Buying a new MBA - 4Gb or 8Gb? 11" or 13"?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by macaso, Apr 15, 2014.

  1. macaso macrumors newbie


    Apr 15, 2014

    I'm interested in buying a new MacBook Air. It'll be my first Mac since 10 years ago, when I bought an iBook G4.

    I'll be using this computer mainly for web development. Not design, only development. My current development stack is Apache, PHP5, Symfony2, PostgreSQL and NetBeans as an IDE. Sometimes I use The GIMP for slicing or resizing some images, but nothing more.

    I'm interested in buying an i5, 128Gb SSD MacBook. I don't need so much hard disk space (currently I'm using near 10GB including the Ubuntu OS), and my current computer isn't so fast, so an i5 is enough for me.

    But when it comes to choose screen size and memory is when questions appear:
    - Is 4Gb enough for PHP development and Mavericks? My current VM running Ubuntu is using only 1,5Gb, but I don't know how much memory OSX takes...
    - 11" or 13"? I'll be using some kind of "virtual desktops", but I'm not sure if 11" is enough or if I must go for the 13"... What do you reccomend?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    How often will you be using an external monitor? I do some coding and tried 3 11" MBA's over the years and keep going back to the 13"

    The 13" rMBA is the ultimate dev setup. You can run 1680x1050 or 1920x1200 if your eyes can take it
  3. macaso thread starter macrumors newbie


    Apr 15, 2014
    I don't know if I'll be using an external monitor. I want to buy a laptop because I have lots of time travelling to work and I like spending my time building personal projects. At home I supose I'll continue using my tower (except if I caught in love with the MBA ;) ).

    And are there MacBook Air with retina display? AFAIK, here in Spain there are only MacBook Pro with retina... Anyway, I'm not interested in buying a computer expensiver than the 13" MBA...
  4. MaxinMusicCity macrumors regular

    Mar 20, 2013
    Since I run virtual Windows in my Macs, I will NEVER buy any Mac with less than 8GB. My newer Mac has 16GB, but 8GB will do for most people.

    Buying a Macbook with more than 4GB may also help the resale value as well.

  5. yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    11" + 8GB + 256GB + external display, plus Windows VM and Linux VM, can handle almost any programming assignment, and is ultra-portable. :)
  6. b3av3r macrumors regular


    Dec 9, 2012
    I came from years of 15" PC laptops and was worried about dropping down to the 13" MBA but I hardly noticed the difference. I found the 11" to be too small for comfort after some experimenting in the store.

    Also, I am a big fan of maxing out a system especially since you can't upgrade the RAM at a later date.
  7. huntinguy macrumors newbie

    Feb 27, 2014
    I have a13 inch MBA with 4gbs of ram. I don't have any issues with it. So far so good.
  8. michaelsviews macrumors 65816

    Sep 25, 2007
    New England
    Maxed out 13"MBA, I use VMware, WebStorm, Xcode. No problems
  9. iRun26.2 macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2010
  10. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    I have a maxed out 13" MBA (2013), and a maxed out 11" (again, 2013 model). The 13" is an amazing computer, easily the best I have ever owned. The 11", I have just taken delivery of, and am looking forward to using it.

    To anyone considering buying a MBA, firstly, I recommend 8 GB RAM, over 4, although I will admit that 4 is more than adequate for most tasks nowadays. For my part, I jumped straight from 2 GB RAM (on my old 2010 MBA) to 8, and found the difference astounding.

    In any case, 8 GB RAM really renders it incredibly smooth, fast and able to juggle a lot of work simultaneously. It also served to future proof the machine to some extent.

    The speed of the iCore doesn't matter as much, but the size of the memory does. By last summer, when I decided to upgrade, I had found that 128 GB SSD was not really enough any longer - the computer was beginning to slow down and was beach balling a lot more often.

    Moreover, the larger the memory, the faster and more stable the unit. If you don't want 512, I do recommend that you consider 256 GB SSD.

    And, as for 11" or 13", I have had both and they are excellent. The 13" is probably a better buy overall; not only is the screen bigger, but the battery life is astounding; I easily get over 10 hours from mine, up to eleven or twelve. This means more than a full days work, without having to carry the computer's peripherals with you all of the time.

    The glory of the 11" is its astounding portability (which is why I bought it). Oddly enough, (and my eyesight is not at all good), I didn't find the screen size a huge problem; it only becomes an issue if you are attempting to open several windows simultaneously.
  11. macaso thread starter macrumors newbie


    Apr 15, 2014

    Today I've gone to an Apple Store, and I've tried, tested and touched the 2 MBA, first the 11" and later the 13" one.

