MacBook Air for medical school

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by PossibleConvert, May 30, 2010.

  1. PossibleConvert macrumors newbie

    May 30, 2010
    Hey everyone, thanks for any help. I am starting medical school in the fall and am debating between a MacBook Pro and an Air. Obviously the Air being so thin and light has an advantage for walking to and from campus. However, the relatively weak processor power may hold me up. I will need to run Windows on my machine and am curious about the quality of Windows virtualization on the Air. I know MBPros can run Windows nearly flawlessly and am wondering if the Air's can do similarly. I need my machine to stream classes and view images in Windows mode. I hope to run iTunes, MS Office, and relatively light games (really just StarCraft II) in Mac OS. Can any Air users let me know if I should cross the Air off my list or if the machine is capable of fulfilling my needs? I have been following the forums for a bit and do understand a possible refresh is on the horizon and will wait to see what happens, but like many others, I am assuming the worst. Thanks for any help.
  2. Airforcekid macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2008
    United States of America
    Wait until June 7th if the air gets 4gb of ram it will be perfect for you but virtualization with 2gb will be slow. If your willing to use boot camp it would work great. Also get the SSD modol worth every penny I miss mine.
  3. PossibleConvert thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 30, 2010
    Thanks for the help. As the specs currently stand, running a version of Windows through bootcamp works well on the Air? I will be running an old copy of Windows XP I have lying around. Hopefully next week we'll see a major update and these questions will be irrelevant. However, a major price increase would probably force me to jump on the current version.
  4. Airforcekid macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2008
    United States of America
    Windows 7 runs perfect xp would be even better. You can run it in virtualization but use Vmware so you can boot from
    your boot camp install.
  5. pruhawk macrumors member

    Apr 1, 2008
    My daughter started Med School last fall and purchased the 13 inch Macbook Pro. She loves it, finds it to be very portable and it runs Windows 7 (which she needs) great.
  6. gyus macrumors member

    Oct 26, 2007
    Im familiar with CHM in lansing / grand rapids and I really dont know the if the administration understands that lectures are available online: all of them are easily watchable in safari. The only thing you might need is a wmv player plug in but thats free.

    Look regardless of where in michigan your going to be studying medicine, fact is that your going to be bring you laptop to lectures and to "practice- based- lectures" afterwards. Matter of fact your going to be lugging your laptop everywhere.

    You are not going to need Windows emulation. Everything is web based now. Your not going to need a powerful machine, rather something thats light and has decent battery power. You think your going to have time to play an addictive game like Starcraft 2?

    So yes the MBA is pretty much what your going to need.
  7. PossibleConvert thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 30, 2010
    gyus, thanks for the reality check. I'm actually going to be attending CHM in Grand Rapids next year. Small world I guess. Were/are you a CHM student? If so, an Air would work fine for that curriculum without any need for a Windows boot? Thanks so much, I actually couldn't ask for a better person to answer my question. Sidenote, I'm hoping to crank out some StarCraft II before school starts, I tend to get bored with games after a month anyways and am not too hardcore about gaming.
  8. SaleenS351 macrumors 6502

    Dec 2, 2004
    I'm kinda of in the same boat. I start my physician assistant program at the end of June and I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling and moving around so ultra-portable is what I am looking for. I need to run Windows 7 for testing purposes for my school. They are very anti Mac, but I'm going to maybe give it a shot anyway. If there isn't much change in the Air at WWDC or by the time I need to buy my laptop at the end of June then I will probably go with the Sony Vaio Z. Good luck with your purchase!
  9. RKmd macrumors newbie


    May 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I have a 2008 black MacBook, and as a medical student, I've been very pleased with it. In retrospect, a MacBook Air would have worked out just as well.

    Some things you may want to consider though:

    Depending on the school, your histology course may require a ridiculous amount of hard drive space for digital slides (I had 50 GB+). Make sure you have a large enough drive (or consider getting a solid state disk). I purchased an SSD about a year after I bought my MacBook for the "piece of mind" that all my important files are less likely to be lost in the event of a hard drive failure (though it's always a good idea to backup externally).

    As far as power goes, the only programs I frequently use on my MacBook (in and out of medical school) are a few web browsers, Office, iTunes, Mail, Coda, Transmit, and VLC - all of these should run very well on the Air's processor.

