i7 upgrade for 2015 13" MacBook Air

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by infinitejest, Aug 8, 2016.

  1. infinitejest macrumors 6502

    infinitejest

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    Orange County, CA
    #1
    I'm getting the 2015 13" MacBook with 8GB RAM, 128 GB storage. But I'm still not sure whether I should get the i5 (1,6 GHz) or the i7 (2,2 GHz) processor.

    99% of the time, I will use it for browsing the Internet, doing school stuff (Pages and Keynote) watching movies, so I think the i5 would be fine for that. BUT what would be the benefits if I get the i7? Would I even notice a difference? Will programs open faster, will it boot slightly faster, will browsing be more smoothly (especially with more tabs open) OR wouldn't I notice any difference at these (basic) things and the i7 will only noticeable at powerful stuff such as video or photo editing?

    In other words, I'm willing to spend $120 for the i7 uprade if everything would be (at least a little) faster but obviously not if I will only notice a difference in doing intense tasks (which I do not do).

    Also, what's the difference in terms of battery life and chillness/fan noise? Is the i7 only getting warmer, louder and draining more battery than the i5 when I push its performace to the limit? Or is the i7 always a little louder and warmer than the i5, even at light usage (browsing for example)?

    Thanks for your help!
     
  2. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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  3. keysofanxiety macrumors G3

    keysofanxiety

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #3
    Agreed with above. Save your money and stick with the i5. Best decision for your usage.

    If you are going to pay anything additional, I'd suggest going for additional storage rather than CPU. Otherwise the base model would be fine.
     
  4. fluamsler macrumors member

    fluamsler

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    Location:
    near Basel, Switzerland
    #4
    Hy
    I'm am "just" a MacBook newbie but I think for most of your stuff the i5 will be fine. Most of the time your CPU charge will be around 20% to 50%. The maximum clock speed will be used only for hard computing work like installing updates, rendering videos, importing tons of photos or MP3 files or stuff like that. If your main usage is for school (using apps like pages, safari, notes, reminder or mail) and you are not using big Apps like Final Cut Pro your CPU will have a easy life. :) I think it's not worth the upgrade.

    Hope this helps!
    Best regards from switzerland
     
  5. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #5
    I'd agree. I had a 2011 i5 MBA and upgraded to a 2013 i7. The i7 machine is perhaps 30% faster, but that is compared to a previous generation CPU and the difference is really only noticeable when rendering video or ripping DVDs. If you don't do this kind of thing, you probably would never know the difference.

    Anecdotally I've heard that you get slightly better battery life with the the i5. On my i7 machine, the fans only kick in while doing video rendering, extended multi-track audio recording and intensive photoshop editing of large images. So I don't think the i7 is "always a little louder and warmer". Where did you get that idea?
     
  6. blesscheese macrumors 6502a

    blesscheese

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    #6
    The i7 in the MBA is only a dual-core…basically, I almost believe it exists just so people who wanted to spare no expense wouldn’t have to. Interestingly, I was looking at the specs for a VR Oculus Rift, and they are fine with an i5 processor…you can’t do that with an MBA, but the point is, even for a top level gaming rig, where you would think everybody would assume “you had to have an i7”, you don’t.
     
  7. Pugly macrumors regular

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    Jun 7, 2016
    #7
    It's probably not worth it getting the i7... even though I bought an i7 so I'm being a bit hypocritical here. I think the biggest improvement is when you are doing heavy processor tasks... anything with a completion bar. If you don't want to wait get an i7. Everyday tasks you won't notice I don't think.

    I got an i7 because I am running Logic Pro and wanted that extra headroom of power in case I needed it. But in my projects I don't think I've used even 25% of the cpu... so really all the i7 does is give me happy feelings when I say "yeah it has an i7" when talking about my diminutive 11inch MBA. I do like having the potential to run really CPU intensive plugins for Logic though... for the future. And it is nice when I export tracks to have it done more quickly, but I don't think I would have really noticed much difference with the i5.

