2011 MBA 13" vs 2011 MBP 13"

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by jmgregory1, Dec 7, 2011.

  1. jmgregory1 macrumors 68000


    Jun 24, 2010
    Chicago and a few other places around the world
    Just to be clear, this isn't a thread asking for advice on which to buy - but rather commentary from a MBA user to those wondering what the real world differences are.

    I've had my base 13" model for a few months now - and really like it. It's probably the best laptop I've ever owned and has to be close to the pinnacle for the Apple computers I've owned over the years. My favorite as far as pure design goes is still the G5 tower I bought in 2006, but functionally, this MBA is so fast and light, it's been perfect.

    So for those contemplating getting a 13" MBA vs MBP, I can comment on both given my wife just got a replacement 13" MBP for work and I had the displeasure of setting it up for her the other night. I expected it to be faster than it was and I expected to be able to have multiple programs running without taxing the computer, but in both cases, it was wildly slower than the MBA and with just a few programs running - safari, mail, iTunes, it ran really slow with significant lag.

    I attribute this to the optical vs ssd drives and even with a slower, lower performance chip in the MBA, real world use makes it much faster. I'm sure there are other programs that would show the opposite, but my hours using the 13" MBP tell me that there is no way I would ever buy one. My 2007 MBA (pre-unibody) seems to run faster than this new MBA (I know, a 5400 rpm vs 7200 rpm drive is partly to blame).
  2. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    funny, but i had a completely different experience using the mba 11" vs. the mbp 13".

    i found the mba to be pretty much the same as the mbp once all of the programs got opened. and, since i turn on the computer in the morning, and don't turn it off until the evening, i felt a difference of about 40 seconds in my day.

    i found a huge difference when i tried to work with pdfs. the mba crashed and burned. it was disgusting to watch and i was furious. granted, it only had 2gb ram, but still, it was shocking to see the page outs go from 0 to MORE than the page ins.

    my mbp with 8gb? it floats effortlessly through any task i throw at it. i haven't had a single page out in days.

    there is nothing wrong with the mba, but i think the ssd thing is over-hyped. i have used the 13" mba (borrowed but never owned) and i felt the same about it.
  3. ethics101 macrumors regular

    Apr 16, 2011
  4. daonesteven macrumors 6502

    Aug 7, 2007
    Baltimore, MD
    so just to give a more balanced view on this, my higher end 11" experiences none of the problems described here.
  5. jmgregory1 thread starter macrumors 68000


    Jun 24, 2010
    Chicago and a few other places around the world
    You'll definitely see a difference in performance with a 2010 MBA - my comparison was with two 2011 models, both with 4gb of ram - so that was equalized. I've not seen any issues with pdfs either.
  6. Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011

    Another one of these threads?
    I have both and I really don't care which one I use. They both have pros and cons. Most of the time I use the MBP w/ and SSD in it. But really that's because my wife wants the MBA all the time. I do know this, I want one of the two in Ivy Bridge this next year. Since I'm doubtful that there will be another 13" MBP I'm leaning toward an Air, but we shall see.

    Conclusion: pick whatever you are most comfortable with, either machine is great.

    P.S. I tried to go back to HDD last week, I lasted a day.
  7. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    my post? all true. i stayed up all night transferring everything back to the mbp, wiping the drive, and getting it ready for the return.

    it's a shame, because i really liked the size, and it would have fit my lifestyle perfectly. but, i do a lot with pdfs (ocr, bookmarking, searching, etc.) all day, so that was a deal breaker.

    again, that was the 11" 2gb model, and not the 4gb 13" model.
  8. Tinmania macrumors 68040


    Aug 8, 2011
    Well your results do not sound like the norm at all.

    I had the base model 2010 11" Air and it handled PDFs just fine. In fact I was very much amazed at how that machine performed with only 2GB of RAM.

    I liked it so much I got a 2011 model, which I was able to get at a discount so ended up getting the 4GB model for just about the same price as the base model. I love this one too.

  9. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I tested it out several times with my PDFs. I should mention that many of my PDFs are nearly 1GB.

    At any rate, restarted, quitting everything, etc. didn't help a bit.

