Is the i3 Processor a poor decision?

clerkpalmer

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 20, 2016
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First off, I'm not much of a computer person. I have an iMac that is now 2 years old that works fine. We decided to buy our 10 year old a Macbook Air because his school is going remote learning in April. Last weekend, I ordered him a 2019 i5 model refurbished here only to learn that on Monday, Apple released the new MacBook Air. In my haste, I ordered him a base configuration i3 version and set up the 2019 for a return.

After watching the reviews trickle in, I now see almost uniform advice going for the i5 upgrade. I don't mind paying the $100, but the i3 has already shipped and would have to be returned and the i5 is 2 to 3 weeks for shipping. That said, this is a long term investment so I'll deal with the hassle if necessary.

While it may seem as though I've talked myself into it already, I do wonder whether he will see any differences in his real world usage. He will probably use the computer mostly for school work, you tubing, perhaps something like minecraft and whatever else young kids do these days. Based on my experience with my 2+ year old iMac, I have not noticed any slowdowns or performance issues. I would assume he will keep this for 2 to 3 years before asking for a new one.

As best I can tell, the i3 offers a 10% boost over the outgoing i5 (which I was content to purchase a week ago) whereas the new i5 is showing a 75% boost over its predecessor. Again, I understand the numbers but am trying to understand whether they will actual matter for our intended use.

Thoughts are welcome.
 

Saturn007

macrumors 6502
Jul 18, 2010
405
134
Unless you're using your iMac for work, why not return the one you ordered and let your 10-year-old use the iMac in the meantime? A couple of weeks shouldn't be that big a hassle to get a better laptop.

That could be all you need.

In any case, a $1,000 laptop for a 10-year-old seems like an expensive, amazing indulgence! I mean, there are college students who don't even have one! You could just get a basic iPad for him for the schoolwork and provide access to the iMac he needs to use special programs.

Still, I agree with those who endorse the $100 extra for the i5, quad core.

On the other hand, having him use *your* Mac will give you have a better sense — and control — of his time and browsing activities — especially if it's in a public area such as a living or dining room. There's an awful lot on the Internet that no 10-year-old should see or be exposed to — and I include trolling, political disinformation, hate speech in that.
 
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McGyverPro

macrumors newbie
Mar 22, 2020
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Hi
I think it should be fine for your usage. Gaming in general will likely be demanding on both i5 and i3 in the MBA because of the limited heat dissipation provided by the chassis and fan. These processors are excellent for tasks that only demand short bursts of power from the processor, such as general productivity apps and browsing, and the i3 version of the laptop/processor should remain cool and silent for such tasks.

For single core applications such as minecraft, a processor with double the cores should not show double the performance. I belive it could run ok, but some lag could be expected, especially when many graphical objects are rendered at the same time. As others have noted, the graphics solution on the i5 is better, but I do not think one should expect to see significant improvements on the i3 for a sustained processor load such as gaming. The difference will probably only be meaningful during rendering of short video, and while editing in photoshop.
 

TonyC28

macrumors 68000
Aug 15, 2009
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4,867
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I’m fairly confident the i3 would be plenty for my usage but I’m wondering if the i5 will offer a little future proofing and maybe extend the usable life. We currently have a 2011 iMac and 2012 MacBook in our house so new computers often is not really our thing.
 

vistokid

macrumors 6502a
Jun 26, 2007
512
295
OP you're not alone. I'm in the same dilemma as you. I ordered the base model right after it was announced and now am wondering if I should have stepped up to the i5.

I'm far from a heavy user but I think it's a good upgrade. The only thing stopping me is the fact that I have a feeling i'll be ordering the new Pro as I'm a total sucker.

Let me know what you end up doing! Good luck!
 

BornAgainMac

macrumors 603
Feb 4, 2004
6,404
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Florida Resident
Keep in mind even with the i5, there will be thermal throttling on the Air. I recommend stick with the i3 knowing you didn't get suckered into spending more money than necessary. If you need a more powerful Macbook, go with the next refreshed Macbook Pro 13 (or 14).
 

mtneer

macrumors 68030
Sep 15, 2012
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Wouldn't it be wise to give a kid just venturing on the internet an underpowered machine, just like you wouldn't hand over keys to a muscle car to a 16 year old?
 

G5isAlive

macrumors 6502a
Aug 28, 2003
835
1,108
Wouldn't it be wise to give a kid just venturing on the internet an underpowered machine, just like you wouldn't hand over keys to a muscle car to a 16 year old?
Because he might crash in Minecraft too fast? Not sure I see your analogy. Most of the really bad stuff on the net is simple text or pictures, any Mac can handle that. No safety cushion that you are implying with the i3.

