Literally Weighing my Options

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Mr. Fahrenheit, Oct 12, 2011.

  1. Mr. Fahrenheit, Oct 12, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2011

    Mr. Fahrenheit macrumors newbie

    Oct 12, 2011
    Right now I am comparing three MacBook models: 11" MBA, 13" MBP, and 15" MBP

    11" MacBook Air:
    -1.8 GHz Dual-Core i7
    -4 GB RAM
    -256 GB Flash

    13" MacBook Pro:
    -2.7 GHz Dual-Core i7
    -8 GB RAM
    -256 GB Solid-State Drive

    15" MacBook Pro:
    -2.2 GHz Quad-Core i7
    -4GB RAM
    -256 GB Solid-State Drive
    -AMD Radeon HD 6750M

    I basically do five things with my current laptop (late 2009 MBA): take notes, write papers, browse the internet, watch movies, and play games. I know that all of my options can handle the first four just fine. It's the last one, (gaming) that I'm concerned about. Right now, my laptop just sits on a desk all day, but when I go back to college in the fall, I will need to carry it with me.

    I play mostly older games, such as Half Life, Half Life 2, Left 4 Dead, Portal, and StarCraft 2, but I want to be able to play Half Life 3 when it comes out (if it comes out). Also, I'm getting tired of having to turn the graphics all the way down and still getting bad frame rates with my crappy NVIDIA 9400m GPU. I want to make sure I can play these games smoothly on minimum settings. It would be nice if I could play them on high settings, or at least medium settings.

    I would like feedback from people who have owned these models (or similar models). Here are my four questions:

    1 - How well can the Intel HD 3000 play these games? I've heard that it's a pretty weak GPU, but anything's better than my 9400m, right? Please give me settings and fps where possible. Does it end up having low fps on low settings with newer games?

    2 - Does the 13" MBP get better gaming performance than the MBA? They both have Intel HD 3000 chips, but the MBP has a faster CPU (and GPU?), more RAM, and more VRAM. The only point I would see to getting the 13" pro would be if there was significant improvement for gaming.

    3 - How noticeable is the 15" MBP's weight in a bag? I'm going to be carrying this laptop around campus and I want to know if the 3 pound difference is noticeable on top of having 1 or 2 textbooks.

    4 - Which one would you get?
  2. mwayne85 macrumors regular

    Feb 11, 2009
    1: I'm not sure about Starcraft 2 or L4D, but I've seen Half-life 2 and Portal 2 run fine with the HD 3000 on medium settings. It's integrated so it can get a little laggy if you go higher (Portal 2 might be an exception). You can also check out barefeats article that compares portal 2 + WoW on High 1280x800:

    2: They use the same GPU, so they will be identical for the most part, depending on how CPU-intensive some of the games are. The barefeats article shows minimal difference, though (slightly better on MBP 13")

    3. It's definitely noticeable if you've used a MBA. :p If you've carried around a laptop before, and are used to the weight of standard laptops vs. ultraportables, then you probably won't notice much of a difference on top of a couple of textbooks (depending on the weight of those too, of course). A MBA you'll barely feel at all, to be honest.

    4. I'd go for an 11" or 13" Macbook air. Based on the needs you listed, it will suit you fine. But if you absolutely really want higher framerates and settings for your games, you'd need a dedicated GPU, in which case a 15" MBP or higher is your only portable option.

    Hope that helps.
  3. NorCalLights macrumors 6502a

    Apr 24, 2006
    After using the 13" MBA for a few months now, I can honestly say that I will never ever go back to using a 15" MBP. The weight difference is enormous.

    I can play SC2 on my MBA (it's the previous generation one) just fine. I've been told the Diablo 3 beta runs fine on it as well, so does Portal 2. Never played any of the Half Life games.
  4. Mr. Fahrenheit thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 12, 2011
    That link is very helpful. I won't be getting a 13" pro, then. I really wish they would have put a discrete graphics card in that model.

    I'm not an fps junky - the 9400m I use plays most games at about 25 fps average (more like 15 on SC2), and I'm used to it. I'm just sick of getting ~5fps under heavy loads when I already have all of the settings turned down as far as they'll go.

    What settings do you run SC2 at, and what fps do you usually get? Are you able to run it on medium settings? Are you able to play with shaders on?