    The slightly worse battery life is kind of a downer though. That is noticeable, and a reason to stick with the i5. When working in Logic, Wi-Fi on, and screen at about 75% brightness I'll get 3-4 hours of use... which is okay... but not brilliant and I'm searching for a wall outlet after a while.

    Oh well, I plan on keeping this computer for a LONG time... so it'll be about as "future proof" as a MBA can get.
     
  8. infinitejest thread starter macrumors 6502

    infinitejest

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    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    #8
    Thanks so much guys, great advice - all really helpful!
    If I can only feel a difference when I do heavy tasks, which I very, very rarely (if ever) do, the i5 will probably be good enough for the stuff I do.

    Oh, that was just a thought I had. But good to know that this isn't the case :)

    So, would you say that the i7 is more "future proof" than the i5 in terms of macOS updates or future software releases? Because I plan on keeping the Air for 3-4 years.
     
  9. keysofanxiety macrumors G3

    keysofanxiety

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2011
    #9
    Well the i7 (i7-5650U) is only about 15% more powerful than the i5 (i5-5250U). So in real-world usage you won't see a massive difference. If you're running tasks that would frequently saturate the CPU, you wouldn't be getting a MacBook Air anyway, as even the i7 model wouldn't cut the mustard.

    I can reassure you that with your usage, you won't get anywhere close to running the CPU on 100% usage for an extended time. So the i7 would be a waste of money.

    I'd wager that additional storage is more "future proof". But again the base model would be fine for you.
     
  10. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #10
    Very good point, get the 512gb model if you plan to keep the computer for a long time. Trust me, you will never say "I wish I hadn't bought such a big SSD". :D

    I also have Logic Pro, although I haven't used it much in the last year or two. But I noted that latency when recording live went from 13ms on my 2011 i5 MBA down to 9ms on my 2013 i7 MBA. Hard to say how much of this could be attributed to the i7 though. A 2013 i5 machine might be faster than a 2011 i5. I record to the internal drive and the SSD on the 2013 MBA is considerably faster than the 2011, so that could be a main factor.
     
  11. Pugly macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2016
    #11
    In terms of macOS updates no. The i7 and i5 will have support dropped at the same time I'm sure, which won't happen for a really long time anyways.

    It's just that when I do eventually look to upgrade, I look at GeekBench scores and want 50% or more performance from the most inexpensive Mac I can get. The i7 just makes that a slightly longer wait. If the actual money saved in the long run is worth it... I don't know... it's probably about even.

    8GB of ram is important though. But that's a non issue if you are buying a 13 inch.
     
  12. Rok73 macrumors 65816

    Rok73

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  13. infinitejest thread starter macrumors 6502

    infinitejest

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    #13
    Thanks again, guys. Seems like I can easily get the i5 without living in the constant fear of not having enough processor power :)
    And I have an external hard drive with 500 GB where I store most of my bigger files and stuff I don't need that often, so the 128 GB works just fine for me.

    Forgot to mention in my previous reply that that made my day by the way :D
     
  14. lambertjohn macrumors 6502a

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    Jun 17, 2012
    #14
    Why get an Air at all? Why not just wait until the new MacBooks come out this fall? Seems like an awful waste of money to buy an Air right now.
     
  15. kattskrall macrumors regular

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    Apr 8, 2012
    #15
    What a bunch of pussies. Of course you should upgrade the processor. However, i can't wrap my head around why you would settle with 128gb of storage or the fact apple actually sells that size at the price they are doing. Get 256gb AND the upgraded processor. It gives the computer increased longivety even for mundane tasks. The "basic stuff" gets more demanding as time goes by, take the new ui on youtube for example (only visible in chrome), that is way more demanding for the cpu. Processes are evolving to be more resource demanding and upgrading your processor will give your computer an increased life span. And it will give it a higher resell value to sell when the new macbook(pro/air/who knows?) line finally comes out fall/spring. If you don't you'll just sit with a sneak-model that's just meh.

