MBA 13, 11 or MBP 13? tough decision!

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by james4cet, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. james4cet, Dec 2, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2010

    macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Hi there,
    I just recently sold my rev a mba and was originally planning to buy the new 11 inch mba. However, I have now discovered that my max. budget is £1000 and for that money I could choose from the following options...

    A) 1.4ghz, 4gb ram, 64gb ssd mba 11" + office for mac + usb midi keyboard
    B) 1.6ghz, 2gb ram, 128gb ssd mba 13"
    C) MBP 13" 2.4ghz, 4gb ram, 250gb hd + usb midi keyboard + office for mac

    Each of the three has its pros and cons. Im really in love with the MBA, and it's light weightness. Also it's instant on ability, and the fact it opens apps straight away. IMO its awesome! However, I'd like my 2nd mac to last at least 4 or 5 years. my previous mac became really slow, showing up the infamous beachball every time I loaded Safari, it became a pain. I'm just not sure whether the 11 inch MBA would be able to cut it. My usage daily is just heavy web browsing, iTunes, Office, and occasionally video editing in FCE 4 & iMovie. Also i'd be uploading photo's to iPhoto. Speaking of which, thats where the 13 inch MBA shines for me, it has an SD card slot!! :D

    But if I go with the 13 inch MBA, although it has many advantages, I don't feel it has that much increased portability over the MBP, and also I feel theres less value for money. A MBP has all those features plus more, yet it lacks that sparkle, the ssd, the instant on ability...

    So I just wanted to ask you guys what you think about my situation. What laptop would you recommend?

    P.S I'd love to have a MIDI keyboard to take advantage of Garageband '11 so I can learn how to play the keyboard! :D

    P.P.S Forgot to mention, im 16 and will soon be starting sixth form/college and after that university. so portability would be good for me :)

  2. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2010
    No way to get the 13" 1.86 w/ 4GB ram? Seems it would be no more expensive then the MBP w/ extras.

    I honestly think whatever you get, you almost need 4GB ram.
  3. macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2008
    First of all, I would suggest that you not waste money on Office. OpenOffice might not be as pretty, but it is free, works with all of Office's formats fairly well anyway, and is finally catching on on the large scale.

    Secondly, If you want to do anything GarageBand but look at crawling progress bars, avoid the MBA like the plague. One review (I forget what website now, of course) called it an awesome "Windows 7 netbook." There is your real world benchmark. [Also, can you even connect a MIDI kb to an MBA? I'm not sure as I am not a music guy, but my instinct says no. Again, not sure, but you may want to look into that.]

    MBP will be much faster simply by numbers, but will also give you much better performance for what you are looking to do.

    Good Luck in whatever you decide to do!
  4. thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Thanks guys for the quick reply! I will have to look more into the MIDI keyboard situation. I thought it was as simple as plugging it into USB, but I guess I may be wrong. I'm still not completely sure about the MBP though. Of course I'd love to get next year's updated version, which would give me the best of both worlds..but I can't wait a near 6 months, so I do not have that option.

    As for OpenOffice, I'll deffinately try that, and I guess if I don't like it I can go ahead and purchase Office 11 at a later date.

    The only things drawing me away from the Pro are the increased portability and fast SSD :)
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    Yep. Midi (for quite some time) generally can connect to any machine with a USB port. All the Apple music programs work with midi keyboards connected directly or via a cheap Midi wire to the USB slot.

    Garageband works, but the biggest slowdown is trying to do multiple tracks and use the software keyboard interface. It's better with midi. Garageband is also a bit of a resource hog due to all sorts of expensive layers used for any instrument patch you bring up.

    Logic Express is actually easier to throw more tracks at it, before the system is taxed, but you are going to be more responsible for layering your own audio effects.

    As your primary mac, it's almost a no brainer. Go for the more power for less. Airs are for extra travel, extra lightweight activities that serve great as a secondary. You're likely not to involve as much big activities on them, though the high end 13" is capable of a little bit of heavy lifting and a definite nice photography organizer/editor, on the go.
  6. macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2008
    Maybe you can even find it on sale later on if you end up hating OpenOffice. (To me, its just preference; some hate it as they cannot use files at work if their employer has the latest, blah blah, but some love it for its openess, and especially it's price tag. :D

    MBP's are not killer heavy or large at all. I would not worry about that. People get along fine with traveling with 15" models. As for the SSD, you can always get an after market and throw it in, it's really not too difficult a process with a bit of patience.

