Macbook Air 11" for grad school

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Patrick946, Mar 1, 2011.

  1. Patrick946 macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    Hello all,

    I'm currently applying to grad school, and I'm looking to upgrade my laptop. I own a black 2006 2.0 Ghz Core Duo Macbook. I have upgraded the memory to 2 GB, bought a new 3rd party battery, upgraded the HDD to 160 GB, and bought a 500 GB external HDD. For my needs - writing, web surfing, listening to music, streaming movies, backing up/updating my iPhone 4 - it works perfectly well. The only issue I have with it is that it overheats and crashes really easily. I'm going to be starting classes in May, and the idea of lugging it around and keeping it running over the summer, and for the next three years, sounds daunting.

    I had been considering buying an iPad to use in class. It would do everything I want really well, but the lack of a keyboard and the reliance on my not-especially-long-for-this-world macbook are big negatives. Maybe tomorrow's iPad announcement will sway me, but I don't see it solving either of those issues.

    So, I'm considering selling my macbook and picking up a refurbished macbook air 11". Generally, I've read really good things about it. I'm hoping to get around $500 for my computer on Craigslist, and the refurbished 11" is only $850. I'm pretty much broke right now, so I'm not sure whether I'd be able to spring for any upgrades. I don't have any problem with screen size (I was planning to get an iPad anyway), and I should be able to work around the 64 GB limit with limited shuffling to the external HDD. Right now I'm taking up about 100GB in my macbook, but a lot of that is old movies and TV shows, and files that roommates have dumped on my machine.

    Basically, all that I'm worried about is that the processor is too slow and that 2GB of ram will become an issue with Lion. Everymac shows that the Geekbench score for my current computer is 2460, and for the base 11" air it's 2028. I don't know if that will be noticeable or become an issue. Also, I've heard that Lion is a memory hog, and 2GB sounds a lot smaller when there's no option to upgrade. My other option is to buy a white 2010 macbook (Geekbench 3365). On paper it looks better in every way, but reviews all agree that the air is deceptively fast. What do you guys think?
  2. iPhone1 macrumors 65816


    Apr 2, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    Lion runs fine now on 11" MBA's and it's only a developer preview at the moment.

    I do not think you'll find the MBA lacking in power. Specs aren't spectacular but they don't need to be. The SSD makes everything load quickly and the CPU is more than adequate for your needs. If you are worried about RAM, try finding an 11" refurb with 4GB of RAM. You WILL NOT be able to upgrade the RAM afterwards as it is soldered onto the motherboard.
  3. spacepower7 macrumors 68000

    May 6, 2004
    What subject are you studying in Grad School? If it is anything that requires MS Excel, I would highly recommend getting the 13" screen. 900 vertical pixels is great compared to 768 or the 800 of your current MacBook.

    I just finished grad school and used a black MacBook the entire time. The most annoying things about the MacBook are the loud fans, the DVD drive noise at start up, and my battery was only lasting for one class (didn't want to buy a new one). The 800 vertical pixels sucked for finance, accounting, statistics, and operations classes. All classes that required Excel.

    I'd forgo pizza and beer for awhile to buy the 13" MBA if I were you. :)
  4. simeezee macrumors member

    Jun 18, 2009
    $850 refurbished price is before tax right? If it's 850 shipped, that's a good price.

    Based on your needs, a base model of 11in ch MBA is good enough.

    I'm in grad school as well and sometimes I need to do some financial modeling with mass amount of computation. The 1.4GHz c2d simple way too slow for that.
  5. Patrick946, Mar 1, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011

    Patrick946 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    I'm studying Library and Information Science. The only school related uses will be:

    1) note taking and writing

    2) web browsing/research

    I'm sure the power is adequate for these basic tasks. I spent 20 minutes reading websites and writing a bit in the Apple store yesterday, and I have no issues with the screen size. The height isn't a big issue because I can resize windows and use most of the width.

    I'll be using the computer for a lot of non school-critical uses as well though, and I keep hearing mixed things about memory. Some people have said that 2GB is totally adequate, and that when it gets full it's not as big of an issue due to how fast the SSD is, but others have advised to upgrade it to be more future-proof. Would 2GB of memory be an issue for these uses: listening to music, streaming movies via netflix, watching downloaded movies, uploading pictures and movies from my iPhone 4? I know that the iPhone has some basic movie editing software, but I would consider doing some editing on my MBA as well. I would also consider doing some light gaming, but this is secondary since I own an PS3. I basically want to know what sort of tasks memory would become a bottleneck for, and whether it'll be an annoyance, or something that makes me want to sell my computer in two years.

    $850 is with free shipping, but I think I have to pay tax on top of that.
  6. namtaB macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    Why do broke students continue to buy Apples?

    Use the money you get from the sale of the Macbook and get yourself a new PC. It may not be what you want right now, but you're still a student. Don't buy a MBA that's out of your price range and then worry about issues with RAM and Lion. Just get a cheap well equipped PC to get you through school. My Thinkpad T42 went through grad and law school with me, rather than buy another laptop with money I didn't have, I just extended the warranty and was covered those 5 years.

