Looking to buy my first Mac, need advice

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Rhyno37, Jul 23, 2011.

  1. Rhyno37 macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    I have been using computers my whole life, I even taught my self how to build them. After being a Windows user, I'm looking for a different pace. I'm looking to get a smaller laptop, as I already have a large gaming rig that satisfies all my needs.

    I'm looking at the 13" Macbook Air and the 13" Macbook Pro.

    I have done a lot of research and still cannot make a decision. This will be used for writing papers for college, and carrying around at home, browsing the internet, email, that sort of stuff. Maybe some games (I have a ton on steam).

    I am stuck because on one hand the Macbook Pro is cheaper, and more powerful. But on the other hand the Macbook Air was just updated (Everyone says to wait on the Pro, but I can't wait till 2012), has an SSD, and supposedly better screen.

    I even went to bestbuy and that didn't help. So I'm looking to you guys for advice.

  2. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    If portability is your main decision factor for the next Mac, then the latest Air models are very powerful in comparison to the previous models.
    Now if you want to run some games on it, then the MacBook Pro might be a better choice, however if you already have a PC machine for gaming it doesn't make much sense.
    Maybe an iPad with a bluetooth keyboard might also fit your needs, and will be less money.
    I'll say if you want a more versatile and powerful portable Mac get the MacBook Pro, if want you do with it is not that intensive the Air or an iPad will be enough.
    Remember that you can always connect any of them to a bigger screen monitor or TV.
  3. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    In essence, it is a a choice, or trade off between power and portability.

    On the one hand, the MBP offers greater power, more spec and is undoubtedly better value for money. On the other, however, the MBA offers amazing portability, excellent screen resolution and the speed (and stability) of the SSD.

    You must ask yourself what you need the computer for. I have had both the MBP (15" version) which I sold, and, more recently, the MBA, which is my current computer. Both were and are excellent, but the MBA answers my needs better at the moment as I travel a lot, and value the portability.

    If you are a big gamer, or into heavy use of graphics, that the MBP would be a better buy. However, for your stated needs, I'd suggest you go with the MBA.

    Good luck with it.

  4. MooseBlood macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Take this for what it's worth. I've been a Macbook user for a bit over 4 years. I was somebody that hated the iBook that work gave me because it was a PIECE. But the Macbook grew on me quickly and was the greatest computer I've ever owned. I had no problems with it after years of rough use.

    I was discussing this issue the other day with a friend who was responsible for a large number of computers at a major university in his previous job. He was responsible for several hundred Macbooks, several hundred Dell laptops, and there was a small percentage of professors who had made the move to Macbook Airs (the last generation of course, not the newest ones). They did this specifically for the portability issues you mentioned since they were frequently moving from their office, to different classrooms, to home, and then into his department when they needed service, updates, additional software installs, etc.

    In his experience (just anecdotal evidence of course), about 90% of the people who had chosen the Air regretted it. They felt that the things they thought they could live without were non-issues before choosing their computers, but after using them for a bit they realized how much the weight difference just wasn't worth the tradeoff in what they were losing. These people weren't spending any money on them, so that wasn't part of the issue. It was just the fact that they found times where they could have used the optical drive, or that they'd run out of storage space frequently and end up having to use an external drive. Plus the fact that this model only had 2 USB ports made this a pain because once they hooked up the external and an external mouse or other peripheral then it all of a sudden wasn't so light and portable anymore. It was just a laptop that required additional items to get it up to speed.

    The other issue was with Applecare which surprised me. When they'd call Dell, they were sent out parts for repair immediately (which doesn't surprise me considering how Dell gets the big university accounts and realizes their components are cheap). Then Applecare was great about the Macbook Pros as far as getting parts out and trusting the tech's when they would diagnose over the phone after troubleshooting with the Applecare tech. Then when dealing with the Airs, they'd be told that they couldn't do anything and it had to be sent in to be looked at and a determination would have to be made about the cause of the problem. Inevitably it was labeled as a "user damage" type of situation. It seemed that no matter what happened with the Air that it was always thrown back on the user due to the fact that the computers were so thin and seen as fragile. Maybe it was true, maybe it was not that the user had caused the problem, but Apple seemed to be easy-going on the Macbook Pro (and regular Macbook that was just discontinued), but the Macbook Air was always an issue. The techs couldn't do anything to service them anyway (like upgrade RAM and such), and Apple wouldn't let them touch them due to the way they were built.

