Resolved 2011 MBA 13" vs 2011 MBP 13" for grad school

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by freds, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. freds, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011

    freds macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2011
    Sorry for making another thread about this, but my 2008 MB is no longer functional and I really can't decide between the base 2011 13" Air and the base 2011 13" Pro. :confused:

    I'm starting grad school in a couple of weeks in social sciences. I basically live on my computer and use it from the minute I get up to the minute I go to sleep. I take all my notes on my computer, and use my Mac mostly for word processing, research, web browsing, using iTunes and watching the occasional movie/tv show. Once I start grad school, I would probably do the occasional data processing on stats programs such as Stata or SPSS (maybe once a week?), which would be the most intensive thing I would do on my Mac. I'm used to watching DVDs on my laptop, but I've been digitizing my DVD library (saved on an external HDD). My music library is also big, but I'm also going to move it to that same external HDD. I don't play any games and do not do any photo/video editing.

    I've been eyeing the MBA because of portability, but keep going back and forth between Air and Pro, mostly because of the Air's lack of upgradeability. I'm also afraid of the thinness of the Air making it a more fragile every day machine than the Pro. I'm also afraid of heat in both machines if/when I use stats programs and do other CPU intensive tasks. The fact that the Air is "sexy" is NOT a factor in my decision.As mentioned above, all my media library is moving to an external HDD so the Air's lack of optical drive would not be an issue. I also intend to get a Time Machine for daily backups.

    I travel a lot, and intend to keep my next Mac for at least 3 1/2 to 4 years.
    Any suggestions? :)

    Sidenote: The 11" MBA screen is way too small and it will not fit my needs because of the lack of screen estate. The 15" Pro has an awesome screen, but it is way too big / heavy to lug around to campus / between classes, the library and home every day (though the library will probably be my home for these next 4 years of grad school). I don't intend to get an external display. I thought of getting an iPad for consumption (research, reading both for leisure and for academic purpose, e-textbooks). Writing papers on it would be out of the question because I really can't stand typing on a touch screen, and think buying a Bluetooth keyboard would defeat the purpose of the iPad in the first place. If I eventually get an iPad, that will also decrease the weight of my bag for school because of the absence of physical textbooks. However, the iPad is more of a want than a need, so that will wait.
  2. adnoh macrumors 6502a


    Nov 14, 2010
  3. freds thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2011
    Thanks for the reply! But what's your reasoning? :D
  4. Fugue macrumors 6502

    Jan 14, 2011
    If you don't need the storage space, the optical drive, and 8GB RAM, the Air is what you should go with.

    Personally, I find the Pro more attractive.
  5. B.Chang macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    Hello, I am about to enter my second year of graduate school. I currently have a MBP and found that I really did not need the extra processing capability, RAM, or the optical drive.

    I actually just got a new MBA and that will mostly replace my 15" MBP since it is more than capable for the tasks I need of it, which are almost identical to what you do. In fact, the new MBA processor is faster than my MBP processor according to many benchmarks.

    Therefore, I would recommend the MBA for you. Unless you plan on doing any sort of rendering or heavy modeling, it should be great. You will benefit much more from the SSD than from extra RAM.
  6. mowbr4 macrumors member

    Jul 21, 2008
    For school, the MBA should be perfect.

    Storage Space - If needed, get an External HD

    Optical Drive - This is generally obselete now. If needed, you can purchase one.

    8GB Ram - Is not needed now.

    However, if you are worried about future proofing then get a MBP.
  7. freds thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2011
  8. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2010
    new joisey
    if i were you id go for the mbp much cheaper and more bang for your buck
  9. freds thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2011
    I agree that the MBP is more bang for the buck. But, honestly, I've never used half the ports on my MB (most of which also figure on the MBP). The only ones I've consistently used are the USB ports, the audio for my earphones and the optical drive (but I'm digitizing my media library.. so no more need for that)... I've only recently started using the display port, and have used the Ethernet port like 3 times in the past 3 years (when my campus wifi had an issue)...


    So basically, the only reason I'd get the Pro would be if my stats programs were too intensive for the MBA... Do any of you use Stata or SPSS for medium to large datasets?


    Or other CPU intensive programs like Matlab, or other engineering programs I know nothing about?? lol
  10. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2010
    new joisey
    but wouldnt it be good just incase they come in handy one day ? Also a mbp is cheaper so y not save money for a good night out?
  11. B.Chang macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    MBA Works great with MATLAB and any other engineering programs I need. As I said, my previous MBP was fine, and the current MBA actually has a faster processor than my 2010 MBP.

    Only downsides are that it's not very good for video games if you play video games, and obviously no CAD or rendering, but then again I could barely do that on my MBP in the first place.

    Anything that you would need for engineering and would do on a laptop the MBA can do and it stays very portable which is especially convenient if you commute.
  12. Big D 51 macrumors 6502a

    Big D 51

    Jan 15, 2011
    Mobile, AL
    MBA. Compact and light plus it will do everything you need. Why not? Perfect for school.
  13. macmba macrumors member

    Aug 10, 2011
    Well, consider the following:

    If you have an external display/monitor, you would probably need an adapter for VGA/HDMI/DVI --> $35

    If you use ethernet --> another adapter, another $35

    If 128GB is not enough, an external USB HDD, most likely 2.0 --> another say $100

    Other than that, the MBA is much more light, portable, thinner, and FAST. At the end I would still go with a MBA, 13" base.
  14. freds thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2011
    If I haven't used most of the ports in the past 3 1/2 years, I doubt I'll be using them in the future... lol


    I don't play video games and I won't need CAD - I don't do any drafting, and my stats programs will be used to run regressions and do statistical analysis of large datasets...


