MacBook air 2014 versus MacBook Pro non-retina

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by benjaminhogate, Jan 1, 2015.

  1. benjaminhogate macrumors newbie

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    Jan 1, 2015
    #1
    I am getting a laptop for college soon and I am unsure as to whether I should get the 2014 MacBook air with 4 gb of ram and 256 gb ssd, or whether I should get the 2012 MacBook pro non-retina with 4 gb of ram (but upgradable) and 500 gb traditional hard drive.
     
  2. GolfnCPA macrumors member

    GolfnCPA

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    Sep 1, 2011
    #2
    I just made the switch from MBA to MBP retina, and the only reason I did so was for the screen, otherwise would have stayed with the MBA. If you are not considering the retina MBP, I would stick with the Air. It is one amazing machine.
     
  3. benjaminhogate thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jan 1, 2015
    #3
    So 4 gb of ram is more than enough? And would it be okay to get the 128 gb MacBook Air and just use external hard drives? Or is that too much of a hassle?
     
  4. GolfnCPA macrumors member

    GolfnCPA

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    Sep 1, 2011
    #4
    My MBA was 4GB with 256GB and it never balked in the three years I used it. Never a problem. I don't need a lot of power for my use of a laptop, and most of my storage is server or cloud-based. If you don't have access to any other storage form than local, I'd recommend the higher 256GB over the external hard drive for simplicity alone.

    My HS age daughter now uses my MBA and it's plenty for her needs and, with school, she is more of a power user than I was with it.
     
  5. RedCroissant Suspended

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    Aug 13, 2011
    #5
    I would go the other way with this. My favorite laptop is the 13" non-retina MBP because it is a powerful machine that is upgradeable and user repairable as well.

    You can upgrade the RAM to 16GB (now or at some point in the future), you can upgrade the HDD with a SSD of your choice if you want to, you can also remove the superdrive and put another SSD in that spot and make your own fusion system that would be amazing, you also don't need an ethernet adapter, it also mirrors the display with an apple TV, it has great WiFi capabilities (albeit not AC), it's compatible with every I/O device out there with all of the included, and the secondary display resolution of 2560 x 1600 is better than my late 2013 27" iMac's display resolution and it's beautiful.

    Yes, it's heavier than the MBA, but more versatile, and the fact that you can upgrade/repair it yourself with the simple removal of 10 phillips screws, makes it so this machine will most likely be more relevant than the MBA with a maximum of 4GB RAM and a 256GB SSD that you can't repair/upgrade/modify.
     
  6. RedCroissant Suspended

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    Aug 13, 2011
    #6
    This is another thing about the MBA that makes it a laptop that I would most likely never purchase for myself. The laptop itself is extremely portable due to its light weight and it's 802.11ac capabilities (which are greats telling points). But if you ever have the desire to use an actual CD/DVD, then you'll need an external reader/writer (which of course adds weight to what you take with you).

    If the configuration that you purchase doesn't have enough storage for your needs (or for your potential needs) then the necessity of portable HDD is yet another thing that you have to carry with you. True, the portable HDD and the external reader/writer with the weight of the MBA might not equal the weight of the 13" non-retina MBP, but why bother with externals when you already have everything that you might need already with the purchase of the MBP?

    Ultimately of course it your decision, but if you do like using actual CDs or DVDs and want/need more storage initially, then I would not be considering the MBA.
     
  7. bcc2k macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2013
    #7
    Trust me, always get 8GB for the Air if you want to use your Mac longer than 2 years or run Windows in a VM.
    And don't get the classic MBP, it's old.
     
  8. Hrhnick macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2013
    #8
    +1

    If money is a concern go the Apple Refurb route.

    MacBook Air. Definitely go 8GB RAM, future proofing. Hard drive size is a personal question; 128 or 256, everybodys needs are different. Media hogs will need the extra space. You can always add an external HD, but you can't upgrade or add external RAM :D

    As far as the original MacBook Pro, I wouldn't ever think about getting it. Yes, you can upgrade the RAM and HD later, but thats more money to think about spending. It's been almost 3 years since they've been updated, so you're buying a 3 year old machine already. According to the MacRumors Buyers Guide:

    "MacBook Pro
    MacBook Pro
    Don't Buy Old, But Updates Unlikely
    Apple's non-Retina MacBook Pro line has been whittled down to a single 13-inch model that has not been updated since June 2012. Further updates are unlikely, as the company will likely simply discontinue the model as Retina MacBook Pro models have become more affordable and popular. The model received a $100 price cut in July 2014."
     
  9. RedCroissant Suspended

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    Aug 13, 2011
    #9
    The MBP is technically “old” I suppose but buying into 3 year old technology that is still brand new is very different than buying something that is used and 3 years old. And yes, upgrading the Ram and HDD is an extra cost at some point, but the ability to upgrade something and keep it for even longer than a more expensive initial purchase in order to future proof a machine I think makes more sense.

    And yes, compared to the MBA it is older but even the MBA on sale now is from early 2014 and i now a year old. So essentially, the OP should wait until the new MBA is released before deciding to make a purchase at all.
     
  10. benjaminhogate thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jan 1, 2015
    #10
    So if I can wait a little bit longer and save up money would a better option just be to get the 13 inch retina MacBook Pro? If I do this it has to be base configuration, 2.6 ghz i5, 8 gb of ram, and 128 gb on the ssd (it won't bother me to carry around an external hard drive for the pro as much as it would for the air since its a more powerful machine, or is it dumb to think that?) (keep in mind that if I do this it HAS to be the base configuration and I can't upgrade anything on it)
     
  11. MrGimper macrumors 601

    MrGimper

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    Sep 22, 2012
    Location:
    Andover, UK
    #11
    Looks at the multitude of SD card options available like the PNY StorEDGE and Transcend JetDrive Lite. 128GB of extra storage that plugs in flush into SD slot.

