Getting a MBA and pondering about processor speed... how does it work?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by mxulive, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. mxulive macrumors newbie

    Oct 4, 2010
    As most of you probably know a 2.13 GHz MBA requires you to shell out $300 for the 256 SSD and an additional $100 for the processor... ending up $400 more than a 1.86 GHz.

    I have already made up my mind about getting 4 GBs of RAM and is now trying to decide on the processor. Given that I have absolutely no need for the additional SSD space, is $400 worth the 0.27 GHz difference?

    I have researched this topic and in many other threads the overwhelming opinion was "no" (and probably more so in my case because I am blowing $300 for the pre-req SSD which i will never utilize).

    However, according to a credible benchmark (can't remember the source for this but can dig it up if you guys really want it... I think it was Macworlds?), the 2.13 GHz performed "10%" faster overall than the 1.86 GHz.

    Being a tech newbie, I have three questions:

    1) how exactly does a 10% increase in "benchmark" performance transfer over to real life? (i.e. will I notice this difference at all doing things like web browsing, email, iTunes, Preview, Word, watching videos, which comprise 95% of my usage)

    2) This is a more tech-related question... does the 10% increase in speed apply to everything you're doing, or does it only matter if the task you're trying to run requires high processing power? (i.e. 10% might be evident if you're using rendering software but will all of that power be throttled if you're just opening a web page?)

    3) I plan on playing SC2 on low-medium settings. Will the additional 0.27 GHz of processing power improve gaming performance? Or is it really just more dependent on RAM and GPU...

    Thanks guys!
  2. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    1. Of the uses you listed, you won't see any perceivable difference.

    2. It does depend on how much of the power is actually being used. If you're not using a lot of processing power, a faster processor won't do you any good.

    3. Probably won't do a whole lot for gaming performance, definitely more GPU dependent.
  3. topmounter macrumors 68020


    Jun 18, 2009
    FEMA Region VIII
    I hammered on both models at the Apple Store and couldn't tell a bit of difference, but I still went with the ultimate to maximize its useful life and hopefully help with resale value when I do finally decide to move on to something new.
  4. kx22 macrumors member

    Feb 4, 2011
    There are little differences. CPU is important to HD movies and converting things. If you are watching a HD movie and browsing, a higher CPU is better. It does make things smother, but i dont think there will be an huge difference between de 1.86 and the 2.13. But as you said, you dont need the extra SSD storage, then its quite a waste of money.
  5. wisty, Feb 15, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2011

    wisty macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2009
    Basically, CPU only matters if it's the limiting factor. Just like RAM, HDD space, graphics card power, etc. Unlike HDD, a 100% CPU can still take more load, it just slows everything down a bit. And unlike RAM, if you have 10% more load than what it takes to hit 100%, you only slow down by 10% (whereas exceeding RAM forces you to swap to HDD - very slow).

    It's fairly rare that you will be using 100% CPU power for noticeable time periods. There are 2 times you do:
    1) Batch jobs like encoding video. 10 minutes vs 11 minutes to encode your video? Who cares, you will just go to for 15 minutes anyway.
    2) Interactive stuff, like SC2: 30fps vs 33fps, you won't know the difference anyway, and it's not that big, so you will Just Deal With It (tm).

    There are certainly cases where a 3.0GHz Quad Core i7 will smash a 2.0Ghz C2D, but that's another story. You are comparing 2 very similar products, there's not a lot of difference even when it's noticeable.

    It seems from your post that you already understand this though. Save the $400 for your next upgrade, or put it towards a cheap gaming rig.
  6. aneftp macrumors 601

    Jul 28, 2007
    Save your $400. Very little difference in terms of processing power, especially if you have another laptop/desktop available.

    4GB is a must (and the OP has already decided on that).

    Apple did this on purpose with the $1799 2.13 gz/256GB SSD option. They want to upsell this package instead of offering the 2.13gz/128GB SSD option.
  7. mxulive thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 4, 2010
    Thanks guys. I'm gonna go for the 1.86 GHz/4 GB RAM. $400 is a big chunk of change and I'm sure it can be better spent.

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