    The only problem you may have is virtualization. Since I don't own a Macbook Air, I really don't know how well Fusion/Parallels performs, but at Baylor Med, the only reason I have to use Windows is to speed up lecture streams using a RealPlayer plugin by Enounce (which is currently not available for OSX).

    Best of luck in beginning medical school! :)
  10. Apollo21 macrumors member


    Feb 6, 2009
    Pennsylvania, USA
    I pray that gyus is not in medical school.

    And I can't think of any reason to pay more for an Air that has less power and features than a MBP. The weight difference isn't that much—3 lbs vs. 4.5 lbs. I love my 13" MBP (from last year). 4GB of RAM is a must, though; I only have 2GB and it's very frustrating trying to use virtual machines.
  11. mbamd macrumors newbie

    Apr 20, 2008
    Save your (parent's) money

    I am pleased with the two plus years I have gotten out of my MBAir in spite of the early adopter hassles. There is NO way I would suggest you buy one. Zero. I will get a new one if they do a nice update at or after the WWDC but not for you, lad. You will want the integrated disc drive. You want the longer battery life. You don't really need to pay a premium for the lower weight. Do not do it.

    I run XP with Parallels and it does fine on my Air, though it does kick the fans on as it is processor intensive. I need it to get to the hospital xray system and other functions via windows. Although I am all in favor of Mac, the reality is that healthcare is still a Windows world. Our head of IT has an IPhone and an Air, but business is still business. You may want to also consider a low weight windows alternative if the carry around factor is really a big deal.
  12. pharmx macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2009
    I think the first think you need to answer is why you even considered the Air as a viable choice to begin with. If the answer to that is weight/thinness, then you need to ask yourself if 1.5 pounds lighter is worth all the options you would lose by not going with the 13" MBP including more (and upgradeable) RAM/HD, built in optical drive, and much more connectivity choices.

    If the 1.5 pounds does make a significant difference (and it very well could depending on your circumstances), then ask yourself if a Windows 7 machine is an option, so that you may consider something like a Sony Vaio.

    Based on the things you've mentioned, I would recommend you get the 13" MBP over the Air. I think it will be light and portable enough for your needs (but only you can answer that), yet offer everything you want and are looking for in a laptop.
  13. apatel87 macrumors regular

    Mar 30, 2009
    Hi, as a med student in Chicago I can say that the 13inch MBP works best for me. I never had the need to run Windows as our histology slides are available online. I had a MB Air at one point but quickly gave it away as I saw no increase in portability. I am not sure about you but I carry my backpack all day with my textbooks and such and for me an extra 1.5 pounds didnt matter at all. However, the power that comes with that increase is significant.
    Good luck with your time in med school. As someone who is finishing up studying for the boards I can really say that i miss college right now lol
  14. lightfitting macrumors newbie

    May 31, 2010
    I'm a med student in sydney and find that my Air (1.6, 120gb rev 2) runs everything that I could possibly need. My housemate (dentistry but same course structure) has an air (rev 3 2.13, 128 ssd) and also finds it more than adequate...
    I use Office (it can be a pain opening a lot of office documents but everyone at uni that has pros find the same situation, so no different amongst macs) I use OSIRIX (an imaging application for viewing CT/PET/MRI scans and can convert sagital/coronal/axial into a 3d picture, very useful for any surgical rotations you are doing, also I find it useful just for looking at and studying anatomy through radiographs..

    The only thing that I wouldn't mind is a bit more battery life however if I am going to be studying or something I generally bring a power cord anyway, however most weeks i have no need for plugging it in, the overnight charge at home is more than adequate.
    and of course the thing I most enjoy about it is its portability
  15. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    The people that say that the MBA is a terrible computer and everyone should buy a 13" MBP don't really get the MBA market. One that says this is not the target market buyer for an MBA so of course they're not going to understand. Most people want more power. Some people are so obsessed with power that they lose sight of what they actually NEED.