    There's no reason why you shouldn't be spending the money you get from selling your macbook to get a new affordable, well equpped PC.
  7. Patrick946 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    Your argument is impeccable. I will switch to an affordable windows based laptop posthaste.


    Ok, seriously though, I'm 28, I work full time and I'm going back to grad school. I could afford to get a 13" MBA Ultimate if I wanted to stretch my wallet, but I'm being thrifty and trying to buy only what I need. I have loans and other expenses, and I think that the base 11" MBA sounds like a decent trade off. I just want some advice regarding how it's actually perform, I don't need someone telling me to switch operating systems.
  8. Buck987 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 16, 2010
    why worry about Lion..get the 11 MBA and use ti to kick butt in school.

    the 2mgs will be fine for what you need.
  9. FuNGi macrumors 65816


    Feb 26, 2010
    Agreed that the 11" will be more than capable at the tasks you mention and you will undoubtedly end up taking it everywhere with you. If you can, I would max out the RAM though - I would definitely consider 128GB SSD as well if you plan on using this beauty for the whole 4-5 years. You will end up wanting to run 8 programs at a time and accumulating gobs of music.

    I just finished graduate school with a 2006 then 2008 15" MBP (sold and upgraded midway) and didn't like lugging the thing around but it did more than I needed.

    I now have the luxury of also owning a 4GB 13" MBA and it does everything I need it too do (stats, graphing, excel, word, browsing, photo editing, music streamin) all at the same time. What it doesn't do is store gobs of movies and Raw photo's. Oh, and I'm waiting for Netflips to ship movies on SD cards ;).

    My lady friend has the 11" and it seems quite capable but I can't get over the size.

    Another option for you to consider for upgradeability when you have more $$ is a 13" MBP from the refurb store.
  10. ritmomundo, Mar 1, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2011

    ritmomundo macrumors 68000


    Jan 12, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Get it.

    Based on your needs, the base MBA 11 will likely suit you fine. If anything, you can upgrade the hard drive (can be done later too).

    I've found that the 2gb of RAM is not a big deal considering the SSD will pick up a lot of the slack if ever needed (and for basic needs, such as yours, I think this should be adequate). If it were a regular HDD, then yes, I'd say definitely upgrade to 4gb, but thats not the case here.
  11. YMark macrumors 6502a


    Nov 7, 2008
    Just curious, what career are you pursuing with a graduate degree in Library and Information Science?
  12. namtaB macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    Penny saved is a penny earned.

    If you have the money then go for it. But your post sounded like getting a MBA that would suit your needs would be a burden. Youre not seriously considering 64GB? Are you? Doesn't make much sense when PCs would be cheaper and better fit your needs.
  13. iExpensive, Mar 1, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011

    iExpensive macrumors 6502


    Oct 18, 2010
    Las Vegas
    You shouldn't be worrying about geekbench scores. Unless your going to be encoding video then it is all irrelevant.
    For what your need are as a grad student the 11" would be a great fit. Right now I have the 13" with 2gb of ram and I can tell you that "2" is just a number.

    I can have all the programs in my dock running and only then will my RAM be maxed out.
    Sure I would have loved 4gb but I don't see it as a necessity as of now.
  14. Patrick946 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    The only reason that I care about Lion is that it's supposed to bring iPad like functionality to the mac, and the 11" air would benefit a lot from fullscreen aps, etc. It would be too bad if it ended up causing it to slow down!

    Either to work in a university or research library. A lot of companies hire LIS grads for research or information management as well.

    I'm posting on a Mac specific forum asking for information on how a certain model performs, and you have twice tried to get me to buy a PC. I understand that PCs are cheaper, but I am not interested in buying a windows machine. Your posts come off as condescending, and as far as I'm concerned you're trolling.

    As for the 64GB model, I'm still looking at options. I do have a 500 GB external Hard Drive, but anything on there would be left behind when I step away from the desk. I do have music/pictures on my iPhone as well. Anyway, I'm spending time looking at how much space everything takes up on my current mac, and I'm considering whether it would be feasible to step down in size.
  15. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    I would advise you at least strongly consider the 13" MBA. The screen resolution and extra workspace is definitely valuable. It is a lot more powerful and much quicker in typical uses I have experienced.

    When does your graduate school start, I am assuming the Fall? I think it might serve you well to wait and see if the MBA gets the rumored June update. If it does, the 11" will probably get a much more capable CPU than the current 1.4GHz C2D.

    I would advise a 13" now or wait for an 11" if that is the size you must have.

    Good luck whatever you choose.
  16. Patrick946 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    I applied for the summer session, so classes start in early May. I'm going to wait for a few weeks at the very least before buying anything, so I still have time to think things through and make another visit to the Apple store before buying anything.
  17. Robin Chung macrumors member

    Robin Chung

    Apr 6, 2010
    Working on a 11" machine is really tiring, at least for me. Go for the base 13", it should also stay cooler thanks to the larger body. Typing on these machines is like heaven, the 11" not so much. Read my review if you're interested in multi tasking performance, opening apps and a general view coming from using the machine in a college (design) environment.

