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MacBook Air vs. low end 13" MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Alvi, Mar 7, 2010.

  1. macrumors 65816


    Hi guys, i was planning to get a MacBook Pro but at the store where they sell it they sell me the Pro they sell me the air for the same price, i feel that the Air is better value because it's thinner and it has almost the same features.
    I want to use the computer around the house, take it to work, starbucks, a daily usage computer, like something between my desktop and iPhone, and that's NOT an iPad in my case, i would use it to download music and sync my iPhone on iTunes, apereture, even light video editing probably just twice a year or so, one part i care about is Second Life (3D Virtual World)... is the performance the same even with a lower clock processor? since 3D apps use more GPU than CPU.

    Would 4 tabs in safari + iTunes music + secondlife + 1 Work app go fine all together? should i get the pro?
  2. macrumors 6502


    I have a 2.53GHz 13" MBP and a 1.6GHz "Revision B" MacBook Air. The difference between the two machines is like night and day.

    I have given up trying to run fairly intensive graphics apps (InDesign, PhotoShop) on the MBA. The iWork suite is fine, but anything more sophisticated bogs down the processor.

    I love traveling with the Air, but I find myself growing increasingly frustrated because the machine is just downright sluggish. If I had to choose between the MBA and the MBP - that is, if I could only have one - I'd pick the Pro hands down.
  3. macrumors 601


    I have to disagree with the other replier. I believe the MBA is plenty capable if it's the correct model. The 1.86/2.13 GHz Penryn CPU is plenty of power for Photoshop and Adobe CS products especially with Nvidia 9400m GPU. However, the MBA does have problems with HD playback within a browser plug-in. I believe the 1.6 GHz is just below the threshold required to get optimal performance from Flash and HD plug-ins. I have noticed the CPU taking huge hits when running Flash or other plug-ins... when I run an HD Video in a playback application (not within the browser) the MBA succeeds perfectly every time.

    I would say the biggest performance boost in the MBA comes with an Nvidia GPU or an SSD over the 4200rpm HDD. Both are critical to performance and speed depending on the use required.

    Would 4 tabs in safari + iTunes music + secondlife + 1 Work app go fine all together? should i get the pro?

    Get a rev B/C MBA (v 2,1) with a 1.86/2.13 GHz Penryn C2D CPU and an SSD, and you will be perfectly fine. Normal browser tabs can hit 30+ before you will notice problems (I tested it with simple Flash ads and once I hit 30 pages I had degradation in performance).

    Finally I would say wait to see if the MBA gets updated unless you're getting a heck of a discount on the MBA. Right now, it's $1349 or $1549 from Apple.com via refurbished in the USA. I would say any price below that would be acceptable if you have to buy now. The reason I would really try to wait is the last MBA update brought a $700 discount along with a spec bump. If the MBA drops another several hundred dollars, and gets an SSD in the low-end version, it might really benefit those who wait. On the other hand, it could be next week or late June before there's an update. Nobody really knows what's going on and there are no recent rumors that make bold claims about an update real soon.

    Good luck!
  4. macrumors 601


    The GPU in the MacBook Air vs the 13" MacBook Pro is about 75% (If system is running at 100% efficiently, but it does downclock so the performance is more like 60%) of its intended performance. Just FYI.
  5. macrumors member

    I'd never understand why anybody would ever buy a MacBook Air unless they literally just browse the Internet and listen to music. If you're going to do any video editing on it, get the MBP.

    And there's really no comparison with the features. I have no idea where you're getting that idea.

    The MBA is just a giant ripoff, in my opinion. You're paying top dollar for a rather slow computer that has the one advantage of being really thin. It's not like a 13" MBP is a back breaker or anything. Maybe if the MacBook Air were cheaper than the regular MacBook. But with the intro price being the same as the upper level 13" MBP, it's just highway robbery.
  6. macrumors 65816


    then you basically say a 300 dollar cell phone is a ripoff because you can get 25" monitor with that money, sometime you just want somethig light to do basic stuff, of course they force you to pay a premium for that, I just want one because it costs me as much as the MBP
  7. macrumors 68000

    I'd take the MBP and be on your way. Unless you travel extensively and need a lightweight machine you will be much happier with the MBP. The MBA is great at what it is meant for, but it's not the all things to all people. I've tried out the each Revision hoping they would improve it's performance, heat and build issues but they remain. Heat will be an issue, don't care what anyone says, they are lying to themselves if they think you can run HD video or 3D games, even such as Second Life without the fans on HIGH. The MBP's glass trackpad is imo much better to use than the MBA's old school pad + buttons. The MBA hinge, after 90 to 120 days of daily use will become loose. Again, the MBA fans will disagree and say how great it is but they are just justifying their own purchase. The reality is you get a better battery, more connections, better hinge, better trackpad and a DVD drive + the option to stick 4 gigs of ram, the ability to upgrade the HDD to 500+ gigs or an SSD.

    I love the "idea" of the MBA, and in fact have purchased and returned or sold 3 different models hoping to find one that would work as an all around laptop. The MBA is simply not their for someone that wants a good multimedia device that handles basic games, movies, sites like Hulu, Netflix etc...