    My first impression is that the 11" isn't as small as it seems. Maybe because I'm just repairing a 10" Toshiba netbook from a friend, but the 11" MacBook looks like a "normal-sized" laptop.

    Then I've tried the 13" MBA. And it's really "huge", compared to the 11"!

    Anyway, both screens are great, the keyboard (very important for me!) uses the standard layout, without keys displaced (sometimes laptop makers use a wide "enter" key and put the '|' and '\' key between the enter and backspace key, very disturbing in spanish because is the '}' key) and with a really good feel.

    I still haven't taken any decision, so I'll continue reading your opinions.

    And thank you for all your advises! :)
  12. justinthesommer macrumors regular


    Feb 23, 2014
    United States
    Definitely the 11'' or wait for a possible 12''. you never know. I know I'd love a 12" MBP.
  13. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    I've got a 4GB 11" 2012 MBA. This is fine for me, since I also have a Desktop Mac Pro. The MBA is only used when I travel. And, for me, if I had to work on an 11" screen all the time, I'd go NUTS.

  14. Agent69 macrumors member


    Sep 22, 2005
    United States
    I just ordered a MBA yesterday. I went with the 13" 128GB model but upgraded the RAM to 8GB. Still waiting for my unit to ship.

    I chose the 13" because I like the bigger screen, the SD slot, and the bigger battery.
  15. ReelAction macrumors member

    Nov 30, 2010
    I agree since I am using VM ware - only to use Quicken for Windows
  16. notrack macrumors 6502

    Feb 19, 2012
    Currently I am also thinking about different opions of a new MBA/MBP. I think that 4 GB is working today, but it is the lower end. In two years the low end will be 8 or even 16 GB and you're stuck with 4 GB. I don't have a good feeling with that.

    We don't know how much OS X and apps will require then for a smooth ride. If your RAM is the bottleneck, you'll have to replace the entire machine. On the other hand, Mavericks made good efforts to work well with less RAM and if they improve that even further, 4 GB mitght be still working well in a few years.
  17. kodcl10 macrumors member


    Mar 23, 2014
    i highly recommend getting a Matte Screen Protector for your MacBook Air.
    I have a 13" MBA and always thought the screen was too glossy!

    Once i got the matte screen protector, it was like night and day!
    so much better!
  18. Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    Looking forward I'd max out the memory, as who knows what the box may be used for in the future.

    $0.02 worth...
  19. MarvinHC macrumors 6502a

    Jan 9, 2014
    One show stopper for me for the 11" is the lack of an SD Card slot. I would miss it as a cheap way of extending the memory as well as the possibility of downloading pics from my camera without the need of bringing a dedicated card reader along.
  20. kingtj macrumors 68020

    Oct 23, 2003
    Brunswick, MD
    Definitely go with 8GB RAM!

    We purchased a bunch of Airs for employees at my workplace, and by FAR the most limiting factor on all of them has been the 4GB RAM limitation. Microsoft Outlook 2011 alone consumes a good chunk of the available free memory, and everyone in the company leaves that running in the background as a given.

    And absolutely .... If you have any interest in using VMWare or Parallels to run Windows apps inside OS X, you'll want the 8GB of RAM for sure.

    Personally, with RAM prices as cheap as they are these days, I think it's ridiculous Apple even sells an Air with 4GB. It should start with 8GB standard and maybe make a custom order 16GB version.

  21. 0983275 Suspended

    Mar 15, 2013
    With Mavericks' memory compression, 4GB ram isn't as limiting as it used to be, but even with that I still would go with 8GB, better future proofing and helps a bit with resale value should you decide to sell your machine, it also helps a lot if you're running VMs or working with RAM heavy tasks (photo editing, etc)

    I had 11" and 13" MBA, as well as 15" rMBP (current machine) and I kept wishing I went with 13" rMBP, it seems to have the price/size/performance ratio. Price difference between similar spec'd 13" MBA and rMBP isn't big.
  22. GreggM3 macrumors 6502

    Feb 13, 2008
    I just picked up a 13inch MBA with the 256gb SSD and 4 gig of RAM after running a first gen 11inch MBA with 2gig of RAM since 2010. I love the bigger screen size and the battery is awesome. I have a Dell Precision M3800 with the i7, 16 gig of RAM and two 512GB SSD's for heavy work but it sits home collecting dust. LOL

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Apr 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM