For those on the fence about MBAs based on processing power:

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by gbkrip, Aug 17, 2011.

  1. gbkrip, Aug 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2014

    gbkrip macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Location:
    Nebraska
    #1
    Hi folks!

    For about a week now I have been a happy owner of a base 13'' MBA. I have been a reader (lurker) of this forum for about the same amount of time. One of the things that I see come up a lot in these threads is the fact that people are worried about the MBA being able to handle certain tasks. In particular, a lot of people seem to be interested in using the MBA as their "main" laptop/computer.

    [Edited for clarification] My opinion on this is as follows: If you are looking for a solid laptop capable of handling your daily grind at work or school and you are interested in the MBA, then the MBA is a good choice for you.

    I offer you my experience with my base 13'' MBA as evidence of this. Earlier today I shot a 12 minute clip of 1080p video for a hobby of mine. The video ended up being about 2.8 gb. I copied this video to my MBA and proceeded to edit it to my liking (nothing fancy, just added a couple of titles, transitions and a song) in iMovie '11. The final product was a 4 minute long 1080p video. I was able to "finalize" my project (create 1080p, 720p and other qualities of video that this process creates) and upload it to youtube in under 30 minutes. That's 40 seconds to copy the original clip to the laptop, ~28 minutes to "finalize" my project and ~2 minutes to upload it to youtube in 1080p. While doing this, I was able to comfortably browse these and other websites.

    Things to consider:
    The computer DOES get quite hot. We are talking about a core temperature of 90-93 degrees C at its peak. This was before the fans kicked in. With the fans, the temperature was kept at around 78-81 degrees C, which seems pretty reasonable. (Fans were at 6400 rpm at their highest. I have iStat screenshots if anyone wants to see them!). The laptop was certainly warm on the bottom but not hot - "you could keep it on your lap" temperature (unlike my old HP laptop, which would be too hot to touch).

    Of course, you must understand that what I have done isn't anything truly taxing as far as processing power goes. Just a short clip in iMovie. But let's be honest, for an ultraportable laptop this is about as taxing of a task as I would consider. For me, things like gaming are handled by my desktop. I use my MBA for work and school. Things like having multiple windows for programming open while also having multiple webpages open and music playing/streaming are handled smoothly by my MBA. And now, having worked with iMovie, I would say that my experience with my MBA has left me very satisfied. These updated models offer enough processing power to get me through basically anything I would want to do on a laptop while offering fantastic portability and looks.

    I hope that this was a worthwhile read. I also hope that I have been able to offer helpful information to those of you hesitating to pick up an MBA based on processing power.

    Thank you for reading. Take care!
     
  2. lukekarts macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2009
    #2

    I disagree. Particularly with the MBA 13, it is a great choice for primary/only computer. Storage space is relatively limited, but I'm sure 128GB is enough for the majority. When it's not, there is a 256GB option or a cheap external HDD to do the job. Processing power is great on the Air.

    I think Apple felt confident enough the Air is now a main computer by delisting the standard MacBook.

    It's my main/only pc and I use it for several hours per day and it's way better than my 2009 MBP 13.
     
  3. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2009
    Location:
    Quebec, Canada
    #3
    The storage is fine. Home NAS and centralized storage is where it is at in 2011. All my stuff I keep on a NAS, my MBA's storage is for current work only.

    It is also my one and only laptop and I haven't had a desktop in years.
     
  4. Roman2K~ macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2011
    #4
    Second that ;).
     
  5. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida
    #5
    I can see the MBA as a main/only computer for everything but the most intensive tasks (like extreme gaming or a lot of video editing). A quad processor with 12GB of RAM and monster video cards still has it's place. ;)

    But for most other stuff, the MBA work. And it looks good doing it... :apple:
     
  6. DieterRams macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    #6
    So an MBA is not good if you don't have another computer yet you say the MBA has been very satisfying for you. It seems like what you might mean is that the MBA is good for everything except intensive video work and gaming. But otherwise, you say it's very satisfying so if someone were not to do intensive video work or gaming, you would then recommend the MBA as primary (no other comp), is that right?

