Deciding between 11'' MacBook Air vs. 13" MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by rlogan814, Jan 31, 2014.

  1. rlogan814 macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2012
    I've been scouring these message boards and watching you tube videos for the past month trying to compare the models. I'm having a very difficult time deciding what macbook to get. I just need some advice from people that have one or the other. Either one will be a major purchase for me and I just want to limit my buyer's remorse. I've been leaning towards the 11 inch MacBook Air with the i7 8gb ram and 128gb SSD. I've previously ruled out a refurbed 2012 15" pro with the 650m discrete card (since by the time I get it it will be nearly 2 years old). I've started to consider the 13" MacBook Pro i5, 8gb ram, 128gb SSD. This computer will be replacing my gen 3 iPad. Let me list what I need this computer to do.

    1. My main reason for trading in my iPad for a macbook is because we are having our first child soon and I've begun to realize, quite selfishly, I need to maximize my time. I can bring my device to work and use it throughout the day, for personal use, not work stuff. As far as constructive stuff, I need it to be able to edit photos in iPhoto and family movies in imovie, but I also need it to possibly use more advanced programs too, like aperture, if needed in the future.

    2. As far as normal everyday stuff I need it to be able to stream all my broadband sports packages. NHL center ice, NBA league pass, and MLB extra innings. Sometimes I need it to play 2 of the three at the same time. Other than that it's just Netflix and Safari with some Pages and Numbers as well. Normally I wouldn't worry about this, but several reviews I've read said the 13" pro stutters with multiple 1080p videos open, does the air as well?

    3. I've never been a computer gamer, always had a console, but with free time being a luxury now I'd like to consolidate as much as possible. My gaming tastes have changed as I've gotten older, my main games now are civ 5 and diablo 3 both of which I play on my Mac mini. I'd love to be able to play these during down times at work. As far as I read, the MacBook Air would handle these fine for non-marathon sessions. I don't care about heat or fan noise. I'm getting AppleCare so I just need this computer to last 3 years and then I'll probably look for a new one. My question is can the 13" MacBook Pro handle these games substantially better? I'm confused about resolutions. If I don't try to run games in retina, can the pro handle more modern games. I'm not looking to bootcamp either, just get games from the Mac AppStore or Steam or EA Origin. The gaming performance is what my decision is coming down to. I know you don't buy macs for games, but macs have the games I want to play! Most of the reviews and YouTube videos show the games running through bootcamp, again I don't want to do that, just slightly modern games through the app store

    If anyone can give advice to ease my decision, please do. I was set to buy the 11" MacBook Air this coming Monday, but then I saw the refurb 13" MacBook Pro i5, 8gb ram, 128gb SSD for roughly the same price as the air I described above. Please don't tell me to get a Windows computer for gaming, I hate windows. 128gb SSD is enough for me. My itunes video library is nearly 4tb, about 2tb has been itune store purchases, the other half was my DVD/bluray collection that I ripped to itunes. All of that is connected to my Mac mini which runs a a home theater PC. If I want to watch a movie I'll just stream one of my purchases. I have iTunes Match, so it will be streaming for music too. And am I correct in assuming that if I purchase a game through the Mac App Store I can delete and redownload it when I need to conserve space? If really needed I'll buy an external drive.

    I guess it comes down to this, other than retina display, can both models do the things I need the same? Will both models allow me to keep up with advances in games/streaming/itunes for the next 3 years? I'd be very thankful for any assistance. I plan on purchasing one or the other next week. Thanks.
  2. PeterJP macrumors 6502


    Feb 2, 2012
    Leuven, Belgium
    I can understand your doubt between the 11" MBA and the 13" rMBP completely. I just bought the 11" and returned it in favour of the 13" retina. Here's a short description of the differences that I found in practice:

    • The 11" feels much more like a PDA or a netbook. You will be using many applications full screen because otherwise, you'll be scrolling a lot. Using it, I tended to work in one application full screen, close it and switch to another in full screen. With the 13", I do more multitasking on the desktop. This might just be me, but the 11" format tends to make me do that.
    • Everything is much smaller on the 11" screen because it's 1366x768, while the 13" rMBP simulates a 1280x800 screen that's about 1.5cm bigger in each dimension. If you want more desktop space than 1280, you can scale the retina screen to a virtual 1680 resolution without too much loss of sharpness.
    • The 13" is easier to use on a couch. The 11" is just a bit cramped. I could live with it, but the 13" is just a bit easier.
    • The weight and size feel much closer than you'd expect when you read the specs.
    • Is the rMBP a Haswell model? If yes, battery life should be comparable. Charging times of the retina model are MUCH longer, though.

