High Schooler's MBA - i7 or 16 GB RAM?

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
Going to order a 2020 MBA now for my grand daughter's 8th grade graduation - starts high school next year. So for a high school student, what do you all think? The i7 with 8 GB RAM, or i5 with 16 GB RAM? Someone with HS kids help me out.
 

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
Without question, i5 with 16 GB RAM
But I do have a question. Why more than 8 GB RAM for HS kid's applications? Put it another way, I know what I do with my Mac Pro. What are they doing that needs more RAM?

BTW, I'm assuming the i5 and i7 have the same internal GPU (I haven't heard differently) but the increase in clock rate and turbo boost (although only 10%) plus the bigger L3 cache might make the i7 a bit more snappy (but I'm skeptical it will make a significant difference). So I am predisposed to going for more RAM. Just not sure how much benefit it will be for their typical apps.
 
Last edited:

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
i5 + 16GB RAM so the macbook can last through college as well.
Yeah, that's worth thinking about. But will Apple provide an ARM emulator to run new Mac software on Intel Macs? Seems they would want us to buy new MBA's rather than keep old ones going running ARM software.
 
  • Like
Reactions: limesmoothie

mikethebigo

macrumors 68000
May 25, 2009
1,949
241
But I do have a question. Why more than 8 GB RAM for HS kid's applications? Put it another way, I know what I do with my Mac Pro. What are they doing that needs more RAM?

BTW, I'm assuming the i5 and i7 have the same internal GPU (I haven't heard differently) but the increase in clock rate and turbo boost (although only 10%) plus the bigger L3 cache might make the i7 a bit more snappy (but I'm skeptical it will make a significant difference). So I am predisposed to going for more RAM. Just not sure how much benefit it will be for their typical apps.
The boost from going i5 to i7 is nearly negligible. 10% improvement theoretically, but in practice, it's not going to matter that much, since the system is so thermally constrained. If you use either CPU for more than a brief burst, they'll both throttle/downclock to the same speed of 1.5-1.7 ghz per what I'm seeing from reviews. I have not seen a single reviewer who actually recommended the i7, it's just nice to have if you have the cash for it just to have the "best."

On the other hand, you can always use more RAM. Outside of the joke of saying "what if they want to have more than one Chrome tab open?" - let's put it this way. My Mac has more than 8 GB of RAM in use right now. Apps that I'm running are quite run of the mill: Microsoft Word and Excel, Chrome, Safari, News, Podcasts, Music, Messages, Mail. That's enough to already saturate 8 GB RAM. Imagine if your kid chooses to add more to that, maybe a simple game, maybe Photoshop or something like that. It will really ease up the pressure on the system, prevent virtual RAM paging, prevent memory compression, etc.

And that's the thing, you can't even predict right now what apps they'll want to use, or what their memory needs will be. So giving a lot of headroom there is always better for longevity than very minor CPU differences.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jpadhiyar

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
The boost from going i5 to i7 is nearly negligible. 10% improvement theoretically, but in practice, it's not going to matter that much, since the system is so thermally constrained. If you use either CPU for more than a brief burst, they'll both throttle/downclock to the same speed of 1.5-1.7 ghz per what I'm seeing from reviews. I have not seen a single reviewer who actually recommended the i7, it's just nice to have if you have the cash for it just to have the "best."

On the other hand, you can always use more RAM. Outside of the joke of saying "what if they want to have more than one Chrome tab open?" - let's put it this way. My Mac has more than 8 GB of RAM in use right now. Apps that I'm running are quite run of the mill: Microsoft Word and Excel, Chrome, Safari, News, Podcasts, Music, Messages, Mail. That's enough to already saturate 8 GB RAM. Imagine if your kid chooses to add more to that, maybe a simple game, maybe Photoshop or something like that. It will really ease up the pressure on the system, prevent virtual RAM paging, prevent memory compression, etc.

And that's the thing, you can't even predict right now what apps they'll want to use, or what their memory needs will be. So giving a lot of headroom there is always better for longevity than very minor CPU differences.
Yep, that's my thinking too. I'm just looking to see if someone has a counter argument that would change my mind before I pull the trigger tomorrow morning. I've always considered a 10% difference in clock rates to have negligible value, and as far as I know (as I said above) I think the i5 and i7 have the same internal graphics. So that leaves the 33% increase in L3 cache as the only CPU difference, which might impact apps with more multi-core threading.
 

mikethebigo

macrumors 68000
May 25, 2009
1,949
241
Yep, that's my thinking too. I'm just looking to see if someone has a counter argument that would change my mind before I pull the trigger tomorrow morning. I've always considered a 10% difference in clock rates to have negligible value, and as far as I know (as I said above) I think the i5 and i7 have the same internal graphics. So that leaves the 33% increase in L3 cache as the only CPU difference, which might impact apps with more multi-core threading.
The i5 and i7 both have the G7 graphics with 64 execution units. The GPU on the i7 is clocked a tiny bit higher, at 1,100 MHz peak where the i5 one is 1,050 MHz.
 

