Another MBA vs MBP for college thread

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by tacomang, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. tacomang macrumors newbie

    Jun 22, 2012
    Hi all,

    I've been doing some heavy research these past few days because I will be entering college in the fall and am in desperate need of a laptop. I will be majoring in computer science (BS). I've narrowed it down to two laptops, the 13 inch MacBook Air and the 13inch MacBook Pro. I was also considering the rMBP but I think that might be overkill for a college student? I'm not too sure. I don't plan on playing many games, maybe TF2, Diablo 3, Dota 2, Counter Strike, nothing seriously heavy on the hardware.

    Now, the school that I'm going to is quite big, roughly 2000 acres and I will probably be walking quite long distances from class to class. So I think portability is a plus. But will 1.5lbs really make a difference?

    Also note that I will be able to get a 15% discount on all Mac products, so I will be using that instead of the educational discount.

    Here are the specs I'm looking at:
    MBA 13 inch 2012
    2.0GHz i7
    8GB of ram
    256GB or 512GB of storage (I'm not sure on this one, I really would like to have more space and it might be a hassle carrying around an external hard drive, but the price is really hefty.)

    With 256GB storage, it totals up to $1700, adding the 15% discount it'll be $1445.
    With 512GB storage, it'll initially be $2200, but with 15% it'll be $1870.
    If I go with 256GB, I will definitely buy an ext HD, probably the WD MyPassport.
    Now for the MBP. I definitely will be upgrading this laptop on my own so that it can last longer. At the base price it will cost $1500 with no upgrades.

    MBP 13 inch 2012
    2.9 i7
    8GB -> Will upgrade to 16GB which will cost ~$160
    Momentus XT 750GB $135 (will be put in the optibay)
    SSD 256GB (either Samsung or Crucial M4, will cost about $220)

    So after slashing the price with the 15% discount, $1500 -> $1275. Adding up all the upgrades and the price will be around $1790, roughly 100$ less than the maxed out MBA.

    I'm also worried about the screen resolution differences. Which one would be better in my situation?

    Some more background info just in case, I have a gaming PC at home that I built back in 2009, still works well with most new games. The only real experience I've had with Macs would be using an iBook G4 way back in 2006-2007, using the Tiger OS.

    Your insight is more than welcome!

    Attached Files:

  2. RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    I would definitely go with the MBP based solely on the ability to upgrade them and also because they are more expandable with extra ports and an ODD(that you could remove to add even more HD space later on).

    I'm on here a lot and usually when the person buying wants to save money by upgrading themselves, I recommend buy a refurbished model. You can get a 15" MBP Quad Core i7 for $1,359 and that way you'l have a more powerful processor, dual GPUs, and only a slightly smaller capacity HDD.

    Or you could get the refurbished 13" MBP with 2.8GHz Dual-core i7 with 4GB RAM and 750GB HDD for $1149.
  3. rockyroad55 macrumors 601


    Jul 14, 2010
    Phila, PA
    For cost effectiveness, go with the MBP. If you ABSOLUTELY care about weight, the MBA will serve you very well. The thing the MBP has going for it is the option for future upgrades, which the MBA does not have.
  4. kylera macrumors 65816


    Dec 5, 2010
    I think the primary factor would be if you're considering on taking notes with your MacBook or not, and if the answer is yes, asking how much of a load you'd be willing to take around.

    I know some friends who used to lug around a 15" around and barely complained about the weight at all. On the other hand, there was one guy who moaned and whined about how heavy his 12" was. The latter case was partially because he carried other stuff, though.
  5. dkersten macrumors 6502a

    Nov 5, 2010
    I'm not sure the i7 is necessary for you. And I think the MBA would be perfect for your situation. As for 256GB or 512GB that's your decision. Are you planning on dual booting for coding? How much media do you own. WOuld you keep all your media on your HDD? You need to answer these questions to determine how much space you will need.
  6. tacomang, Aug 14, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2012

    tacomang thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 22, 2012
    I probably will be bringing my Macbook to most classes and take notes on it.

    I'm a relatively strong person, about 5'11" weighing at around 165lbs, and I lift weights about three times a week, so a MBP won't be so bad, but even then, I feel like i'll be carrying a lot of things to class, so I might benefit more with a MBA.

    I'm fine with everything on my customized MBA specs except maybe for the storage. 500$ for an extra 256GB doesn't seem justifiable, but I'm afraid it might be too little. Yes I will be dual booting to windows, but not for coding, maybe for 1-2 games that aren't mac compatible, so i might just give it like 20-30GB at most. I will probably keep all my multimedia things (movies, songs) on my ext HDD. SInce it'll mostly be my parents money that's put into this computer, I'll consult with them. But 512GB still sounds really nice hahaha....