    I have to admit that I was really disappointed at the performance (it literally crashed Adobe Acrobat Pro), because I had hoped to make the transition to the MBA.

    I will find someone with an MBA (various configurations) and have them try out the PDFs to see what happens on their machines. It would be great if I just had bad luck with the hardware or something like that.
  10. VMMan macrumors 6502a

    Mar 29, 2009
    I have a 2011 MBA 11" and early 2011 MBP 17", while my wife has an early 2011 MBP 13".

    I think the MBPs are great machines but need SSDs to be usable by anybody who's owned any computer fitted with an SSD.

    I finally put an SSD in my MBP and haven't been using my MBA as much as I had been. I'm about to put an HDD in the optical bay as well. This is an incredible distinction from the more appliance-like MBA. I also have 8 GB but will probably upgrade to 16GB soon.
  11. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    This sounds more like an Adobe Acrobat Pro issue. Over the years, I've seen that app crash and run slowly on many machines which have very high end specs. It's an extremely buggy app.

    I've even had updates break printing... which is usually a basic function.

    Preview handles PDFs far better.

    Anyway, I'm here because I'm thinking about the same question for buying my dad a notebook for Christmas. He's running on a 2005 iBook G4 14", so I know whatever I get will blow that away. But I worry about him being stuck at 4 gigs of RAM if he tries to use his next machine for another 6 years.
  12. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Unless he needs the portability, the 13" MBP is a better deal (money-wise), and it can be upgraded (RAM and SSD). I also think the screen is much better. Yeah, the resolution is less, and I wouldn't mind if it was more, but it looks a whole lot sharper. I am kind of partial to the glossy screen :)

    Personally, I'd like the portability of the MBA (I'd go for 11" myself), but I am kind of stuck now that I had my bad experience. I really don't want to deal with that kind of a mess. Unfortunately, I have to use Acrobat Pro (Preview can't do what I need), and Acrobat Pro does have Lion incompatibility issues. Either way, I guess I am out of luck.
  13. Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011
    Yeah I agree, even though the screen is a lower res I think it looks better. Although personally I'm annoyed by the glossy screen. I have to work in too many offices that are fluorescent lighting nightmares. And I concur, the Pro is a better deal price wise. Also, I really think you should try to borrow an 11" with 4gb of memory and retest with your PDF's. It's the only way to give it a fair shake. 2GB just wouldn't cut it for a specialized task like opening a 1gb PDF.

    And I don't think the MBP is a bad choice. It's a very decent computer for nearly anyone, but higher res, SSD out of the box and 33% less weight are very appealing. But I have no qualms carrying around a 4.5lb laptop that does nearly anything I want it to do.
  14. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    i agree. for all of it's benefits, the mbp is still heavier and bigger than i'd like. i prefer to carry everything in my man bag, and the mbp isn't going to fit.

    i'm thinking that maybe adobe's incompatibility with lion might be the problem for me. like i said, 0 page outs until then. i just assumed acrobat was hogging resources. maybe it was buggy after all. i really wish i didn't have to use it!

    so, now i am in a real pickle. i might want to keep the mba 11" / 2gb ram after all... but, i have to use adobe, so that isn't looking like a possibility.

    anyone know of any other program that does ocr (chinese, japanese, and english capable), bookmarking/outlining, annotating, optimization, etc. of pdfs?
  15. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    He does need portability, actually. He works in a job where he does a lot of traveling, and he has been dealing with illnesses in the family so he's constantly moving around for that.

    Given that he's been using an iBook, I think that a Macbook Air would be insanely fast for him now. Again, it's just a 6 year lifespan I worry about.

    Also, SSD is a requirement. So a MBP would be more expensive.
  16. ethics101 macrumors regular

    Apr 16, 2011
    Sorry, I actually talking about the OP. I agree with what you said. PDFs have been giving troubles to under powered hardware for a while now. Tablets, netbooks, pretty much anything with under 4gigs of ram for some reason struggle with them. I think its more attributed to Adobe's poor implementation.
  17. Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011
    Yeah, there is just no way 2GB is going to cut it. Heck even 4GB might be a bit tough. That's why I'm thinking the 11" w/ 4GB is what you should test before you buy. But in all honesty your current 13" MBP might be the best option. I really do like mine since putting in a 120B SSD from OWC. Although space is a bit tough, so I've been eyeing the Momentus XT from Seagate, it's a Hybrid drive. I'm hearing real good things about it.