    So.... if you were to have a problem with an Air then you were without a computer for an extended period and likely told it was your own fault. To me it isn't worth the tradeoff. The reason I was asking him is because I've been deciding between the two for my wife who has an iPad and a 17" HP laptop for work, but likes her 5-ish year old white Macbook that is due for replacement. I've decided to go with the 13" Macbook pro because it is much more portable than most computers, and seems to be the best of all worlds in comparison to everything else out there, and we won't have any issues with the Air which still seems a bit of a risk considering it will be in a bag at times, used by our kids at times, etc. It just isn't worth the risk for something that has less storage, less overall capabilities, and is a potential warranty issue away from being a lot of wasted cash.
  5. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    One thing to consider about the SSD drives, the Air is stuck with what they come with, same thing for the RAM.
    The MBP you can maximize the RAM and replace the HDD with an SSD, and also replace the optical drive to put either another HDD or an SSD.
    I have a late 2008 15" MBP with an SSD drive running Lion and a 1TB HDD for Snow Leopard and data/libraries, with 8GB RAM, and it is working pretty fine. So with the Air you might loose some upgradability.
  6. malman89 macrumors 68000

    May 29, 2011
    Go for whatever setup is cheapest for you that meets your needs.

    They both have the same GPU, so I don't see why people keep saying MBP, MBP for gaming (unless we were talking about the 15" with the 6770). How many games - especially ones you'd even consider running on the MBA or MBP - are CPU intensive these days? Not as much.

    They're practically one in the same. Same GPUs, one has a weaker CPU, but SSD vs. HDD comes into play. They're probably going to crank out within a small range the same FPS as the other.

    Really, just wait a few days for some benchmarks to come out and see if that claim isn't true, but I'm betting it is. Will a few FPS matter with a Steam game? I think not. Go for the cheaper option
  7. Rhyno37 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    The base model 13" MBA is $1249 with the student discount, and the base model 13" MBP is $1349 with discount and an SSD, $1099 with the discount.'

    Is the screen on the MBA that much better? How so?

    Also, can I get the student discount from Best Buy since they are a retailer? There are no other stores near by.
  8. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    BestBuy could do a price match? Not online price but retail store price match against Microcenter?
  9. Rhyno37 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    So what would I do? Just print off the online price from Microcenter?
  10. FrankHahn macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2011
    According to your description, a newly-refreshed MacBook Air satisfies your needs. You can BTO your Air at the Apple Online Store according to your actual needs.
  11. redkamel macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2006
    Ive owned one of every mac except for the pro over the last few years.

    The Air is my favorite. Especially for what you describe, you would be total fine. If you need a disc drive, get the external...the disc sharing is slow and restricted. I have one, i only use it to burn the occasional CD for a friend, or install school software.

    The only real constraints with the Air are:
    1. "Low" storage. If you have LOTS of music, movies etc and need them on your computer, its going to be tough. I recommend an external drive or referenced files if need be. DiskInventoryX will break down your hard drive space usage for you. That being said I have 80 gigs of music, a 14 gig referenced Aperture library, and everything on my 256gb Air with room to spare.
    2. Not very good at running games and such. But there are many indy games that are fun with low graphics requirement.

    A macbook Air will always be my primary computer. I like it that much.
  12. dlimes13 macrumors 6502a


    May 3, 2011
    Perrysburg, OH
    This is just my opinion, but I would go with the MacBook Pro for a few reasons:

    1: Price

    It's obviously cheaper in price, and could come into play with my next reasons

    2: Upgradability

    With the Air's, you are stuck with what you have in terms of RAM/SSD. The MBP, you can put in your own RAM and SSD, for a fraction of the cost of a BTO option on Apple Online. For example, my setup is a 120GB Vertex 3 SSD + a 750GB 7200 RPM HDD in my Optical Drive Bay (OptiBay), and I wouldn't trade that for maximum portability any day. I don't want to be locked down to the amount of RAM or HDD/SSD space I can use.

    3: Ports

    The 13 inch has more ports, like a built-in Ethernet port, FireWire 800, and of course the Optical Drive (some people still use it). You get all of the ports the MBA does, plus more for cheaper.

    4: Battery Life

    Both are around the same battery life in comparison with each other, despite the MBP having more ports and being more powerful (not just from Apple's specs, but from personal tests trying out both models for fun).

    Other thoughts:

    Granted, the MBA has a better resolution (1440x900) then the MBP (1280x800), so if resolution is important to you, maybe go with the MBA, or upgrade to 15 MBP. They both have the same Intel HD 3000 video card, so there's no comparison here. And in terms of portability, the MBP is just as portable as a MBA. A couple of more pounds isn't going to kill you. Hell, I consider my 17 inch MBP a very portable machine, IMO. Overall, the MBP 13 is indeed the best trade-off of both worlds.

    Either one will work fine for what you want to do, but if you plan on keeping it for more than a year, as a long term investment, stick with a MBP. The ability to upgrade it later on will come into play, trust me.

    But of course, this is just my 2 cents. Only you can make the ultimate decision.

    EDIT: Plus you should have the ability to downgrade to Snow Leopard if Lion is too buggy for you at first with the MBP. MBA, you're stuck.
  13. Rhyno37 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    Thanks for the responses guys, I'm still having a hard time! It seems both have their pros and cons, which equals them out.

