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kasakka

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 25, 2008
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1,060
I'm looking to buy a M2 Macbook Air for my spouse to use for studies, web browsing, watching Twitch, some image editing etc. Nothing too demanding, so I feel the base spec MBA is the right machine for her.

But at the same time I'm worried about the base 256 GB storage space. While it's the same amount her Windows laptop has and she still has about 40 GB left on that after about 4 years, I'm worried that over time it's not going to be enough, with each OS version claiming more space.

But how about alternatives to just spending Apple's ******** disk space upgrade prices? How well could I expect e.g baseline MBA + external USB-C/TB drive to work? Keep the apps etc on the MBA and move data to the external disk for less used things?

Other than being more inconvenient, do you think this would be a viable strategy? I see that 1TB USB-C drives go for less than 100 euros vs Apple asking for 230 € for 256 -> 512 GB.
 

CloudsNeverDie

macrumors regular
Apr 11, 2015
212
279
Especially with SSD prices being at historic, amazing historic lows right now, this absolutely makes sense and is a viable strategy.

You can pick up an M.2 SSD enclosure for <$20 here in the US, and a high quality 2TB SSD like the Solidigm P41 Plus can be had for just $70. That's $90 total for 2TB of space, compared to Apple charging $800 for the same thing.

The performance of these enclosure can be more than adequate (assuming you get a recent one that supports USB 3.1 Gen 2), and with a good quality SSD you can expect 1GB/sec or more, compared to 1.5GB-2GB/sec on the MBA's own SSD (base model). Unless you're moving lots of very large files around, you won't notice the difference in speed.

Keeping your data on an external drive is no issue in Mac OS, and 256GB will likely be enough for your system and apps. The main question you should ask yourself is, are you OK with the inconvenience of having an SSD dangling off your USB-C port constantly, and having to make sure you always have it with you if you want to access your files?

Of course you can always keep frequently accessed files locally, or use a cloud drive service which manages the space efficiently so you only keep the frequently used files on your internal SSD.
 

HDFan

Contributor
Jun 30, 2007
6,923
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While it's the same amount her Windows laptop has and she still has about 40 GB left on that after about 4 years,

She's run out of space. You need to keep 20-30% free.

Compare the performance of the 512 GB with the 256 GB option. If it has two SSDs it could be significantly faster.
 
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kasakka

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 25, 2008
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I ended up buying a 14" M1 Macbook Pro 16 GB/1 TB on sale + student discounts. That made a helluva lot more sense than M2 Air 13" + more RAM/disk space which was similar money.

I know she likes to have a ton of tabs open. A few reviews of the M2 Air stated that situation might cause issues with the base 8 GB RAM, so with 16 GB there's no worry about it.

Ultimately I feel spending a bit more here was the right choice and she will hopefully enjoy that machine for years to come.
 

pgolik

macrumors member
Sep 13, 2011
65
43
From my experience, relying on external storage is a fine option for desktops, but not for laptops that need to remain mobile (unless it's only for relatively rarely accessed files). macOS has this annoying tendency to access external volumes in the background, and when you need to pack your laptop and move, it'll tell you that the external disk cannot be ejected because something (often spotlight or another system daemon) is using it. For this reason, keeping photos and music libraries on external is not practical, and these take up most space. Get the storage you need for the files you use, and use external for backups and archives.
 

StoneJack

macrumors 68030
Dec 19, 2009
2,540
1,686
I installed Logic Pro with all its libraries (56GB), full Microsoft Office, Pages, Keynote, switched Photos library on, etc, downloaded a lot of my work files, and still have 1/3 of 256GB empty on my MBA 13 m2. My iphone Pro max 13 256GB with all these apps and bunch of games still has 2/3 empty. Just in case I need additional storage, bought cheap USB-C 512GB m2 drive but really has not used it.
 

giffut

macrumors 6502
Apr 28, 2003
470
157
Germany
If you are on a budget, just get a basic M1 Macbook Air and skip the M2 variant by any means. It is not worth it. If then possible invest the money in a 16GB memory upgrade and/or 512GB of storage.

Like others mentionned get an external USB drive like a Samsung T7.

Donˋ t forget to think of a backup strategy and drive for the Macbook.

Cheap m2 nvme enclosures (USB C v3.2 , not thunderbolt) and an m2 nvme drive are also possible and really small enough to keep them attached to the macbook. That way you can upgrade storage as needed.
 
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playtech1

macrumors 6502a
Oct 10, 2014
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I second the idea of going for the M1 Air to free up cash for more storage (and ideally more RAM). The difference between M1 and M2 in terms of performance is relatively small and M1 is still an excellent processor for the tasks you mention.

I would also say that - Apple's crazy pricing aside - 512GB is well worth upgrading to. 256GB is simply not a realistic amount of storage for anything but the most undemanding of users and if you are effectively the IT support function in your relationship you will probably be grateful for not having to help your spouse manage storage on her laptop.
 
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