MacBook Air as desktop replacement?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Kyllle, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. Kyllle, Nov 29, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011

    Kyllle macrumors 6502

    Apr 25, 2011
    Edit: more info at the bottom of this page

    I don't travel a lot, and I rarely if ever need to bring my laptop to school, so my main uses for a computer would just be using it on my desk and sometimes around the house.
    I know the Air could do everything I need it to, the most cpu-stressful thing I do is minecraft, and that's not even too often, so I'm not worried about performance. Space is not a problem either, because on my current 500gb hard drive, I use less than 100gb.

    My ideal computer would be the high-res 15" MBP, but it costs way too much for me (jobless high school student). So, between the 13" MBA and MBP, the MBP seems like a better buy at first.

    However, I'm leaning towards the Air for the following reasons:
    1. SSD included (yes I could get one for the Pro but it would end up costing more)
    2. Higher-res screen: this is the biggest reason, I'm coming from a 16" 1080p screen and I just don't think I could go down to an 800p. Sure I will get an external monitor, but I would rather have as a high a resolution as possible on the actual laptop.
    3. Thinner/lighter: I know I said I don't travel much, but it's always nice to have something thinner and lighter if possible. This is more just for aesthetics, as I think it is for most people (no one really NEEDS a computer this light, and the extreme thinness just looks nice).

    So do these reasons justify an air over a pro, or would it still make more sense for me to get a pro?
    To me, the main advantages to the pro are the cheaper price and ability to upgrade. I plan on getting a new computer in 2 years when I go to college, so I figured this would last until then.
  2. dakhein macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2011
    NorCal, USA
    Your listed needs don't spell out laptop to me since you will not be using the main advantage of portability. It also seems that you value screen real estate, again a detractor for laptops and that a 15" mbp is definitely out of your price range.

    To me, it really looks like a base iMac would fit your needs with a relatively low price and 21" large screen (at least compared to 11 and 13" mbp and mba).

    But if you are set on a laptop, I think you are better off with the 13" air than the mbp. I think you already value the light weight, speedy SSD, 1440x900, and other intrinsics of this line.
  3. Kyllle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 25, 2011
    Yeah I would love to be able to have a desktop and laptop, I probably will some day. But for now since I have to chose one or the other, I'd rather go with a laptop.
  4. Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011
    Mac mini attached to the back of a 22" monitor?
    The base unit can now be had for around $540. Throw in a memory kit for $40, a decent monitor will be around $100-$130, KB+Mouse will run you from $15-$150...

    Then save your pennies for an 11" Air next refresh?
  5. altecXP macrumors 65816

    Aug 3, 2009
    I have an Air with a 23in external display and a 2TB external RAID. It;s my only home machine.

    Works great.
  6. chrismacguy macrumors 68000

    Feb 13, 2009
    United Kingdom
    While I have an Air, and love it to death (I have to have a thin and light laptop given I have back issues and lug it around everywhere with me - but its still nice regardless), I would still choose the Pro in your situation, because its upgradeable, more powerful, and the extra pounds shouldn't be that bad (And in fact did when I got my MacBook in 2008 over the original macBook Air - I only got an Air because I physically can't carry a MacBook around all day anymore). And the MacBook Pro + SSD will also be more useful once you get to college (As it would make sense to buy a Desktop in 2 years for College, and keep a current 13" MacBook Pro for carrying around everywhere).

    As far as external monitors go, get the highest res model you can afford, even if its not the biggest model. (Id rather have a 21.5" 1920*1080 screen than a 22" 1680*1050 for instance).
  7. sostoobad macrumors regular

    Nov 5, 2011
    It sounds like you need a laptop, as you say,you don't travel much, but when you do you want one. If thats the case, and your needs are not great, why not the Air ?. I am new to Mac and no expert, but have spoken with the Apple people quite a lot in the past 30 days, I have replaced 2 old computers with a mac mini and a 11.6" Air.

    From what the Apple people both on line and in the store told me is a very high % of Mac users never use or need the capabilities of the more expensive models, they may be nice to have, but you have to I need them, if no, then...again according to them, is exactly why the 11.6" Air and the Mac mini are around.

    So for my money, what I bought was the Mac OS, and their entry level products to do so. I am very pleased. At my work is the Air, which is acting as a desktop, but can take it with me, if I need to. At home is the Mac mini.

    So far so good, they both are doing what I need them to do...internet, buy, sell, download pics, list on ebay, email and stuff like that.

    Works for me.
  8. nick9191 macrumors 68040

    Feb 17, 2008
    The Air is a truly fantastic machine.

    I have the original 11" baseline. 1.4GHz Core 2, 64GB SSD, Nvidia 320M, and it blows the socks off the 2.2Ghz White MacBook it replaced. Sure it will take longer to encode video, but that SSD drive makes a huge difference for day to day tasks. Even my 1.4GHz will blow away pretty much any hard drive based machine, Mac or PC on start up time, speed of launching an app, anything that is constantly accessing the disk. And the screen is fantastic.

