Macbook Air 11" low-end or high end for surfing + programming?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by cathyy, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. cathyy, Nov 1, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2011

    cathyy macrumors 6502a

    Apr 12, 2008
    Hey all. Inititally planned to get a netbook as a travel companion to surf the net and watch videos, as I'm entering university soon but it takes me an hour to travel there daily. After awhile I decided to buy a 2nd hand low-end MBA due to the superior screen, touchpad, good battery life, light weight, style (doesn't look like a cheap netbook).

    However I'll be taking computer science in university, and I figure I'll end up doing lots of programming on my notebook and end up installing Windows + Parallels. Wondering if I should get the higher end MBA instead as the extra RAM, SSD space and more powerful CPU would definitely come in handy. However it'll end up costing almost 2x as much.

    I feel the 2010 MBA should be able to handle itself too though. I remember installing Windows XP + VMWare on my 2008 MBP with C2D 2.4GHz + 2GB RAM, and it seemed pretty smooth. But it might end up suffocating a bit on both RAM and SSD space at times. I wonder if the C2D 1.4GHz is sufficient too.


    Actually come to think about it, it makes perfect sense to go for the newer 2011 model since I'd definitely make use of the higher RAM, higher capacity SSD and more powerful CPU. There's only 2 things holding me back from buying it:

    Price: I was planning to get a cheap notebook that's not a pain to bring around. The 2011 high-end model isn't cheap at all and is practically 2x the price.

    OS: Honestly, I prefer Snow Leopard and I feel it's the better OS. I would consider Lion to SL as Vista to XP. My friend's MBA has Lion and it feels slow and sluggish, and I hate the new gestures, spaces, launchdock and mission control.

    Also, don't suggest the MBP 13" please. I own a 2008 15" MBP and while I love it, it's a huge drag to lug it to school every day. I want something lightweight.
  2. Xikum macrumors 6502

    Oct 19, 2011
    Do you not want to spend alot of money? 2010 model. If not, 2011.

    Unless Lion is a complete no-go for you then it has to be 2010. You cant revert it back very easily, and even then its very unstable.

    Pretty simple really.
  3. ecib macrumors regular


    Jan 4, 2011
    I am of the opinion that you should simply not purchase old technology if you have the means to get the latest, especially if you are going to be asking a lot of your machine. Dual operating systems in a virtual environment, etc.

    With regards to your dislike of Lion, I can say as someone that made the switch that there is a decent chance your opinion will change. I disliked a lot of Lion at first, but the new gestures are customizable (you can turn off the retarded reverse scrolling they preset with). Once you tweak a couple things, I've found it to be far superior. Even the completely dumb launchpad and spaces...I have found over time they actually make the workflow easier and quicker. My girlfriend has Snow Leopard still and you couldn't pay me to go back, even though my initial reaction to Lion was lukewarm.

    Finally, I know you told me not to, but I'm going to suggest the 13". You're gonna code on 11 inches of real-estate all day? But I assume that you're going to still have your 15" at home, so I guess it's not a huge deal. I just know I couldn't stand writing a paper on an 11" when I had it, -couldn't imagine coding...scrolling up and down and up and down looking for that damn apostrophe I missed *somewhere*. :)
  4. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    Programming requires an external monitor and any old computer under the sun. No seriously, University course work in computer science can be done on 10 year old PCs as far as raw requirements go.

    11", 13", 2010, 2011, doesn't matter.

    And Lion is better than Snow Leopard in my view. Spaces is now tons more useful (especially with 10.7.2 that finally gave us "re-arranging"), the different backgrounds for each space really help with visual cues, the gestures are great and all the "dumb" interface changes can be reverted (my scroll bars are always visible, my dock has dots on it for running apps). Launchpad ? What's that ? ;)

    Also virtualized environnements is a moot point. They run fine on 5 - 10 year old PCs, they'll run fine on any Mac you get. VMware is actually quite an old product, dating back to the 90s. If you could run it back then, I dunno why people think you need some kind of monster computer to run it today.
  5. cathyy thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Apr 12, 2008
    I suppose I could get used to Lion. It's just that one of the main things I prioritize is speed/snapiness and familiarity over new fancy GUIs and functions, which is why I'm still sticking to XP on my 2008 MBP and haven't upgraded to Windows 7 yet.

