What really separates Pro vs. Air?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by RobbyIdol, Mar 21, 2013.

  1. RobbyIdol macrumors regular

    Mar 20, 2012
    There are a lot of Pro vs. Air threads, so I apologize for any redundancy. But I'm back on the market for a new laptop again and once again find myself lusting after the Air, but worrying the Pro is what truly need.

    I know the obvious differences (superdrive vs. no superdrive, SSD vs. HD, screen resolution, etc). But at the end of the day, the guts of each computer seems almost identical to me. I don't intend to do any major upgrading, so whatever Apple's stock 13" specs are in the Pro or Air is what I will take home with me. That said:

    - Both have the same graphics card (HD4000)
    - Both have the i5 Intel processer (again, not looking to upgrade specs)
    - Both start with 4GB of RAM

    The only listed difference I see under the hood is the 1.8 Ghz processer in the Air vs the 2.5 Ghz in the Pro. Not a huge jump, and honestly, what does that even mean in terms of performance? Everything I read says the Pro clocks faster on paper, but in practice, the SSD of the Air makes it the winner.

    Another thing I read from Air users is that they always claim they use the Air for video editing, photo editing, even some minor gaming. This is my big concern: I'm a professional animator who uses Maya, MotionBuilder, and occasionally VMWare with Windows. I do some pretty graphics-heavy things, even though I'm not necessarily "rendering" very often (the process that REALLY takes up the computer's power for a time). If the Air is unable to handle Autodesk Maya, then it's a no-sale for me unfortunately.

    However, if the guts of the Pro and Air seems nearly indentical, and many people swear the Air rocks for video/photo editing and such, then really the only difference is someone who is tied down to the superdrive and/or ultra-large storage space...?

    The only real way to test is to buy an Air, load Maya, see what happens. Just wondering if anyone has any experience with what I'm talking about, and any further insight!

    Lastly, in case it matters, I'm coming from an early 2008 MBP 15". Storage is just barely 200GB, 2 GB Ram, and a video card that is pretty outdated in terms of current standards. And on this machine, I've run all the software I've mentioned above including VMWare/Windows. I'm sure I've dealt with some measure of lag (especially with VMWare) that others would find unacceptable, but I've accomplished it all at one point or another. So by that logic, the current 13" Air should be able to handle my needs, no?

    Thank you in advance!
  2. B... macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2013
    The Air is a very capable computer. However, the SSD only helps in things like launching time from SSD to RAM. When things are on the RAM and being manipulated and rendered heavily,the pro is a more powerful machine (about 10-15%) acording to Geekbench. The Pro has a more capable non ULV processor with a higher voltage which allows for greater performance.Why don't you go for the Air, try out your programs and return it after 13.9 days if needed? Seems the only way to be sure.

    Good luck.
  3. bniu macrumors 6502a

    Mar 21, 2010
    what separates the pro from the air (ignoring the legacy cMBP)

    1. Retina Screen
    2. 8GB RAM Standard
    3. 16GB RAM, Discrete Graphics, Quad Core CPU (15" Only)
    4. Up to 768GB Flash Storage
    5. HDMI Port
    6. Second Thunderbolt Port
    7. Heavier
    8. Price
  4. stchman macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2012
    St. Louis, MO
    The new rMBP blurs the line between MBP and MBA. I for one believe that Apple is phasing out the legacy MBP.

    Let's go on that assumption.

    The only difference between the MBA and rMBP is speed and display. They both use the same SSDs and the Retina display is a much nicer display than the standard display.
  5. RobbyIdol thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 20, 2012
    I'm definitely not looking for a rMBP at this time. Powerful machine for sure, but the price point alone puts it out of my range. Retina screen is cool, but simply a luxury for what I actually need.