    I had the PNY in my Air, and now have the Transcend in my 13" rMBP (I bought it when I ordered a new 512GB machine, but then returned that for a 1TB refurb so don't really need it now lol)
     
  12. benjaminhogate thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Jan 1, 2015
    #12
    Ohmygod. I completely forgot about the sd card slot. Thank you!
     
  13. MrGimper macrumors 601

    MrGimper

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    #13

    No worries. I'd probably favour the transcend over the PNY as its faster.
     
  14. Naimfan macrumors 68040

    Naimfan

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    Jan 15, 2003
    #14
    I'd either get the cMBP for the reasons outlined by RedCroissant or get a refurb retina 2.4/8/256. The Air isn't competitive if upgraded to 8 GB.
     
  15. RedCroissant, Jan 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015

    RedCroissant Suspended

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    Aug 13, 2011
    #15
    I suppose it would be a better option, but the only thing you're getting that the MBA doesn't have is the retina display and a better processor. My other statements about the failings of the retina will be about the same actually.

    If you've been saving up this long for a great laptop, then I think one that you can keep for longer without needing to add too many peripherals to it is a great option. Plus, as you save more money, you can make little purchases to keep the current machine relevant in capability and performance.

    Although you won't be able to upgrade the CPU, compensating with max RAM and a SSD will be great additions that will most likely increase battery life, decrease weight (in the case of the SSD), and give you a great speed boost that will make it a much more powerful machine.

    For a couple of examples, you can go through OWC to get both the RAM and the SSD. a 16GB RAM kit will cost you $195, a 1TB SSD will cost $479, or a 480GB SSD would cost $259. Yes, that's a lot now, but in a year or so when you want to upgrade the SSD, that price will have dropped considerably.

    Also, I work at Best Buy and since you'll be a student, you can use a college discount. You can also take advantage of Best Buy's price matching policy against all major competitors (online and traditional stores). On top of that, you can apply for Best Buy's credit card and get 18 months at no interest financing and pay nothing at the time of purchase. This way, with either the MBA, the cMBP or the rMBP, you would only have to pay around $75 a month to have the machine completely paid off at no interest and it saves you money.

    Anyway, good luck with your choice!
     
  16. BenTrovato macrumors 68020

    BenTrovato

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    Jun 29, 2012
    Location:
    Canada
    #16
    Definitely wait a little longer and get the retina if that is an option. It's a beautiful screen that you will never regret each time you use it. If that's not an option I would rather have the 2014 Air than the 2012.
     
  17. grizfan macrumors member

    grizfan

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    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    #17
    I'll be the contrarian here....
    You never mentioned what kind of work you will be doing on this computer. If you are going into Computer Science or some other field where you'll be pushing the hardware (such as using virtual machines, image or video editing, CAD, etc...), then yeah, go for the more powerful computer. But, if you will only use this computer for research, writing papers, etc... The 13" MBA is really the perfect computer.

    First off - don't even consider a computer without an SSD. That eliminates the old 13" MBP (non-Retina) right away. Don't even bother considering that computer.

    The 13" MBA has great battery life, a pretty good screen, and is very fast for most uses, due in large part to the solid state storage. The real question is how much storage and RAM to get. Do you need 8GB of memory? If all you will do is write papers and do general 'office' work, probably not. Will you need an optical drive? No... and if, for some strange reason, you do, a USB optical drive is really cheap, and you won't be forced to lug it around.

    I'm basing this on the fact that two of my kids are university students. My oldest is a junior with a mid-2013 and her younger brother has a mid-2013. Both with 4GB of memory and 128GB of storage. If budget allows, go for the extra storage first, though with some management, 128GB can be made to work. One is a Japanese major, the other is in Econ. Neither has ever noted any problems with performance.

    So, unless you see yourself running more demanding software in the next 4 to 5 years, you might be better off saving your money for software or other expenses. A refurb 4GB/128GB MBA will set you back $850, while a refurb 13"rMPB with 8GB/256GB will cost $300 more. will you appreciate the retina screen, extra storage and extra RAM? Sure, but you certainly don't need those features.

    If your budget can handle the extra $300 cost, go for the rMBP. Otherwise, the 13" MBA is a great student computer and will serve you well. Just don't get the non-retina 13" MBP; its a dead-end computer.
     
  18. gnasher729, Jan 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2015

    gnasher729 macrumors P6

    gnasher729

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    Nov 25, 2005
    #18
    I'd change that slightly: Don't even consider a computer without SSD if grizfan donates the money so you can afford it :D

    Seriously, if you need 500 GB or 1TB or more, and don't have the cash for SSD, the MBP with hard drive will be fine. If 128 GB is enough for you, the Retina MBP is better value.
     
  19. grizfan macrumors member

    grizfan

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    Feb 10, 2012
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    #19
    ugh... seriously? If you think you need to match SSD to hard drives in capacity, you're going to have a hard time. Seriously... With cloud services and external drives, a college student can do just fine with 128GB or 256GB. Getting a notebook with a platter drive any more is just a waste. The platter drive is far slower, far more likely to fail, weighs more, and uses more battery than an SSD. If you're a student lugging your computer around campus, these factors matter a LOT. Get a 1TB external drive if you need the space for media files, and enjoy the freedom of a MBA. The non-retina MBP just doesn't make sense for a college student.
     

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