    Also, you say having multiple programming windows open and webpages open with streaming music is handled well - which size did you mean, or is even the 11" screen size good with having these multiple windows open and viewable?
     
  7. samroberto macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2008
    #7
    macbook air great "only"-computer

    Hey all, here to add my .02:

    I am a first year medical student, recently upgraded from a 2009 15" MBP (2.53 ghz c2d, nVidia 9400m, etc) to a 2011 13" MBA 1.8ghz i7/256gb. I was a little worried about making this my only computer, as I had already tried to use only an MBA when they FIRST came out (80gb PATA drive, 1.6ghz, micro-dvi..Lol) and that was rough. I managed passably, but that was a rough experience.

    This 2011 MBA is a different story. And for the rec, I DO use decently taxing software when I want, and it's very good. Not always "perfect", but very good.

    -3D anatomical imaging softwares, (ADAM, etc)
    -Logic Express, (unrelated to med school ;)
    -Games: AOE3, KOTOR, Empires at War. they're not brand new, but run perfect and look great w/ max specs.

    So for my only computer, this thing rocks. It's in every way better than my 2009 15" MBP, just as much space (although I'm going to upgrade w/ an OWC SSD)

    :)
     
  8. iSayuSay macrumors 68030

    iSayuSay

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2011
    #8
    I basically agree with OP's opinion. But then again this is a MBA forum. many people would thumb you down if you say something like "MBA do not have enough oomph to get the job done"

    I have a 2011 ultimate iMac (no SSD though) .. and the basic new MBA. Now I must say that I don't feel voluntarily happy with my MBA. I bought it because I have to .. forcefully .. because sometimes I need to take things out.

    Having an iMac as a powerful desktop, I just feel the MBA is lacking. Yeah MBA boot and load apps a tad faster compared to my iMac with i7, thanks to SSD. But for anything else, it's still lacking. Not really that responsive when it comes to heavy editing, multi tasking and some kind. Not massive enough (yeah it's designed to be ultraportable, but really .. 27" giant iMac is an addictive poison :D)

    Maybe many people will do fine with MBA as their primary machine, but let's put it this way. You can enjoy a movie on Bose speaker set, or generic brand HTiB or 2.1 sound system just fine, quite enjoyable and feels fine, no complains. But once you heard a full separated 5.1 system with dedicated receiver, B&W speaker set and all .. you'll never go back .. the old system just don't cut it anymore.

    Maybe that's what happened to me. I already feel the power of iMac (and MacPro sometimes) just before I taste the Macbook Air.
     
  9. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2009
    Location:
    Quebec, Canada
    #9
    For most tasks, the MBA's CPU is running 95% idle. There is no multi-tasking issues or responsiveness issues on it. That's in your head.

    The other point, the 27" monitor... well.. you can hook up the MBA to an external monitor just fine.

    So we're enjoying the same full seperated 5.1 system with dedicated receiver on our MBAs that you are, we just know how to make it work. ;)
     
  10. gbkrip thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Location:
    Nebraska
    #10
    Well, I mean what is there to discuss here? If you are in the smaller percentile of the population that actually does heavy video editing or serious gaming then no, I don't think the MBA is a computer for you. There just isn't enough processing power and screen space for the more "hardcore" users. That's just my opinion though.

    I am only speaking for the 13'' model as that is the model I own and have experience with. I think that the gestures added with Lion make multitasking an absolute breeze. I usually have anywhere from 5 to 20 windows open for programming simultaneously when I am at work. What I do is generate multiple desktops - one to handle my programming tasks, one to handle web browsing and one to handle music. As a result screen space is not an issue for me at all. What I meant to say in my OP is that while doing all this my MBA has no problems swiping between desktops or loading things.

    Honestly, I agree with you. However, not everyone is going to have NAS or external harddrives and for those who do not, these things are extra costs. Right?
     
  11. richpjr macrumors 68030

    richpjr

    Joined:
    May 9, 2006
    #11
    Not to be argumentative, but your original post took the position that the MBA was not powerful enough to be a primary computer. That is not quite the same as it's not powerful enough for the small percentage of people who do heavy video work on it.
     
