MacBook Air College Student Rec

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by mBurns, Jun 2, 2010.

  1. mBurns macrumors 6502

    Oct 3, 2006
    Hello there! I'll be starting college this fall. I'm not a major gamer. The extent of my gaming is The Sims series. I also enjoy a good free online flash game here and there. I love surfing YouTube, using iTunes, uploading my photos to iPhoto, using Skype, etc. Basic computer tasks.

    Now that I'm heading off to school, I'm ready to switch computers. I've had a MacBook Pro my last four years of high school (the Core Duo model). It has been a tried and true workhorse. I rarely moved it around, though when I had to, it was a cumbersome addition to my ever-growing book bag.

    Am I a fool for truly considering the air? An iPad isn't going to cut if for college (I don't want an iPad and a Mac laptop) and would love something ultra-portable that's easy to pull out on the desk and have another piece of paper to the side. I don't mind using Bootcamp for virtualization.

    Are there still quality issues with the Air like the revision A? I wouldn't touch one of those with a 5-foot stick. It's been a long time since I played around with one. The lack of CD-drive does not bother me at all. Basically, I want a reliable machine (e price-point of the Air is fine) that doesn't stutter on YouTube, will last my 4 years of college surfing the web and doing Microsoft Office apps like my MacBook Pro Core Duo has, and is an overall portable machine. I envision taking this machine across the globe with me. Yes, I have big dreams.

    Could some chime in? Many thanks in advance.
  2. super_kev macrumors 6502


    Jan 12, 2005
    Yes, I'd say so. Put your thoughts on how cool the Air is aisde, and read this:

    The 13" MBP is only 1.5 lbs more than the Air (3lbs. vs. 4.5lbs), is the same size (width/length, and height is arguably almost the same), has twice the HD capacity, twice the battery life (there will be times a power jack isn't near you in the classroom, and you say you want to travel so you'll need plenty of juice) a much faster processor, better gfx card, optical drive, and SD card slot for your camera.

    If you only need one computer and you are looking at the Air, forget it. The 13" MBP is the only option you should consider.

    You said it. OS X is relying more on the GPU. Get a machine that has a decent GPU inside. Who knows, you might dabble with graphics editing and will appreciate the extra power. Either computer is the same size in a soft case, and will be the same size on your desk. Save the $300, purchase the MBP and you will thank yourself in the long run.
  3. Jobsian macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2009
    The Macbook Air (rev B/C) is the greatest notebook EVER created in computing history imo. You will be over the moon with an MBA B/C.

    Let me mention a couple of things. The 13" MBP is also a fantastic notebook. However, if you do not need, NEED, the extra power and features of the MBP, I firmly believe you will be a happier man with an MBA.

    I don't have a scientific study to prove the following but time and time again I see or read about MBP users who after buying an MBA rarely even touch their MBPs or whatever other notebook they had prior to that.

    This 1.5lbs weight difference numerically appears small, however functionally it's not: when you can lean over and lift your notebook with 2 or 3 fingers while you're still in bed, not thinking twice about travelling/flying with it etc, that weight difference becomes cosmic. Remember that 3lbs Vs 4.5lbs is ONE THIRD less weight.

    The design/looks, the power, the weight, all these are together synergistic. The MBA is such a joy to own and use :)

    Saying all that however, I'd strongly urge you to wait until WWDC has passed, lest you miss out on a new even more appealing model!
  4. gwsat macrumors 68000


    Apr 12, 2008
    mBurns -- I also think that the recently updated 13 inch MBP would be the perfect choice for you. My daughter just gave one to my grandson for graduation, which he will be taking to college with him next fall. The current 13 inch MBP offers a lot more computing power than the current MBA. The 13 inch MBP is priced at $1,199, whereas the MBA with SSD, which is the only one you should consider, goes for $1,799. Further, If you carry your computer in a bag with a shoulder strap or in a backpack, you are not going to notice the 1.5 pound weight difference between the MBP and the MBA. Once you are settled and the computer is on a desk in front of you or on your lap, you won't notice it either.