    My bad, I thought they were FireWire Only devices. Thanks for clearing that up.
  7. macrumors regular

    Jan 11, 2010
    The kitted out 13" MBA's get benchmark scores very similar to the 13" MBP, so processing speed isn't a huge issue. The SSD really makes a big difference. The reviews that criticize the lack of power are usually the ones testing a base model 11.6". And even then, compare it to an Intel Atom netbook with crappy low RPM HD.

    Sure the base model 11.6" doesn't run circles around many computers these days, but they aren't exactly sluggish either.

    The 4GB RAM would definitely be a worthwhile upgrade for any MBA. If I were you, looking at what you want to use this thing for, I'd definitely be looking at the base model 13" with 4GB upgrade. The extra ~$100 will be worth it if there's any way you can make it happen. The 13" have 1.86 processors btw, not 1.6 :) The faster FSB as well. Bonus :)

    IMO there is no reason to be looking at the 13" MBP right now, unless you absolutely can't live without the HD space and DVD burner. If the MBP's get turned into supercharged MBA's in a few months (rumors are swirling about dropping the optical drive and adding SSD's as standard) then you might regret getting the current 13" MBP today.

    And finally, there is no reason why a USB keyboard shouldn't work just peachy with any of the above.
  8. thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Awesome. thanks for your help guys, much appreciated! I think I'll go for the Pro then :). Btw, I won't be using Garageband heavily, just for learning to play the keyboard tis all :) im a beginner in that area :)
  9. foiden, Dec 2, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2010

    macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    I'll be shocked if they made them mandatory for Firewire. Midi (even the most advanced forms) sends way too little data to require something that fast. We're talking about the same data that (even with a small orchestra amount) pretty much fits in the bandwidth of an ancient Sound Blaster card.

    USB is more than enough. There are some special boards that communicate with firewire, but depending on your studio decisions, you may not have them. I, myself, haven't used firewire though I did welcome the capability on my Macbook Pro. So far, between USB M-audio recording devices and USB-midi, I've been quite happy with what I've done with them.

    And yes, a 2009 MBP 13" can drive an entire Hollywood-level-like Orchestra (and then some) through it and handle it like a dream. That should help you figure out what you need. I've done it before, actually. Just an example of what last year's MBP 13" did with 4GB of ram.

    ^ This was distributed, a while ago, as the "Forces of Nature" work. Now, if your studio work is anything matching or less than that effort, then you should have nothing to worry about.
  10. macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2008
    1) OP said he is on a budget of 1000 pounds. The maxed out 13.3 is too much for his wallet.
    2) MIDI keyboard. As in Electronic Piano keyboard. I was wrong, but had been under the impression that they were not USB compatible devices.
  11. macrumors 68000


    Apr 12, 2008
    I would recommend the entry level 13 inch 2.4GHz MBP for the OP. To get comparable power in the MBA lineup would require the OP to buy the 13 inch Ultimate MBA, which costs 50% more than the entry level 13 inch MBP. My grandson started college this fall and has a 13 inch 2.4GHz MBP. He loves it. In short, it seems to me to be the Mac of choice for the student on a budget. The only downside to the 13 inch MBP, compared to the 13 inch MBA, is that the MBP is 1.5 pounds heavier than the MBA, which should hardly be a disqualifying defect for a healthy teenager.
  12. thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Just on an SSD note, if I upgraded the MBP with a SSD, which one would you recommend that I can buy easily in the UK? And also, how much does one of those static wrist things ,needed to upgrade anything inside the macbook, cost?

    I would probs upgrade to 8gb ram in the future, so would that be worth it too? And would I see a performance increase with increased ram and ssd?