    I love the form factor of the 11" Air, but I'm still tempted by the discrete graphics card in the 15" pro. Anyone else have opinions on this?
  5. chuffman15 macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2011
    Martinsburg, WV
    i was in the same situation and went with the high end 15"

    i did it to future proof my computer.
  6. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    have you considered the possibility of working with an ipad?

    everyone has their own way of doing things, but for me, going paperless has greatly improved life for me at university. i used to carry around a large backpack stuffed with books, my computer, and other paraphernalia. at home, i had bookcases full of binders, which were full of papers.

    now, i carry a man purse to school (basically, a small version of an over the shoulder mail bag) with my ipad and a keyboard. that's it. i got rid of the paper and binders, and i am working on getting rid of the books.

    of course you need a computer (i've got a 13" mbp at home), but usually not on campus, where you will spend time in lectures (i take notes on the ipad), outside class reading (i read my books on the ipad), and occasionally writing papers (the ipad can do this too). the ipad + keyboard is as light as the mba, enables you to read comfortably, has a battery life about twice that of the mba, and costs about half as much as the mba.

    give it a think. that might affect the computer you purchase. if you want details, i've started several threads about it. good luck in college!
  7. tears2040 macrumors 6502

    Aug 27, 2010
    How about you buy a Ps3 or Xbox 360 for video gaming.....

    Gaming on a computer really makes no sense unless you are rich..... Xbox 360 will be getting or has every single video game you want.
  8. jmpnop macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2010
    I don't like controller for certain games (especially FPS), I use a PC for gaming and its totally worth it. Its a personal preference though.

    To the OP: If you're seriously considering gaming, get the MBP 15. The games you mentioned aren't particularly demanding, they should be okay on MBA. Get maxed MBA 11" or 13".
  9. tears2040 macrumors 6502

    Aug 27, 2010
    So people would pay hundreds of dollars more if not thousands just to able to use a mouse? Also I think they have a mouse and keyboard for the ps3 anyways.
  10. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    The Intel HD 3000 is a significant improvement to older Intel integrated graphics, but overall it's still crap. It is certainly better than the 9400M, but not by much. I don't play games on the HD 3000 simply because it's too slow. It's fine with older games on the built-in display on both the Air and the 13" Pro, but otherwise forget driving an external monitor.

    The GPU on the 13" MacBook Pro is a little faster than the unit on the 13" MacBook Air, but not by much. The CPU on the 13" MacBook Pro looks faster, but the one on the MacBook Air isn't shabby either; the CPU on the MacBook Air will Turbo to 2.7GHz when possible. Yes RAM will be a limiting factor and the GPU takes up at least 384MB out of the 4GB total RAM.

    You'll note the screen resolution on the 13" MacBook Air to be higher than the 13" MacBook Pro, so if you games in full screen, the 13" MacBook Pro would perform better.

    I've owned the 11" MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Air, 13" MacBook Pro, 15" MacBook Pro, and the 17" MacBook Pro over the years.

    From what I feel, the 11" MacBook Air awesome that it's so nice and compact yet it's a very powerful machine. From a overall standpoint, the 13" MacBook Air isn't worth it as it has the same footprint of the 13" MacBook Pro yet offers slightly less performance for a higher price. However if I had to choose which one to buy, I'd pick the 13" MacBook Air over the 13" MacBook Pro over the screen resolution itself. The 15" for me is a right balance. It is a bit heavier than the 13", but not by much. You get a much faster CPU, a real GPU for your games, and most importantly an antiglare display choice. I think it's a good size and balance. Personally I didn't like the 17"; it was too big; I couldn't fit in my normal messenger bag nor could I really use when flying and such. The 17" isn't heavy per say, but it's just bigger than I'd like.

    Well I have a 15" MacBook Pro. It's fast.


    IMO, if you are deciding which one to play games on, I'd consider getting the 11" MacBook Air for use in school and keep a proper gaming desktop out of school.
  11. Mr. Fahrenheit thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 12, 2011
    I've decided to go for the 15" MacBook Pro, because it's going to be my primary machine and because I want to future-proof. If the Intel HD 3000 is bad now, I can't imagine it would do very well with whatever I might try to throw at it in the coming years. It feels suspiciously like the 9400m did back when I got the laptop I'm using now. I just hope the weight of the 15" doesn't become an issue for me.

    Thanks for all the responses.
  12. dsiee macrumors newbie

    Feb 20, 2011
    Rual NSW, Aus
    I know you've already made your decision but I just wanted to say, ihave a 15" MBP and carry it around school allday (with my ipad for some reason :confused:) and just make sure to try and track down as many digital versions of your textbooks as you can to really appreciated it.
  13. Mr. Fahrenheit thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 12, 2011
    That is a very good idea. Didn't think of that before, but I'll try that.

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