    The foregoing notwithstanding, the MBA is both elegantly thin and incredibly light. Thus, it might behoove you to wait and see whether Apple announces an MBA update at WWDC next week. If Apple updates the MBA with the same C2D chip and integrated NVIDIA 320M GPU it now uses in the 13 inch MBP, and also includes 4Gb of RAM, then the MBA might, indeed, be worth its price premium to you. I would strongly advise you, though, to avoid the current MBA, which is limited to only 2Gb of RAM and has what by modern standards is substandard graphics performance. It's just never a good idea to pay a premium for yesterday's technology.
  5. Rodimus Prime macrumors G4

    Rodimus Prime

    Oct 9, 2006
    mBurns. Some question to be ask is what is your major?

    If it is a engineering one I would strongly consider something else other than a MBA. Reason being is for those majors often have programing or require software that is windows only. This just means you will need to boot camp. Not a huge deal but the hard drive size of the MBA is limiting.

    Also I personally feel the MBA is a great laptop but a horrible primary computer. It is a great 2ndary computer to go along with a desktop for heavy lifting.

    The things that will drive you nuts about the MBA is no external monitor and what not.

    Also for carry I found on college if you are a math/science based major after you are threw your cores using a laptop in class just is not worth it any more. Laptops are not good for taking notes that require diagrams or mathematical formulas. It is just easy to write those out by hand so that minor weight pentacle of a full power laptop is not a huge deal.

    Just my though on it. I would say get another MBP and use that for 4 years.
  6. thatdrewguy macrumors regular

    Mar 14, 2009
    1.5 pounds is a noticeable difference. Every time I pick up the air at the apple store i think yeah i can live with the weight, it isn't the same when i lift the mbp.

    I'm coming from a 2.7 lb thinkpad and my next laptop will be the NEW air.
  7. flynz4 macrumors 68040

    Aug 9, 2009
    Portland, OR
    I would not recommend any laptop without an SSD today. Hence, I think it would be better to add a few hundred to the MBP price to have a valid comparison.

  8. JasG macrumors member

    Jul 12, 2009
    I never tire of this thread, probably because I have two college kids.

    I love the AIR, it is my only computer. The difference in weight is huge for me. I take it everywhere. I have used the 100 dollar optical drive maybe twice in a year. I am a writer, it is all I need.

    THAT SAID: Do not buy this computer for college unless you have a physical disability and the 1.5 pounds means something it should not to most 18 year olds. It is not a college computer. Even if the performance were identical, even if the expandability and the ports were identical, even if you (unlike few college students I know) never wanted an optical drive at hand, I would not recommend it. It is not nearly as sturdy as a MacBook any of them. Not nearly. Those things are built to last. The cases are super stiff. The screen, besides smashing, seems impervious even to years of dust.

    Put too much pressure on the top of the AIR--as I must have, perhaps too many things in my briefcase though the AIR was in a sleeve-- and you can ruin the screen.

    I love the AIR, don't get me wrong. But it is not for college.

    Any bicycle riders out there? Have you ever heard what the honest salespeople say to the people coming into the store wanting to spend one, two, three or more thousand dollars to shave a pound or two off their road bike? The honest ones say: take the pounds off your gut. It is the exact same thing on the road.

    My older sons Macbook lasted for four years of college. He just graduated. That's pretty remarkable in this day and age.

    Buy AppleCare. You'll be happy you did at least once, probably more.

    good luck..

    I neglected to say:

    And even if the price were the same . . . . .

    But it is not.

    SSDs are great. I love mine. My sons don't want or need them.

    One of the two, the younger, is a math and physics student. He has never once suggested that he needs a faster or more powerful machine than his 2009 MacBook Pro. He still seems to use a pencil a lot of math. I assume when the going gets touch, the college labs have what they need.
  9. Disavowed macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009
    I am a CURRENT grad student

    Had I known then what I know NOW, I would have bought a MBA.

