Is the 13" MBA enough computer?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by paynetc, Oct 24, 2010.

  1. paynetc macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    I've got a 2006 pre-unibody MacBook Pro with a 2.33gHZ Core 2 Duo CPU, 4GB RAM and a 7200RPM hard drive. I'm very drawn to the brand-new MacBook Air models, but I'm concerned about performance.

    Lately, I've been using my MBP to write (MS Word, OmniOutliner), do some basic data analysis in Stata and Excel, basic photo cataloging and editing (mostly in iPhoto) and web browsing.

    When I bought this MBP, I was using virtualization to run Windows and doing a lot of data analysis (ArcGIS, Access, SPSS, etc), so I needed the fastest mobile hardware Apple sold. But now I've got a workstation-class Windows PC for the Windows stuff.

    Raw computing power isn't at the top of my priority list anymore, but I certainly don't want my new computer to be slower than my old computer. Can anyone who has used the new MBA help shed some light on the real-world performance?
  2. MacLadybug macrumors 6502a


    Jun 6, 2008
    Me too...

    I'd like to hear some comments on this question too. I love my 13" Alum Unibody... but the new Air is interesting. I can't handle slow. What is the consensus out there?
  3. citron230 macrumors 6502a


    Dec 17, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    I sold my 2009 MBP 13" 2.53Ghz, 4GB RAM and purchased an MBA 13" 1.86 Ghz with 2GB RAM. I am student and use my MacBooks predominately for MS Word, Excel, web-browsing, Hulu Plus, YouTube, iPhoto, iTunes, and email. Last night I watched Modern Family on Hulu Plus without a problem. I also worked on a midterm in Office while streaming music from my 27" iMac and there was no problem there either. I love my new MBA and the only thing I really do miss is the illuminated keyboard but it isn't enough for me to want my MPB back. For me I think the new MBA is more than enough.
  4. C64 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2008
    It'll be faster than your current machine. Nowadays CPU power is way less important because most CPUs are powerful enough to do most basic things. Everyone might like you to believe that you need a quad core processor, but even the C2Ds can handle most things in their sleep. Only when you're using really CPU-intensive tasks like encoding videos, processing batches of large photos, etc. you'll notice that CPUs like the i5 and i7 are way faster. It doesn't mean the C2D cannot handle it, they'll just be slower. But we're talking a few more seconds or minutes here, and in some cases not being able to see realtime effects when applying heavy filters. So unless you know you need this CPU power, the C2D is fast enough for most things.

    What's more important is the hard drive, which is the bottle neck for most people in most situations. Many notebooks come with 5400RPM disks, but even 7200RPMs can't compare to SSD speed. Everything is faster using flash storage: opening up applications, documents, etc. Another advantage is that when you run out of RAM, your MacBook can read and write to the flash storage instead of to a much slower traditional HD. This will speed up many tasks as well.

    Other than that, the Airs pack a pretty good GPU that can handle quite a bit. Watching 1080p videos doesn't seem to be a problem, even with Flash when using Flash 10.1 which has hardware acceleration support, utilizing the processing power of the GPU instead of the CPU.

    Bottom line: there are a few trade-offs like less ports, no backlit keyboard and not being able to do upgrades to the RAM and (at least as this point it would seem) flash storage. But in terms of speed, don't underestimate this machine. If you'll be using it for VMs it'd be a good thing to upgrade to 4GB since you won't be able to do this later on. Flash storage is still very expensive. Upgrading to 128GB is still doable, but the price for 256GB is quite steep. You might consider simply buying a large external disk instead or a TimeCapsule for over-the-air storage.
  5. paynetc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    If I order a MBA, it'll be the maxed-out version. I've got a $2,000 budget, and at academic pricing the maxed out MBA just sneaks under that (including AppleCare, video dongles, etc).

    Squeezing into 256GB is going to be tough, though. I'll probably get a largeish SD card for extra storage. Since the purpose of the MBA is ultra-portability, I don't want to clutter my bag with external hard drives.
  6. paynetc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    Great to hear. I'm very interested in the MBA... the only thing holding me back is concerns about performance. The old MBA was unbearably slow to me, but it sounds like the new MBA performs much better.
  7. ProstheticHead macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    The new entry level MBA plays Starcraft 2 quite well on all low settings.

    That being said, it will be able to handle everything you throw at it.
  8. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010

    I think you'll be fine if you plan to use it for Office and basic iPhoto tasks. I have been using a Rev 2.1 with the SSD for the past 2 years and it works well enough. I'm upgrading to the new model (4GB and 256GB SSD) since I do use the Mac for virtualization and Windows 7 can use the extra RAM, but for Mac use it's been good.
  9. hachre macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2007
  10. rockyroad55 macrumors 601


    Jul 14, 2010
    Phila, PA
    I did the same exact thing. I'm very happy with my current one, but I do suggest getting the 4GB RAM since it is soldered to the motherboard.
  11. paynetc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    Thanks for the replies, all.

    I can only afford a new Mac about once every 4-5 years, so I tend to buy the upper end of the model that seems to fit my needs best at the time. Given that I've traveled about 8,000 miles* in the past couple of weeks, a MacBook Air seems right for me now. I can't go 11" for my one-and-only Mac, so 13" it is.

    Your comments regarding performance make me feel better about ordering it. I'll certainly like the battery life improvement over my 2006 MBP - and shedding all that weight will be great too.