  13. thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Thats exactly what i'd describe myself as, student on a budget. Thanks for your help, much appreciated :)
  14. foiden, Dec 2, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2010

    macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2008
    Sounds like it's sorted. You should do great with that purchase. And yes, it'll handle an incredible Music load if you want to. It's mainly a choice of software and instruments, as to how professional you want to go with it. One could definitely create a cheap overall-cost fine-arts studio with that unit. One of my favorite decisions as I have a portable studio that hangs quite well with the big boys. Plus, you can pack your stuff in a bag, (condensor mics, M-audio, everything) and do a nice on-location recording session even if your client had to do it in like a 7 foot square room. Then finish off the production to make it sound almost like they did it in a recording booth, on stage, etc. Want to take that as background music? Score it behind video? Include Surround sound foley mix? etc? It'll cover you.

    Yeah, I know you say your needs are little. But I just wanted to give you an idea of what options you have beyond that. Scoring movies with it, is very possible. So yeah, I think you pretty much future-proofed any odd idea of going bigger with your music.
  15. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2010
    You would see a HUGE performance increase with the 8GB ram and SSD.

    I would suggest OCZ SSD. It's probably one of the best that you can get in the UK. It uses sandforce controller, and tops out the 3.0 SATA read/write speeds. It also doesn't degrade in speed over time as much as the others.

    OWC is probably one of the best, but it's hard to get in the UK I'm told by a UK friend.

    Just take note, that MOST (including OCZ, excluding OWC) SSD's require you to have Windows in order to update the firmware. They don't suppose OSX version of their firmware upgrade tools. OWC is one of the only ones to currently do that to my knowledge.
  16. macrumors newbie

    Feb 28, 2008
    I was in the same boat as the original poster.
    My santa rosa macbook pro had died and i couldnt wait for a the next revision of the macbook line.
    I wanted a macbook pro. But i decided that the macbook air 13 1.8 with 4 gigs was the best bet at this time.
    The cons for the macbook pro were the 13 inch was older release and something newer is coming sooner rather than later.
    Screen resolution was lower than the macbook air and lower than my dead macbook pro.
    Pro's were cost are interesting. I could easily afford to buy it, upgrade ram and hard drive's to SSD.

    MBA 13 fully loaded was too expensive, and close enough in price to a mbp that i'd would have gone mbp over mba. Had a hard time paying close to $1800 for a core 2 duo processor....

    MBA 1.8 with 4 gigs of ram and 128Gigs was a calucalated bet that there will be third party hard drive upgrades in the future. WHile upgrading ram will be a pain in the rear. the 1.8 is seems way faster in computing than the mbp with a santa rosa core 2 duo.

    I'd didnt need the extreme portability, but it's nice. What sold me over the 13 mbp was that the air was newer, and when the new mbp come out if i'm not happy i'm sure it will be easier to sell a mba than a old 13 inch mbp which might get dropped from the mbp line up...

    just my reasons :)
    Super happy with the mba
  17. macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    The OP is looking for a system to keep for 4-5 years. It is always emotionally satisfying to the get the latest gadget, but often the more rationale decision is to go with the more mature product. The nice thing about the MBP is that you can grow it over time with RAM and SSD upgrades. An MBA with 2 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage in 2-3 years is going to be a joke.
  18. macrumors member

    Jan 27, 2010

    If I have to choose today a primary mobile MAC computer the choice would be the new MBA 13"... I have no doubts about that...

    In my case, owning a MBP 15" i7, the selection goes to the new MBA 11".... portability and low weight... perfect for me for something between a primary and secondary machine :)

    ps: I guess that it will turn into the primary computer for me very fast....
  19. ABG
    macrumors 6502

    Oct 5, 2003
    United Kingdom
    Are you accessing the Apple Education Store?

    On the Higher Education Store the base 1.83Ghz 13" MBA is £944.70 - upgrading to 4Gb RAm makes it £1,014.03 incl. VAT.
    The base 13" MBP is £858.93 incl. VAT

    If you are going to college you should be able to access the Further Education store as a minimum - I don't think the discounts are a big but they are still worthwhile.

