13 inch MPA or MBP?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by FatPigeon, Dec 7, 2014.

  1. FatPigeon macrumors newbie


    Oct 5, 2014
    Hi all,

    Long time lurker, very infrequent poster. Always kinda despaired at 'which one should I get' questions, so a tad embarrassed to be asking one now :eek:

    My 15 inch MBP has served me well, but it's heavy to carry and getting slow. It's time to retire it before it dies as it's critical for my job. I'm a freelance copywriter. So my core needs are:

    • Write copy in Pages, Word and iA writerl
    • Light photo editing in Pixelmator
    • Managing social media accounts for clients using Sprout Social and hootsuite
    • Email -using Mailbox
    • Web browsing in Safari
    • Music via Spotify and occasionally iTunes
    • Occasional (maybe one a month) use it as midi-interface and play about in GarageBand

    I can get an educational discount courtesy of my partner and with the 0% finance offer now is the time to buy.

    My choices:

    • 13 inch MBA - 8 GB RAM - 256 SSD
    • 13 inch MBP - 16 GB RAM - 256 SSD

    A few things I'm struggling with:

    1. Will 8Gb RAM be enough and importantly, future-proof me for three years?
    2. Is the marginal extra weight of the MBP noticeable over the MBA? (local Apple store won't let me hold one in each hand!)
    3. I'm reading about laggy, buggy screens on retina displays. That worries me as I'd find it a huge irritation.
    4. Completely undecided about retina screen - never had it so may not miss it. And at nearly 52 Im not sure my eyes are good enough for retina anyway! :rolleyes:
    5. Do I need to think about upgrading the standard chip that comes with these machines?

    Any thought, opinions or advice welcome.

    Cheers - from cold grey North East England.

  2. gregvet macrumors regular


    Jan 21, 2008
    Brighton, UK
    Re choices

    Personally I would suggest, based on the use you have described, that the air would be perfect for you. The only reasons I can see for getting the pro are if you need want the retina display (serious photo/video editing), need the extra memory and/or processor speed (gaming or video editing), or need a cd drive.

    The extra portability is significant IMO.

    Go for an air :)
  3. ManicMarc macrumors 6502

    Jul 1, 2012
    Get the best you can afford. Obviously the Pro is the better machine technically, though the Air is ever-so-slightly more portable, and has a better battery life.

    I have a 2013 Air with the i5 and 8GB RAM. It manages Xcode and some basic (amateur) photo editing absolutely fine. The only thing it struggles with is games. Anything that demands lots of graphics power is going to push the Air's Intel graphics to its limits pretty quickly.
    I even use iMovie to string together photos and videos, that's fine too - though I'm sure editing professional level HD - 4K video would warrant the Pro!

    From cold grey southern England.
  4. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    if you think that your MBP will die until the next macbook air...than take the Pro.
    But i suggest to wait for the new air, probably more portable than ever
  5. ohbrilliance macrumors 6502a


    May 15, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    * 8GB will be plenty for the tasks you're doing

    * The marginal extra weight is negligible. I wouldn't factor this into your purchasing decision. Also, the rMBP is actually smaller in width and depth than the MBA, countering the extra weight.

    * If you run the screen at the highest resolution, 1680x1050, then you may encounter some lag during screen animations (expose, transitioning between spaces). Since you state your eyes aren't great, you probably wouldn't want to run at 1680 anyway. At 1440 the text and graphical elements will appear identical in size to those on the MBA, but crisper and easier on the eyes. If you need the text to be even easier to read, you could use 1280, which is the native resolution.

    * Both the rMBP and MBA have amazing battery life. The MBA has more. I would only factor this in if you need as much battery life as possible.

    You can probably tell from the above that I thoroughly recommend the rMBP. I have one, and use it as my one and only machine. My Mum has one. She's 70 and loves it.
  6. Santabean2000 macrumors 68000


    Nov 20, 2007
    Based on your needs either will be fine. The rMBP is the better machine. The only reason to get the Air is if you like the look better.

    8GB ram will be fine, but 16 wouldn't hurt.
  7. nightlong macrumors 6502a


    Jun 16, 2012
    If your work is mostly writing, get the rMBP, for ultra sharp text.
  8. yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    The difference is the retina screen. It's beautiful IMHO.

    Otherwise, for what you will do, both MBA and 13" rMBP are very capable, about the same performance. If one plays games or do heavy photo/video editing (if the software can use GPU, like Photoshop CS), then 13" rMBP is better (but neither is very good).

  9. FatPigeon thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 5, 2014

    Hi everyone

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Much appreciated. Still undecided though! :p
  10. 556fmjoe macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2014
    4 GB of RAM would be far more than enough for those uses. I'd save money and get the 13" Air with 4 GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. If you don't store much on your machine, get the 128.
  11. Zorba macrumors regular


    Jul 12, 2009
    4GB is not enough now, and especially not future proof. 8GB should be ok, 16GB is always better.
  12. ManicMarc macrumors 6502

    Jul 1, 2012
    I would not recommend getting 4GB of RAM, it might work fine now, but I consider a laptop a longterm investment that should last a minimum of 3 years, longer depending on what you need to do with it. Considering the Air cannot be upgraded, it would not be sensible to buy a 4GB model. (not sure, can the rMBP have its RAM upgraded? Check first).

    The same goes for SSD. You might think 128Gb sounds a lot, but with Mac OS X and a few apps installed, it quickly dwindles down to ~70 GB. Add in all those photos you upload from your phone via iCloud, ever-increasing quality of videos you take and space starts to disappear (I know, I have a 128GB Air and regret it).
    At least with an SSD you can add a USB hard drive and it's just a bit inconvenient, you can't add in USB RAM unfortunately.
  13. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    4gb Ram is maybe enough for now..but probably the next OSX will run better with 8 Gb Ram

    i suggest the next macbook air with 8 gb ram standard and retina display
  14. MacRazySwe, Dec 7, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014

    MacRazySwe macrumors 6502a

    Aug 7, 2007
    Here's some advice from someone who had a MacBook Air (2011, 1.7GHz/4GB RAM/128GB SSD) and now has a rMBP (13", 2.4GHz/8GB RAM/256GB SSD).

    First of all. The MacBook Pro's Retina Display is absolutely amazing. Many people state that you mostly benefit from it if you're a photo/video-editor of sorts. That's wrong. The Retina-display makes everything pop. I would for example get tired of reading text on my MacBook Air after a few hours, my eyes would start to strain (especially in the dark). This never happens with the rMBP. It's got an amazing display which I can use for hours on end. Also, the build quality of the rMBP is at 10/10, while the MBA is an 8/10 in my opinion. (Bottom part of MBA becomes squeaky with time, for example. The rMBP oozes more premium, in my opinion.)

    Secondly, the Retina MacBook Pro lags. Yes, it does - no matter the resolution you use it in. Just scrolling through PDF-files lags on the rMBP. This is actually one of my main gripes with the rMBP. I had expected it to be gone by now, seeing as I think it's just software optimization that is needed, but it's still present. (Although it has become better). When I received my rMBP, I was really surprised. My then 2 year old MacBook Air felt so much snappier for regular use. Sure, the rMBP has plenty more horsepower when you really use the processor, in for example compressing videos, editing, et c. But - for day to day use, websites, scrolling, PDF's, navigating through the user interface, the MacBook Air feels a lot quicker!

    Third. The Retina MacBook Pro is a very light computer considering what it packs. That said, the MacBook Air is a bit lighter. I didn't think I would notice the extra weight of the rMBP, but I do. It's not much, and it's not like I care, seeing how light it already is, but the MBA was lighter. As a previous poster already wrote, I don't think this should be a deciding factor, unless you lots of other stuff to carry around as well, and will be bringing the computer wherever you go. However in that case, a 11" MBA may be a better choice.

    Last but not least, many of the debates between the rMBP and MBA end up in discussions of battery life, to the MBA's advantage. The rMBP I have, the 13" model, has absolutely amazing battery life. I'd say I get 9 hours from it without even trying. No need to pick the MBA just for the sake of battery life, the 13" rMBP is already an "all-day" computer for me. I don't think battery life should be a deciding factor.

    If I were you, I think I would wait for the rumored Retina MacBook Air. Rumored to be even thinner, and finally getting a worthy display, it could very well become the best everyday consumer-laptop out there. If you can't wait, I think rMBP vs MBA is 50/50. I know I couldn't possibly choose if I had had to do the same choice again. Good luck! :)
  15. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    I agree with MacRazySwe because if your MBP is still working it should worth the wait. The macbook air with retina even thinner with even more gap at lightness between the next MBA and rMBP...it is no brainer and i think they will make standard 8 Gb ram at 1099$ starting

    Broadwell CPU
    128 SSD
    8 Gb Ram
    and i hope even better iGPU than HD5000
  16. Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    You say your MBP is "getting slow". Are you using an SSD? Have you reloaded the O/S?
  17. jlp2979 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2009
    I just went through the same dilemma and settled it last night finally. I was set on buying an Air until I actually saw the 13" rMBP in person. I was blown away by the screen and it is truly incredible so I bought solely based on that. I also had issues with the retina screen so I bought a 13" Air to really compare the two while using them both as I normally would use them. In the end I returned the rMPB yesterday and kept the Air.

    To keep it brief, I had scaling issues when I used remote desktop connection to log into my server and client PCs, even when the program on the mac end was set to "scale" the remote desktop, it didn't play nicely at all with Windows 7 on the remote PCs and everything was blurry. No such issue with the Air.

    I can't opine on photo editing or rendering because I don't do it, but other threads have discussed some scaling issues as well so take a look at those.

    FWIW, my opinions on your questions:

    1) 8gb should be fine for the next few years and then some.

    2) The weight difference is somewhat noticeable, it is 1/2 a pound. Air is much easier to slip into my work bag.

    3) I experienced the lag others mention on the rMBP when scrolling through large PDFs and some web pages. No matter the scaling setting. This was the 2nd major issue for me alongside the scaling issues. Most of my work is scrolling through large PDFs. I notice no such issue with the Air.

    4) The retina screen is truly stunning. I will say if you like text to be larger on the screen, running the rMBP at "best for retina" 1280 setting, things are large and very sharp and easy on the eyes. Colors are great and photos will pop. Word documents are so sharp and crisp, really great it sounds like for your purposes. The Air's screen is inferior to the retina in every way but it isn't bad by any means. You just get spoiled after seeing the retina. If you've never seen it, ignorance is bliss :D

    5) I'd spend and/or save some extra money upgrading the RAM and SSD over the processor.

    I will also say that typing is more comfortable on the Air than on the rMBP but not by much. The slight angle of the Air makes my wrists a bit more comfortable.

    Bottom line, if you NEED a laptop now then buy one now. Something new will always be on the horizon. I don't know that I'd want or trust a fanless laptop, at least the 1st iteration/generation, if the rumors turn out to be true about the next gen macs. It is a tough decision that I agonized over for two weeks. No wrong decision, good luck!
  18. Serban Suspended

    Jan 8, 2013
    thats why, i suggest to OP to wait for the new macbook air because the screen is the only big difference in a choice for a normal/casual/consumer person. And with the extra thickness and lighter will be a no brainer
  19. FatPigeon thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 5, 2014
    No SSD here - 500GB HD. Not reloaded the OS - not enough hours in the day - you know how it goes, work, clients, family, dogs to walk, other life stuff. Get up at 5:00 am and before I know it, it's 10:00 pm! :)


    Thanks again for all your replies.