    Aside from that, I really loved both models. I absolutely adored the 11" form factor, but I loved the 13" retina screen even more.
  3. rlogan814 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2012
    Thanks for the quick response. I think I decided on the 11" MacBook Air a month ago, have been flip flopping on a decision since then. I didn't even think about the 11'' having issues with same screen multitasking. Ugh, looks like it's back to bestbuy to play with the display model. Thanks again, it's nice to know I'm not the only one who struggled with the decision.
  4. blightedplanet macrumors newbie

    Jan 31, 2014
    I lived very happily with an 11" Air for a couple years (my daughter's now using it and says it's the best laptop she's ever owned). When replacing the Air I very carefully considered the 13" model and the 13" retina MacBook Pro. Yes, the retina screen is gorgeous and, yes, you get more screen real estate on the 13" Air, but in the end I plumped for another 11" Air and I've never regretted that decision for a second. I'm a writer and do 90% of my work on it in cafes, libraries, trains, etc. The power and sheer portability make it the ideal laptop for me. It's an absolute joy to use. IMHO it's the best laptop Apple have produced. I love it. I have a 15" MacBook Pro which is great but is an absolute pain in the arse to lug around. It very quickly became my desktop Mac with a large monitor bolted on.The 11" Air is always in my bag.
  5. l0gan5 macrumors newbie

    Jun 30, 2010
    Cambridge. UK
    Don't forget, if you run apps in full screen, you don't have to close them and open up another. Just 3 finger swipe and you can flick between any of your open programs.

    Full screen apps gives you that little bit of real estate back that for me, compensates for the Air's screen resolution.

    For me, the Air's portability is the killer feature. It really is barely bigger than an iPad and for that reason it goes with me everywhere.
  6. ZombiePete macrumors 68020


    Aug 6, 2008
    San Antonio, TX
    Why not a 13" MBA? That's what I have; the battery life on the 2013 model is extraordinary. It's not as sharp as the rMBP screen, but to my eye the difference is hardly worth the extra cost in money, battery life, and smoothness in some apps like Safari.

    If you're going to be using your MacBook at work all day, I would consider the 13" MBA for the battery life alone.
  7. rlogan814 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 23, 2012
    I've never had a laptop before, but I've always run apps in full screen mode on my Mac mini and swiped between them as mentioned, so I guess that wouldn't me an issue on the smaller screen.

    As far as using it at work, I've gotten use to bringing my iPad charger with me since between streaming and occasional games the batter wouldn't last all day, so longer battery life isn't too much of a concern.

    I guess my main concern is not spending more than I have to. If the 11" works I'd rather go with it. I'm not trying to be too cheap, I'm probably getting the i7 with 8gb ram, but if I don't need the 13" why pay more for it. I'm trying to decide if I need the 13" pro. I've gotten use to a retina screen with my iPad, and if the pro was more future proof I'd probably get it. I thought the pros were for video editing, or is that just the 15 inch? It's just hard to decide and seeing refurb prices on the apple store isn't making it easier.
  8. PeterJP macrumors 6502


    Feb 2, 2012
    Leuven, Belgium
    I don't know if you'll notice any difference between the i5 and the i7. When I got the MBA 11", I ordered the i5 but I got the i7 (the shop made a mistake). Sure, the i7 is probably 20% faster for compute intensive tasks (photoshop etc), but 20% is only noticeable when you put them side to side. When doing that sort of work, battery life is also 20% lower, which I think you will notice.

    I tried both in a shop and concluded the MBA 11" was perfect for me. I also do a lot of writing work, so my use case is similar to that of the other writers above. However, it was only when I got back home and really used the machine how I usually use it that I noticed that, for me, it wasn't as perfect a match as I had imagined.

    Buy the one you really want, but make sure you can swap it for the other one.

Share This Page