Change MBA base model for MBA ultimate?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by kwijbo, Jan 28, 2012.

  1. kwijbo macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2012
    I just got a MBA base for xmas and have been using it with my Dell U3011 for the last 4 weeks. This is my first Mac so now that I've adjusted I'm concerned about performance.

    At any given time, I have the following programs running:
    • Komodo Edit (with several tabs)
    • XAMPP
    • Thunderbird
    • Word and/or Excel
    • Firefox with 5-10 tabs
    and performance gets pretty sluggish from time to time - slow animations, choppy video, pinwheeling, etc. so I've been watching Activity Monitor and my page file is typically between 2.5 GB and 3.5 GB. I also run my monitor at native resolution, 2560x1600.

    My first thought was that the Air just doesn't have enough horsepower for what I do, base or ultimate, and I need to get a Mini to use as a desktop. This would cost quite a bit more but would ensure that when working at my desk I had plenty of power to handle my work. Having a desktop and a laptop, however, would be less convenient in terms of file management and simplicity.

    Now what I'm wondering is, would the MBA with an i7 and 4GB of RAM be noticeably more capable, so that I could use it at my desktop without any slowdowns? If not, I might as well suffer for another 3 months or so and get the ultimate when Ivy Bridge is out.

    I've got 3 days left to return this one so any help is greatly appreciated.
  2. Boe11 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 12, 2010

    I expect you'd be a lot happier with the extra memory and CPU power.
  3. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    MBA Ultimate doesn't exist anymore, if you are talking about getting a refurb I would say thats not a good idea since its a c2d and much slower than the i5.

    If you mean you want to upgrade to the i7 well of course it will give you more power, and the graphics card gets a bit more memory as well. The Mac Mini is not any more powerful I wouldn't recommend that as a solution. If you really want more power you should go with a MBP, the mid range come with the hd3000 (the current MBA graphics chip) onboard and also a discreet graphics chip for more heavy lifting. So you get the battery life for more mundane tasks and the power for things like gaming.
  4. kwijbo thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2012
    Sorry, by Ultimate I was referring to model Z0MG, the 11" with i7 and 4GB RAM.

    Regarding the Mini, it seems that the base isn't much more powerful CPU wise than the base MBA. I'd have the ability to upgrade RAM, which would help, but is alot of money for a small increase in CPU power. So the server model would seem to be the best for my usage, but that costs even more.

    Based on Anandtech's review there's a 22% increase in CPU power, which should certainly help. As will the extra video RAM and reduced paging. I'll most likely still page somewhat frequently though, 8GB of RAM would be ideal.

    At most Apple stores do they have an i7 MBA on display? Connecting that to a Thunderbolt Display and loading up a a bunch of programs would be a decent test to benchmark the difference.
  5. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have a 2010 Mac Mini and my 2011 i5 MBA blows it away. This is mostly due to the SSD (I finally installed an SSD into the Mini and now its a little closer...but the c2d vs i5 is no competition). You should be able to test a 13" i7 in the store...but they don't carry 11" i7s or else I would have gotten that...I didn't want to have to wait for it to I got the highest one they sold in store...which is the mid grade online. I also have 8GB in my Mini and I don't really see much difference between that and 4GB in my MBA....I only got the upgrade for EyeTV to use ram as the video storage device...but EyeTV sucks and that didn't help anything!
  6. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    Most stores have an i7 with 256GB SSD in stock. Actually, I bought my 2011 "Ultimate" 11" on the first day at an Apple Store. It's been very good. I think the extra processing power would help. The i7 processor is about 22% faster than the i5 in the 11". It turbo boosts to 2.6GHz with both cores (vs 2.0GHz for the i5) and 2.9GHz with a single core (vs 2.3GHz). It also has an extra 1MB of cache.

    I think the bigger impact would be from the extra RAM, however. While an SSD is fast, it is still slower than RAM. Note that you can get a refurbished model from the online store for $1439. If you get $999 for returning your existing unit, that would mean you can go top-of-the-line for an extra $440. The downside is that refurbs are available only online.
  7. ixodes macrumors 601


    Jan 11, 2012
    Pacific Coast, USA
    I ordered both my 15" 2010 BTO MBP, and later my wife's 13" BTO MBA via Apple online.

    Ordered mine on a Monday and had it by Friday that same week. The same held true when I placed the order for my wife's.

    That, in my opinion is world class service, and quite fast.
  8. kwijbo thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 28, 2012
    Stopped by my local store this morning. They did't have any i7 models on display but had 4GB RAM models up, however wouldn't let me test it with the Thunderbolt Display. So I loaded up a few programs and played around with it, and the extra memory is apparent. Just loading a browser with a bunch of tabs is enough to use 2GB.

    Good to know about EyeTV!

    I agree that the RAM would make the bigger difference at the moment, but I've come to the conclusion that I need to just tough it out for 3 or 4 more months and get the i7 with hopefully 8GB RAM when the refresh is released. Going from my i5 to the current i7 is about a 22% increase, but going to the Ivy Bridge i7 will most likely tack an extra 20% or so onto that. Close to a 50% increase in CPU power would be huge, and with the possibility of 8GB RAM (DDR-1600 too!) it would never page out.
  9. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    That's because it has 4GB...for some reason Lion fills up ram usage based on what you have. I can fill over 6GB ram with safari on my Mac Pro since I have 10GB in it. My gf uses about 800MB ram since her MBA has 2GB. It's weird how it works...but 4GB is plenty.

    I gave up on EyeTV, it has WAY too many problems to be worth the trouble.
  10. motorazr macrumors 6502


    Oct 24, 2006
    The Frozen Waste...wait. Duluth, Minnesota.
    I don't know if it's been said or not...

    But I purchased the 11" i7 with 256GB for the SSD, and it has replaced my 2010 i7 2.66 Macbook Pro with a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive and 8GB ram.

    I honestly feel like I have less lag than ever, and I almost never hang when running photoshop, lightroom, dreamweaver, safari (20+ tabs), pages, iTunes and text edit all at once. My Macbook Pro used to struggle a lot more, probably because I would fill the ram so quickly and it'd start running through swap memory with the hard drive over and over. The SSD really makes up for a lack of ram in my experience. Don't know if that helps at all.

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