    Not keen on waiting for the rumoured 'retina' Air - not one for bleeding edge technology when I have a business to run. Can't afford for Apple to screw up the first generation on my time and money.

    Guess it's back to the Apple store again to spend waaaay too much time looking at both models. :D
  20. Dweez, Dec 7, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2014

    Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    Understood. If I were you I'd considering breathing new life into the MBP with an SSD. Small cost vs replacing the entire system. I put a Crucial M4 into my late 2011 15" MBP and it was the single best upgrade I've done to any of my home systems (all of which now run from SSD). Attached is a black magic disk speed test of that 2.5 yr old M4 SSD.

    Here is a 250 gig Samsung 840 EVO for $125. Put it into an external carrier, run the free version of Carbon Copy Cloner to create a bootable clone, open the MBP and swap the SSD in, boot and enjoy. :)

    My $0.02 worth anyway...


    Attached Files:

  21. rhino89 macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2011
    I tried searching the forums for rMBP lag issues and only came across some posts complaining about adobe not making their stuff run well with retinas... But your comment concerned me - can other rMBP owners attest as to whether there is lag on the rMBP? After reading a lot of posts and comparing the two side by side, I started leaning towards the retina pro. Interestingly, I stopped by the Apple Store andlaunched every single app on a retina MacBook pro (2014) base model (26ghz 8gb ram) and the Mac didn't even flinch. On the other hand, I stopped by best buy and their floor model was actually a 2013 2.4ghz 4gb ram model that slowed to a dying crawl with beachballs when I repeated the same test.

    Hoping to hear from other owners about their take on their own models as well.
  22. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Okay, a few thoughts.

    Ask yourself what you really need, as opposed to what you want, from a computer.

    Each has different strengths, and I write as someone who has had a 15" MBP, and is now on my second 13" MBA.

    For form factor, weight, uber-portability and outstanding battery, the MBA wins hands down. The SSD also makes it blazing fast - so fast that processor speed is not an imperative. For travel, - and I travel a lot, so weight does make a difference - and portability (i.e. working from coffee shops, planes, trains) this computer cannot be beaten. Nothing touches it, and, as long as it exists, I will have some version of it, even though I may well buy others as well.

    Now, re the current MBP; the retina screen is superlative, and the specs are somewhat better than those of the MBA. And I write this as someone who loves the MBA, its weight, form factor, blazing speed of the SSD drive (I will never again buy a computer that does not have a SSD drive).

    However, if working with what you see - and produce as an end product - on a screen is the main reason you need this computer, choose the rMBP.

    So, my first suggestion - irrespective of which model you choose - is that you get 8 GB RAM. This cannot be upgraded, and will future-proof your machine to a certain extent.

    My second suggestion, again, irrespective of which machine you decide to buy, is to try to get a SSD drive rather than the old HDD, and get a minimum of 256 GB while you are at it. They really do make a difference, a noticeable difference in responsiveness, stability and sheer blazing reliably fast speed.

    So, no matter which you buy, get 8 GB RAM and get (a minimum of) 256 SSD; then, if you need a first rate screen buy the rMBP, whereas if portability and form factor are your primary needs, buy the MBA.

  23. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    Re: RAM: 4GB will be enough to future-proof you for 3 years. 8GB is double enough.

    Re: processor: upgrading the processor in any of the current-gen MacBooks is a waste of money. It only gives you a small percentage improvement over the base models.
  24. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    Black Magic Speed test does not accurately depict ssd performance.
    The main advantage of ssds is the iops. That's what makes them so reponsive.
    BM speed tests only make a difference if you are transfering lots of files all the time. Who does this?


    This pretty much sums it up.
  25. cycledance Suspended

    Oct 15, 2010
    *thumbs up*

    glad to see not all ppl here give bad advice! :)

    it would suck to use 4gb ram for the next 3-5 years. 8 is just enough. 16 is pretty future proof.

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