Ideal MBA Model for University Student

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by B.Chang, Aug 12, 2011.

  1. B.Chang macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011

    I have recently decided that it would be beneficial for me to acquire a MBA since I am a commuting university student and need to bring my computer with me for classes and lab.

    I currently have a mid 2010 15" MBP, but this is rather heavy since I commute by bicycle and have notebooks and some books as well.

    I have read many threads and articles online about comparing 13" with 11" and I am very split. My main concern is that although the MBA will be my "second" computer, it will still be my main computer when I am on campus and sometimes I will need to work very late in my lab.

    My main concerns are the battery life on the 11" as well as how feasible it is to work on MS Office files and run Matlab on it, as those are the main program I will be using. I will also be doing some programming using Eclipse.

    Will I be able to multitask well between documents and browsers?

    I know the 13" overall seems to be more capable than the 11", but my current initial impression is that it would be better to get the 11" due to the fact I already have a 15" MBP. I was hoping for some input from the community in this matter, hopefully from people with firsthand experience.

    Price is not a concern since I have been allocated significant funds for a new laptop by my scholarship.

    Thank you for any replies.
  2. NicoleRichie macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2007
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    11" and an external at home. If no external 13"
  3. B.Chang thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    When you say external do you mean external hard drive or display?
  4. NicoleRichie macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2007
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    Display. Ultimate setup for the 11 or 13.
  5. B.Chang thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    I currently have plans to have my 15" MBP set up to a ACD.

    My main issue is that I will be working in the lab off the MBA, so in busy nights it will essentially serve as my "main" computer instead of my ultraportable.
  6. NicoleRichie macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2007
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    I think it all comes down to how much screen real estate you need. I could not go less than a 13 because of programs I use. I tend go need a little more space.
  7. B.Chang thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    If you don't mind me asking, what kind of programs do you tend to use?

    I will be doing basic MS Office work with Doc, PPT, or Excel; Research/browsing on internet; and the most intensive will be programming on Eclipse and Matlab. Do you or anybody reading this have any experience on these with an 11" vs a 13" screen? I have difficulty gauging at the Apple store myself.
  8. NicoleRichie macrumors 6502

    Jun 30, 2007
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    No games, Logic, FCP, finale, iLife, ms office, and safari are the main programs. Any heavy lifting is saved for my iMac. Air gets used 60-70% of the time.
  9. Dominus Mortem macrumors regular

    Aug 3, 2011
    I think it comes down to how long you will need to use the computer away from an electrical outlet. If more than 2 hours you're going to find that 11" battery life cutting short you work, possibly. I am returning to college and I'm taking the 13" Air for that use. I will be needing it for 3-4 hours and the 11" battery doesn't last long enough to hold me that long.
  10. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    i'm assuming that you are on campus with access to an electrical outlet. in that case, i'd definitely say the 11". it is actually quite nice (i spent a couple of years or so on netbooks, and it beats them hands down). 13"is ok, but it is not as portable, and it sounds like you are someone who would really benefit from the portability. if there is any possibility you can try it in a store, i recommend doing that. people have very different reactions to the screen real estate.
  11. B.Chang thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    Although outlets will be available, I do still have classes to take and they last for stretches of up to 4 hours on some of my days. I know the advertised battery life is 5 hours, but will it realistically last this long from MS Office and browser use?
  12. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    i don't know the answer, but from what i have read on the forums, if you reduce the screen brightness and perhaps turn off flash in your browser (you ought to do this anyhow) then it seems possible to me. but, rather than chance it, the 13" is the safe bet. it is still (obviously) very portable and with the larger screen real estate you'll at least be sure that it's enough for your needs.
  13. aeboi macrumors 65816


    Sep 20, 2009
    Bay Area
    I used a 13" pro for two semesters and that was barely enough if I had more than 2 or 3 lectures with a bit of browsing and other fiddling around. The 5 hours "rated" battery life would never cut it for me. You're only sacrificing less than 0.7 lbs for the increased battery life and bigger screen. Well worth it IMO.
  14. B.Chang thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    Thank you for the replies and the input. It is a tad disappointing that the only reason that I will go to the 13" though is due to insufficient battery life, as the portability would have been nice.

    I was wondering, would it be valid/ethical/possible to purchase the 11" and then return it for the 13" if the battery life is insufficient for my needs?
  15. The Catalyst macrumors 6502

    Dec 4, 2009
    If you purchase your MBA straight through Apple they give you a 14 day return window, no questions asked. That should give you more than enough time to try out the 11" and see if it is or isn't the laptop for you.
  16. deadlystriker macrumors regular


    Jan 15, 2011
    I'm in the same situation as you. Have a 15" MBP at home connected to ACD. Used to have to decide during the start of day whether to bring the MBP out or not. When the 2011 airs came out I picked up an 11" to try it out. My response is positive (regarding size and portability). Now I don't even spend time thinking, just bring the 11" MBA out with me everyday. It is just that light and convenient.