    Most likely going to take the plunge, buy a 13" Air, load my software and see what happens!
  6. B... macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2013
    Good choice. Let us know how it goes.
  7. thekev macrumors 603


    Aug 5, 2010
    Both the 2008 and an Air sound awful for that kind of thing, assuming you're not sticking with really low poly counts. Rendering is a cpu process. I'm assuming you mean Mental Ray. It is cpu bound. Your viewport framerates are partially dictated by the gpu. Are you planning to use Maya/Motionbuilder 2013? Last I would try a forum that deals with that kind of thing, rather than a Mac specific one. Try something like CGsociety. Even they would want to know a bit more about the complexity of your scenes. If you're coming from a 2008 model, anything current would be faster.

    Does your employer cover software but not hardware costs or something? You mentioned a price difference of under $1000, yet the upgrade subscriptions on those apps alone are quite high.
  8. RobbyIdol thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 20, 2012
    I'm sure my experience (which I call normal, because I don't any better!) on my 2008 MBP would make a lot of industry users cringe. But I get by, which as lame as it may sound, has been enough for me. I don't have the wallet to handle staying super-current on computers the way some in the industry might, so I make do with what I have. That's why I was wondreing if the Air, while less powerful in some aspects than the Pro, would still be "good enough" for someone like me who's perhaps not requiring the latest and greatest tech specs to do his thing! :)

    This is all out of pocket for me. I'm a freelancer bouncing around the country, chasing jobs. Read some recent news articles on the state of the VFX industry, and you'll get an idea of my (not so ideal) lifestyle. I don't usually work on my laptop professionally, but for personal work absolutely.

    I will check out some industry-specific forums for further info, though a lot of my peers tend to favor "bigger is better" when it comes to their machines (bigger screen size, bigger CPU power, bigger storage, etc) That doesn't make it necessary, but does create a barrier in logic when trying to fit MY taste for portability and efficiency into their mindset :)
  9. MrX8503 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2010
    Why would you get the Air when you're using CPU intense programs? Get the pro.
  10. identity macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2011
    The two things that separates the MBA and non-retina MBP is the size and weight of the MBA and better screen(1440x900 vs 1280x800). The MBA is definitely more portable but just because the stock MBP doesn't have an SSD doesn't mean anything when you can always get a faster SSD and get more ram.
  11. Boyd01 macrumors 68020

    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I upgraded from a 2008 15" MBP myself about a year and a half ago. The MPB was core 2 duo 2.3 ghz, 4GB RAM and 160GB HD. My 2011 MBA 13" is i5 1.7ghz, 4GB RAM and 256GB SSD. All I can say is that I was completely blown away by the performance of the MBA. It runs circles around the old MBP.

    CPU almost twice as fast and SSD maybe 5x as fast so the overall impression is a much, much faster machine and even a much bigger disk. The new models are even faster and you can now get 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD which weren't available when I purchased.

    I loaded all my old software and had absolutely no problems - Final Cut Pro 6, VectorWorks 2008, FileMaker Pro 11, Photoshop CS3, MS Office 2008. The migration tool moved everything from my time machine backup of the MPB to the new MBA flawlessly. All I needed to do was enter a couple serial numbers when I started using the MBA.

    I would say the only thing I sort of miss is the lack of a firewire port since I have some old firewire-only drives. Having a dedicated DVI port on the MBP was nice too - I have an adaptor on the MBA to connect my old Apple Cinema display, but I lose the use of the Thunderbolt port with that. No ethernet on the MBA but I don't need that anymore.


    As mentioned above, all of my own old software worked fine. Most likely yours will too, unless it's really old. If you want to upgrade to new versions, that seems like a separate issue.

    The only thing you will have problems with is old PPC software because support for that was dropped in Lion (IIRC) which doesn't have Rosetta. Any old software in the form of universal binaries should work. The only thing I recall being a (slight) issue was I have some old, old AppleWorks files (anybody remember that? LOL). AppleWorks won't run under Lion or newer versions. I had already converted anything important to MS Office, so I have not missed Appleworks.