    My only worry with the MBP is its at the end of a cycle, where as the MBA was just renewed. What's your guys' take on this?

    Looking at prices, I can get either from Best Buy for about $30 more than the Apple Online store with the Student Discount. I would gladly pay this to pick it up in store. I just had a few questions about this:

    Do I still get the $100 app store credit from Best Buy?

    Both prices are before tax, and would have to include it, correct?

    Which store would you guys order from?
  14. KylePowers macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2011
    Best Buy gives you a $100 Best Buy giftcard... and I'm not sure, but I don't think they do the $100 printer rebate.

    For me the choice is easy: 13" MBA. Why? Because 1280x800 on a 2011 13" laptop is stupid. I would decide on that factor alone.

    An MBA has 4GB of RAM just like an MBP. The base MBA wipes the base MBP across the floor in terms of hard drive performance. They both have the same battery life. You already have another computer with a disc drive, so DVD sharing is simple enough. Ports are a moot point if you don't plan on utilizing them (I don't remember the last time I used an ethernet cord and I know for a fact I've never used a FireWire port)... besides, there's USB adapters for everything, there will be Thunderbolt adapters for everything, and in the end, you still have another computer that probably has all those ports anyway.

    I think the 2011 MBAs are priced extremely well and I'd say you'd actually get just as much for your money as you do for an MBP (SSDs are expensive!)

    Also, the SSD in an MBA is upgradeable. I don't know why people are saying it isn't?
    *I do not own either of them

    EDIT: Personally, I feel the weight of a 13in MBP compared to a 13in MBA to be drastically different. It's over a 1.5lb difference, which you'd think wouldn't make much of a difference... but it does. And if I already had a powerful rig, I'd want something very portable and light. But I mean, if you're just going to carry it around in a bookbag or something, then yeah, maybe you won't notice the weight difference.
  15. Rocco83 macrumors 6502

    Jul 3, 2011
    Think about it this way, the MBP might be coming to an end of a cycle, but it still out performs the Air as is and is cheaper while barely being heavier. Seems to me that the 13" MBP would be the better buy anyway you look at it. I carried around a 17" during all my years of college and never had a problem with it. People who complain about having to carry around the weight of a normal laptop make me laugh. just my .02
  16. oklaonion macrumors member


    Mar 24, 2011
    Speaking as someone who used a 13" MBP for school I certainly can recommend it. The thing you have to know is that MBPs are very thin and light too. I switched from a good Sony Vaio laptop and suddenly I was carrying 5 lbs less. The MBP felt like nothing was on my shoulder while walking around campus. The Air of course will only be lighter, but the MBP is no heavy machine. It would definitely be the best bang for your buck. Since you like to tinker and build you may enjoy the extra flexibility of the Pros. I bought the entry level Pro and have upgraded the RAM and hard drive.

    That said, You can't really go wrong either way. Both are drop dead sexy. I'd say take the plunge with one and if you don't like it exchange it for the other.
  17. JJHello macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2011
    I was in the same boat as you, and I just took the plunge to get a macbook yesterday.

    I decided on.. the 13' MBA.

    And I actually didn't factor in portability in my decision as much, either. Both the MBA and MBP are portable machines. MBP is only about a pound or two heavier, which literally means nothing.

    It definitely was a hard decision--I remember waiting since the new MBP's came out, so I spent the longest time deciding. However, the new Airs made the decision a lot more easier.

    The MBP is a good machine, however if you look across the line of pros, the 13 inch really does get the short end of the stick with the lack of a dedicated graphics card and quad core. Also another factor was the beyond-mediocre 1280x800 resolution. Everyone may say that an advantage for the MBP is that it's possible to upgrade/swap out the internals, but the screen is something you can't just take out like RAM or harddrive. Unless you're gonna dish out extra cash for an external monitor, you'll have to manage with that resolution for the rest of your macbook's life.

    Overall, I just thought the MBA was more future-proof with it's SSD too (vs a 5400rpm harddrive). Then again, I just didn't want to deal with swapping out things/adding a data-doubler.

    In terms of performance, the new Airs actually hold their ground quite well. The 4GB ram and HD3000 graphics are a wash--the only notable difference is in processors but according to recent benchmarks, they're actually pretty close--despite the differences in clock frequency, the turboboost speeds of both are closer which may be the reason they benchmark about the same.
  18. ebow macrumors 6502a


    Apr 30, 2001
    Trapped in a world before later on
    Another data point to consider: Even though the MacRumors Buyer's Guide states that the MacBook Pros are "Approaching the end of a cycle", look at the actual numbers. It was released on Feb 2011, approximately 150 days ago. The last two model updates were over 300 days apart. The cycle average of 215 must be a very-long-term average, because it's lower than any of the past 5 cycle lengths.

    So take the Buyer's Guide's assessment with a grain of salt.

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