    I didn't get why people were so obsessed with their Macs when I had the old white MacBook. It seemed slow, had a low quality display, creaky hinges, and had the issue where the palm rest would chip away. Now I have my Air, I can see why. Best laptop I've ever used.

    I should add, I use it as my primary machine. Use it for general day to day tasks, as well as some programming (nothing too in depth- CS student). Has no problem playing Youtube in 1080p (not sure if the new Air can do that however, despite it's i5, it has the Intel GMA graphics).
  9. sostoobad macrumors regular

    Nov 5, 2011
    I do like the ergonomics of the Air, it just feels right. Can't really put my finger on it. But after typing on a different is there.

    To me the Air is akin to the Beatles,yep....John, Paul, George and Ringo.
    by themselves, nice......put them together....BINGO
  10. joshuaginter macrumors regular

    May 19, 2011
    Don't you worry. The new Air works just as good;)
  11. mj1108 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 7, 2007
    My Air has become my desktop replacement. I ended up turning my old Windows machine into strictly a fileserver.

    If you do a lot of stuff in the cloud, the Air is a fantastic machine to have as a primary machine. Of course that's not to say I wouldn't mind getting a 27" iMac later on (which a friend of mine bought after hearing I got my Air).
  12. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    Decent is a strong word for any display in that price range. The $100-$300 range in displays is a really thin margin area. I think your advice to buy a mini and wait for the next Air is just terrible. Buy weak sort of lower end computers back to back rather than buying once for the next two to three years. I don't see why the OP would need both anyway.

    For the OP, always give yourself extra drive space. Hard Drives and SSDs do not perform well when they're near capacity, and Apple's file system really needs a little breathing room. As a general rule, don't go beyond 85-90% of the formatted capacity. There are different reasons for this in SSDs vs. HDDs, but both need a little free space, and the system requires some for memory paging anyway.

    On your pro vs. air dilemma, I think a lot of it is that you think the Air is cool, which is fine. On the SSD issue, you can get quality SSDs with good warranties for the macbook pro below Apple pricing. Third party replacements for the Air (or out of warranty replacements) are more expensive because it's a slightly more obscure part.

    The Air isn't upgradeable from a practical standpoint. If you go with it, make sure you'll be happy over the life of the machine. Is waiting an option? Right now it's more than halfway through its product cycle. Next year may be a slightly more minor upgrade, but we'll probably see an update by April.

    The screen resolution difference is something you're unlikely to notice. Overall the macbook air displays have more complaints. Resolution isn't the only factor there. Do you have an Apple store near you? If you can go in one without being seduced by Apple products (which is what seems to happen to many people on here) it's may help you reach a decision.
  13. Kyllle, Nov 30, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2011

    Kyllle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 25, 2011
    Haha I will this summer, but I don't want to wait that long for a new computer. I'm just impatient :p

    Thanks for everyone's advice! And yes I do want the Macbook air because it's cool, and a bit different. The 13" MBP is by far the most common Mac that people I know have, I would say probably 80%. I've never met anyone with an air.

    Although the pro seems like a slightly better decision for me, I will probably still go with the air because it's different and I like the idea of an ssd. Of course, worst case scenario, if I try out the air and find it's not for me, I can always return it in 2 weeks.

    Anyways, I still have about a month to decide, as I won't get buy either until Christmas.
  14. Risasi macrumors 6502

    Sep 16, 2011
    Something like this or this I would consider decent. Are you suggesting a 13" laptop screen will be nicer to use compared to these?


    I would hardly call the 2011 Mac mini weak. I only suggest this option because it seems our beleaguered OP seems to be strapped for money, really only intends to use this at home. I didn't mention it the first post, but an extra $200 gets you a pretty decent discrete GPU too. Regardless, working on a larger monitor that is more ergonomic to use is a much more pleasant experience. And really only has two power cords coming off of it, so it is pretty portable for a desktop computer.

    I doubt the next Air will be out before July 2012. Yes, a 13" MBA/MBP would be pretty decent, but it costs more too. I guess it depends on if Kyllle really needs the portability of a notebook computer. We're talking a starting point of $800 vs what for a MBA/MBP? Another thing to consider is that the new iPad will be out soon.

    I currently have a 13" MBP and 13" MBA. And I use my MBP for work. But this next year I am seriously considering switching to a loaded Mini and the next 11" MBA.
  15. imswimmin macrumors regular

    Apr 6, 2011
    Yeah I completely agree. While a MBA would probably be your best decision, considering your conditions and uses, I don't really think you are going to benefit from choosing a laptop in any way that will justify the extra $300-$700 you'll be spending over a much more powerful, and in my opinion more worth it mac mini.

    Now don't get me wrong. I have the 2011 base 13" MBA, but I take it with me pretty much everywhere I go. I did consider the mac mini at the time of purchasing my MBA, but I decided that I needed portability over power for my case. If you can justify, for yourself, not needing to buy the mac mini, go for the MBA by all means.

