How far can I go with a 8GB/256GB Macbook Air ?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by opsuisppn, Dec 23, 2012.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Dec 23, 2012
    Hi guys,

    I am about to purchase my very first macbook. I need it light and fast so I am considering 13" Macbook Air and 13" Retina Macbook Pro. Most of my works would require multitasking, that is to open multiple webpages, word files, pdf files, and some lightweight computing and programming tools at the same time. Other than that I would use Adobe Bridge to edit raw photos, but not that often.

    While many say the base model Macbook Air (i5/4GB/128GB) is sufficient for 95% of users, I wonder how much performance gain could the i5/8GB/256GB model bring to me? Especially since I wish to keep it for the next 3-4 years. I hope it still can perform decently well compare to the new laptops in 3 years.

    Also, the i5/8GB/256GB Macbook Air is around $1500 and the similar Retina Macbook Pro is around $1900. Would it be wise to choose the retina since it may become the standard in the next generation Macbooks?

  2. macrumors 68040


    Nov 3, 2011
    As long as your needs are not CPU intensive - 8GB is smart for future proof.
  3. macrumors 6502a

    Apr 12, 2012
    I use 4GB of ram, and it's great. I don't feel like I need more. Although, what I do is pretty minimalistic.
  4. macrumors 65816

    Nov 30, 2010
    First, your choice is between a 4 GB and a 8GB model.

    If you plan to use Mac OS exclusively, 4 GB should be more than enough. If you plan to run Virtual Machines to run Windows etc.. then 8GB is preferable.

    As far as performance is concerned, more memory means more caching hence the system is more zippy. Well, it used to be in the days of hard disks. Since the MBA uses SSD, thats not an issue anymore. Access times 5 times faster than hard disks caching is sort of becoming irrelevant. Next three years, we don't see any humungous software releases that will eat up more memory but future releases of the Mac OS could have more widgets and services running that could use more memory. See the difference between Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion.

    As far as Retina is concerned, its really tempting. The weight is not really that much of an issue, but size could be.

    So if portability is not what you are after, go for the retina. If portability is your first concern stick with the MBA.

    Memory wise more is always better.. but unless you run memory hogs like Logic or Aperture or do a lot of RAW photo editing, 4 GB should be fine.
  5. macrumors member

    Nov 17, 2012
    I am not sure I completely agree here. The 13" rMPB is very portable as well. It is only slightly thicker on my edge and the footprint is actually smaller than the 13" MBA.
  6. Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Excellent post and informative post (and a lot better than what I would write, as it tells me things I didn't know).

    Here, I think the point is that portability is measured by weight as much as size. I have a 13" MBA and the main reason I bought it is that I travel a lot, and weight matters - the MBA is wonderfully light. The excellent screen (although not, obviously, as good as the designated retina screens) and blazing fast SSD drive were wonderful bonuses.
  7. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 23, 2012
    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your excellent replies!

    The 15" Retina Macbook Pro is too heavy to carry around and I don't think I really need the quad core. But the 13" version is only about half pound heavier than the Macbook Air, similar thickness, and smaller in size.

    SSD and Retina display are probably the biggest advancement of last decade in computer hardware industry, and I don't see any new technology yet to have the same impact in the next decade. So I think I probably will choose the 13" Retina Macbook Pro over Macbook Air.

    Here are my two more questions:

    1. Shall I expect a significant price drop of the Retina product line in 2013? Perhaps a 13" retina near $1200?

    2. Would the i5/8GB/256GB Retina Macbook Pro still perform reasonably well 3 years later? I mean with the new softwares and applications?

  8. macrumors 68040


    Nov 3, 2011
    1. Nope - I would be surprised by a $100 drop in 2013 model
    2. Yes - If your software is not requiring top of the line specs.
  9. macrumors 6502

    Apr 19, 2012
    Go for the 8gb of ram in any case. I had a 4GB MBA before and I don't often edit pictures but when I did I would get page outs alot when running photoshop and lightroom at the same time along with itunes mail and some tabs open in safari. The page outs are not as noticeable because of the SSD which is the main reason why 4GB is enough for most. But when you are editing raw files sometimes its just annoying to get any kind of slow down when you apply a filter or something. And the fact that you want this machine to last you a while means you should go for the extra ram since software will not be going to using less in the future, only more. Speed wise the i5 is plenty and I do not see it slowing down any time soon.

    Have you decided weather or not you want the i7 or i5?
  10. macrumors member

    Nov 17, 2012
    Half a pound weight difference and .05" thickness difference is really small. Not that there isn't a difference I just don't think the rMBP is out of the picture due to portability. It is still really thin and light. Much more so than a standard MBP.
  11. macrumors 65816

    Nov 30, 2010
    Actually I thought he was referring to the 15" retina model. So yes, there might not be much of a difference.

    But when you talk about portability, every bit counts.

    For example I can hold my MBA in the palm of my left hand for 30 mins or more and be surfing the web. Its actually as easy as using an iPad weight wise.

    But I wouldn't try that with a 13" Macbook Pro, if you know what I mean.


    Ditto. Thats why I got the MBA as well.. Its power amazes me as I use Windows on a virtual machine and everything loads and works fast. It gets a little warm but thats to be expected.
  12. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 23, 2012
    I think the i7 only wins marginally when performing big computing jobs like processing 100 raw image files or hd video; for regular jobs i5 and i7 are about the same, am I right? If so I'd rather spend the money on the ram. I can always use desktop (I'm thinking to get the quad core Mac mini next year) for big jobs.
  13. macrumors regular

    Jan 30, 2009
    Go for the i5/8gb Air if you need it soon.

    Otherwise, wait until the next Air update.
  14. macrumors 6502


    Mar 15, 2012
    Fairhope, Alabama
    I was and am still using a ppc 5 2003-4. I just got a mac-mini.I read technology is going to hit a wall in 3 or 4 years as far as being able to make smaller faster chips
  15. macrumors 65816

    Nov 30, 2010
    They say that all the time... even if they hit the wall in terms of reducing the size of the circuits they will just build one on top of another. It never stops...

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