HELP: 13 MBA versus MBP/OWC SSD performance?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by miata, Oct 23, 2010.

  1. miata macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    I'm looking at getting an upgrade for work from my 15' MBP, and my company wants me to keep the price below $2000. These 2 options are about the same price, so I was wondering about performance.

    - 13" MBA, 2.13 GHz, 6 MB L2, 4GB RAM, 256 SSD: $1,828
    - 13" MBP, 2.4 GHz, 3 MB L2, 8GB RAM, 256 OWC SSD: $1,988

    Will there be a significant difference between the two systems in performance?

    I mostly use the system for work stuff: email, web browsing, MS/Office. If I get the MBP I would probably use it for video instead of using my old MBP. I do realize the other advantages of the two systems:

    MBA: less weight, higher screen resolution, size - thinner
    MBP: battery life, Firewire 800, Gig-Ethernet, lighted keyboard
  2. Hellhammer Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 10, 2008
    Do you need portability at work? If it just sits on the desk, go for the MBP since it has more upgradeability
  3. altecXP macrumors 65816

    Aug 3, 2009
    The 3MB extra cache will not make up for 280MHz. THe 8GB of Memory will only make a difference if you use a lot of VM's, and OWC is faster then the Toshiba SSD in the Air by about 35%.

    If you dont need 8GB of RAM I would get the MBP with 4GB. just to save the money.
  4. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    I mostly run from meeting to meeting all day long and because of the battery like of my pre-unibody 15" MBP I have to bring along my charger as well. So, I am looking for something lighter and am hoping to leave my charger in my office when I am running around.
  5. jb1280 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 13, 2009
    I would wait until all reviews of 13" Macbook Air are out and we get real life battery lengths. Part of me believes that the battery length among 13" machines will end up really close to each other due to the new way batteries are rated.

    I personally think that the Air is a much more compelling product than the Macbook Pro unless you absolutely need 8GB of memory, Firewire, and an optical drive.
  6. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    Thanks for the info. Based on what you are saying the MBP would be noticeably snappier than the MBA due to the faster SSD -- if nothing else.

    In the past I have found that for me maximizing RAM is a no-brainer price/performance improvement. I always have a ton of browser windows open, big spreadsheets, tons of email messages. SSD is not the best thing for swapping, so I would think that extra RAM would be even more important with SSD.

    I'm also considering the OWC Data Doubler that lets me replace the Superdrive with an SSD. I could even keep the HDD for additional capacity. Does anybody know if I can shutdown the internal HDD to save battery life if I am booting from the SSD?
  7. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    I made a visit to the local Apple Store. Unfortunately, I was not able to do any kind of useful performance comparison, since they don't have either of the units maxed out with CPUs, memory or storage.

    However, I have to say that the larger resolution display of the MBA makes a pretty big difference. I also found that using the MPB with the sharp edges was painful with even a little a little trackpad use. The MBA is such a low profile that using it on a table is much more comfortable. And of course, the lighter weight of the MBA makes it much nicer to handle. It is one sexy piece of metal.

    The guys at the Apple store also thought that I should be able to run iMovie with even 1080 HD might be doable. I came home and did a test to compare the FW800 and USB2 on my MBP. Sure enough, the Firewire is about 2.5x faster. However, when I tried scrubbing some iMovie HD footage I had absolutely no problem using USB to the disks.

    So, now I think I am pretty much sold on a maxed out MBA 13.
  8. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    Real world experiences with MBA and iMovie HD video?

    I'm back on the fence again, and need real world feedback...

    After a few hours of doing some video after my son's Pop Warner game this afternoon I am starting to wonder if MBA will cut it for me. I've been moving around multi-gig files while importing 1080 AVCHD into iMovie. With FW 800 I have 2 single disk HDDs, a RAID 0 box, a 2.5" 7200 drive for mirroring my system with CCC, and finally a Blu-ray burner. All of these except except the RAID have USB, but I'm now starting to wonder if the MBA will be able to handle this with just 2 USB ports. Does anybody know how the I/O architecture of the MBA compared to the 13" MBP? Is most of that handled by the Nvidia chip? UI did verify that iMovie works fine with files on USB, but what if I'm doing a bunch of other stuff the same time?

    Things definitely slow down with my older 15" 4 GB RAM MBP system and I'm also wondering if 8 GB on the MBP would be a benefit. I also wondering how much difference an OWC SSD will make over the MBA unit and does performance decay over time?