    *Note: Not an exaggeration. I moved to Anchorage, Alaska in July and did two trips to the lower 48 in the past month, with another trip coming up next month and travel to Toronto scheduled for March. I haven't lived here six months yet, and I've racked up more frequent flier miles than in my entire lifetime!
  12. acb2m macrumors member

    Feb 15, 2008
    I also have a 2006 pre-unibody MBP on its last legs. I too can only afford 1 new computer every 4-5 years and like to max it out when I do. I'm going to the Apple store tomorrow to check out the 11 inch vs 13 inch but will probably go with the maxed 13 just because the 11 looks like it would be too small. God I can't wait to use an updated computer!
  13. henry72 macrumors 65816


    Jun 18, 2009
    New Zealand
    Just sold my MacBook Pro 13" 2.4, pretty good price ;)
    and ordered an 13" Air :D Can't wait
  14. paynetc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    I'm consistently amazed at the resale value of Macs, even old ones. It certainly makes upgrades a bit easier, doesn't it?
  15. MooneyFlyer macrumors 65816


    Nov 18, 2007
    I'm stressing about this as well. I played with both today. They both seem pretty quick. Obviously until you have all of your own stuff on the MBA it will be hard to tell but my gut tells me that the 13" with the SSD will seem faster than the 2.4G we have now.

    Of course, having said that, the 11" is the right size if you travel.
  16. paynetc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    Okey dokey, well, I ordered my MacBook Air 13" last night. I ordered the top of the line BTO model, 2.13gHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, 256GB storage, the mini display port -> DVI adapter, etc, and added a bit of an impulse buy: a 1TB Time Capsule.

    Apple's estimate is that the new laptop should be in my hands Oct 29-Nov 4.

    I'm still a bit nervous about the performance but it really sounds like the MBA should be fine for my needs. I'll report back after I've had a chance to play with it.
  17. acb2m macrumors member

    Feb 15, 2008
    Thats funny I just ordered the exact same computer with the exact same delivery dates. I think it will be more than adequate for our needs. Cheers!
  18. lasuther macrumors 6502a

    Feb 13, 2004
    Grand Haven, Michigan
    One misconception I see a lot is that the MBA uses a SSD, which it does not. The MBA has flash storage for the hard drive. This is slower than the fastest SSDs, but faster than a hard drive.
  19. GreyMatta macrumors regular

    Jul 29, 2007
    It's just an SSD without the case isn't it ?
  20. WMuntean macrumors regular

    Aug 23, 2007
    I just got the 13in and also use Windows VM for statistics (SAS). It runs well, but in my opinion, I wouldn't use it as a primary computer. If your dataset is reasonably small, then this thing can handle it without breaking a sweat. However, if you're manipulating large data (either in SPSS, SAS, or Excel) it'll push the bounds of this little beast -- sometimes even my 17in i5 chokes and I have to rely on the Mac Pro.
  21. paynetc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    That's helpful. I've got Stata/SE 11 on my 2006 MBP (running in OS X) and only had issues when running complex non-linear multi-level models. It ran but very slowly. I could do geographic analysis in ArcGIS 9.x in a WinXP VM on that 2006 MBP, but only if I was patient. When forced to, I also ran SPSS in that VM (I much prefer Stata).

    Luckily, I now have a 6-core Xeon PC with 12GB of RAM at the office that I didn't have when I bought my prior MBP. If I need Windows, I can use this monster workstation PC. :)
  22. justacquiesce macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2010
    Also Struggling on this one...

    Macbook Air 13" Max or Macbook Pro 13" 2.4 Model?
    I just recently purchased the base Macbook Pro 13 2.4Ghz machine and am still within the return period. I'm considering a Macbook Air 13" maxed out version, but not sure what the better value is.

    I'll be doing lots of web browsing, iTunes storage, iPhoto editing, occasional Illustrator and Photoshop creation and some Garage Band recording. I really do like the power of the MB Pro and the expandable ram up to 8GB. But love the light form factor and portability of the Macbook Air. Here's my comparison:

    MACBOOK PRO 13" 2.4 Ghz Processor
    Already upgraded to 320 GB 5400 rpm drive: $1250 for total MBP price
    Adding a 200GB Vertex SSD: $569.00
    Upgrading to 8GB RAM: $240
    TOTAL: $2,069

    MACBOOK AIR 13" 2.13 GHZ Processor
    Upgrading to 4GB RAM: $90
    Upgrading to 256 GB SSD: $90
    TOTAL: $1,882

    Based purely on price above, clearly the maxed out Macbook Air is cheaper, but for the long haul, will I see more power with the Macbook Pro 13" since I'll have 8GB RAM (vs. 4GB) and a faster processor 2.4 Ghz (vs. 2.13 Ghz)

    Any help would be greatly appreciated! Also trying to factor in other factors - better screen resolution on MB Air, but backlit keyboard and better iSight camera on MB Pro.

    Please keep in mind that both of these are an addition to my 2007 iMac 2.4 GHZ Intel Core 2 duo desktop. I want the laptop to last me the next 3 years at least. The other option is just keeping the Macbook Pro 13", not upgrading RAM or hard drive just now, and my price point would remain at $1250.

    Many thanks,
  23. paynetc thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    In your situation, I'd keep the MBP because: 1) I'm lazy and returning things kinda sucks; 2) the MBP is a darn good machine for the money.

    Unless you need ultra-portability, that is. Then it's hard to argue with the MBA.

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