    Check the benchmarks and you'll see that that money is well spent on upgrades.
    https://www.primatelabs.com/blog/2015/03/macbook-air-pro-benchmarks-march-2015/

    TLDR: buy 256gb AND the i7.

    Or actually, i'll just echo the above, don't buy one at all unless your really have to.
     
  16. infinitejest thread starter macrumors 6502

    infinitejest

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    #16
    What would I be waiting for? There's the underpowered and overpriced 12 inch MacBook and there will be new Pros out this fall but that's it. Very, very unlikely they update the Air lineup. They try so hard to market the iPad as the new computer that there is no room for another lower priced MacBook.

    Furthermore, when I'm getting the Air right now, I'll get a pair of $300 headphones which I can sell for around $200, which means the Air costs me about $750 (i5 - 128 GB) which I think is a great price. For the upcoming Pro, I'd have to pay at least $450 more (if they will sell at the same price as the current ones - which I highly doubt). Sure, the OLED touch bar sounds interesting and the retina screen is great but not worth the wait and the extra cost. Besides that, I really need a new machine for school in September.

    Does it mean that the 2013 i7 MacBook Air is still faster than the 2015 MacBook i5 in terms of overall speed such as booting the MacBook or starting programs? Isn't a new Intel processor always faster than the previous?
    Like I said, I'll be willing to spend the extra cost for the i7, if that means an increase in longevity.
    And I store most of my big files on an external drive anyway, that's why the 128 GB should really be enough for me.
     
  17. thewap macrumors 6502a

    thewap

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2012
    #17
    Does it mean that the 2013 i7 MacBook Air is still faster than the 2015 MacBook i5 in terms of overall speed such as booting the MacBook or starting programs? Isn't a new Intel processor always faster than the previous?
    Like I said, I'll be willing to spend the extra cost for the i7, if that means an increase in longevity.
    And I store most of my big files on an external drive anyway, that's why the 128 GB should really be enough for me.[/QUOTE]

    As you get more applications or if the OS updates get bigger, you want to make sure you will have enough room in the future. You also want to make sure you are not operating on a near full drive, as that will significantly slow the comp down.
    You need breathing room in your OS/app drive to run really well.

    128GB is small, 256GB safer, 500GB future proof.
     
  18. blesscheese macrumors 6502a

    blesscheese

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    Apr 3, 2010
    Location:
    Central CA
    #18
    Short answer: no, the i7 won't boot up faster.

    Longer answer: while the i7 may be the faster chip, the limiting factor will be how fast the SSD is sending info to the chip to process. At the pace the SSD is sending info to the chip, the i5 can keep up. And even if the i7 was faster, with the SSD, the boot up time difference would be (at max) maybe 2 seconds.

    Plus, as others mentioned, the i7 will draw slightly more power, and thus use the battery more, so you will have slightly less battery life.

    The air is a great computer. Light weight, cheap, and with the best battery life of all the MacBooks. If I could get one with 16GB of RAM, I'd get one right now to replace my still working 2009 MBA. But, with what I'm doing I want to get 16GB (I have to handle a couple of huge files, that's the only reason).

    I did hear rumors that they may keep the Air as the entry level MacBook, since the rMB is a premium model...if I don't like the new rMBP's, I'll just get a 13" Air with 8GB RAM and 512 SSD.
     
  19. infinitejest thread starter macrumors 6502

    infinitejest

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    May 1, 2016
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    Orange County, CA
    #19
    Thank you for clarifying that. I'm really not an expert and I'm glad for all the help.

    I'm mainly asking because what really annoyed me about my MacBook 2008 was that switching between programs became so slow over time. Even browsing Facebook was barely possible anymore because it took forever to load new posts that included videos for example. And I really wanna avoid that issue for as long as possible.
    However, I guess that would rather be a hard drive or RAM problem than a processor issue, right? So nothing I could avoid by getting the i7 processor?

