Help! For this value, should I buy this MBA or this cMBP?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by gabe., Jul 2, 2013.

  1. gabe., Jul 2, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2013

    gabe. macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2013
    I have been researching the MacBook lineup for weeks, deciding on a new purchase. And now, I have finally narrowed it down to two options.

    The short version:

    13" MBA - i5, 4GB, 256GB SSD - $1,250 (w/ Education Pricing)
    13" cMBP - i7, 8GB, 750GB HDD - $1,299 (w/ Education Pricing)

    The long version (details):

    · To the untrained eye it seems obvious that the cMBP is the way to go -- i7, 8GB RAM, and a hard drive nearly 3x the size. However, I am aware of Haswell and Flash Storage. I am also drawn towards the amazing battery life and ultra-portability of the MBA (Though of course the cMBP is still "portable").

    · I am purchasing this computer for school, and will be using it for everyday tasks. I believe the most intensive things I will be doing are iMovie, iPhoto, and Garageband. It may be used for gaming every now and again. However the usage of these could be extensive (particularly iPhoto).

    · I will also be keeping this computer for 4-6 years. Upgrading to 8GB RAM on the MBA is not an option as I cannot go above $1300. Obviously, that also includes upgrading to a 512GB SSD.

    · Space is a concern with the MBA. I have around 120GB of photos that is steadily growing, and 20GB of music. Over the course of 4-6 years I fear this could outgrow the 256GB MBA. However, I will be purchasing an external drive most likely (with either machine.) However, it would be nice to have as much as possible on the computer, and have the drive as a backup, rather than an extension.

    · I am not sure if the i7 and 8GB RAM is necessary for me or not. I hear that it is almost always better to just go 8GB RAM. But like I said, I cannot do that on the MBA because of cost. I currently have a '10 cMBP i5/4GB, and I find the performance nowadays to be just fine for my needs. However, it is not our main computer, and has few items on it (photos, applications, etc.)


    So what do you think? For relatively about the same price, I could get an i5/4GB/256GB MBA, or an i7/8GB/750GB cMBP. I am not the biggest speed freak, as long as the task gets done in a reasonable time (referring to flash/haswell). However, the battery and ultra-portability (and newness) of the MBA call my name. But then again, 4GB RAM and 256GB of storage induce fear. Seeing as WWDC and BTS did not bring an announced or silent refresh of the cMBP, it looks like the current model is still up for grabs.

    As you can see, there are a number of qualities from each device that are appealing. Opinions, thoughts, advice? Thank you.
  2. Orlandoech, Jul 2, 2013
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2013

    Orlandoech macrumors 68040


    Jun 2, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Do you want a faster computer or a smaller/lighter one? That's really what it comes down to.

    The 13 cMBP is faster and you can always add 16GB RAM and SSD if needed.

    Honestly, 4GB doesnt cut it. 8GB minimum.
  3. eloplayspolo macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2013
    First off, storage shouldn't bother you as there are always ways to add more.
    What you should do is focus on the CPU and Memory (performance wise), battery life and portability.

    In short - if it was me - i would get the MBA - 8gb of ram, 128gb ssd, and get an external hard drive.


    Music: Do you have a gmail account? look into google play music - it is free storage that syncs with the music on any of your machines. Simply load the songs you have now up and they are there for good. (you need internet for this)

    hope this helps.
  4. gabe. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2013
    The cMBP is faster? So the i7/8 makes up for the lack of Haswell/Flash storage?

    Ideally I would like a computer less bulky than the cMBP.. But is hard to see myself with it in 4-6 years functioning comfortably with 4GB RAM and 256GB storage after heavy use.

    True, though in regards to the external storage, reviews I have read say that you should never backup all your photos/media to an external HDD, because they are bound to fail eventually. However I am skeptical that they really fail that often.

    I am looking into google play music.. very interesting. Thanks for the suggestion. Also just now looking at Google Drive.
  5. Orlandoech macrumors 68040


    Jun 2, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    You considered a refurb 13" rMBP for the same cost or slightly more?

    $1269 -

    $1439 -

    And for the MBA vs cMBP

    cMBP wins;
    i7 cMBP > i5 MBA
    8GB cMBP > 4GB MBA
    Overall Performance
    Upgrades: more RAM and SSD

    MBA wins;
    SSD > HDD
    Size / Weight


    The cMBP has a faster CPU
    The MBA has a faster SSD opposed to HDD

    The i7 DOES NOT make up for what Haswell brings (battery life).
  6. SilverOath macrumors member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Look into the i5/8GB/128 Haswell MBA. It's a 200 premium for the extra 128GB - which IMO is unnecessary - if you need more portable storage down the road get a USB 3.0 Thumb, SD Card. With the 200 savings you can purchase the 8GB upgrade - and get an external 1TB hard disk drive (probably bigger I haven't priced them lately.

    The CLUNKY-MBP is old technology, old form factor, and while you can upgrade the Memory and Storage - it's still going to be an old slow machine. Both the cMBP and MBA use dual core CPUs so i5 vs i7 benefits are negligible - neither are high power performance machines.
  7. Aust macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2013
    If you can only spend under $1300 I think to get the best bang for your buck is to go with the Non Retina MacBook Pro. Then again that is what I would do if I was you.
  8. Orlandoech macrumors 68040


    Jun 2, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
  9. Moonjumper macrumors 68000


    Jun 20, 2009
    Lincoln, UK
    Internal drives can fail as well. Have your photos stored on a backup drive and in the cloud for safety.

    Do you really need all your photos with you? You could save a lot of storage space that way. Even if you do, you could store them on SDXC cards because the 13" has a connector for that.

    SDXC are a decent backup plan if your future storage needs exceed the SSD.

    Really try to find the money to upgrade the RAM if you can. That will be much harder to do on a MBA.

    But I would definitely recommend the MBA over the cMBP. The cMBP feels like an old model already, and will be reflected in resale values.
  10. eloplayspolo macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2013
    lol. the idea that external drives fail more than internal is kind of BS.
    They are the same physical drives as what is in a machine, but they are just exposed to being thrown around, rather than babied like a device in a laptop.

    I've also never had a flash drive fail on me, and i've used the same one daily for...8 years now....
  11. wmitch macrumors regular


    Mar 7, 2012
    Iowa, USA
    I am also looking at moving to an MBA from a MacBook with a 750gb drive in it. Which has time machine backup so drive fail is no big deal.
    Is there a painless way to back up external drives though?
  12. Orlandoech macrumors 68040


    Jun 2, 2011
    Salt Lake City, UT
    TimeMachine can backup externals as well, or Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper.
  13. eloplayspolo macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2013
    +1 Carbon Copy Cloner

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