  12. DieterRams macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    #12
    That's exactly what I mean. He starts off saying if you don't have another computer and MBA is your only one, MBA is not good enough. But then later saying that it's actually very satisfying and it does everything well except intense video editing and gaming. So it seems it's only not good enough if you do those two things but otherwise it's actually very satisfying even if you don't have another computer and MBA is your only one.

    I also don't mean to be argumentative, just pointing out a bit of inconsistency and hoping for clarification.

    ----------

    I see what you mean about the video/gaming and being in the smaller percentile but your original opinion, as you state it, is that if the MBA is your only computer, it's not good enough.

    Very good point on the multiple desktops and swiping between. A good way to handle many windows.
     
  13. gbkrip thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2011
    Location:
    Nebraska
    #13


    Fair enough. I have edited the OP to reflect these criticisms.

    However, at the end of the day if I were looking for a computer that I would CONSISTENTLY use for EVERYTHING, including gaming (pick your poision: WoW, starcraft II, crysis, battlefield.. etc.) and/or heavy video/photo editing AS WELL AS the daily grind then I would want something with a bit more processing muscle.

    I too am not trying to be argumentative, especially considering I am on your side. As a college student and researcher my MBA handles the things I need to do very well.
     
  14. dtjm macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    #14
    I've barely touched my 24" iMac Core 2 Duo since I got my MBA i7. I thought I would miss the big screen but it hasn't really bothered me at all. The lack of hard drive space is an issue though, so I ordered an external hard drive and I hope that will take care of that problem for me.
     
  15. hefeglass macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2009
    #15
    well...if you needed a computer that did all of that stuff CONSISTENTLY..then why would you be looking at macs anyway? they are ok for most things, but even the nicest most powerful mac can't MAKE new games come out for the platform.
     
  16. DieterRams macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    #16
    Yes, no problem, we are in agreement on that then. For me, I will not do heavy video editing and will not be gaming at all on it. However, I will be doing programming and designing - XCode, iPhone/iPad simulators, Adobe apps (Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks), streaming music and lots and lots of web browsing windows/tabs. In this case, would it be good? And even further, is 11" good for this without an external monitor and using its own built-in smaller keyboard palm rest and shorter trackpad? I am so enticed by the 11" size but 13" seems more practical. Do I go with the safe choice or the hotness? ;)

    ----------

    Did you get 11" or 13" and what is your usage like? Any development or Photoshop work?
     
  17. iSayuSay macrumors 68030

    iSayuSay

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2011
    #17
    Well yeah .. last time I checked my 27" iMac, via bootcamp I can play Witcher 2 with 1080p ultra settings on it, same case go with BFBC2, Crysis and Black Ops. Or for fun sake, I can even run those games altogether without too much hiccup or running out of RAM.

    And I can even run those games via Parallel Desktop on Lion (sure .. a bit degraded settings but still at very playable level). I can put 16GB RAM on it just fine to run that... I'm not sure those things just passing in my head ;p

    So .. yes, you can plug MBA into the same 27" Thunderbolt display, same size, resolution, same clarity .. but you can't do those things with Air .. so that's not the same experience for me.
     
  18. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    Tallahassee, Florida
    #18
    ^Thing is, nobody buys an Air for gaming. At least nobody who knows what they want.

    For everything aside from gaming, ANY Mac/MacBook can do it parallel to other applications at any time.
     
  19. TrollToddington macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2011
    #19
    Well, by no means am I on the fence about MBA. In fact, the benchmark of the 13" i5 is as high as that of my 2010 21.5" i3 @ 3.06GHz iMac so I am perfectly aware what processing power the little MBA has. It's simply perfect, and I want one. 128GB space seems enough but then again I don't have a large iTunes collection.

    the 2010 MBA seemed to be slow but the 2011 is good. the HD 3000 should be good for playing movies and playing those $10 games from the AppStore (really, I am not after games like Civ 5 and the like)
     
  20. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium

    KnightWRX

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    Jan 28, 2009
    Location:
    Quebec, Canada
    #20
    And you know what ? 95% of the population don't care about those tech demos that pretend to be games. :rolleyes:

    For me, an iMac is just a big leash with too much processing power that stays idle all the time. My needs are simple : Occasional game, multiple terminal windows, multiple XCode windows, in a package I drag around with me.

