Decision: 2011 i7 MBA vs. 2012 i5 MBA

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Merlist, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. Merlist macrumors newbie

    Feb 15, 2013
    Stuck in a pickle and could use some help from people who REALLY know Macs. I'm trying to decide between buying the following Macbook Airs:

    [bold = perceived spec winner, red = I don't know]

    1) $1119 i7 refurb (July 2011 release)

    Processor: 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
    L3 Cache: 4MB shared
    Memory: 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
    Hard drive: 256GB flash storage
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor with 384MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory2
    Ports: Thunderbolt port, two USB 2.0 ports, SD card slot
    Wireless: IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible

    2) $1189 i5 refurb (June 2012 release)

    Processor: 1.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 2.8GHz)
    L3 Cache: 3MB shared
    Memory: 4GB of 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
    Hard drive: 256GB flash storage
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000
    Ports: One Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps), Two USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps), MagSafe 2 power port, SD card slot
    Wireless: IEEE 802.11a/b/g compatible

    My main usage will be all of the MS Office suite, Photoshop, and heavy browser usage (e.g. tons of tabs) concurrently. I'm also going to start dabbling with iOS development (running xcode) and video editing with either Adobe Premier or Final Cut.

    So a few questions:
    1) The i7 doesn't list any Turbo Boost. What's up with that, and what the heck is Turbo Boost anyway?

    2) Is the DDR3L RAM in the i5 superior to the DDR3 in the i7?

    3) Will the 4000 graphics card in the i5 be a noticeable advantage with my uses listed above?

    4) The i7 being 2 years old is really bothering me. Is buying 2 year old Apple technology dumb (i.e. will I not be able to upgrade OS in the future or something)?

    And of course, which machine would you recommend overall based on my usage? Pricing isn't really a factor because it's so close.

    Thanks so much! Really appreciate any help here.
  2. BluePhilG macrumors member

    Oct 29, 2010
    Go with the 2012 model. You'll find you appreciate USB3 much more than the i7.
  3. iAppl3Fan macrumors 6502a


    Sep 8, 2011
    2012 model all the way. The speed of a 2011 i7 is about the same as a 2012 i5. You'll also receive other benefits of the 2012 model.
  4. thadoggfather macrumors G3


    Oct 1, 2007
    Depends on price.

    Edit: saw prices at top, in that case 2012. But

    The advantages to 2011:
    -MagSafe vs. MagSafe 2 (don't like the latter for 'lap'-top use)
    -Sandy Bridge not Ivy Bridge... not as powerful as the latter which isn't a positive but at least similar architecture unlike Haswell which is supposed to be out this year. It's like going Merom to Penryn, nice advantages but still very similar (look at 2007 15" MBP to early 2008, not that big a difference and I had both)
    -maybe Samsung SSD (especially for 128GB size) and Samsung LCD are more prevalent

    To each his own though. If the price is close enough, I'd probably get 2012 for resell value, USB 3.0 (wish I had that), and a faster machine but probably not noticeably so.
  5. kyjaotkb macrumors 6502a

    Nov 20, 2009
    London, UK
    2012 gets you:
    - similar CPU performance, except for a few specific CPU intensive or cache (3MB vs 4MB) sensitive apps (e.g. Excel - yes, folks, Excel is still one of the most processor-intensive apps I use).
    - USB3 - useful and definitely future-proof although I am fine with my FW800 external hard drive and €29 adapter.
    - SSD twice as fast - definitely better.
    - noticeably better graphics - particularly if you intend to plugging it to an external hi-res display.
    - higher-frequency DRAM (marginally faster).
    - faster wake-up from sleep (my girlfriend has a 2012, I have a 2011 and hers is definitely faster to wake up from standby/sleep)
    - less practical MagSafe cable (T shape) than on the 2011 (L shape)
    - higher def webcam IIRC
    - significantly higher resale value

    Thus I see many more reasons to get the 2012 although 2011 owners have little incentive to upgrade.
  6. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
  7. ZZ Bottom macrumors 6502a

    Apr 14, 2010
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned that you would definitely benefit from 8GB. I'd really consider going that route, as it will also significantly increase resale value.

    B&H offers 8gb configurations for less than Apple, and if you're not a NY resident you won't have to pay sales tax.
  8. Efrem macrumors regular

    Jul 30, 2009
    One of the limiting factors in the clock rate of any processor chip is how fast it can dissipate heat. Any processor chip generates more heat as you crank up its clock rate. At some point the heat sinks and fans can't cope with the load. The chip is limited to a speed that won't cause problems in that regard.

    This calculation is based on the assumption that all the chip's cores (four here) are running at that speed and are also running a worst-case instruction mix in terms of heat generation. Most applications don't run a worst-case instruction mix and aren't programmed to take advantage of multiple cores. Many usage patterns don't have enough tasks running in parallel to utilize multiple cores effectively that way, either. All those factors tend to keep a processor well below its thermal design limit.

    In that case, the computer can speed up the processor's clock to get more performance, while monitoring heat output to slow it down again if necessary. It can also often shut down some of the processor's cores to run the others faster while staying within its thermal design limits. That's what Turbo Boost is about. The maximum Turbo Boost speed is for when a single core is running. A lesser amount of Turbo Boost is available when two cores are running. A little boost is available when three or four cores are in use, because even then thermal output is usually below its worst case, but less than with one or two.
  9. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    I'm w/ Phil. I think you'd be limiting yourself too much with USB2. Because upgrading the storage is somewhat problematic, fast external storage has increased significance. The RAM is a shade faster also, though you'd probably not notice. The newer i5 is going to be more efficient than the 2 year old i7. Turbo Boost gives the best of both power and efficiency. Most of the time, it's off to use less energy but it kicks in to complete demanding tasks, like stomping the accelerator when you want to pass. The i5 Air also has better integrated graphics technology.
  10. Sony123 macrumors newbie

    Apr 14, 2012
    Hello :)
    I have same problem. I am now deciding that I should get 2011 base model for 750€ vs. 2012 with 8gb ram for 1000€.

    I need it for some school programing (JAVA in eclipse, visalstudio ,C++,C#), photoshop (lightroom),zoner, some office,... web browsing (with approx 10 tabs)
    I have must install windows for some speciall aplications.
    I travel a lot, but when I am at home a I will work with external Dell 2412m.
    What do you thing?

    Thank you :)

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