Diffrence between Macbook and Macbook Air?

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by paulwgraber, Nov 4, 2018.

  1. paulwgraber macrumors regular

    Dec 13, 2013
    I am looking to get my daughter some sort of macbook or macbook air for christmas. She will be using it for college. I have no idea what the difference between a a reg macbook and the air version? I want to try and stay around $6-800 for a used or refurbished one. Which one would be better for her needs? Which year model will suffice staying within my budget.
    Thx in advance.
  2. HardBall macrumors regular

    Jan 10, 2006
    The new 13.3 MBA is great for people who need it for all purposes, has enough compute throughput to occasionally run heavy applications (e.g. Photoshop, 3D CAD, system simulators, etc), but is not ideal for doing so. On the other hand, it would be portable enough to take around traveling without being a huge burden, but isn't so portable that you would want to take it for miles every day. It also has a very low entry point price if you are OK with 128GB of storage (for a retina Mac).

    The 13.3" MBP (TB) is for people who can pay a little more, which is really only 1/4 pound heavier, but that can perform well in demanding applications. If she is someone with an engineering / graphic design / digital content creation majors, this is the option that I would suggest. It's pricey, but well worth it if you need to keep it around for 3-5 years.

    The 12" MB is great for people who rarely need to run compute heavy applications, and would be on the go most of the time. It probably works well for most college students that I know (wish I had one when I was in college a decade ago). It's much lighter and more portable than the other two options, and works great with normal every day applications, but I wouldn't recommend with something that needs high throughput computing. Even my 2015 model still works well for me today for most applications (I'm a financial engineer and AI researcher, need to run many ML frameworks and engineering applications, but have my 15" for that). It probably wouldn't work for people who need to run specific demanding applications aforementioned AND that being the only computer that she buys.
  3. Populus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2012
    Valencia, Spain.
    So, basically you’re saying that if we are going to do intensive tasks, you don’t recommend to purchase a 12 inch MacBook.

    That’s pretty obvious, but I’m going to ask for my particular case.

    I plan to get a computer shortly, this computer is going to be my main computer. My workflow is going to be composed of light tasks, such as: Web browsing, reading, email, and most importantly, working with extensive PDFs. Those that actually have thousands of pages, like text books.

    But aside from that light work flow, I’m interested on learning some skills involving much have your apps like Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Pixelmator Pro. Not that I’m going to do heavy rendering of 4K footage, and not at a professional level either, but I definitely want to learn to use these tools involved in content creation, and do it on a pretty capable machine.

    I don’t want to invest too much on a very professional and expensive machine, first because I need a portable laptop, being portable either a 12” or 13” form factor, and second because I wouldn’t like to spend too much. But on the other hand, I’d like to get a computer that good last me as much as possible, minimum 5 to 6 years. I’m in not sure if I get a 12 inch MacBook, if I'll be limited in the future by its CPU, GPU or lack of Tx chip. Anyway I plan to get the laptop with 16 GB of RAM, that’s the only thing I know for sure.

    Honestly I didn’t know whether to ask these in the MacBook subforum, or in the MacBook Air or Pro subforums.

    Overall I think the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro, with its 15 W CPU, is the machine that suits me the best, but as you all know, this machine hasn’t been upgraded with the last gen keyboard and any Tx processor, so I’m open to suggestions, including waiting a bit more.
  4. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    What will she be doing with the computer? The 12” MacBook is $1299 new, but you can probably find a 2016 MacBook used on Swappa or eBay for the $800 you are looking to spend.

    The 2018 MacBook Air is totally redesigned and is a cross between the MacBook and MacBook Pro. It is closer to the MacBook in power, but the screen size and weight are closer to the Pro. It is $1199 new but has half the storage (128GB) of the base 12” MacBook. For $600-800 you would have to go for the older MacBook Air which has a much lower resolution screen.

    If she isn’t going to be doing anything heavy like video editing, then any of these would work. I think the 12” MacBook would be the best choice. It has a nicer screen than the MacBook Air (even the new one) and is much lighter. The 2016 model is a significant improvement over the 2015, and if you can stretch a bit and find a base 2017 model that is even better. Apple didn’t release a new 12” MacBook in 2018 but even the 2017 version isn’t that much slower than the 2018 MacBook Air.

    Note that the 12” MacBook has only one USB-C port, so your daughter will likely need a USB-C hub that has some of the older but much more prevalent USB-A ports. There are much better hubs on Amazon than what Apple offers. Here is one from a company I’ve had good luck with. https://www.amazon.com/QacQoc-Alumi...+usb+c+hub&dpPl=1&dpID=411ECKlEBFL&ref=plSrch
  5. Populus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2012
    Valencia, Spain.
    I sometimes think that screen size is a big deal. For many years I've used 13,3" laptops, and I'm used to that screen space.

    Honestly I think 12" may become a bit too small for me... Also, it is more comfortable to hold a 13" laptop on my lap than a 12" one.

    This is a reminder for myself, for those times I think "wow, it would be awesome to have a fanless macbook". Because it would be awesome, and sometimes I think about getting one, but the size maybe is too small for me. Also the second gen keyboard and only one USB-C connector.
  6. Plutowillreturn macrumors member


    Oct 7, 2018
    I think it depends on what you use it for. I using laptops in a time when a good battery lasted 4 hours and screens were 17"-15" with serial ports. My first modern laptop was the first Dell XPS 13." Since then I have used a few 15" PCs, still own one, but downsized to a 11.6" Chromebook and then to a MB 12". Honestly, if my CB was able to run MacOS, I would probably still be using it.

    Having used a MB 12", MBP 13", and a MBA 13" side by side, I think you see the biggest difference making the leap to 15". Below that, IMO, the screen size is negligible.
  7. Populus macrumors 6502a


    Aug 24, 2012
    Valencia, Spain.
    Yeah, maybe you're right, and maybe I should give the 12" MacBook a try.

    But having the second gen butterfly keyboard (I've tried the new MacBook Air and for me it is a much nicer keyboard) and only one USB-C, it makes me wait and see how evolves that machine. It is not only about the lack of raw power -that's the only issue the new Air has- but the other two mentioned above.

    But, as I said, I sometimes fantasize with the 12" MacBook. If only I could find a cheap one, used in good condition...

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6 November 4, 2018