Scottsdale

macrumors 601
Sep 19, 2008
4,418
174
U.S.A.
I would buy 512GB Quad-Core i5 Model and upgrade just the RAM to 16GB. That will make it future proof for four years; kids need more storage. My kids do video/photography and my son is getting into coding. I bought both of my kids 512GB 13" MBP with 16GB RAM each when they started high school this year and last. The MacBook Air with Quad-Core i5 is what I would have bought if it were available then. Great fortune for your Granddaughter.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Sunshower

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
I would buy 512GB Quad-Core i5 Model and upgrade just the RAM to 16GB. That will make it future proof for four years; kids need more storage. My kids do video/photography and my son is getting into coding. I bought both of my kids 512GB 13" MBP with 16GB RAM each when they started high school this year and last. The MacBook Air with Quad-Core i5 is what I would have bought if it were available then. Great fortune for your Granddaughter.
Makes good sense. This granddaughter has been using an older Macbook we gave her for years and only talks about its slow speed now (probably so I wouldn't forget my promised 8th grade graduation present). But I think that's also because her iPhone has her video, pictures, and music, and not her old Macbook. But as she gets into high school I'm guessing she'll want more of that on the MBA.

You went for internal 512GB with 1 TB portable drives going for less than $50? I was thinking 256GB now and then even larger USB-3 or TB3 portable drives later when she needs it since size/price is always improving.
 

Scottsdale

macrumors 601
Sep 19, 2008
4,418
174
U.S.A.
I wouldn’t do 256GB because doing video stuff and photography takes up a lot of space. Even with Photos on optimize for storage, both my kids have over 20,000 photos AND VIDEOS. That’s what you’re up against. It isn’t 2010, and extra storage space sucks except when at home. My kids both have enough space that they can just offload stuff as needed to external storage. My kids both have 2TB Samsung T5 drives. They were expensive but buying even 512GB internal used to be more expensive. I think there’s value in having everything you need with you and kids don’t remember everything they need. I don’t want them doing a project at a friend’s without their files. I actually have it so they can remote access... but still 256GB isn’t enough in my opinion for a kid. For me, 1TB isn’t enough. But everyone is different...
 

ZacksWorld

macrumors newbie
Apr 10, 2019
6
8
NYC Metro
Definitely, definitely go with the RAM over the CPU... Not only are you getting more "bang for your buck" in terms of overall difference, but you'll be doing better future-proofing of the machine and more importantly, "protecting her from herself" –– it's so easy for people who aren't really into computers to mistakenly eat up all the RAM and not know why the computer is slowing down...
 

nill1234

macrumors regular
Dec 22, 2012
112
46
256 GB is manageable just put your movie library on an external drive. The kids would mostly stream netflix and use word so not much storage needed. But i wouldnt get the i7 get 16 gb of ram instead, or a cheaper windows notebook i dont think its a must have to get a mac in high school.
 

joeblow7777

macrumors 603
Sep 7, 2010
6,109
7,080
Why not i5 and 8gb? Seems to me she probably wouldn't need the i7, nor the 16gb upgrade for high school.
I was going to say this. I'm a high school teacher. For the most part, students don't need to do much more than research/access resources online and write reports and such. My own laptop has an 8th gen i5 and 8GB of RAM.
 
Last edited:

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
Definitely, definitely go with the RAM over the CPU... Not only are you getting more "bang for your buck" in terms of overall difference, but you'll be doing better future-proofing of the machine and more importantly, "protecting her from herself" –– it's so easy for people who aren't really into computers to mistakenly eat up all the RAM and not know why the computer is slowing down...
I'm dismissing the i7 CPU as I expected I would since no one has advanced an argument in favor of it. I wouldn't expect a significant speed difference from the approximately 10% clock rate difference. The 33% larger L3 cache might be more significant on some specialized multi-threaded apps than the clock rate differences, but I'd doubt those kind of apps would be a large part of the usage. If they become important to her, she will probably need a more powerful Mac anyway.

I'll go with 16 GB RAM, but honestly I'm not sure it is worth the $200 Apple Tax for the applications I know she will use (I wouldn't expect her to run Windows in a virtual machine for instance). But, I can't predict what new applications will come along, or what existing applications she may become interested in (virtual musical instruments are RAM hungry for instance). But more RAM is useful for app switching now, and a bit of insurance for her interests changing in the next couple years. However, I don't consider the objective of "future-proofing" a Macbook for the next 4-5 years, particularly at this end of the performance spectrum, to make any sense at all. ARM MacBooks will render all MBA and MBP products obsolete likely before she finishes high school.