    Finally, by getting another MBP I wouldn't have to worry about giving up a bunch of little things like ethernet, the lighted keyboard, Firewire, upgradeablity and the best battery life ever for a laptop.

    Apple just doesn't help make these decisions easy.
  9. jagger27 macrumors member

    Feb 16, 2010
    Don't forget that the 13" MacBook Air has a significantly higher resolution. ;)
  10. johnnymg macrumors 65816


    Nov 16, 2008
    The MBP should best the AIR in EVERY metric except size and weight. That should make the decision pretty easy, eh.

  11. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    Yeah. I've been thinking about this a lot. To be honest I do most of more serious stuff at home or work with a second monitor, but I would I do a lot of slide editing, web browsing and email in meetings with just the laptop display. I did drop by Fry's earlier today and played with a 13" MBP and MBA right next to each other. I think either system would work for the meeting stuff. The decision would be a whole lot easier if the 13" MBP had higher resolution or if the MBA had Firewire or a 10 hour battery:(
  12. aleni macrumors 68020

    Jun 2, 2006
    try see the new 13" air resolution, then after that see the 13" mbp res. you wouldn't want the 13" mbp after that.

    the screen is all u see all the time, not the 280mhz.

    so for the screen resolution in 13" mba alone is worth it more than the 13" mbp.

    just my 2cents.
  13. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    I've been going through the details and this is a real mixed bag...

    Advantage MBA:
    - 33% less weight
    - 28 - 88% less thickness
    - 27% more screen pixels
    - 100% more L2 cache
    - 9% less expensive
    - smaller and lighter MagSafe power adapter
    - all Apple support (no 3rd party stuff)

    Advantage MBP:
    - 13% faster CPU
    - 100% more RAM
    - 43% more battery life
    - 35% faster storage (OWC SSD vs Apple)
    - 100% more storage (by keeping HDD)
    - 150% faster IO (FW800 vs USB2)
    - Gig-Ethernet
    - backlit keyboard
    - mature design
    - Kensington lock slot
    - audio line in minijack
    - ambient light sensor
    - IR sensor
    - battery indicator lights
    - sleep indicator light
    - stereo speakers with subwoofers
    - iSight camera (1.3 MP versus FaceTime 0.3 MP)

    - 13" LED-backlit glossy widescreen display
    - Core 2 Duo processor on 1066 MHZ bus
    - 1066MHz DDR3 memory
    - 250 GB SSD boot disk (Apple vs OWC)
    - NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory
    - 2 USB slots
    - SD slot
    - Airport Extreme
    - Bluetooth
    - Mini DisplayPort
    - MagSafe power port
    - iSight camera = FaceTime camera
    - support for Apple earphones with mic
    - Full-size keyboard with 78 (U.S.) or 79 (ISO) keys
    - Multi-Touch trackpad
    - omnidirectional microphone
    - no SuperDrive (replaced with OWC SSD with Dat Doubler for MBP)
    - same width and depth
  14. stockscalper macrumors 6502a


    Aug 1, 2003
    Area 51
    Unless you're doing extreme processor intensive tasks you'll never see the 280 MHZ difference. Normal tasks are going to be relying upon use of 25-50% of the processor, the L2 cache (which is generous on the Air) and the graphics card (advantage Air). Take into consideration the lightness and slimness of the Air, not to mention the superb display and seems to me the Air trumps the current MBP 13" model. Of course things can change with the next MBP upgrade, but that's how things stack up for now.
  15. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    I thought they both had the same graphics:confused:
  16. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    I found another way to meet my budget...

    I'm going into anaysis paralysis.:(

    I just figured out another way to meet my $2K budget -- a previous generation refurb 15" MBP. I wanted to see wanted to ask what folks think.

    - 15" MBP (mid-209), 2.4 GHz, 3 MB L2, 8GB RAM, 256 OWC SSD: $1,988

    To me previous list...