    Battery life is only an issue when I spend late nights in university (till 10pm), which is twice a week. I then bring the power adapter as there are power outlets in campus.

    The experience with lion was complete opposite though, I returned it and got a refurbish ultimate 2010 model. Needless to say this is a keeper, my only regret is not getting it earlier when they first came out in oct 2010.

    If you're still unsure, give the 11" a try and if you don't like it, exchange it within 14 days for the 13". My opinion is that with already a 15" MBP, the 13" wouldn't feel like "another" machine as much as the 11"
  17. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    I don't know if this will be a possible solution for you, but I use my iPad for most of my work (reading, class notes, book notes, dissertation drafts, etc.). Hook up a bluetooth keyboard and it is great for taking notes, it costs half as much as the air, it weighs about the same, it doubles as an e-reader (i digitize everything), and it has twice the battery life. Alternatively, syncing an iPod up works really well too. I sometimes do this.

    obviously, one of the major drawbacks is that it cannot (as far as i know) use the software you mentioned. if that is something you absolutely need when you are on campus, then you'll want to try one of the airs. you'll probably like the 11", but if it isn't working out for you, it seems fine to exchange it for a 13" later.
  18. minnus macrumors 6502

    Aug 12, 2011
    I'd go with the 13". While the 11" will satisfy all your use cases, I believe that your productivity will be much higher with the higher resolution of the 13". If you're carrying around a 15" Pro now, both 11" and 13" will seem like a vast improvement weight wise.

    All I know is that when I am programming - the more I see, the better.
  19. Dominus Mortem, Aug 13, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011

    Dominus Mortem macrumors regular

    Aug 3, 2011
    That 5 hours is a best case scenario and involves compromises that make using the computer difficult and unrealistic. Using Word for taking notes, writing papers and also browsing (assuming you are using WiFi) and you have brightness at about 2-4 clicks above halfway (you might get away with the middle setting in a dim lecture hall) you're going to see around 3 hours and sometimes when I've had flash going it was more like 2 1/2. That is what I get on the 11" doing those activities. My 2010 13" however, doing the same thing gets a whopping 5 1/2 to 6 hours. My 11" is the 2011 I5 1.6ghz model. It's great, but the battery just falls short of good enough for long sessions on campus.

    To those who say the 13" isn't that portable, compared to what? A cinderblock? You're not going to notice the difference in weight. Do this: Go to a store with a friend, close your eyes, have him or her hand you one of each by the edge (so that you cannot judge the size by feel) and see if you can guess which is which. I couldn't discern the weight difference with my eyes closed. I have both, I can speak from experience, the portability for your purposes is the same with both. Sure there are cases where the 11" is more desirable but you're asking about college, to which I say the 13" seems almost like it was tailor made just for that use. You can get away with a 11" for long sessions if there are electrical sockets available but how likely is that going to be? Perhaps you can go to the forum between classes and power up but those areas get busy and you may not get a socket every time. You can save yourself all that unnecessary hassle by buying the 13". You have bigger things on your mind in school, you don't have time to also worry about finding power all the time.
  20. PaulWog Suspended

    Jun 28, 2011

    It's all the screen space you'll need on the go. If you have a computer at home, then you have that extra screenspace when you get home. I find 11 inches or 13 inches are both too small when I'm doing a ton of research with a ton of webpages up and other things going on my screen. I work with a 27-inch screen on my desktop.

    For college, I prefer the 11-inch since it's very small. It doesn't stand out in a classroom.
  21. B.Chang thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    So I'm planning on picking up the 11" this afternoon, however a colleague actually told me today that he heard that the i7 upgrade creates significantly more heating issues for the new MBAs . . . how significant is this???
  22. DMVillain macrumors 6502a

    Jul 20, 2011
    I have a 4GB RAM 64 GB 11", i am a senior in college. I use a portable external drive that gives me an extra 320 GB of memory. If you can, get more than 64 GB but other than that, I love it.
  23. VMMan macrumors 6502a

    Mar 29, 2009
    Do you want mobility or just a light, portable laptop?

    I wanted mobility, so I got the 11" and use my MBP 17" when I'm at home.

    But even at home, I find myself just using the 11" most of the time.

    I even use it for Xcode and am surprised by its capabilities.
  24. B.Chang thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2011
    Thanks for all the feedback and help everybody.

    I tried going to the Apple Store, but they didn't have the model I wanted so I just ordered it online.

    Got the 11" with i7, 4 GB RAM, and 128 SSD. :]
  25. Razzz macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2011

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