 13", which may allow more real estate for a spreadsheet. I will probably go to the 15" rMBP for the very reason after its next update.

I used Excel for Mac and have no problems working with all spreadsheets on a PC or a Mac. Not sure about any incompatibility mentioned by someone else.

Note: love the MBA for portability, but the screen is small for much of what I work on.

Good luck!
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 03:39 PM   #10
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In my opinion an Air will do anything a MBP will do, as long as you aren't trying to use the MBP as a desktop replacement.

That being said, I wouldn't purchase any notebook for a heavy workload.
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 04:24 PM   #11
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If you are taking it anywhere, go for the MBA! The portability is bigger than you think. I have both, and the MBA goes everywhere with me and the MBP is just a desktop computer now. Also, MBA continues to get better battery life. And the SSD along with cloud storage is what I will do from now on.

Last edited by esorblem; Jan 11, 2013 at 04:31 PM.
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Old Jan 11, 2013, 09:49 PM   #12
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I vote for a the MBA. If you're going from a non-SSD computer, both will blow it out of the water in terms of speed. It's like choosing something that's 400% vs 410% faster. The portability will mean the macbook air can be used for a looooong time for word/excel/ppt stuff.
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