Is the MacBook Air powerful enough?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by jesstwy, Nov 27, 2015.

  1. jesstwy macrumors newbie

    Nov 27, 2015
    Hi, I am a college student and I've been bouncing from the pro to the air.
    I would use this laptop mainly for homework, surfing the web, etc.

    However, I want to keep this laptop for a long time, which is what is pushing me towards the pro. The 8gb of ram will come in handy for use even after college when it becomes my main laptop.

    On the other hand, I have a beautiful 17" HP (2 years old) which I use for some games and photoshop, which pushes me towards the air with 4GB.

    I will be buying one and splitting the payment with my parents later today on Black Friday as a combination Christmas/birthday present.

    What are your opinions on both computers and what do you suggest?
  2. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Both are capable machines, but Retina is better bang-for-buck.


    - More RAM as standard
    - Quicker RAM
    - More ports including HDMI
    - New Force Touch trackpad
    - Better CPU
    - Better GPU
    - Faster Flash
    - Better display

    MacBook Air:

    - Better battery life
    - Lighter

    In the interest of longevity, I'd encourage you to pay the extra towards the Retina MacBook Pro.
  3. page404 macrumors regular


    Mar 5, 2013
    The Netherlands
    I agree with keysofanxiety. Although the Macbook Air is just fine for typical daily use and some more, the display is small and the rMBP is more "next-generation".
  4. Cheffy Dave macrumors 68030

    Cheffy Dave

    Feb 5, 2007
    Sunny Florida, on the Gulf Coast in Homosassa Fl

    My 2008 15" MBP, is zipping along with 6 GB Ram, and a 2 year old SSD, that's longevity!
  5. cerberusss macrumors 6502a


    Aug 25, 2013
    The Netherlands
    Don't forget to add an external drive that's exclusively for Time Machine purposes. Alternatively, get an account at BackBlaze for online backups.

    And personally, I always get a casing (from Speck or some other decent case manufacturer) and a decent sleeve and bag. You might want to get an insurance (not at the shop you're buying, that's far too expensive) against water damage, theft, etc.
  6. macbook_21 macrumors regular

    Nov 28, 2015
    In yo' bizness
    I have an early 2008 macbook. I am upgrading with a 6GB RAM kit, and replacing an aftermarket battery after just a year, with....another aftermarket battery. I can probably get about 4 hours or so carrying two batteries. Not an ideal solution, but far less expensive than ponying up for a new computer.

    How good is your battery life?
  7. Melrose, Dec 3, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015

    Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    There's a balance to be had.

    I considered the rMB against the 13" Air, and went with the Air. I don't need high-res and the extra power you need to run the heavy pixel load diminishes any power boost you might have. Coupled with only one lousy godd*mn port and hefty price premium for a not so powerful processor, it was an easy choice. The Air is a tremendous little workhorse that easily thumps the overpriced rMB. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

    Reps at the Apple Store even directed me away from the rMB if I was doing any kind of work. Quote: "It's great for basic stuff if you need a portable computer that can do email and play music."

    The only way I'd call the rMB "next-generation" is in the "display" and "complete lack of convenience connecting it to anything other than a power cord" departments. Power-to-price it's actually pretty lame; look at the specs: $1500 for a 1.5ghz processor? Big whoop. I saved $200 and have a 2.2 Broadwell, with better battery life, better performance, more expandability, and equal portability.

    If you want a high-res screen in a laptop, buy the rMB and prepare for stuttering when running medium-intensive tasks. If you can live without 330dpi (most people can if they set aside snobbery) you'll be much happier with the Air. From 18" away you can't see the pixels regardless, and I'm guessing you won't be using your computer at a 45º angle so the color depth is neutralized.
  8. David58117 macrumors 65816

    Jan 24, 2013
    The underpowered argument is very exaggerated.

    I bought the base model expecting a hindered processor after reading tons of posts like the above - and don't find that to be the case.

    I can have a document in word open, Sibelius playing a midi I'm working on, skim open with two large PDFs I'm annotating, safari with 3 tabs open, essential anatomy 5 modeling muscles, and 3 desktops open - activity monitor says there is high 80% to low 90% system idle, - and everything is very smooth.

    And I'm coming from a 15"...

    It also feels smaller than my 11" air, and the old slip case for the air is actually too big for it.

    If you're going for portability - go for portability!
  9. Melrose, Dec 4, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2015

    Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    I based my opinion on what Apple salespeople told me, and my own research, specifically based on my workflow. The only thing the rMB has going for it the screen; you can save a couple hundred and get more power. If anyone has a need to plugin in anything other than the power cord, even once or twice a week, that single USB 3 port will get old very quickly. I think it sacrifices usability for marginal portability - because, honestly, you can't tell me it's drastically more portable than the 13" Air and it is equally portably as the 11" - and less powerful, and more costly.

    By all means, the OP should go to an Apple store, describe his heaviest type of workflow, and accept what the rep says. If they tell him the rMB would be okay, likely he'll be fine with it. Apple reps aren't out to sell stuff - they don't get a commission and the Air is cheaper. But the notion that the Air is old, outdated, or stodgy, or non-portable, or underpowered is simply not true.

    I guess also the perspective shifts based on what we use: rMB users decry the Air, Air users decry the rMB.