    Portability is so huge and most of not all lectures/syllabi are on PPT and Blackboard, respectively. I knew people who never brought anything to class except for their netbook the whole semester, papers and handouts for class during a presentation aside, of course.

    There are outlets everywhere unless you go to school in a cave.

    FOR ME, portability, research, writing, and web access are key. word and ppt do not take up a lot of space. People get on here and say "I can't even fit one season of SCRUBS on the MBA!" Music, movies, and games have their place, but if it were ME, I would work from a portable HD, which you are going to need for BU anyway....and it will stay in your room, where it belongs.

    Wait to see if there is an upgrade at WWDC and then jump on it.

    That said, a friend who runs some of the most complex computer systems at a major techie university bought a MBA and loves it. I also know that the chairman of the anesthesia department of the med school has one. While I cannot speak specifically to their needs and the hierarchical role the MBA plays, they must be able to work on the go since they all travel quite a bit.

    Finally, and regretfully, like you, my MBP stays home more often than I would like. Hindsight is 2/20 my friend.

    Good luck.
  10. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    The macbook air is a perfect college machine. I would have LOVED if they existed when I went to a campus.

    People will always say "get a mbp" but honestly portability is huge. Id rather have a mba to take everywhere and a mac mini w/monitor back in my dorm if I absolutely had to have a second computer, but unless your going to something in the media creation field where you may potentially need multiple ports, the MBA would be perfect.
  11. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    If you're going to do media creation, get an iMac or a Mac Pro (or use the school's machines).

    A current revision Air wouldn't be a smart purchase at this time due to the fact that it only has 2GB of RAM. The CPU and GPU are also fairly old tech, but the 2GB of RAM is killer for a machine that you want to last at least 4 years. The minimum you should be looking for is 4GB (or buy a machine that can be upgraded). Storage can always be upgraded (even in the Air), and you could always go for an external (or cloud storage) should you run out.

    If you're really wanting an Air, wait until it's updated or until you can't wait any longer (out of necessity).

    The Air is a beautiful machine and it's okay to want one even if it's not the most practical choice. I'd also consider the 13" MBP because it's a great machine as well. But in the end, you're the one who has to make the decision because it's your money, not ours.
  12. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    You need to be an MBA user to understand how great the MBA differences are vs. the MBP. It's definitely not the same height, and the weight differences are substantial to the end user.

    The MBA is an incredible computer that does nearly everything a MacBook can do. Most people don't use more ports and the optical drive in the MB/MBP is a JOKE!

    The MBA is amazing, but the user has to want the differences. There is a major market here for the MBA, but some people like you will never understand those differences. The vast majority of 13" MBP or MB users could get a better user experience from the MBA if they wanted to pay more money for the ultraportability. You don't want it. Many of us do. You are all "more power" focused and maybe you're not realizing you don't need "more power" in a Mac for the vast majority of uses. Finally, the MBA is a completely capable machine, but its performance is even better with Windows running on it.

    There are a bunch of people out there that only understand the "more power" attitude of the MBP user. There is no challenging them, and even though an MBA with an SSD is faster to the end user than the MBP will experience, the MBP user would never admit to any of it. They see the computer as faster than 2.13 GHz. They see the HDD in the MBP as larger than the MBA's SSD. They see the RAM as more. They see the optical drive as beneficial for the once per year they need it. They see these things as necessary requirements because "more must be better." All of us MBA users know that less is MORE. The MBA experience cannot be understood by a "I need more power" user.
  13. gwsat macrumors 68000