    - 13" MBA, 2.13 GHz, 6 MBL2, 4GB RAM, 256 SSD: $1,828
    - 13" MBP, 2.4 GHz, 3 MB L2, 8GB RAM, 256 OWC SSD: $1,988

    Would this be a decent upgrade from my current system:

    - 15" MBP (Early 2008), 2.5 GHz, 3 MB L2, 4GB RAM, 320 GB HDDI even extracted the perfromance and battery life scroes from AnandTech.Performance - General OS usage

    MBP 15" i5 2.4 = 39.5
    MBP 15" C2D 2.53 = 40.7
    MBP 13" C2D 2.4 = 40.0
    MBA 13" 1.86 = 22.3

    Performance - Quicktime H.264 Video Encoding

    MBP 15" i5 2.4 = 87.2
    MBP 15" C2D 2.53 = 59.0
    MBP 1"3 C2D 2.4 = 54.8
    MBA 13" 1.86 = 47.0

    Performance - Adobe Photoshop CS4

    MBP 15" i5 2.4 = 34.8
    MBP 15" C2D 2.53 = 40.6
    MBP 13" C2D 2.4 = 42.0
    MBA 13" 1.86 = 59.4

    Battery Life - Light Web Browsing

    MBP 15" i5 2.4 = 492
    MBP 15" C2D 2.53 = 444
    MBP 13" C2D 2.4 = 585
    MBA 13" 1.86 = 671

    Battery Life - Multitasking

    MBP 15" i5 2.4 = 170
    MBP 15" C2D 2.53 = 174
    MBP 13" C2D 2.4 = 214
    MBA 13" 1.86 = 176
  17. drjsway macrumors 6502a

    Jan 8, 2009
    The MBP still uses Apple's older more generous battery test. The MBA, in actuality, has better battery life and would be rated at 11.5 hours using the old metric:

  18. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    Yes. After seeing the AnandTech performance and battery results I starting reconsidering the MBA. I really do like the machine but it just seems that lack of FW800 was going to be a real problem for how I do stuff at home

    Then the 15" refurb came into the picture. That would provide me with a number of nice upgrades and keep within the $2K budget:

    - much better battery life
    - upgrade to 8 GB RAM for serious multitasking
    - upgrade to SSD for fast disk access
    - get modern unibody construction

    I'll probably sit on this a few more days. I really would like to go with the MBA if there is a way to satisfy my external I/O needs. But it just seems that I would be taking that machine to places it was not meant to go.:(

    EDIT: A 15" MPB i5 2.4 refurb just got dropped onto the Apple Store - $1529. That would put me at $2099 with the OWC 240 GB SSD. Sweet. It would definitely give me a boost for video encoding.
  19. Perdification macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2010
    I was thinking, if you can wait, just wait. That's because the MBP are supposed to have an update soon, probably next Feb. By 2011, C2D is going to EOL, and Apple, unless they have a great stock of C2Ds, will have to update both the MBP and MBA. What'd you guys think?
  20. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    If the MBP 15" wasn't just a such an upgrade from where I am today I would consider waiting. More than anything I need extended battery life.

    The other problem with waiting is that there are to many unknowns:

    - when?
    - CPU only upgrade?
    - replace FW with USB3?
    - other potential downgrades to save space and weight?
  21. Perdification macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2010
    If you really need it now, then waiting is not an option. But it's quite a clear cut case that Apple has no choice to use a core iX cpu in the next upgrade, and any other additional upgrades are a plus as compared to the current model (e.g.: USB3, Lightpeak...) So if you can wait for Sandy Bridge, wait for it.
  22. Philflow macrumors 65816

    May 7, 2008
    There will not be any difference between the two during your usage.

    The OWC is only faster than the MBA SSD during heavier multi tasking.
  23. miata thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 22, 2010
    Silicon Valley, Earth
    Actually, I do pretty serious multi-tasking at work and it gets worse at home.

    I'm mostly concerned about the Air being able to handle the I/O with only 2 USB2 ports. I did a little test by copying a large file between external disks and FW800 was 2.5 time faster than USB2 on my current MBP. The problem is that I do a bunch of HD video and photo stuff at home that requires me to use a lot of external FW800 disks and a Blu-ray burner. I know that I can daisy chain a bunch of FW800 devices simultaneous be burning a Blu-ray disk, copying files, importing into iMovie, doing tie machine backups and web browsing at the same time.

    In another thread where I described my situation I got clear guidance to go the MBP route. If somebody can convince me that I can pull off the I/O business I would love to go the MBA route. It seems that the 15" MBP i5 would give me a significant video encoding performance boost, but I would trade that for the MBA weight savings any day.
  24. nylon macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2004
    It seems to be a pretty easy decision. I know the MBA is sexy. But for your needs there is no question you should go with the Pro.
  25. jetjaguar macrumors 68030


    Apr 6, 2009
    prior to this MBA .. i had a mbp with an OWC ssd .. it was instant on as hell .. it was extremely fast .. only reason i really wanted the air was because of the screen resolution

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