    Personally, I think you should save the money, buy a mac mini, and then afterwards, buy a MBA. My 2 cents ;D.
  16. ecib macrumors regular


    Jan 4, 2011
    Sounds like you have your mind made up. The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter, since both the Air and the Pro are completely capable of being your only computer. Just get the Air since you seem to love the design, -and the SSD you will end up loving, I guarantee it. The Air is just a faster machine than the Pro with the SSD (for most user's use cases).
  17. drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    Go for the MacBook Air.

    I just bought a 13in MBA to replace a Win7 PC. I also don't really need a portable, but I use the MBA as a moveable iMac and connect it to my monitor when I want to see a bigger image. All I really miss is the GB LAN, which I'm going to get when I get a TBD in Jan 2012.

    For the last 3+ years I have had PCs with SSDs and IMO having an SSD is the single biggest advance in user convenience since GUIs. I also looked at a Mac Mini, but with an SSD, the MM costs more than the MBA.
  18. jsolares macrumors 6502a

    Aug 8, 2011
    Land of eternal Spring
    As long as you don't need more than 4GB of RAM you should be set with the MBA
  19. solo118 macrumors 65816

    May 16, 2011
    The 13" MBP is not as heavy/bulky as you think, but the Air is as thin as it gets. The thing I like about the MBP is that you can put in extra RAM at anytime, and certainly you can put a SSD, which will speed things up. You can even get a refurb model, or something a couple of years old in mint condition and upgrade RAM/SSD and save yourself some money.

    I personally favor the smaller 11" screen, so that is what I own. I actually plan on keeping it a couple of years so I went for the 4GB/128GB and never looked back.
  20. Kyllle, Dec 2, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011

    Kyllle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 25, 2011
    Hmm I just had another idea, tell me what you guys think.

    I get an iMac ($1200) for home use, then keep my 16" HP laptop that I have now for whenever I need something portable, which honestly isn't that often.

    They would end up costing about the same either way, considering if I got the MBA I would sell my HP for around $200 then buy an external screen, but if I got the iMac I wouldn't need an external display.

    Also, I wouldn't have to buy a copy of windows for my mac, as I'd already have it. Could I feasibly use the iMac as a display for my HP when using Windows, assuming I bought the right cables? What port would my laptop need to have for this?
    And I wouldn't have to buy a magic mouse + keyboard ($150?) as I was planning on doing after buying the air.
    If I got the iMac, I could upgrade to an SSD later right? That's probably the biggest disadvantage to me for getting the iMac.

    Then in the summer when I get a job, I will be able to buy a (hopefully updated) macbook air or ipad, depending on what I see fit.

    Does this sound reasonable? Ahh this is such a stressful decision.
  21. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    For your usage, it seems like just about anything would be fine, but I don't really see the point of getting an iMac. It seems you might only be wanting it for the large screen. I don't get it.

    The MBP 13" is the most cost-effective (more bang for the buck), and easily one of the most versatile computers. I have one and like it a lot.

    I am testing out a transition to the MBA 11" / 2GB. I got it cheap on Amazon the other day. I like it a lot, and I have decided to sell my MBP. I have no complaints about the MBP, but the type of work I am doing has changed, and I don't need the power so much anymore. I figure that I might as well keep the MBA instead, because it is so portable.

    Regarding the SSD, I don't see what the big deal is. Sure, my MBP was a little slower starting up, and programs started up a little more slowly as well, but otherwise it is pretty much the same. I think people over-hype it, and it certainly isn't a ver cost-effective memory solution. You need it to keep the MBA thin, though!

    As for performance, most of the time the MBA is fine. But, for heavy processing, it is considerably slower, and some tasks take twice as long (I have timed them to confirm). That's OK for me, but it is still good to know when you are making a purchasing decision.

    I don't really see a point in getting the iMac or the 15" MBP unless you have a need for those specs (obviously, some people can make better use of them -- video editing, movie watching, etc.). It seems like a tragic waste, when you can get the MBA instead.
  22. Kyllle thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 25, 2011
    Yeah the main reason was just for the bigger screen and $100 cheaper up front cost. And as I probably wouldn't get an SSD with it, it would end up being ~$200 less overall. I saw another thread about MBA vs iMac + iPad and a lot of people recommended the iMac, which kind of made me want that.

    I will probably just have to go to the Apple store and try them all out, I haven't been in a while.

    I'm so indecisive :(
  23. jahala macrumors regular


    Feb 7, 2008
    I have an 11" Macbook Air as my only computer. At home, I have it connected to a 24" Samsung Syncmaster monitor and a 7-port USB hub. It is a very comfortable set up. Since it is so small and light, I just take it everywhere with me whether I think I need it or not. It has come in handy more much more often than I expected.

    If you are already partial to the Macbook Air, get one. You won't be disappointed. If you already have or can find a monitor to connect it to, you can have a very comfortable desktop experience at home with all the portability you need, assuming you don't need an optical drive.

    I have had my original 11" MBA for about a year now and I am still impressed with it.
  24. dakhein macrumors member

    Aug 24, 2011
    NorCal, USA
    That is the best plan. When you go just don't be in a hurry and imagine how each device would integrate into your life. Do you see yourself computing mostly at a desk or all over the house, etc... everyone has their personal preference, but they cannot know what's best for you.

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