    I personally feel the 13" MBP is ridiculously overpowered in terms of battery weight and purpose of a 10-hour battery. I cannot imagine ever needing a 10-hour battery. I would GUESS that the average 13" MBP user rarely ever NEEDS his or her MBP to last 10 hours between charges. Meaning there's probably a power source available at some point within those 10 hours even if they use the MBP for 10 hours. I feel that this is a waste in weight, and I don't want to carry around an extra 1.5 lbs and an inch thick MBP for an optical drive and 10-hour battery. But understand when I say this that I am NOT the 13" MBP market buyer.

    Those of us that are the intended market for the MBA are willing to pay more money for an MBA because it meets our required performance needs. The 13" MBP, MB, and MBA are all targeted at different markets. It's obvious to us MBA buyers that the MBA is worth every penny because it meets our needs AND our wants. The MB buyer has almost zero wants and all NEEDs for a low cost computer that does everything they NEED it to do. The 13" MBP buyer NEEDs more power and performance and those users do not see an advantage in lower weight because they need power and performance. I believe these forums would provide a lot more precise information to potential buyers to have MBA owners report on why one should buy an MBA, and MBP owners should report why one should buy an MBP. It's the same thing with the iPad. People are saying everyone should buy an iPad because that person doesn't need an MBA or MBP if an iPad can do the task.

    "What we have here is failure to communicate."

    I would tell the OP to wait for WWDC and an MBA update and see if that MBA will meet your needs. I believe that the current MBA could also be perfect for your needs, but I would wait to see if there's an update and what it contains to determine which MBA better suits your needs. Windows is going to be amazing on the current MBA but it might be even better on the next MBA. Or you might be able to run both simultaneously via a VM if the MBA gets an upgrade to 4 GB RAM... instead of using BootCamp to get into Windows 7.

    I run Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate on a 2.13 GHz MBA with a 128 GB SSD. Windows 7 on the MBA is FAR BETTER faster and more capable for entertainment and graphics purposes than OS X is on the MBA. My MBA absolutely screams with Windows 7 booted. I run Windows 7 in BootCamp, and I use it anytime I plan to run a Windows platform app, or when I want to watch Flash videos on hulu or YouTube, or when I want to run an HD video playback app. I use OS X the rest of the time for basic stuff, Adobe CS, and iLife/iWork apps. The MBA definitely is much more capable with Windows 7 than it is with OS X. It's just the truth. One can easily boot into Windows 7, startup a video or an app and monitor CPU usage and system performance. Then shutdown Windows and start OS X and do the same processes and monitor performance. Windows 7 uses far fewer system resources to do the same exact tasks in anything graphical system-based.

    In all truth, if you just want to run Windows, there are other PCs that are ultraportables with much better components for even lower pricing than the MBA. If I could get away with just using Windows 7, I would buy a Sony Vaio Z, or I would consider an Asus, Lenovo, or Dell ultraportable with better components. However, I love the MBA's design, so I would completely understand someone wanting the MBA over the MBP or a PC even if they're cheaper and one just needs to run Windows 7.

    Good luck whichever route you go with the computers, and best wishes with med school.
  16. Knipperdolling macrumors newbie

    Apr 21, 2009
    If you need Windows - definitely use bootcamp.
    1.5 pounds do matter. Go for it, it will serve you well for the needs you posted, mine are quite similar.
    Including StarCraft 2, as I can confirm as lucky beta-account owner (on air, 1.86 ssd).
    Good look!
  17. cleric macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    Yea, most people think a laptops usefulness is measured by its ability to play Crysis. Also may can never comprehend how I would never need a an attached dvd drive. I do have to say its great to be able to carry my laptop around with me for several hours on end and forget that its there.
  18. fibrizo macrumors 6502


    Jan 23, 2009
    An alternative option, given what I remember from my medical school days, for a similar cost would be an ipad and MBP. Most of what you might consider for what you need to do on a portable device in medical school could probably be done on an ipad, however in those cases that you need to do more than just basic stuff, I think a macbook pro would work better. As you'd probably need the CD drive, as given how backwards things in medicine still are, you will need to use a CD or even possibly (if they've advanced so far) a DVD at some point for slides, or othe things. The good thing is that at the last allergy conference I went to, they finally started distributing stuff on flash drives instead of CD/DVD. Alot of stuff will still come on that format for a while. One of the most useful, Uptodate is availible on DVD or web access, but not as a native iphone/ipad app yet. This is my current recommendation based on the current specs/cost/practicality and usefulness for a student. The cheaper option is to go straight for a macbook pro obviously. I'm going to guess that you'll carry it around to lectures, and to the library to study. Most of medicine is still studied out of books. There are definitely medical texts that are availible in electronic format, ie harrisons etc, but reading them is still not going to be great on a laptop. An ipad will be nice in this case. When you have to carry massive text books, it's pointless to discuss 1.5 lbs lol. You might find yourself not bringing any laptop at all and going with the ipad for occassional email, web look up or something while you study.

