Maxed out MBA versus MBP

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by kjt, Jan 11, 2013.

  1. kjt
    macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2013
    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!


  2. macrumors 68020


    Feb 16, 2012
    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?
  3. kjt
    thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2013
    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.
  4. macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    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".
  5. macrumors 65816


    Dec 5, 2010
    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.
  6. kjt
    thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2013
    Thanks for the responses - this is all very helpful
  7. macrumors 6502

    Apr 23, 2010
    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.
  8. macrumors 6502


    Apr 12, 2012
    New England, USA
    This point is 100% accurate, Mac Excel / Office is extremely sluggish still.
  9. macrumors member

    Jul 3, 2012
    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!
  10. macrumors 68030

    Oct 15, 2008
    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.
  11. esorblem, Jan 11, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2013

    macrumors newbie

    Jan 11, 2013
    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.
  12. macrumors 65816


    Oct 8, 2008
    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.

Share This Page