Help me choose between a Unibody Macbook and a Macbook Air

Discussion in 'MacBook' started by rmessing, Apr 28, 2009.

  1. rmessing macrumors newbie

    Apr 28, 2009
    Rochester, NY

    I'm trying to decide between a Rev. B Macbook Air (HD not SSD), and a Macbook (2.4 ghz, 4 gigs of ram). I'll describe all the relevant background. I'm new here, and posting this in both the macbook and macbook air forums, particularly because I'm interested in the different responses I'll get from the users of different platforms. If this posting practice is unacceptable, I appologize profusely, and leave the moderators to either tell me what's what, or do what they have to do.

    So, I'm a senior computer science graduate student (5th year, graduating soon). I'm usually platform-agnostic, and I have extensive experience with macs (last 2 laptops were a g4 powerbook and 1st gen intel macbook). I'm writing this on a gorgeous Macbook pro that's going to be heading to another student. It's a dream machine, no doubt, but it's someone else's dream. It's too big, and too heavy, for my tastes, and given that it's also too powerful for my needs, I'm making a change.

    I do computer vision research, and at present, the models I describe in my thesis are so computationally heavy that inference involves a a few days on a giant cluster. This means I don't need any serious number-crunching power on the laptop (in theory, I might like to make an approximate version that ran in realtime, but that's probably impossible on current hardware). I write papers in LaTeX, do much of my work over ssh terminal windows and most of my coding in lightweight text editors. Aside from occasional youTube, hulu, and other movie-viewing (yes, including DVDs, but as a computer vision guy, I'm pretty competent with ripping a dvd, so that'd be no problem with the macbook air), my heaviest use comes from simultaneously browsing the web, viewing journal articles (sometimes with lots of big pictures, think 8 page pdfs at a size of around 3 or 4 megabytes), and making presentations (Keynote) or posters (powerpoint), all while also sshing into remote machines and editing text files (which has almost no overhead). Maybe also simultaneously watching an xvid-encoded movie. That's the ultimate hardcore-use scenario. Obviously, the macbook pro I'm on will do this without issues, and the macbook I'm considering will do about the same. I know I'll wish I had chosen the Air over the Macbook whenever I'm NOT using it - I'm not a wimp, but the extra pound-and-a-half really does mean something for comfort. I know because the Dell Mini 9 that I installed OS X on, which is NOT powerful enough to do more than one of the heavy-use tasks I listed (though aside from keyboard size and screen size, does the medium and light-use tasks perfectly) gets carried with me a lot more than the macbook pro, despite the latter's far-greater power and user experience. I want to know when I'll wish I had chosen the Macbook over the Air. Am I going to notice the lower processor speed? The heat / battery (remember, I'm only considering Rev B). I know I'll miss the hard drive space, but I'll deal - will I notice 4200 v.s. 5400 RPMs? I'd guess the biggest issue is 2 gigs of ram - that's why I haven't listed the other two heaviest things I do, which I haven't done much or relied on in some time (OS Virtualization - sometimes you've gotta have Windows, for any number of admittedly annoying reasons, and Matlab - my coworkers seem okay with it on an air, but my problems sometimes involve giant datasets, where 2gigs v.s. 4 gigs can mean the difference between swapping and not). What do you think? I travel sometimes, but the weight savings is mostly for my commute (foot, bike, bus). The current solution (macbook pro and dell mini 9) is probably going away - this thing would be my only portable. Assume I have access to powerful windows and linux servers at home and work, and please limit comparisons to these two machines (this is my way of saying that I know I could save a significant chunk of change on a refurbished macbook Air rev A, or do about as well with the 2.0 ghz macbook, but that for whatever reasons, I'm deciding between the Rev B non-ssd air and the fully spec'd macbook).

    Thanks for your input,
  2. Apple all life macrumors 6502

    Apr 2, 2009
    I read all that actually. I would say you get a macbook. In the macbook air forums I look there regularly and they have this thread

    I checked your topic in the air section and they say air of course. You will probably get more macbook responses here.

    Macbook has more overall everything stock, and for the money it is a great deal. I am very fond to the macbook air and I am thinking of selling my macbook for the air also. The air is much lighter, and the screen quality is far greater than the macbook but the macbook has the ability to upgrade 4gb of ram, and a dvd drive. If you can go to an apple store and just check out both that would be the best thing to do.

    Screen comparison:

    Overall I say you should get the air I regret not getting it and getting the macbook. In the end no matter what your choice you will be very happy with either of them.

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