    As for running windows, I would go ahead and get windows 7 pro now, and use bootcamp and virtual xp if you really needed it now. This obviously would run alot better with 4gb of ram like on the pro. I initially bought my first macbook with the intention of running windows in bootcamp mostly and mac os occasionally. Upon use, it has become the opposite, and I mostly stay in mac os and occasionally boot windows when some random app calls for it that has no mac equivalent.

    When you finally hit your clinical years in 3-4. You can forget about bringing a laptop or ipad with you. Those scrubs do not have any room to store anything, and stuff is easily stolen. It won't matter if you have a ipad, macbook air or macbook pro then, most of it will sit at home in the 80-100 hours a week you're doing some of your rotations. The only things that will help you at that point are things like an ipod touch (hey free with current back to school offerings) and an iphone, which I think even more than a macbook or ipad would be the single greatest device you could own in the medical profession, bar none. I use it every day basically, ie looking up medicines, referencing materials and documents I need, heck storing my DEA number and license numbers.

    That's the 2 cents from someone who finished medicals school, residency and is now a fellow.

    I'm sure others will post soon to decry my post and say how stupid this is, and how much better a macbook air is. Don't get me wrong the macbook air is a sexy machine. I considered getting one again before I purchased my 3rd 13 inch macbook pro + ipad recently. I do blame apple for not updating it sooner for making my choice for me. But if you want the opinion of someone in the field, then this is my current recommendation unless they A. make the macbook air lighter, more powerful, cheaper. Which is unlikely. You want to make sure you have an iphone over any of these things.

    Enjoy your first 2 years, sadly it's alot like college and highschool, but it will be the last time you see regular vacations and holidays for looooong time.
  19. mousemd macrumors member

    Nov 21, 2002
    As someone else who's been through the whole medschool residency fellowship etc...etc... (it's been awhile), I strongly agree with the last post about using the macbook PRO (13inch) or bigger rather than the AIR. You kind of need the built in CD/DVD player, plus the 13inch isn't really that heavy (I use one in the office all the time lugging it from home to work and back). I've tried desperately to use the ipad at work and it just doesn't quite fit in yet. You'll likely use the stuff for note taking and presentations and although the AIR is nice and light, using bootcamp, and the built in drives as well as the various i/o connections might make the PRO a little more useful. Plus, they haven't updated the AIR in FOREVER. Good luck otherwise.
  20. kellen macrumors 68020


    Aug 11, 2006
    Seattle, WA
    Between the MBA and 13 mbp it is your personal choice. As others have said the MBA is due for an update and your money could get you much more later.

    However the speed of the MBA is fine for school. You don't need the fastest processor and 2gb of ram will suffice coursework wise. I have classmates who bring in old p3 laptops and they work fine. Mostly viewing slides in PowerPoint or accessing blackboard.

    I have only used the DVD drive once, when listening to the disc of heart sounds from the littman rep.

    Just make sure you will be carryin it with you every day. We rarely need the laptop for class, as handouts are supplied for the days material.
  21. PossibleConvert thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 30, 2010
    OP here. I just want to say thanks to all who posted for the great amount of information you have contributed to my thread. Some of you put a lot of time into your responses and for that I am truly thankful. I will anxiously await next week's WWDC and see where my options stand at that time. Based upon most everyone's responses, the current MBA setup would work well for my situation, as well as any MBPro. I am thinking along those lines but I am also keeping an eye on the Sony lineup along with a few other quality built Windows machines. Thanks again for all of your responses, I am continually blown away with how much help can be found within this forum and will hopefully make the best decision with the information provided.

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