    MacBook air 13" review

    Going for the Pro now because 3d in parallels and making games in UDK is pushing it... Especially the 128gb SSD space.
  18. Geordiekeith macrumors member

    May 12, 2006
    11" does it all

    I am 55, write medical articles for a living, with associated use of Excel for graphs, data analysis, etc, and can do all my work on my 11" MacBook Air - I proved that recently by taking it with me to a conference, leaving behind my company Dell due to weight considerations. Office suite 11 works sweetly on it (obligatory for work), internet connection is great, Firefox smooth, screen and keyboard are not tiring for my aged eyes and fingers, and battery life is astounding. But the best, apart from the slim design and lightweight, is the rapid (not instant) on-off when closing the lid.

    And I could take some movies and my music along...
  19. GekkePrutser macrumors 6502a


    Aug 18, 2005
    According to the Anandtech review the 13" actually runs a lot hotter (and is more audible) than the 11", probably due to the higher TDP of the CPU.
  20. rekhyt macrumors 65816

    Jun 20, 2008
    Part of the old MR guard.
    It's lovely to see some fellow students on MacRumors. :) (Even though I'm still in Sixth Form right now, but nevertheless, still a student.)

    What subject do you take in grad school? Are you planning to become a banker or an accountant, inferring from the subjects that you take?

    You sound quite well off right now. :) Is law a good subject/career to take? I have a friend who is interested in law (He's just for the money. :|) and I'm using it as a fallback option right now since I'm not especially interested in it.

    Which course are you taking in grad? Accounting too?

    Quite sure the SSD will mitigate the possible slowing down problems. For the MacBook Pros, the horsepower will be enough for that.

    Do you enjoy doing LIS? (Genuine interest, ...?)
  21. Patrick946 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    I was an English major in Undergrad, and I've worked in bookstores and as a private tutor. I was originally interested in working in Publishing, but with so many newspapers closing the field is flooded with experienced writers, and it was already competitive to begin with. On the other hand, many librarians are reaching retirement age, so in the next few years there should be a larger than normal demand. I'm still learning about LIS, but I am very interested.
  22. namtaB macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    Look, your thread's tone is one of "I don't know if I can afford this, I need to make some compromises to get this to work for me so if I compromise on factors X,Y,Z will it work out for me?" At least, that was my perception.

    I'm giving you advice on trying to get a better fit for your needs. Rather than stretching on something you obviously can't afford easily without making some compromises, why not just go with something that will fit into your budget and better suit your needs?

    If you can make the 11" MBA 64 GB SSD work for you, then go for it. The performance of this thing for students is not even an issue really, it will handle whatever you throw at it.

    I'm doing reasonably well. Law is not a good career though. Too many lawyers, not enough jobs to go around. The market is saturated.
  23. kyussmondo macrumors member

    Apr 7, 2010
    The Macbook Air will be more than enough for your needs. If you find yourself needing a larger screen then you can always get an external monitor, keyboard and mouse and use it more like a desktop machine. I wish I had the Macbook Air when I was a student. It would have been the perfect computer for taking notes and carrying around campus.
  24. Patrick946 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 21, 2009
    Earlier you said that the 64 GB HDD might be problematic, and here you say that the performance won't be an issue. I appreciate both of those comments. Everything else you've written in this thread has been condescending. We are complete strangers, and yet you think it's appropriate to criticize me for spending too much money and tell me what sort of product to buy. I understand that you're trying to help, but I can decide for myself on how to spend money. If I decide that the base air isn't enough for my needs, then I can buy a used macbook pro or try to get by with my current macbook. Shopping for a product means finding what compromises you're most willing to make, and getting a PC is not a compromise that I'm interested in.

    The refurbished base air is $850, and I hope to get around $500 for my macbook, so I'm talking about paying $350 + tax. Adding on a bigger HDD or more memory will be $100 or $200 each, which would dramatically increase the amount of money I'm spending out of pocket. I'm just trying to figure out whether those will be worth the money to me or not. I've seen a lot of conflicting comments about how powerful the air is and what in particular would be an issue.
  25. namtaB macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    I didn't say that. I said, "Youre not seriously considering 64GB? Are you?" B/c 64 GB would be an issue if you had 100 GB worth of stuff. 64 GB won't be an issue if you have 35 GB worth of stuff. It all depends on how much stuff you have and it sounded like the 64 GB would not have met your needs.

    Performance won't be an issue for these machine, or any machine for that matter, if it meets your needs. That's the point I'm trying to address.

    In terms of memory, I don't think going from 2 GB to 4 GB will make much of a difference unless you're doing heavy video stuff or trying to run Windows on it.

    I was once a broke student. I know what that's like. I think getting a refurbished MBA in a configuration that would stretch your budget is a bad decision when you can get any number of new portable PC laptops with more RAM, more hard drive space, etc. But its your decision to make.

    I've contributed what I can to this thread. I hope you're happy with whatever decision you make and wish you best of luck.

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