I appreciate hearing from those that responded. Thanks to all of you.
- - Post merged: - -

256 GB is manageable just put your movie library on an external drive. The kids would mostly stream netflix and use word so not much storage needed. But i wouldnt get the i7 get 16 gb of ram instead, or a cheaper windows notebook i dont think its a must have to get a mac in high school.
I agree about the 256 GB. If she starts dramatically increasing her photos or making videos she's going to need more than an additional 256 GB anyway.

Windows??? I love my grand daughter. :).

(Plus from time to time I have to support of all my families computer issues. It took me a while to get them all moved over to Macs already.)
 
Last edited:

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
I was going to say this. I'm a high school teacher. For the most part, students don't need to do much more than research/access resources online and write reports and such. My own laptop has am 8th gen i5 and 8GB of RAM.
Isn't it a matter of what they "need to do" versus what they "want to do". I want to encourage their interests, not limit them to school assignments. Try using a good sampled virtual piano or three with MainStage and only 8 GB of RAM. No, actually don't. You won't like it.
 

nill1234

macrumors regular
Dec 22, 2012
112
46
I agree about the 256 GB. If she starts dramatically increasing her photos or making videos she's going to need more than an additional 256 GB anyway.

Windows??? I love my grand daughter. :).
So then get the i5 16 256 and if she needs way more storage a small 1 TB SSD for 130€. If she streams she wont need that much storage. At my PC i have 1 TB but i use solidworks and lots of games. For my portable devices 256 is ok. Even at my University during my masters degree i barely used that much storage most of the time i was researching, and programming.
 

PianoPro

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 4, 2018
259
140
So then get the i5 16 256 and if she needs way more storage a small 1 TB SSD for 130€. If she streams she wont need that much storage. At my PC i have 1 TB but i use solidworks and lots of games. For my portable devices 256 is ok. Even at my University during my masters degree i barely used that much storage most of the time i was researching, and programming.
Yep, that's what I decided to get her. Portable 1 TB USB 3 HD's are under $50 now, and if her needs change and increase later portable 1TB SSDs will probably be under $100 by then too. I've got 3 1TB external SSD's on my dedicated Piano iMac. I like to keep internal storage limited on all my non-upgradeable, non-swappable, Macs.
 

DouglasCarroll

macrumors member
Dec 27, 2016
74
52
Going to order a 2020 MBA now for my grand daughter's 8th grade graduation - starts high school next year. So for a high school student, what do you all think? The i7 with 8 GB RAM, or i5 with 16 GB RAM? Someone with HS kids help me out.

I think for the kinds of things your daughter will use a laptop for you're honestly splitting hairs here...anything you buy will work just fine for whatever she is going to do..HOWEVER, with the MacBook Air's you cannot upgrade RAM after the fact so if you insist on spending the extra money over a base model, always go for the extra RAM with these. I recently rescued an older MacBook Air that had been tossed into a recycle because of a swollen battery (WTF ?!?!?!) and luckily for me it had the "extra ram" installed at time of purchase. A faster CPU would have meant nothing to me for this older machine but the extra ram meant everything.

My 2 cents!

:)
 

joeblow7777

macrumors 603
Sep 7, 2010
6,109
7,080
Isn't it a matter of what they "need to do" versus what they "want to do". I want to encourage their interests, not limit them to school assignments. Try using a good sampled virtual piano or three with MainStage and only 8 GB of RAM. No, actually don't. You won't like it.
Well, yes. I can't speak to the needs of every specific student, but that's true for anyone. One could make a case for why any person might find themself needing/wanting a higher spec machine. I'm just saying that the vast majority of students do not need very high spec computers for what they do. This is one reason why Chromebooks are very popular in education.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ericdjensen

joeblow7777

macrumors 603
Sep 7, 2010
6,109
7,080
Any idea what % of students, even if a rough guess, use Chromebooks???
They use school provided ones pretty frequently in class since as I’ve said, they suit our needs.

if you mean as their personal devices, of those who regularly bring their own laptops to school, I would say no more than maybe 20%. While that may not sound like a lot there is a very wide variation in the types of laptops and tablets that students use. But again, the common factor is that they are usually modestly speced. MacBooks are popular, but usually older models that were inherited from a parent or older sibling.
 

PBG4 Dude

macrumors 68030
Jul 6, 2007
2,746
1,949
Any idea what % of students, even if a rough guess, use Chromebooks???
My son stopped using his school-provided Chromebook because my late 2010 MBA outperforms it. He was actually using my late 2008 MBP until I “upgraded” my 2010 MBA to 4GB RAM by replacing the logic board.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.