    As I see it now, I'm leaning more towards the MBA, and then maybe in a few years I'll upgrade to a more powerful computer. As of now it seems like the current MBA will fit most of my needs as a student and the extra lightness is nice.

    EDIT: The other thing that concerns me is that the MBA can only go up to 8GB RAM. Would that be enough for most programming applications that I will be using?
  7. RedCroissant Suspended

    Aug 13, 2011
    8GB of RAM will be fine for those purposes, but I would be worried more about the lack of a GPU during those times that you want to play games. Sure, the standard GPU that's installed is fine, but it's sharing memory with your system as opposed to having its own dedicated memory. You could also modify the MBP by taking out the ODD(putting it in an enclosure) and installing a SSD or even another HDD(but maybe one that's eco friendly and low power) to store all of your media.

    Even though the MBA is more portable and its current specs will suit you fine, I don't see that being enough in the long run and why spend money now on a machine that you will have to replace due to its lack of upgradability, when you can buy one now that's cheaper that will last you longer?

    You could get the top-of-the-line MBA for $1499 and get a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM configuration that even you think would have to be replaced.. or you could get a refurbished 13"MBP with 4GB RAM and a 500GB HDD for $929 base, pay $60 for the optibay kit, get 16GB RAM kit from OWC for $155 that will take you to $1144. All of that is still cheaper than the base 13" MBA and you get a whole lot more for your money. No to compare that with the high-end MBA, you still have another $300 left over to spend on either a SSD or HDD that would superify your storage capacity and truly make your computer the "center of all things." You could even get a 240GB SSD from OWC for $240 and still spend less on everything including shipping than you would spend on the brand new MBA. You would finish the whole thing with a pretty awesome 13" MBP.:

    2.4GHz Intel Dual-core i5
    16GB RAM
    500GB HDD, 240GB SSD
    total:$1384 +/- $200 for taxes and that's around $1584-$1600

    If I had it to do over again, I would do something like that.
  8. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    Those games will run noticeably better and look noticeably better on a 15" MacBook Pro than either the Air or the 13" Pro. They'll all run on the Airs or the 13" MacBook Pro just fine. But newer games, like Diablo III, will take advantage of the discrete GPU in the 15" models. Whether you need 1GB of VRAM over 512MB is another debate; personally, I'm going to buy the model with 1GB; but I feel like that decision isn't based on logic on my part as much as it is on principle (I don't feel like I should have to be stuck with 512MB of VRAM on a discrete GPU in 2012, but again, that's me).

    That being said, if you've firmly decided that you want a 13" Mac, be it Pro or Air, I'll throw out that if you care about your computer as a as-long-as-humanly-possible investment, the 13" Pro beats the 13" Air as while you can only stuff 8GB of RAM into both machines, your freedom in terms of future storage options on the 13" Pro is theoretically unlimited, whereas on the 13" Air, you're pretty much locked to Apple's stock drives and OWC's kits. Also the 13" Pro has ports gallore; basically every port you could find on the 13" Air, you have on the Pro, in addition to FireWire 800 (often useful), Gigabit Ethernet (extremely useful depending on certain circumstances), and an internal optical disc drive (which can be invaluable at times as well). If these features do not matter to you at all, then I highly recommend getting a 13" Air and maxing it out (512GB SSD, i7, 8GB of RAM) as it has a better screen resolution than the 13" Pro. Otherwise, 13" Pro is a good choice. As a follow-up point to that, I'd say that the 13" MacBook Air is, on the whole, not worth considering as an option UNLESS you max it out.
  9. jetblk328i macrumors 6502

    Apr 20, 2010
    I'd say if you're not worried with the weight, go with the Pro. Much better upgradability and much more cost effective.
  10. Apple... macrumors 68020


    May 6, 2010
    The United States
    I'm more of a fan of the MBA, but in your case, I'd go with the MBP.
  11. virtualandy macrumors newbie

    May 25, 2010
    If there's any way you can wait, you might want to see if what happens in September. Worst case, you just wait a month and buy a laptop then (surely your campus will have labs you can use until then? Or maybe you can get by with a friends)?

    I know tons of devs that use Air's and they get along fine (granted, they're not in college and they may have another PC/mac at home). 8GB RAM will be fine and these days you can just spin up some cloud instances to play around with. Not sure what campus CS labs are like but I'd imagine you could use their servers for other heavy lifting if required, too.

    Personally, I have a 15" Pro for work (software development and I don't game on it) and I'd swap it out for a 13" air in a heartbeat.
  12. ZacT94 macrumors regular

    Jun 25, 2012
    rMBP. Sure it's overkill (I bought one for university myself), but it is the most amazing computer I've ever used. I haven't had any issues with it.

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