Get the i5. You might find you want to use it too. Macs can have multiple accounts. And who knows what you will want to do in 2 years? Sure the i3 is enough for today, but tomorrow?
 

kreasonos

macrumors 6502
Dec 4, 2013
336
302
The i3 is much faster than the previous generation's i5, check out the reviews on youtube where they run the benchmarks. It's a great processor.
 

clerkpalmer

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 20, 2016
89
29
Thanks everyone. Yeah, it's an extravagant gift for a 10 year old but much to my surprise, several of his friends already have them. Trying to do something nice for him given that we are all basically in isolation and I want to keep him motivated. As for internet etc., he already has an iPhone so we've been managing that as well.

I ordered the i5 version and will probably do the swap but we'll try out the i3 for a week before deciding. I feel a bit more future proof with the i5. As for giving him the iMac and keeping the Air for myself, that's a great idea!
 

mj_

macrumors 6502a
May 18, 2017
693
380
Austin, TX
I am honestly flabbergasted and speechless at some of the opinions stated in this thread. You guys do realize that we are talking about a 10-year old child, right? Not a (semi-)professional video editor, not a graphics designer, and not an accountant either. A 10-year old child. Let me repeat that: a 10 year old child. One that needs a laptop for home schooling in the next couple of weeks and maybe playing an undemanding game or two. And you guys are in all seriousness recommending a quad-core.

Has the world gone completely crazy?
 
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clerkpalmer

macrumors member
Original poster
Sep 20, 2016
89
29
I am honestly flabbergasted and speechless at some of the opinions stated in this thread. You guys do realize that we are talking about a 10-year old child, right? Not a (semi-)professional video editor, not a graphics designer, and not an accountant either. A 10-year old child. Let me repeat that: a 10 year old child. One that needs a laptop for home schooling in the next couple of weeks and maybe playing an undemanding game or two. And you guys are in all seriousness recommending a quad-core.

Has the world gone completely crazy?
LOL. Appreciate the perspective ... it's easy to get tied up in the reviews and slippery slope and by then my $999 machine costs $1500 which was never under consideration.
 

spooklog

macrumors regular
Aug 10, 2015
153
133
New Hampshire
I am honestly flabbergasted and speechless at some of the opinions stated in this thread. You guys do realize that we are talking about a 10-year old child, right? Not a (semi-)professional video editor, not a graphics designer, and not an accountant either. A 10-year old child. Let me repeat that: a 10 year old child. One that needs a laptop for home schooling in the next couple of weeks and maybe playing an undemanding game or two. And you guys are in all seriousness recommending a quad-core.

Has the world gone completely crazy?
I agree with you, but juggling hardware specs before a purchase--any purchase--is so often the way, especially in forums like these. It's also not the worst idea, since no one knows in the end how that computer will be used. And it isn't very different from anyone else daydreaming whether to get the 512GB iPhone or the 256GB iPhone, or the 27" iMac or the 21" iMac. All these machines are excellent, but the promise of a new purchase is enthralling. It makes things interesting; it makes life fun.
 
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Falhófnir

macrumors 601
Aug 19, 2017
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Honestly I have to agree with @mj_ the i3 should be more than adequate even for playing minecraft. It's easy to overestimate how much power you will actually need/ use and the i3 offers plenty for the usage you've described. It's the latest gen chip, good single core performance and hyper threaded so it's really not as underpowered as many seem to be suggesting.
 

KPOM

macrumors G5
Oct 23, 2010
14,559
3,106
LOL. Appreciate the perspective ... it's easy to get tied up in the reviews and slippery slope and by then my $999 machine costs $1500 which was never under consideration.
But since the i5 is available for $1099 that’s the consideration. Also, you might qualify for the educational discount, which brings the i5 back to $999.
 
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magbarn

macrumors 68000
Oct 25, 2008
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Get the i3, the i5/i7 is just throttled all the time anyway. Especially when using the GPU in Minecraft. The kid isn't going to be rendering anytime soon so I'd rather have the cooler laptop.
 
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Yvan256

macrumors 603
Jul 5, 2004
5,041
912
Canada
I think most of the replies are not (only) about wether or not the entry-level model fits the current needs of his kid, but are also about future-proofing the laptop itself and also its future resale value.

And since the GPU of the i5/i7 is a bit better than the one in the i3, not to mention the jump from dual-core to quad-core, the 100$USD upgrade for the i5 isn't that much.
 

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