    As for OCR alternatives, I'm looking myself. I have some 15-25MB files I'm trying to work with. But I have no previous experience so therefore cannot suggest any viable options at this time.
    My workaround is to convert my files to images (tiff, jpg) then downsample and filter color via Pixelmator and save them back to PDF's just under 2MB. Then I upload them to my Google account and have Google Docs convert them to text for me.
    With preview I can rip the PDF's into small enough pieces and then work with it this is working for me. It's a little slow and kludgy, but I'm only doing this once so I figure it's worth it not to have to buy another piece of software.

    Adobe? Give people grief with their PDF products!? Say it ain't so...next you're going to tell me Flashplayer is a resource hog. ;)
  18. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Without loading Adobe Acrobat Pro into the store model along with my private files, I don't see any way to test it on the Mac before I bought it. I returned the computer.

    [quote[As for OCR alternatives,[/quote]
    Thanks for the suggestions. I have a lot of files, they are big, and I generate them on a daily basis, so I probably need something on my computer to process them.

    It's too bad, but I'm quite pleased with the MBP. When the MBA improves (Ivy Bridge + 8GB a possibility?) I'll be there to upgrade :)
  19. flomotions macrumors newbie

    Dec 8, 2011
    The Netherlands
    8 GB's of RAM is in most cases solid overkill. My MBP never goes over the 4GB...
  20. Risasi, Dec 8, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2011

    Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011
    Yeah, I think I will too. Right now I'm thinking my setup next year will be an Ivy Bridge 11" MBA with 4GB or more memory. Should put me around $1200 give or take, and then I'll likely get a loaded Mac mini (another $600-$850) mounted to the back of an LCD monitor. That should weigh in around 10lbs, and I'll have a handle on it somehow. Grab'n'go.
    Most days the Air should suit me fine, but if I'm needing some heavy firepower I'll bring the Mac mini along too. Otherwise it will sit at home in the kitchen and just be another "TV".
  21. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I suppose it could be overkill. I don't know when I last had a page out, though, and Acrobat runs perfectly, so I can't complain. I actually do go above 4GB on a regular basis. Not a whole lot, to be sure, but it happens.
  22. h4ck macrumors regular

    May 26, 2006
    you're a brave soul. i'd never be able to do it. 10 second boot time, things launching almost instantly. can't do traditional drives anymore. WAY too slow.
  23. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I don't mind a bit. I fire up the MBP in the morning, all the apps open, and I am good for the day. I lose about 40 seconds or so of productivity every day, but I can live with the sacrifice for the price and extra RAM. Not that I have anything against SSD, but I can wait until my next upgrade.
  24. Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011
    Yeah, I thought it might be that way for me, but it wasn't. I generally have 3-5 desktops full of stuff. Usually 2-3 IM clients, Chrome and Safari open. Usually a couple connections to various servers or client computers, either locally or via VPN's into remote offices.
    What I noticed is a lot of app switching or even opening some new thing I was starting to get perhaps a dozen beachballs a day and just general slowness switching between applications. I'm still running on 4GB, so one would think it's memory but I have zero pageouts. So memory is not my problem. If I need to start running VM's locally again I will need to upgrade to 8GB.
    Anyway I used carbon copy clone and pasted my HDD image to an OWC SSD drive. It's been fine since then. So I actually see improvement in day-to-day tasks too, not just on boot up speeds. I also find it a lot less painful to reboot into Windows 7 for my Total War (game) fix when I'm home at night. :D
  25. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    The thing about most of Adobe's products is that they shuffle quite a lot of data around. Most of them use the scratch disks system, which is a dedicated page file. I'm not sure with Acrobat, but with most of them you can dictate how much ram they can use via preferences. This ensures that they do not starve the rest of the system.

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