    FWIW if you need to keep the machine for a while the MBP is a better bet as its can be upgraded quite easily.
  20. KPOM, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    macrumors G4

    Oct 23, 2010
    Arguably, so would the 13" MacBook Pro. It's hard to argue that the Core 2 Duo has the staying power to last another 4 years in a primary notebook. It's already a 4 year-old design. Apple has squeezed about as much power as it possibly can out of it in the current MacBook Air and 13" Pro by hooking it up to an advanced integrated graphics adapter in the GeForce 320m and the faster SSD. The next updates will have to incorporate the Core i-series to improve.

    I'd recommend that the OP consider waiting until after the holidays for the expected refresh of the MacBook Pro. It is likely, IMO, to get the Core i5 processor and a discrete GPU, which would give it far more staying power if it is expected to last 4-5 years as a primary computer. I'm guessing (and this is pure speculation), that the 13" will lose the internal optical drive to make room for the more advanced hardware, and that Apple might work hard to get the weight to 3.9 lbs so they can advertise a sub-4 lb weight. Sandy Bridge is expected to be announced formally at CES in early January, which makes a late January or early February announcement of a MacBook Pro update more likely.
  21. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2010
    I'm in a similar situation... my MBP 2.2GHz C2D is about to go.

    I'm debating between the 13" 1.86 4GB ram or the 13" ultimate.

    The upgradability of the 13" MBP is undeniable. It technically has the capabilities to be a MUCH better machine. I guess I'm just stubborn and really like the form of the 13" MBA.

    My main goal is go get the MBA now, and then hopefully sometime next year (possibly for my birthday in March) pick up a new iMac.... we shall see.

    I think for your purposes though, it's hard to pass on the MBP, and any normal person would get that... even in my situation. Cheaper, bigger, faster, etc.

    I guess I'm not normal though.
  22. macrumors 68000


    Apr 12, 2008
    James -- You are welcome. I should add that my grandson, who is now a university freshman, got an entry level 2.4GHz 13 inch MBP last summer. He uses it heavily and has been very pleased with its performance.
  23. james4cet, Dec 3, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

    thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Hi again everyone, thanks for yet more replies! :) Firstly, I think I'm going to go and get myself a 13" MBP base model, and then upgrade with an SSD. I'm looking to see if I can get the OWC in the UK, and if I can the price of that, and then the next best thing which I believe also begins with an O. The thing thats holding me back atm though is the SSD firmware problem. If i need windows to update the SSD, then that would hold me back from buying the MBP and I'd probs go for the 13" MBA. 8GB RAM would be something I'd probably do in the later years, so will the SSD alone increase performance notably, and will it be faster, or as fast as the new MBA's flash memory?


    UPDATE: OWC SSD is too expensive for me. nearly 400 euros, which must be about £350. ouch. will look elsewhere :p
  24. macrumors 6502a

    Jun 9, 2010
    Most 2.5" SSD's you put into MBP are FASTER than the MBA's SSD. I believe the MBA's is ~180mb/s where as the OWC is 285mb/s.

    As far as both getting faster... I think the 285mb/s is close to capping the SATA II speeds... correct me if I'm wrong though.

    Adding JUST the SSD into the MBP will increase performance a HUGE amount, you will notice a night and day diff. The read/write speeds will go from somewhere in the ballpark of 70mb/s to upwards of the high 200mb/s with the OWC or OCZ.

    A base model MBP with a nice SSD will be faster hands down than the MBA. Faster processor, faster SSD I/O speeds, same RAM. You can then upgrade the RAM later down the road.

    DAMN IT! As I sit here and tell you all of this... I am almost talking myself out of the MBA 13" Ultimate and into a MBP 13" and putting in my 120GB OCW SSD I have sitting in my room (which I was about to return).
  25. thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Thank you! Haha, well a MBA 13" ultimate sounds awesome to me! If I had the money I'd probably get that tbf. I've found an SSD that has read speeds over 300 MB/S. Im guessing that's fast? Also, you say that a MBP with an SSD would be faster, yet I've heard reviews that say the MBA is faster booting etc. than a MBP with fast SSD. Am i wrong? Do you think I could expect boot speeds of around 10-20 secs in a MBP with this SSD?

    Thanks :D

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