Buying a Macbook for University

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Executer, Jul 14, 2014.

  1. Executer macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014
    #1
    Hello guys,

    I'm a new user around here, although I've been following this site for the past few months in order to keep up to date with the latest news. I never felt the need to register up until today, so here's my first thread. :)

    Over the past few years, I've thought about buying a Macbook computer, but I never did up until now. Now that I'm going to enter university, I'll need a new computer and I'm definitely going for a Macbook.

    Now, I've been using Windows since ever. My current PC is a 5-years old Fujitsu Siemens with 3GB Ram and a Intel Pentium Dual CPU T3200 2.00GHz. This computer is more than enough for my current needs -- browsing the web, as well as reading and creating documents --, but I figured it was time for a change, since I'm using it almost as if it were a desktop computer (it's too heavy too carry around). Furthermore, I deserve a new computer after all this time. :D

    However, I'm not sure which Macbook would be the best option for me, and that's why I'm asking for advice here. Here are the options...

    Macbook Air 13 inch 966,78€ (4GB Ram)/1.060,26€ (8GB Ram)

    This one is my favourite. It is highly portable and it's also cheaper than the other options below. But I'm sceptical, because:
    - it does not have a CD/DVD drive (I don't usually use CD/DVD, I guess I could buy an external drive if needed);
    - it's not possible to upgrade the hardware of a Macbook Air in case of need, in the future.

    Macbook Pro non retina 13 inch 1.174,65 € (4GB Ram)

    It's my second choice, since I could "easily" upgrade its hardware, if necessary. But it's a rather old computer with old hardware and I'm afraid Apple will stop supporting the non-retina series soon (sure, I could still use it).

    Macbook Pro retina 13 inch 1.268,13 € (4GB Ram)

    It's the most expensive Macbook. It's my last option because it's expensive, the screen quality is not that important to me, and it's not possible to upgrade its RAM. However, unlike the non-retina series, I'm guessing Apple will keep supporting this Macbook.


    I've got to say that the Macbook Air with 8GB Ram seems to be a great choice. However, I'm afraid that by saving some money now (buying the Air), I'll spend more in the future with upgrades, maintenance and such. I'm also not sure if I'll need 8GB -- I've been doing just fine with only 3GB in my computer. Since I'm entering Med School, maybe 8GB is a bit too much? If that's so, I could use the extra money and buy the 256GB Air with 4GB Ram instead of the 128GB with 8GB Ram (not sure if I need 256GB though, since I'm only using 70GB in my current computer). On the other hand, I want the computer to last for five or six years, so maybe 8GB Ram would be the best option. And I could always buy an external drive for videos and photos. So many doubts... :confused:

    I really can't afford any other Macbook, since it's a little bit out of my budget, so I hope you guys can help me out choosing the best one for my needs.

    Thank you soooo much for reading this! Wish you all the best. ;)

    Executer, a future Mac user. Hopefully. :D
     
  2. eskimogenius macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2014
    #2
    If screen quality isn't important to you get the MacBook Air with 8GB and 128GB.

    You will find that you will not need internal storage as time progresses because you can just put all your media and huge files on an external drive instead. However, as you want the Macbook to last long, get yourself the 8GB of RAM. I'm doing a similar thing to you but my budget is a bit larger and screen quality is important to me. I'm getting the rMBP with 16GB RAM and 256GB. :)
     
  3. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2013
    #3
    Refurb??

    If I was you I'd look at refurbished retina pro. The Apple refurbs are as new (without the lovely box) have the same warranties and can save you a few hundred euros. I have one and the screen is awesome (you will soon come to love it) the power smoothness ease of use and speed is all you'll need for years.
     
  4. Executer, Jul 14, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2014

    Executer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014
    #4
    Thanks! That's what I think as well, but it's always a good idea to ask the specialists here. :D

    Thanks. I'm from Portugal and the Portuguese Apple Store does not seem to have the option to buy refurbished devices. When going to http://store.apple.com/pt/browse/home/specialdeals/mac, it just takes me back to the home page of the Apple Store...

    Btw, just one more question: can I buy a Macbook with Education pricing? Although I'm still not a university student, I will be next year.
     
  5. Alphabetize macrumors 6502

    Alphabetize

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2013
    #5
    I say go with the 13-inch, 8GB MacBook Air. It's a fantastic laptop, and personally my favorite Mac.

    I'm using it for both work and school and it's holding up very well. I've thrown some fairly CPU/GPU intensive tasks at it, and it holds up with no problem. I almost never hear the fan. I've had a Windows 7 partition on it, and that works great too. It handles video very well, even 4K video doesn't stutter. The speakers are nice and loud for music. My favorite thing about though it is the battery life... I went a full 8.5 hour work day running nothing but Adobe Illustrator, and it lasted the entire day.