    Apr 12, 2008
    Media such as video and recorded books shouldn't take up permanent residence on most laptop hard drives, it seems to me. The smaller the portable device, the less reason to use it for permanent storage of such media. For example, I watch a lot of movies and listen to a lot of recorded books on my 16Gb iPad. The permanent storage place for that media is on a 640Gb portable USB drive, which cost less than $90, including delivery. When I want to watch or listen to something new, I simply connect the portable drive to my MBP, to which I sync the iPad via iTunes and the Goodreader app, and copy the media I want next to the iPad. When it's time for something else, I delete the media I just watched or heard from the iPad and download something else. Of course, a portable USB drive could be connected directly to an MBA, so there would be no need for iTunes or syncing with another computer. You would simply copy the media you wanted to use from the portable drive to the MBA and then delete it when you were finished with it.
  14. bdeitemeyer macrumors member

    Nov 10, 2009
    I'm a college student using my MBA rev-C, and I absolutely love it. Previously, I was using a unibody 15" MBP and the small difference in weight and size was surprisingly noticeable when having to carry it around with the rest of my books. There are power outlets everywhere, so the shorter battery life was negated in my eyes. All in all, I'd recommend the MBA to anyone that in school that isn't a gamer or using programs that require a majority of the computer's RAM. Good luck with your choice.
  15. gwsat macrumors 68000


    Apr 12, 2008
    The 15 inch MBP, which weighs 5.6 pounds, is nearly twice as heavy as the MBA, which weighs only 3 pounds. Even before you factor in the substantial difference in size, the 15 inch MBP represents a lot of extra weight to be humping.
  16. jb1280 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 13, 2009
    For what it's worth, I was a rev A user and had a relatively positive experience with the machine.

    The current rev of the Macbook Air with the SSD is a great machine, and this is coming from someone with a 13" 2.26 Macbook Pro.

    I would personally wait until there is some clarity as to what the Macbook Air looks like for the next calendar year before purchasing anything.

    The number one concern I would have is the RAM limitation on the current generation. If you want the machine to last your entire undergraduate education, I would want a machine that can at least take 4GB.

    Beyond this limitation of the current generation, I want to address a few other points where I think it would behoove you to get a 13" Macbook Pro over the Macbook Air, and they all revolve around the mantra "Sh*t Happens!"

    1. Hard drive replacement. OK, if you go with an SSD, the likelihood of a disc failure is lower, and I assume you will back everything up to external drives, etc. The advantage of the Macbook Pro, at least for me, is that I have a cloned drive on standby, that if something really catastrophic happens, I can replace it myself. Of course this is possible with the Air, but it is a more delicate procedure.

    2. Discreteness. I banned all iPods, notebooks, iPads, smart phones from my classroom 3 semesters ago, but just walking around myriad university campuses, there are far more Macbook Pros than Macbook Airs. Going back to my undergraduate days, I remember far more TI-89 and TI-92 calculators going missing compared to TI-85 or HP48 calculators. Simply put, don't make yourself a target.

    3. Battery. Of course there are outlets around most universities, but the new battery life seems really really great.
  17. Disavowed macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009

    A much better job at what I tried to say. I also agree with Scottsdale in the "less is more viewpoint." I can honestly say that I really regret not getting a MBA instead of a MBP, but I couldn't wait till school started to decide. In my head I wanted that issue settled, and FOR ME, it was a mistake.
  18. tigres macrumors 68040


    Aug 31, 2007
    Land of the Free-Waiting for Term Limits

    Steve Jobs actually mentioned the Air on his D8 interview so I see a change coming. With that being said:

    I am another lover of the product. I have used it daily for the last 1.5 years (rev b-ssd) and cannot live without it. Now mind you, I do not game, watch a lot of videos, or the like- but I do use it to the max.