    So, let's politely disagree. :)
  10. jmoore5196 macrumors 6502a


    May 19, 2009
    Midwest US
    Such is the peril of being a MacBook Air fanboy. Usability trumps the small (about a third of a pound) weight savings. My 11" MBA can handle whatever I throw at it. I refuse to spend my time dealing with the single-port limitation, the inability to dock the rMB to my ATD, and the inevitable slowdowns that will accompany some of the audio and video work I do with current Creative Cloud apps.
  11. Melrose, Dec 5, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015

    Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    Now that's what I'm talking about. :) The Air is an underrated powerhouse; being practical or having common sense isn't fanboyism.

    If you look at the officials specs, there's not much comparison: The rMB is .3lbs/.9lbs lighter and comes with some perhaps tasteless bling in exchange for a whacking great difference in processor, and equal or worse battery life, for an entry price up to $400 higher. And that's ignoring the Brontosaurus-femur-sized bone of contention about the number of ports.
  12. Mainsail macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2010
    First, to answer your (OPs) question, of course the MBA is powerful enough for the typical college student doing the things that you described. I hope nobody is suggesting that you can't do homework, email, web browsing etc. on a base MBA.

    My daughter has been using a base MBA for about 2.5years at university (Junior at William and Mary). My son uses a base MBA for high school. I use a base 2011 MBA at work. I have a base 2014 MBA at home. All 4 of these computers operate smooth as butter and have been incredibly reliable. If you go onto a college campus you will see tons and tons of students using MBAs. It might be the most popular laptop (next to the old MBP with the DVD drive).

    Don't believe the hype that you can not possibly function without 8GB of ram and retina is just pure BS. The operating system and applications are getting better and don't hog memory like the old bloatware days.

    You can get great deals on the MBA. I bought my 2014 base MBA 13 inch brand new for $750 at BB (sale price less student discount). Don't buy a backup drive. Backup your stuff in the cloud. You will always be connected on campus. Buy a simple sleeve for $35 on Amazon, don't buy a shell plus a sleeve. There are just a lot of overkill suggestions on these forums that push people to believe they need way more than is actually necessary. You can be very efficient as a student with a base MBA and an iPhone......and you will definitely want a smartphone on campus.....but that's a separate issue.
  13. markm49uk macrumors regular

    Mar 12, 2008
    Kingston Upon Hull, UK
    After a series of Macbook Pros I changed to the Macbook Air last year - the 13" i7 based unit - I upgraded the RAM to the max (8GB) and the storage to 512GB. I am a self employed IT Consultant and use this as my primary computer to run my business - primarily running multiple VM's in Parallels (Windows & Linux), Microsoft remote desktop sessions over VPN, large spreadsheets in Excel, PDF reading, external monitor linked up and lot's of browsing.

    This little computer is AMAZING - I never feel like it's struggling and the storage is blindingly fast so large files are opened and closed quickly.

    The main benefit is just how light this computer is - just great when travelling where you notice a real difference when hauling your gear around.

    To be honest I don't miss the Pro and am impressed everyday by the Air.
  14. cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502


    Apr 2, 2012
    Somewhere In Time
    Almost nobody complains about their MBA.
  15. ctg7w6 macrumors 6502

    Oct 23, 2014
    Love my MacBook Air, but will get a Pro next time around... But basically only because I want to easily run two external monitors (I've heard MBA can do it by using a USB port, but no thanks).

    I have every program open that I need at one time, which is about 7-8, including some database software, VERY LARGE PDFs, writing programs, etc. Never have any lag...

    Except the UI and stuff like that. It is MAC OS's fault that my 2015 brand new MBA has trouble with opening and closing animations of simple windows. It is the only explanation as the computer has no problem processing huge documents and the like.

    Bluetooth also interferes with Wifi for some reason.

    Again, I think these will be problems on the Air or the Pro for the most part... It is just Mac OS that needs to be optimized.

    Other than that, I am extremely surprised by how well my MBA runs for an "underpowered" device. Part of that, actually, is the optimization of Mac OS, I will be fair. But yeah, it would take some pretty special-use case scenarios to NEED a Pro.
  16. X Cruz 187 macrumors member

    Mar 12, 2011

    When did this post become about the air & rmb? The post is mb air vs "RMBP"
  17. X Cruz 187 macrumors member

    Mar 12, 2011
    What about heat I heard the i7 gets really hot when fired up using multiple apps.?
  18. MrXiro macrumors 68040


    Nov 2, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I second the MBA 13 inch. I just got my base model from Best Buy open item for $728 on Monday while it was on sale for $799 brand new.

    Today the 256gb model is $950 from Best Buy. I didn't need the extra storage as the MBA is my second computer but $950 ($865 open item) is a pretty good deal for the highest end non-BTO MBA!

    As for longevity and future proofing... in 2-3 years you will probably want to upgrade no matter what model you have. There will be a newer, better MBA (or what ever is replacing the line) and a new better MBP and you will want that one! Which ever model you buy now will "feel" outdated.
  19. akimoriRyuuji macrumors regular


    Jun 28, 2015
    Buy what you need. It's foolish to spend money you won't ever take advantage of. You hardly even need a Macbook Air let alone a Pro. You might be better off with a Chromebook and save your money and continue to play games on your HP. But if you're getting a Macbook, get an Air simply because you don't need to spend so much money for the Pro seeing as you're only doing light usage. As for games, I play stuff like League, Skyrim, etc. on my Air just fine. And it's definitely more portable.

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