    I have the 256 GB model, and I have a 64 GB SD card that I store my iTunes media on. I have plenty of space to spare.
     
  6. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #6
    I had a MBA with 2GB of RAM up until a few months ago. I gave it to a family member, and it was still running strong on the latest version of Mavericks. I used it to watch movies, browse the web, write, and do light gaming (League, Portal 2). I could do all this stuff without any lag.

    Here is the bottom line. You will most likely not need more than 4GB of RAM in the next 4-5 years. There are obviously some use scenarios where 8GB is useful, so if you plan on using VMs, photoshop, or creating a server, go ahead and get it. I can't predict what your uses will be in the next few years.

    Why a 256GB SSD may be more beneficial than 8GB of RAM: The main point of capping out the RAM (at least for consumers) is to avoid paging to the hard drive. As the RAM fills up, processes begin "paging" to the SSD. The slower the hard drive, the worse experience you will have. This is one of the reasons why HDD's are horrible. So how does this relate to 128GB vs 256GB? Larger SSDs are actually faster. The 256GB drive will write about 20%-30% faster than an equivalent 128GB drive. This will help reduce any negative effects of having 4GB of RAM.

    The way I see it, for consumers specifically, is that RAM is a crutch for crappy hard drives. If you are using programs that will use up 4GB of RAM for 20 minute bursts on a daily basis, then some marginal benefit of the RAM may outweigh the benefit of an SSD. If you are a consumer though, a 20%-30% general increase in hard drive performance will benefit you more than doubling the RAM, as long as you aren't using professional programs. Realistically, the baseline 4GB/128GB model will be fine for the next 4-5 years.

    Definitely do not get a cMBP. You will spend another €200 just to put it on par with a MBA. On top of that, it will weigh 1.5 pounds more, have a worse screen, have half the battery life, have worse graphics, and have a crappy hard drive, and it will run much hotter. Don't get it, because at this point in time it will not even begin to compare to the current lineup.

    Best,
    Matt
     
  7. Executer, Jul 14, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2014

    Executer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014
    #7
    I can not thank you guys enough for your help in my situation, seriously. Thank you!

    Thanks for your contribution. :)

    Hello Matt,

    first of all, thank you very much for your explanatory post.

    As I said in my first post, I've been using a computer with 3GB Ram for the past five years. It's not even 4GB, it's 3GB. I use it to browse the web, watch a few videos now and then, reading and creating/editing documents and occasionally some light gaming (Football Manager, it's the only game I play and it runs well). Now, with Football Manager, my web browser (Opera), Skype, my anti-virus (can't wait to get rid of this! :D) and two clouds, I'm using around 70% of my memory -- which means something like 2 GB.

    That's pretty much the usage my Mac will have in the future. I do not think I will need to run any VMs, or even host a server. I do work with image edition occasionally, once or twice per month, and I don't even use Photoshop (I use Gimp, its free alternative).

    Since I'll be in Med School for the next six years, I believe my habits won't change that much: I'll still browse and read a lot and I'll probably play less. So, I'm guessing that, in theory, 4GB would probably be enough.

    Regarding the disk space, I guess that, in terms of space, I would be fine with either 128GB or 256GB. I'm currently using 70GB in my PC and I have all the files from the last 5 years. Speed is another matter which I had not considered.

    So, I guess it all comes down to 8GB + 128GB (1.060,26 €) or 4GB + 256GB (1.154,97 €)... or even 4GB + 128GB (966,78 €) (I fear this one may not handle the five/six years I wanted my Macbook to last...). I'm not sure which one would be better honestly, but since I'll join uni and have more expenses, I'd also like to save some money, if possible -- but quality is first, that's for sure.

    Once again, thank you all.

    Executer
     
  8. cosplay macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014
    #8
    I can not thank you guys enough for your help in my situation, seriously. Thank you!

    Thanks. I'm from Portugal and the Portuguese Apple Store does not seem to have the option to buy refurbished devices. When going to http://store.apple.com/pt/browse/home/specialdeals/mac, it just takes me back to the home page of the Apple Store...
     
  9. Executer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014
    #9
    ???


    OK, having read all your answers and also other forum threads, I think I have enough information to make a decision. Only two final questions:

    1. Is it true that I should only use up to 75% of the SSD space? I read somewhere in this forum that otherwise I will lose speed.

    2. Is now a good time to buy a Macbook Air? I can either buy now and get the Back to School deal (until 9 September) or wait for October to see if there's anything new. Rumours say there will be a 12" rMBA, which I wouldn't be interested in. So, in your opinion, should I buy now and get the deal, or wait?

    Thanks.
     
  10. cambookpro macrumors 603

    cambookpro

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #10
    No, larger SSDs are not faster. Due to the way flash storage writes in fairly large blocks, if you have little free space and you're constantly writing small amounts of data, it will shuffle the other data on the SSD making it a little slower. However, the claim that a 256GB SSD is 20-30% faster than a 128GB SSD is false. If they both have enough free space, there should be no performance difference.