    I hope Apple continues to develop the platform and makes some changes to make the hinge less of an issue, the trackpad a glass one and figure out the thermal issues that continue to limit it's uses.

    However, if you do choose to go with an MBA, at least do yourself a favor and buy one with the SSD option. It makes a big difference in everyday performance, where the CPU speed maybe lacking.
  8. macrumors member

    No, it's not like saying that at all because that's a ridiculous comparison. A cell phone and a monitor don't have nearly the same function and all cell phones are made to fit in your pocket while monitors are meant to sit on desks. Don't be coy here.

    And it's not like you're really saving a ton of room with the MBA. It's not a netbook. It's still a 13" laptop like the MBP. The only difference is the weight (and the complete lack of... basically anything at all on the MBA) and thickness. Both are under an inch thick at their thickest points, so that's still not a big deal. And the MBP is only 1.5 pounds heavier. Like I said before, definitely not a back breaker. Like a poster in another topic pointed out, Apple's price was originally somewhat justified because of R&D costs like the unibody design, etc. Now that's standard in every Mac laptop. And the MBA doesn't even have the same battery life as the MacBook Pro. I mean, are you kidding me? It's designed to be ultra portable and it has inferior battery life with inferior hardware? No, the MacBook Air is just a ripoff at this point. It's not significantly smaller or lighter and it has virtually no features and a slow processor (and half the RAM for the same price).
  9. macrumors regular

    Agreed. It's really not worth it unless you already own a mbp and have money to burn.
  10. macrumors 65816


    My MBA is perfect for traveling, though I wouldn't recommend it for your primary Mac. I view it as a "supplemental" machine that I travel with. I do any heavy lifting at home on a desktop. If it's going to be your main Mac, get the MB Pro.
  11. macrumors 65816


    It's going to be my main mac, but not my main computer

    I agree, still i found it more valuable because it's more expansive and it costs the same as the pro

    nah, they're some people which could need one

    after your opinions i think I'll get a MacBook Pro or a MacBook + iPad what do you think is better?
  12. macrumors member

    I just bought a Macbook Air on the last weekend because I needed a notebook for GDC this week and for future conferences and meetings. For me size and weight were much more important than performance which is why I went with the Air in the end. It's amazing how much of a difference the 1.5lbs makes... if you go to the Apple store and pick up an Air and then an MBP, the MBP feels like a brick! Of course it's not a brick but the weight difference is really awesome for using it primarily at conferences and meetings where I'm moving it around and using it on my lap. Also the SSD MBA seems much cooler than the MBP.

    That being said I use a Mac Pro for my main machine which is why I wasn't worried about performance. Although so far the MBA has done quite well building our stuff in XCode and small work (i.e. exporters for me) in Photoshop and Maya.
  13. macrumors regular

    Imperil, man you are making me want a MBA even more! I just gotta hold out a little longer I guess...
  14. macrumors 65816


    I just look at the air in pics and it looks way thinner or at least it makes the MBP look bricky however I don't like that I can't upgrade ram especially because it has just 2GB, maybe It would look like a better offer with 4GB of ram and SSD by default
  15. macrumors regular

    Just want to put this out there, but my fiancé has a MBA as her ONLY computer and simply loves and its all that she needs, she runs Fusion, stat programs, browses the web and it still keeps up with her, and to top it all off she has the 1.6GHz Nvidia Version NO SSD. Can't wait to put the Runcore SSD in it!
  16. macrumors 6502a


    I run an MBA as my only computer.

    It does everything I want and this includes gaming in bootcamp.

    I'm not sure how intensive second life is, but the other stuff is definitely a breeze for the 2.13 ghz model of MBA.

    To those who think "MBA is supplementary" or "MBP and MBA is no comparison", most of you must not have even toyed with the MBA, it's a lot more powerful than at first glance.

    At any rate, if you didn't make the request about 2nd life, I'd say definitely go for it, but I'm just not sure what 2nd life is, though I have a feeling it'll likely run quite well, you'd be surprised at what the 2.13 ghz can do.

    That said, unless you're dying to have one (which is understandable), or it's super cheap, I wouldn't buy one.
  17. macrumors 68000

    For the record I've owned all three rev's and sold or returned each with the Rev B/SSD being my favorite so far. Having used the Rev B for nearly 6 months prior to selling it, I know of it's limitations very well. So answering someone looking for a good all around laptop the comparisons and short comings of the MBA should be pointed out vs the rabid fanboism posts by certain MBA members. ;)

    The MBA is not all things to all users. Clearly it has it's weak points such as video, 3D games etc... The comparison from a 13" MBP and the MBA is no comparison. Trying to compare a mainstream (MBP) to a niche ultraportable for everyday use in both business and personal makes the difference rather large.

    The hardware alone makes for a long list of "not even close" comparisons.

    The hinge, trackpad, available ports, dvd drive, ability to upgrade both ram and even HDD for a fraction of the cost. The MBP's ability to deal with heat vs the MBA becoming a George Forman grill if pushed at all.