    Absolutely. I still love its design and I'm really excited to get it because it's still the best MacBook for the stuff I do. It's really sad that it will be discontinued (probably) in favor of the rMB, which isn't nearly as good as the Air IMO.
     
  20. ItHurtsWhenIP macrumors 6502

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    #20
    I upgraded my '13 to the i7 and 8GB of RAM when i bought it new and as a basic user (nothing hardcore at all, most intensive task probably being photo editing with Lightroom or Intensify and the occasional GoPro video editing too) I don't know if I've ever seen it over like 5% usage when I've checked it...I think I'd have been perfectly fine with the i5, but maybe it's some kind of placebo effect because I just feel like my Air can do anything I ask of it without worry and for that peace of mind I'd happily pay the upgrade fee again if given the chance.

    Oh, and my battery life is still fantastic. After 3 years, battery health is at 98% and it's still running like the day I bought it.
     
  21. kattskrall, Aug 15, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016

    kattskrall macrumors regular

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    #21
    The mid 2012 macbook air with an i7 is faster(or on par) in terms of overall speed than the current (2015) i5 they are selling now.

    In the real world this is noticed in every lead time, for example saving a photo in photoshop, opening programs, booting up, shutting down (not that you ever need to shut down a mac). The argument that the battery life is lowered on a i7 is a bit stupid. Given the same tasks, the processors are doing the same amount of work only that the i7 does it faster, thus not consuming more overall battery. You can read this article where the i7 actually have better battery life in terms of mundane tasks. If you however put the computer to work the i7 will make use of its processing power and consume more battery given it can do more work in a shorter time. But then again, insn't that something that is favorable? Having that extra speed if you need it.. you can read about it here:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7113/2013-macbook-air-core-i5-4250u-vs-core-i7-4650u/4
     
  22. infinitejest thread starter macrumors 6502

    infinitejest

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    #22
    This is exactly why I'm still undecided whether I should get the i5 or the i7.
    I'm 100% sure the i5 has more power than I (currently) need and I'd be really happy with it. HOWEVER, I'm willing to pay the extra $100 for the i7 just to know my Air has the extra power in case I actually need it sometime...BUT ONLY if it doesn't affect battery life and heat while doing basic things - which I do most of the time.

    The link is interesting and the test shows the exact thing (in the medium workload comparison, which I think represents basic work). On the other hand, the test was done by using the 2013 MacBook Air, so I'm not sure if this is also true for Broadwell chips, especially since the test shows that the 2012 chips were quite the same in terms of battery life.
     
  23. blesscheese macrumors 6502a

    blesscheese

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    #23
    If you really want to "future proof" your MBA, i.e., you want to hang on to it for 3-4 years or longer, then go for the i7.

    And if you have $100 to blow, then go for it. Otherwise, that is $100 better spent on something like a new backup drive (you do regularly back up your computers, right?).

    Years ago there was a productivity study on how important certain factors were to getting work done faster. They looked at things like a faster computer, bigger hard drive, etc. The result was that the #1 way of increasing your productivity on a computer was to learn how to type...
     
  24. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #24
    I'm already a fast touch typist... so if it were me, I'd get the 512gb ssd (or 256 if you really can't afford it) instead of the i7. I got the 512 in 2013 and my only regret is that they didn't offer a 1TB option. ;)
     
  25. blesscheese macrumors 6502a

    blesscheese

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    #25
    I went back to the original post...my personal opinion (yours may vary) is that getting the 128GB SSD is a mistake, as Boyd01 points out, you most likely want as much drive space as possible. I agree, a 256 GB SSD is the current min; even 512 GB may seem small if you are a packrat (like me).

    I have a 2009 MBA which came with only the 128GB SSD, and I'm constantly shuffling files around.
     

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