    1. While keeping free space may technically speed up the SSD, modern ones with TRIM support do a pretty good job of organising the data on blocks, so you shouldn't really need to keep any amount free. SSDs also have built-in 'free space', as explained here:

    The reason people recommended leaving free space on hard drives is because mechanical spinning hard drives actually did get slower as they wrote closer to the edge of the platter, as it took longer for the arm to travel the larger distance. This means it's less of an issue with SSDs. (More free space does technically result in small performance gains, but for different reasons. The speed of SSDs now though, especially the PCIe ones in the 2013/14 MBAs, make this speed difference almost imperceptible).


    2. I'd buy it now. Broadwell chips aren't due for laptops until probably Q1-2 2015, so there won't be a major update until then - in fact, the MBA was just updated with slightly faster clock speeds, indicating there probably won't be a refresh soon. Buy one now and enjoy it!
     
  11. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #11
    Unless SSD technology has drastically changed in the past year, I do believe that larger SSDs are faster. But hey, I really haven't tested this stuff myself. I just trust anandtech. These are my sources.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7173/...w-120gb-250gb-500gb-750gb-1tb-models-tested/8

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6884/crucial-micron-m500-review-960gb-480gb-240gb-120gb/5
     
  12. cambookpro macrumors 603

    cambookpro

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #12
    Here's a post from the Apple Community forums which explains it quite well:

    I think with the new PCIe MBAs, they did a test and found the read/write speeds to be similar for every capacity. But they're so fast now, I doubt anyone could tell the difference!
     
  13. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2013
    #13
    Hmm ok. I remember seeing benchmarks for the new MBA and the 128GB drives were all around 300-400MB/s write speed and the 512GB models had about 700MB/s write speeds. The benchmarks I provided aligned with this, showing drastic differences in sustained write speeds. The read speeds are about the same on all capacities, at least within a brand. The performance of many SSDs is affected by the size of their cache. Higher capacity drives typically have larger write caches, so at least for files less than 1GB, they do perform faster. Again, I am a secondary source for this information, so I may be misinterpreting it. I have discussed this with others in the past, and the general consensus has been that higher capacity drives have improved write speed.

    I am not discrediting you, and I would be happy to consider your point. If you can provide benchmarks for mainstream/PCIE SSDs of varying capacity with comparable sustained write performance (proving that sustained write speed is independent from capacity) then I would be more willing to drop my beliefs. I do agree with you that read performance is independent from capacity, but I still think that write performance is affected by the size of the drive.

    Best,
    Matt
     
  14. cambookpro macrumors 603

    cambookpro

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    #14
    Hi

    I can't actually find any benchmarks, but your explanation does make sense - I assume the MBAs with larger SSDs have a larger cache?

    I've seen benchmarks between the same size SSDs on the 2014 MacBook Airs, and they seem to vary quite a lot, but I think that's down to different manufacturers making the drives to a slightly different quality.

    I'm wondering if maybe smaller drives also tend to perform slower due to them being the 'budget' drive? The Anandtech benchmarks you posted seemed to always show the 120GB lagging behind (the 256GB did seem to too, but not to the same extent.)

    I haven't found any concrete evidence either way for the MBAs, but I think I should probably revise my opinion: larger SSDs are faster, for write speeds at least :p I suppose it makes sense - usually a larger cache along with more NAND chips for a larger bandwidth.

    However, I then just Googled 'are larger SSDs faster' and everyone seems to say something different! Based on the benchmarks you posted, let's just go with writes are faster, reads are the same.

    Thanks for the information.
     
  15. keysofanxiety macrumors 604

    keysofanxiety

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #15
    The SSDs on the Macs work a little differently. The chips run in parallel meaning the higher the storage, the quicker the speeds -- that's why you get 1GB/s read/write on the 1TB rMBP models.
     
  16. Executer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014
    #16
    Hello,

    I'd just like to thank everyone who took a bit of their time to answer this thread and help me choosing my new and first Macbook.

    I have finally bought the Macbook Air 13 inch., 128GB SSD 8GB Ram. I probably won't need so much Ram, but since I'd like this computer to last for a few years, that's probably the best option. I hope I won't regret my choice. My Macbook is arriving soon, so I hope to be a more active poster in the forums as soon as I know a bit more about Macbooks and Apple itself.

    Once again, thank you all!

    Executer
     
  17. Mal67 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2006
    Location:
    West Oz
    #17
    Good choice :) If only 8 gigs were standard across the range or the 8 gig models were able to be bought easily off the shelf. Enjoy :)
     
  18. Executer, Jul 23, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2014

    Executer thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2014

Share This Page