iMac and MacBook Air, best of both worlds?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by NavySEAL6, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. NavySEAL6 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2006
    Hello there,

    Looking into replacing a 2010 MacBook Pro. I have the classic situation of looking into getting a desktop, laptop, or both. Here is my thought, and I'm wondering how practical it is. I would like to have an iMac as the "base." It would be used for all the file storage and heavy lifting. I also really like the 11" MacBook Air which has obvious limitations, but are covered by the iMac. I'm wondering how realistic it is to use logmein or something similar so I can use my iMac at all times, through the MacBook Air. How does this work? Does this work well even with heavy duty applications? Also what kind of specs would be needed in the Air? Would all gestures still work? Would I be losing out on anything by using it through this medium?

  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Its generally not that practical to own two computers and synchronize files and data between the two.

    I'm not saying its impossible, but rather you'll end up gravitating to one computer and largely ignore the other. if you have mobility needs, why not get a MBP and when its at home, plug it into an external monitor? That's my setup.
  3. NavySEAL6 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Dec 13, 2006
    That's basically what I have right now haha. My problem is that the 15 isn't very portable while 11 and 13 isn't very powerful.

    As for files, I really have no intention of keeping the computers in sync. I'd like the iMac to have everything, and the air to be essentially kept blank and only used to VPN into the iMac. I'm just wondering if I'm going to experience quality loss or lose native features such as trackpad gestures when using VPN.

    In other words I'd like to use the iMac at all times whether it be on the iMac or remotely from the laptop, and I want it to be seamless. Just wondering how realistic this is
  4. archfreak macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2014

    I use a MacBook Air and a MacPro (in the office) and sync certain files with the "chronosync" software. The software syncs both ways, manually or automatically while in the same WiFi or LAN. You can choose folders or files that you want to sync. Works great for me. No need for endless dropbox space...
  5. petvas macrumors 601


    Jul 20, 2006
    Mannheim, Germany
    I have an iMac and a Macbook Air and I keep my documents synced by using DropBox. Works great but might cost you money, depending on the amount of storage needed. I also use iCloud for all of my iWork documents and spreadsheets. I don't sync my Aperture library, but I have a copy of it on my Macbook Air, that contains a subset of my photos, and for music I use iTunes Match which takes care of any syncing by not even needing it in the first place. My music is in the cloud.

    You also mentioned if it's possible to connect remote to your iMac and do heavy duty work there. Of course it is and you can do whatever you want, but keep in mind that depending on the connection protocol (RDP, ICA or anything similar), you will have problems passing video and audio through. The iMac will be processing it normally, but because of bandwidth issues you will not be seeing it probably, or the experience won't feel smooth enough.
    The latest Macbook Air is powerful enough for most user cases and you could use it as it is, without your iMac. Only if you are doing really heavy stuff, like Video rendering then I would suggest you to use your iMac directly, or even connect remotely to it and start the rendering..This scenario would also work.
  6. Obi Wan Kenobi macrumors 6502

    Obi Wan Kenobi

    Mar 9, 2011
    London, UK

    I have both. I use them as you describe. iMac for 'heavy lifting', and as a 'base unit' for data storage at home, and sometimes I just need to use a larger screen. I take my 11" MBA everywhere with me, and use it for hours each day. I sync my files through Dropbox.

    I do not use my iMac via my MBA or a VPN as it would be slow due to the time delay caused by all data having to be processed over wifi, and or the internet. In my experience it is quicker to run the programs on my MBA directly. It's more powerful than many people appreciate.
  7. macgabe, Jan 15, 2014
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2014

    macgabe macrumors regular

    Dec 29, 2012
    I have both iMac and MacBook Air and use them as you describe, though don't sync many files. Personally I wouldn't want to clutter my desk with the Air-plus-large-screen - the big screen+keyboard is really why I need to have an iMac. I sit at my desk most of the day using large-screen keyboard-intensive applications, so a laptop wouldn't hack it for that. Though the Air keyboard is surprisingly good.

    The Air (recent purchase) is excellent and seems as powerful as the iMac. But it's not great for reading text - I don't know what they've done to the screen but it's a bit odd. Otherwise fantastic computer and great for travelling.

    Moving files between computers by USB3 to an external is very fast but involves plugging and unplugging. I can't say I'm very satisfied with AirDrop yet. It seems pretty flakey and involves going from one computer to the other to authorise, and then often times-out. Plus no computer to phone.

    I also have tried networking the computers but that also seems difficult to get right and you have to redo it every time you restart. I was editing files over a network (to my old iMac) until recently but that turned out to be an extremely bad and costly idea - my old iMac hard drive died and I found I didn't have a recent back up of a very important file, which I hadn't realised I was using on the other computer.

    So, much of the time I'm using Bluetooth file sharing now, which isn't ideal. I use Dropbox for some stuff but much less now that I know that they hand everything over to the US government.

    Basically, if I had a lot of files to work on, on both devices, which had to remain synced, it would be a problem. but fortunately I don't. Email, bookmarks, some pics and music, notes are synced in the cloud (Gmail/iCloud/Evernote).
  8. tgara macrumors 6502a


    Jul 17, 2012
    Connecticut, USA
    I have to say that I use an iMac (main machine) and an MBA (for travel), but maflynn's suggestion of one Mac is an attractive one. OP is replacing a 2010 MacBook Pro, which is a boat anchor compared to the new MacBook Pros with retina displays. My wife recently replaced her 2010 MBP with a 2013 MBP with retina, and the weight difference is dramatic. The whole machine is much lighter and much more easily transportable, in addition to being very powerful.

    The other issue the OP must consider is what screen size is needed, which turns on what type of work the OP intends to do with his machines.

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