    But I do retract part of my earlier statement. I can definitely see how Spaces and Launchpad can be useful after all.

    The main things that bug me really is how laggy mission control looked on my friend's computer, and how I hate all the new Touchpad functions. SL + Multiclutch was perfect to me. If I could have Lion with Expose & SL touchpad functions I'd be happy.

    I didn't think too much about the 11" screen part. I treat it more like an auxiliary computer so I think I'll end up doing most of my work on my 15" or on the school computer. How it's really going to work out, I'm not too sure.

    Yeah you're right there. I did programming in Junior College and 1.4GHz C2D + 2GB RAM is more than sufficient for pretty much everything. I remember running VMWare on my 2.4GHz C2D + 2GB RAM and it was really smooth too. I guess I kinda got lost in one of those 'worried consumer buying weaker technology' moments, especially after how so many people are screaming about how '2GB isn't enough to run virtualization' and 'C2D is too weak'.

    I'm wondering if 64GB is enough though. Might consider bumping it up to a 128GB.

    Well I've still got a few months till university starts, so I'll probably just continue working in the mean time, then decide at the end how much I'm willing to splurge on a new notebook. Ultimately I think it's the price that's the deciding factor :p
  6. KnightWRX macrumors Pentium


    Jan 28, 2009
    Quebec, Canada
    My college days were done on a Pentium 100 mhz with 32 MB of RAM. A monster of a machine for running what was essentially Turbo C++ 3.0 for DOS. I was coming off of a AMD 486-DX4.

    This same Pentium 100 mhz served me quite well in one of my later semesters when I did a presentation on OpenGL, showing off Q2Test running on a 3Dfx Voodoo Graphics as a finale of what "real world use could be" and making some basic lighting/modeling/transformation code running off of Microsoft's GDI implementation in Visual Studio.
  7. VMMan macrumors 6502a

    Mar 29, 2009
    I use my 2011 MBA 11.6" with Xcode 4, Photoshop CS5, and Safari simultaneously and it feels faster than my 2011 MBP 17" 2.2 gHz quad-core i7.
  8. ecib macrumors regular


    Jan 4, 2011
    Huh. I upgraded to Lion and it is blazingly fast. As far as familiarity...well...let's just say if that was one of my concerns, I'd still be using Windows as my primary OS. Barf. :) Don't go with the familiar OS. Go with the better one. Especially since that no matter which OS it is, it will *become* the familiar one by merely using it for a bit ;)

    For me it's instant. And it's insanely useful, -one of the best features in fact.

    Personally, I just had to nix the reverse scrolling, and redo my Safari settings. Lion has this thing where you swipe to go back to the last web page, and instead of being instant, it slides the page back partially at first to 'peek' at the last page, and depending on if you direction of the motion, you can toggle and peek at more or less of the last page. The end result was that it took a larger 'swipe' gesture to actually page back. Like I said, retarded **** like this can be turned off. You can edit out the suck, and keep the good (and there is a lot of it). I think the performance of your friend's computer may have more to do with the processes running on his machine than the general experience though.

    At the end of the day though, there isn't a world of difference between the two if we are being honest with ourselves. For me, Lion just has much better Mail, and better gestures to some degree.

    One exception that is starting to come into play is iCloud, oddly. I have to take pictures for site surveys for my job. The other day I was on a site, and I snapped a couple dozen pictures of a job site, opened up my Mac and there they were, ready to annotate and email. I can't tell you how nice that feature is for a common use-case I have have. I didn't expect to give a rat's ass about iCloud but it's starting to surprise me.
  9. Xikum macrumors 6502

    Oct 19, 2011

    I really agree with this. I thought iCloud would be useless to me, and another way for Apple to make money with the external storage. However, I use iCal alot (I'm a University student) for planning my timetables/days/dates for essay hand in/etc, and it really is great to edit my calendar on one computer, and then have it send instantly to my other computers, and my phone! It means no matter what, I know what I have to do that day, and when I have to do it.
  10. adamtj11 macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    I use the low end 2011 Macbook Air for Eclipse(Java) and Xcode (Cocoa) and it is as smooth as you'd like. Lion for me is better than Snow Leopard, full screen apps come in handy on a 11 inch screen

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