    Also note that some installer programs require Rosetta while the actual applications don't. For example, I could not install my old version of Final Cut Studio on the new MBA if I used the original disks, but there was no problem just copying the programs themselves from the MBP to the MBA and the migration tool did that for me. So in some cases, if you need to install this kind of old software from the original disks, install it on your old MBP first, then just copy the program and its files to the MBA.
  12. Abazigal macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2011
    The way I see it, people should get the pro if it is their own computer, and so they would benefit from having more storage and a superdrive. The air would be better if they have another computer at home, so you can scrape by with lesser storage and no need for cds (any data you need, just copy from home and access over the cloud).

    For work-related purposes, both are more or less the same, IMO.
  13. Isamilis macrumors 6502

    Apr 3, 2012
    I think the most significant difference is the disk. If you didn't requires much space or you're ok to bring external disk (WD Passport is already small for 2TB) then my suggestion go with Air 13. Adding another 128gb is too expensive for me.
    I came from 13" Pro and now with 13" Air. I feel very comfortable bring the Air every day even on vacation.

    I have also iPad 2 and seems that its role has been replaced with the Air + iPhone combination.
  14. RobbyIdol thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 20, 2012
    Exactly the comparison I was hoping that someone out there had! Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm getting pretty set on buying the latest 13" MBA, it seems.

    Thanks again everyone for giving me insight on the differences between the models!
  15. Boyd01 macrumors 68020

    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    Cool, glad I could help. Am still very happy with my MBA. I retired about two years ago but have been doing a couple consulting jobs this year and the MBA is a lot nicer for travelling. In fact, next upgrade cycle I might go with the 11" model since that would be even better for travel. But 90% of the time I am using my old 23" Apple Cinema Display with USB keyboard and mouse at home, so the smaller screen on the 11" wouldn't be much of a problem.

    If I was buying today though I would get the i7 model plus 8gb RAM and 512gb SSD which weren't available when I got mine. If your frame of reference is a 2008 MBP, you'll find the current crop of MBA's really speedy. :)
  16. thekev macrumors 603


    Aug 5, 2010
    That sounds kind of awful. That industry could use some love. Anyway I am familiar with the bigger is better mentality, and I had taken into account that you are coming from a 2008 era notebook. It's just you may have to keep your rigs simple to animate on that thing at a decent framerate, and 4GB of ram can be filled rather easily. The 2008 sounds like a bottleneck, so going bottleneck to bottleneck isn't a good thing. What version of maya btw? In your situation I would personally end up with a refurbished 15". If you intend to purchase directly from Apple, they have a 14 day or so return policy (think it's 14), so you can return it within that period if it's not up to par. Just make sure you're honest with yourself on usability. It's also too bad Haswell is pretty far out. That will likely bring a lot of the dual core machines close to some of the early 2011 quad cores in performance.
  17. Abazigal macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2011
    Bigger is better, until you are the one who has to lug it around everywhere you go. :(
  18. cjgonzales1900 macrumors regular

    Jan 10, 2009
    You might want to compare the rMBP 13" its not much more than the air, especially if you know someone who has a education discount. I currently have a MBA 13" base model. I love the machine. I dont do editing tho just everyday tasks. thinking about going to the rMBP tho unless they come out with a rMBA this year, which is a maybe lol
  19. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    When people ask me my opinion, I generally recommend a MBP if it is their sole computer.

    If they have (or plan for) both a DT and a laptop, then I recommend a MBA. It is a reasonable compromise every day, use in varying environments. It is especially true if you get a TBD for home/office.

    Personally, I use an iMac + MBA. For me, it is the ideal combination... two optimized computers.

    I also use a TBD. Typically it is connected to my iMac as second display. Additionally, when I am doing work from home, I connect my MBA to the TBD. My MBA is the only computer that I can connect to my corporate network.

    At work, my MBA is connected to a Dell U2711 monitor, which is similar to ATD. I'll probably replace the U2711 when the new TBDs are released.


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