    The Air fits the bill perfectly. The iMac kinda lags in the "drag around with me" part.
     
  21. tech324 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2010
    #21
    Not just processing power, but electrical power. I bought a 2011 MBA from Amazon (still waiting for shipping) because I feel the MBA probably has the most processing power for the wattage it uses. I am tired of being on my desktop (which uses 300 watts of electricity) to just browse the web or check email. Once I get my MBA I am going to only use my desktop for gaming (I rarely game anyways since I work a lot)
     
  22. SmoothJ macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    #22
    Now I am not sure I want to keep my MBA yet, however I am giving it the best shot at succeeding.

    That being said, I am one of those people that power means everything. I think not about what I do now, but in the future. Even though its hard to predict, I still believe the faster the better.

    When I was at the Apple Store, I was looking at 2 models:

    MB Air 13in, i7, 1.8, 256GB, 4GB
    MB Pro 15in, 17 Quad, 2.3, 750GB, 4GB (would upgrade the ram later), and AR screen.

    Yes they are two different price points, and I am on a budget, but this laptop will last hopefully a good few years before it gets replaced.

    Currently, I have a desktop with the following specs:

    i7 2600k (3.4GHz), 8GB, 600 GB 10K drive, H70 water cooling, GTX 580 video card.

    I was in the Apple Store for at least 2 1/2 hours, trying to decide. I was looking at geekbench, the specs of the processor, the upgrade path, the cooling, the weight, and a bunch of other factors.

    I was talking to one of the Apple reps and he made a good point. Even though my MBA 13 only scores around 5800 on geekbench, and the high-end 15 scores around 11000 - what will I use it for.

    I thought to myself thinking what I would do with it, and honestly based on my last few PC laptops - not that much besides surfing, email, youtube, and watching MKVs.

    So currently, I like my MBA and I know everyone situation is different, but I believe it will be a good fit so far. I just need to test out more and see how it performs further.

    IMHO, its not a desktop replacement - thats more for the 15in+. Its a ultraportable (some even say netbook, but please lets not go there again) designed to get certain tasks done. If you want to play games at half-way decent FPS rates, then get a high-end 15/17. The macbook was never designed to be a gaming platform (thats the ipod/ipad). If anything, it was made for graphics and regular tasks.
     
  23. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida
    #23
    The first MBAs had some netbook growing pains. It wiped the floor with all netbooks but was still a bit underpowered compared to regular laptops. The size all but made up for it. With this newest version, the MBA is a full fledged laptop. Its size is no longer compromising laptop performance (admittedly the graphics are a sore spot for some). There is definitely not a hint of netbook on the new MBA.

    Fact remains that for certain tasks, the MBA is ill equipped. That's just a fact. But the MBA is thinner and lighter that some of those "power" laptops, so you have to decide what's important - portability or power. What the MBA has done is move the bar towards the power end a bit, allowing you to easily carry around a lot more computer than ever before.

    The 2015 MBA is going to rock!!! :apple:
     
  24. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    Tallahassee, Florida
    #24
    If you're only doing that, I think you effectively fall into that "average consumer" category and, in that case, any baseline Mac Apple sells will be more than enough for you.

    I understand your philosophy but, in this setting, I think you're overspending a bit.
     
  25. RobT macrumors 6502a

    RobT

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2007
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    #25
    In my experience the 2011 MBA's perform very well with exception of 3D gaming. In fact, the MBA 11" I have runs surprising well. The OS (Lion), browsing (Chrome), e-mail, iTunes, apps like Pixelmator and Acorn, MS Office 2011, iWork, and even Xcode all work better than good.

    What I've discovered is essentially you have to be able to 1) understand that the MBA will not be your go to gaming machine 2) realize that it's not a machine where you carry your entire movie, photo and music collection with you all the time on the hard drive 3) accept that you won't be doing things with CD's and DVD's the same way as you did in the past.

    What this does mean, however, is that the MBA will essentially do just about everything except heavy gaming, you carry some but not all of your photos, music, and movie with you, that you use cloud storage to help with space needs, and that you learn to do things CD/DVD related without having the superdrive built-in.

    r
     

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