    It is my primary go to personal, and business computer. If you plan on using it as suggested; IMO you will be very pleased with the performance. As for the DVD drive- I think I have pulled out that Superdrive two times since I have owned it.
  19. Disavowed macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009

    Could you mention which section he mentioned it and/or what he said?
  20. pharmx macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2009
    If I'm not mistaken, this is it:

    - On the Adobe Flash controversy: "Apple doesn't have the resources others have, and we have to choose which horses to ride. We try to ride those that are on the way up. If you choose wisely, you save yourself an enormous amount of work." Points to the move to 3.5-inch floppies, the discontinuation of floppy drives, removal of serial and parallel ports, adoption of USB, removal of optical drive in MacBook Air. "Sometimes people call us crazy."
  21. mBurns thread starter macrumors 6502

    Oct 3, 2006
    I really appreciate all the responses. Of course, I have a perfectly working machine right now -- and to be honest -- if I reformatted it, it could easily last me another year. Years ago I had the hard drive upgraded to 500 GB by an authorized Apple reseller. It's been a wonderful machine.

    I just know I'm ready for a change. Something smaller, newer, etc. You know the feeling. My Pro is starting to show some age speed wise.

    My major fear with the Air is the 2 Gb ram limit. After surfing around on the Air forum, this seems to be the major achilles heel for others. I wouldn't even consider upgrading this year if my Pro could handle more than 2 Gb of RAM. Extra RAM definitely comes in handy in certain situations.

    I'm not a hard math major. I'm considering political science, economics, and/or some combination of organic chemistry.

    I'm also an educated buyer. I've been a Mac lover my entire life. I'm not too worried about the edu discount or the "free iTouch" deal. I have an iPhone. I'd probably go through other channels like MacMall or MicroCenter. Basically, I'm waiting for an upgrade and if there's a good enough deal on the current revision Air I may go for it. Otherwise, I'll probably buy another MacBook Pro. None of my friends have had the same laptop all 4 years of high school that still can watch YouTube videos, use Skype, and generally multitask. It's quite sad.
  22. tigres macrumors 68040


    Aug 31, 2007
    Land of the Free-Waiting for Term Limits
    Yes that was it; he seemed proud in a way. I think Steve likes the Air.
  23. Jobsian macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2009
    Indeed, and in fact he's expressed his fondness for it. If he wasn't Apple's CEO and was a MR member, I believe he'd spend most of his time in this forum :D

    Apple hit the biggest home run I've ever seen with the Air. Not in terms of sales, but in terms of a terrific product imo.
  24. zafar9999 macrumors newbie

    Apr 8, 2010
    As for the Macbook decision, I think your best bet would be continuing using yours until the next revision is announced whenever it finally is announced.

    Getting a 13" Pro or a 15" Pro works when you HAVE to bring it somewhere, but I don't know anyone, myself included, that would carry it around unless it was completely necessary. With the Air, you'll be more apt to bringing it with you to classes and such, since it's much less of a hassle. It's what laptops should be. My 15" uMBP is pretty much used as a desktop.

    It will last if you take care of it. Try to get a backpack geared for laptops that have padded/protected compartments for laptops that are above your books. Make sure the books aren't ever stacked on top or pressure the laptop. Treat it well, and it'll last.
  25. Goldcard macrumors regular

    Jan 10, 2006
    St. Paul, MN
    To the original poster:

    I own a revision A macbook air and although it has received much criticism, I LOVE this machine. Lately I have been dabbling with some Steam games such as Torchlight and some online flash games as well. Although my air doesn't perform well with either of these, if you are just looking for something to allow you to play some games every now and then it definitely works and I imagine the new Airs are even better. Just don't expect great graphics.

    Some days I do regret not buying a macbook pro (for flash) but when I travel I am so glad I have the Air. If you are planning on traveling with just a carry-on bag, you won't regret having the Air. It is amazing how quickly a bag can become over-packed on long trips and it is nice to save your computer for packing last and having it slide right in taking up virtually no space in terms of thickness. Those trips where you are weighing whether or not to take your computer along for photos, schoolwork, etc., will make your decision A LOT easier!

    My advice, weigh your travel and gaming needs and then decide. I'm happy with my choice and I'm sure you'll be happy with yours!

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