    I won't buy an external display because I hate working at a desk :) haha I'd probably just get those cables for presentations during classes/conferences..

    Would only purchase ethernet adapter if my wifi had a problem.... might get one just in case..

    And I have an external HDD already... So no biggie there either... My media library on my MB took up about 80% of the space... already use Dropbox and Evernote, and am planning to use more cloud-based storage...since I'm moving my media library to my external, I don't think the 128GB will be a problem...
  15. B.Chang macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    Well it sounds like you're set with your decision. It should work perfectly for you for what you need it for.

    I only use MS Office, MATLAB, and Eclipse on it and it works wonderfully so far. Enjoy!
  16. freds thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2011
    lol True! I think in discussing this over with someone besides myself, I've made my decision :) MBA it is. Thanks for all your help everyone! Much appreciated. :cool:

    Will post of my impressions on MBA once I make the purchase...
  17. Scylax macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2009
    Being an undergrad in a different subject area to you, I can't comment specifically on what would be right for you. But having used a previous gen 13" MBA and 13" MBP extensively for my own study tasks, I do have a couple of points to make.

    The MBA is thin, yes, but to me at least it feels no more 'flimsy' than the pro- in fact it feels very sturdy

    The MBA comes with an SSD by default whereas the base MBP doesn't- and for me that's made the biggest difference imaginable. Despite my MBP being *miles* more powerful than the old MBA I would always choose the MBA-it feels twice as fast!

    Heatwise, yes the MBAs do get hotter than the MBPs. Reading these forums it seems like the issue is less apparent in the 13" than the 11". And as any heat is still going to be within safe operating limits, I have to ask does it matter? Unless you're using it on your lap, or you can't tolerate fan noise, I would still pick the MBA.

    The big concern is RAM. Is 4GB going to be enough for you? 4GB is quite a lot but not huge and it's not upgradeable. If it does everything you want to do now fine, you should be fine for your studies, I would guess. Not knowing anything about the specific software you mention, I have no idea of their requirements.

    I cannot make any recommendation based on your specific circumstances- hopefully others here will do that. All I can say is that the MBA is really a dream machine for a student on the move. It's so light and portable, and the SSD is fantastic- for me I'd never buy another machine with a HDD. For word processing, web browsing and basic media usage, it's perfect. And since you are looking at the base models of both machines, I'd say the MBA is almost certainly the better bet. The only thing I would say is really have a very hard think about the amount of RAM you'll need.
  18. thda13 macrumors newbie

    Aug 13, 2011
    i was in that position earlier today! and u know what I'm typing on my MBA right now :p

    i was gnna go with the pro but the speed of the ssd and the screen made me go air. I'm also a student and i can tell you its amazing. The speed, portability and everything is awsum. If u need the extra ram and extra hard drive space then by all means go with the MBP, but if you don't go air and don't look back (Y)
  19. accessoriesguy macrumors 6502a

    Jul 8, 2011
    Look the SSD int he MBA will kill the MBP.

    The thing about 13in MBP is they do not have a GT GPU, so their GPU's are the same. Although the MBP has a better processor. The ones on the Macbook air are a updated version.

    So MBA gets you;
    quicker and lighter.
    MBP gets you
    more processing power and storage space.

    I have never used 100GB of memory but everyone's different, you can always get a portable external. In which case the MBP just has a faster clock speed, but the air still has a revised processor.

    I give extra bonus to the air for being light, hauling around the 15in pro with the charger and books is killer!!
  20. BostonBrawler macrumors member

    Jun 22, 2011
    Consider also that the screen resolution is better on the 13 MBA.

    This means that even though it is a "13 inch", you get the same screen real estate as the "15 inch MBP"
  21. archangelg macrumors newbie

    Aug 19, 2011
    You say you plan to use Stata and SPSS. How big are your datasets thought? When I think of large datasets, I think of ones with at least 10,000 observations (and numerous variables) - ones that I've used tend to be much larger or on the national scale. As a grad student, you probably won't encounter these too often (I could be wrong). However, my argument is that unless you're a statistician and/or conducting multiple (1000+) simulations or doing other things like hardcore hardcore resampling (bootstrapping, jackknifing, etc.) , your MBA w/ 4 GB of RAM should be sufficient, even for some simulations or resampling. Of course, if you really are in the stats department and plan to do these things, hopefully, your statistics (or related) department has a computer lab where you can just do that there (and won't have to kill your laptop).

    [I don't know with SPSS but with Stata, you can always increase the memory size. Very helpful for large datasets and running regression models...]

    In any case, I'm a little late in the game but for your purposes, it seems again the MBA is fine. Glad you made your decision. Hope this reaffirms it. :)
  22. freds thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 15, 2011
    For all of you who've purchased and suggested the MBA, is it your main and/or only machine?

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