    The MBA's strongest assest is it's weight. The person that travels will appreciate the MBA for what it is and the sacrifices made to achieve this is the trade off. I can use a netbook for my "only/everyday" computer if I want to but offering it up to someone that is simply "drooling" over the MBA is not friendly or educated advice. The overly biased responses touting the MBA as the best all around laptop Apple makes is setting someone up for disappointment. The MBA has it's place, but acting like it has no limitations or issues is not helping anyone trying to decide.

    I love the "idea" of the MBA, and will continue to track it's progress, however it simply still lacks in design and performance what I need as an all around computer.
  18. macrumors 6502a


    First, I never insinuated that the MBA as "the best all around laptop", I can think of several laptops that will fit that category much better than the MBA, in fact the MBP would likely do better than the MBA in a great deal many things, but my point remains - to the average user the MBA can satisfy the criteria of "primary mac"

    The assertion that the MBA is "simply a supplementary computer" seems somewhat unfair, given that the MBA can be a primary computer of those who do not need all the power to run graphic intensive programs, etc.

    You will also note that I did not say to the OP that he should buy the MBA, I remain unsure since I have no idea what Second Life requires, but for reference, I can run 3D games on my MBA.

    The ports issue is a real issue and I do acknowledge it is a weakness of the MBA, how much of a weakness depends on the user, I at times get annoyed at having to use a hub, but I deal with it, some users might not want to.

    Heat is not an issue for me, yes it gets hot, up to 70+ degrees celsius, but I've never thought to myself "damn man it's getting too hot to use". But that's a personal thing.

    Lastly, the RAM limitation pisses me off to, but for my purposes, it suffices. If one was looking to future proof themselves, an MBA is not the answer. But the OP does not make reference to this point.

    Again, I do not view the MBP and MBA as "incomparable" simply because to many users, the difference in performance is noticeable, but not crippingly so, and given the trade off with weight, to dismiss the MBA as "just a netbook" etc is misleading.


    Oh wait, DVD drive - personally never used one, but anyone shopping for an MBA would be well aware of the fact it doesn't have a DVD drive, thus it seems superfluous to say "oh dude the MBA doesn't have a DVD drive".
  19. macrumors 6502a


    I have both the MBA and the MBP (15" tho) and the MBA has almost totally replaced the MBP for my daily use. Also the MBA runs cooler than the MBP.
  20. macrumors 68000


    The main feature of MBA for traveling is its light weight, but it is also the main limitation - short battery life.

    I used to travel with MBA for conferences, and yes, the different between 3 and 4.5 pounds is definitely noticeable. While I enjoyed carrying it all day; I felt that I was somehow avoiding to actually use it to conserve battery juice.

    It was not always easy to find outlets to keep the MBA charged. I mean, how often you have an outlet on domestic economy seat; how many times you found all the seats next to an outlets are occupied at the airport terminal; and what are the odds you are sitting next to an outlet at Starbucks or other restaurants. Next thing I knew, my trip had turned into a constant quest of outlet searches.

    The new MBPs have an advertised 7 hour battery, although it is probably 5-6 hours in real life usage. I currently opt for the older MBs with a swappable battery. With a spare battery, I definitely find myself using the MB more and worrying less about battery life. However, be prepared to carry a 5 lb MB + an additional battery.
  21. macrumors 65816


    Nice point, so the MacBook Pro is a better choice for me, i travel much but not a lot, probably do 4 round-trips which mean like 10-14 flights, i wouldn't buy a computer just because of work since if i get fired one day, i would still have my computer, also battery is important since i do 10 hours flights mostly, a 5-7 hour battery is ok since almost 3 hours of the flight mean takeoff, and I'm in the same situation as you are, i don't find power outlets on the plane in economy class, and getting Business class is rare, however if the MacBook Air claims to last 5 hours it lasts 3-4 after some use
  22. macrumors member

    I have the 2.13 Rev. C with the SSD as my main computer at work. I'm a lawyer, so I don't use graph intense software, but browser, Office, Skype, iTunes, iCal, Things and Preview are usually open all times, with no major drop in performance. Parallels, on other hand, can make the computer feel slow.

    The main issue is about temperature. If the MBA gets hot, drops the speed of the processor a lot. I used to have a Rev. A and CoolBook solved most of its problems, but I haven't tried in this one.

    Regarding battery, if you drop the brightness to half and you will easily get 3:30 - 4 hours. Turn off wifi and bluetooth and you'll get another half hour. I have got 5 hours a couple of times. However, usually I don't need to work on battery for extended periods, so I'm not quite sure if 5 hours are something you should expect.
  23. macrumors newbie

    MBA vs MBP

    I like my MBA (rev2 SSD).. Does most things well but is rather sluggish any time I start working with images. I don't think it's great with images, but straight video has worked okay especially with converted DVDs using Handbrake. If you need power more than 50% of your time then maybe the MBA is not for you, otherwise the MBA is slick, light, and very portable.

    Not much help are we?
  24. macrumors 65816


    I said mine is supplementary, and I own one. I've done a lot more than "toyed" with it.

    For some, it might be the perfect machine. For others, like me, it's perfect for travel, not for the real work back home.
  25. bk0
    macrumors newbie

    If it has the SSD, go for the Air. Otherwise the MBP.

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