MacBook Air vs. Self-Upgraded MBP

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Glockron, Jun 16, 2012.

  1. Glockron macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2012
    Hey - I've decided to buy my first Mac ever, and I'm stuck between two options

    Option 1) 13" MBA 2012
    Option 2) 13" MBP 2012

    My main attraction with the Air is the portability - that thing is super light. Yet I'm worried about being unable to upgrade, which is one of my main + points with Windows PCs.

    In the MBP, I would be able to add my own SSD and aftermarket RAM, giving it the disk speed of the Air, with the CPU of the Pro.

    Bottom line: Is the MBA fast enough to work for 4 years? I'm concerned that a Dual Core ULV won't keep up that long...

    Also - how much would either machine be better than my current machine. Specs: Dell Studio 1555, 2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4 GB DDR2 RAM, ATI Radeon 4500, 7200 RPM HDD.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Since you don't tell us what you use your computers for I'll just assume it's the usual: internet, "some occasional light movie editing", iTunes, and photoshop. The MBA will be fine for 4 years if that's all you're using your computer for.
  3. torana355 macrumors 68030

    Dec 8, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    Depends what you are going to do with the machine? For casual internet surfing, email and light photo/video editing the MBA is awesome, i have the 2011 MBA and love it. If you want to do stuff that needs maximum power and upgrade options then the MBP is the way to go. Quite simple really. Also people rave on about a computer being good enough for 4 years but unless you are using it for a living/professionally computers will always last 4 years. My 2008 iMac is still good enough for what i do on it and will do for another 4 years if i choose to keep it.
  4. Glockron thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2012
    You're both pretty spot on. Casual surfing, your occasional movie, iTunes and Skype. It'll be used for studies too, I'm going into Computer Science (don't know if that somehow makes a difference)

    About RAM - is it worth getting 8GB for this sort of thing on the Air?

    One other thing - I've been planning to hook it up to an external display when I'm at home. I haven't bought the display yet, but it's a Dell Ultrasharp U2711. It's an IPS display with a 2560 x 1600 resolution.

    I am aware that I'd need an adapter to connect to the TB port, but I was wondering if the HD4000 would be able to run at that resolution without getting too hot / noisy?

    Thanks again :)
  5. torana355 macrumors 68030

    Dec 8, 2009
    Sydney, Australia
    Yeah if you get the 2012 MBA the 8gigs of ram is a good choice and will future proof it for many years. Even the HD3000 in my 2011 MBA will run an external display of that resolution with no problems at all so the HD4000 will eat it up :) Get the MBA, they are a fantastic machine especially if you are very mobile. Also go for the 256gig SSD option as you may want to load Windows though bootcamp or a VM for your studies at a later date, the 128gig is really tight for 2 OS's.
  6. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    Well, there is not much difference performance-wise between the ULV CPU in the Air and the regular CPU in the MBP. I'd take the Air.
  7. elcid macrumors 6502

    May 5, 2007
    I was in the same boat. I helped a friend max out his 13" MBP and thought I'd do the same. The more I thought about it, the more I would use the larger screen on the Air, and that I would rarely ever use the processor bump in the pro.

    I went to the store and compared the two side by side and felt the air was the obvious choice. Also, OCZ (?) is working on the SSD upgrade, so it might be possible to upgrade the storage for cheaper.
  8. bit density macrumors 6502

    Mar 5, 2004
    With the exception of gaming and heavy media work the air will not only be fine, it is likely to get better over time, well the software will get better. We are not seeing slow monolith software as the majors have put performance back into the products as a feature.

    4 Years is probably the longest you want to do this. I find that I get antsy at the second upgrade. And while the 2012 benchmarked smoked the 2010. I gotta tell you, it looks and feels the same.
  9. wgnoyes macrumors 6502

    Jul 20, 2011
    If you go MBA, get the 8gb ram version; you can't upgrade ram later. For MBP, get the 4gb ram version and buy your own OEM ram ($50 for 2 4gb Crucial ram sticks) and upgrade it yourself. That is, unless you want the faster processor and bigger hard drive (750gb v. 500gb) in which case it will come with 8gb.
  10. justit macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2007
    If this is your first Mac, you probably aren't caught up in the Apple distortion field, as you'd like to hang onto it for 4 years. So Kudos to that. :)

    The thing about the MBP is that during those 4 years you can upgrade piece by piece:

    Swap out ram
    Swap main drive for SSD
    Swap DVD drive for Internal drive ($100 kit)
    Cheaper battery swap when it degrades (year 3 or 4)

    MBA= cool factor
    MBP= practical
  11. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    But the MBP 13" come with 1280x800 resolution screen which really impact your screen real estate when you use IDE like Xcode or Eclipse. This will impact you if you go into software development.

    I was just like the OP and I've reach the conclusion that the MBA is a better deal if you like to work on the go. If he want to go the MBP way, he should consider the 15" at least so he could get the benefit of the discrete GPU and a 1440x900 (same as the 13" Air) or 1680x1050 HiRes display. The tradeoff is that the 15" is heavier and less convivial for using it during commutes.
  12. Glockron thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2012
    OP here - thanks for all the advice. I think I'll go for the Air based on what you guys have told me :)

    Two small things - I still have a year before college starts, so my old dell can cope until next summer (although I'd like a Mac now ;) ). I've heard some things about a 13" Retina Pro coming out late this year. Have there been any indications that this will happen?

    Also - if I were to buy the 2012 13" MBA now, with the 8 gigs of RAM, is it also worth it to add the 2.0 GHz i7 processor?
  13. TrollToddington macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2011
    I can confirm Eclipse is totally inconvenient on 1280x800 resolution, I like using Eclipse/xCode on my fullHD iMac where I can open many many tabs and see lots of lines of code. Having said that, you are far better off having a 13" MBA than a 13" MBP

    In my opinion, i7 2.0GHz is useless for what you are going to do on that machine. I'd be more concerned with the disk space.

    13" retina? Can you imagine a resolution of 2560x1600 on a 13" monitor. In no way will this help me using Eclipse more conveniently as the text will be rather too small. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I guess those retina screens are good for photographers or video editors. For almost anything else this resolution will be overkill. I guess games will look better provided there is a powerful enough graphic processor.

    If I were you I'd wait till next year.
  14. NewbieCanada macrumors 68030

    Oct 9, 2007
    You won't need an adapter, just a Mini Display Port -> Display Port cable. I ran a 2011 MBA with that monitor with no issues, so the HD4000 and newer i5 or i7 will handle it even better.
  15. Glockron thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2012
    I see what you mean - 2560x1600 is a bit large on a 13". So why do you suggest I wait for next year? Is it because of Intel's "Tock" to Haswell?
  16. GodWhomIsMike macrumors 6502a

    Sep 24, 2007
    I think the 8GB of ram is a must have. The 2.0 Ghz Core i7 is a $90 future proof that should help your laptop age better. I don't resell my computers, I just run my machines until they no longer work.

    There is a point though, where they just start feeling sooo much slower than everything else, and thus, you use it less. I feel the i7 should help push that point further out into the future.

    The question between the MBP and MBA, I feel the MBA is far more worth it. Between the lighter weight, the flash based storage, and the better screen - just feels like a better choice. The only thing that would have persuaded me otherwise, is if Apple had shoehorned a Quad-core processor into the 13" MBP. But, being that it's just a normal laptop with a normal dual-core processor - it feels overpriced in my opinion.

    The MBA competes with the ultrabooks, and in my opinion, the Air is not a whole lot more than the ultrabooks that other manufactures are currently selling.
  17. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    If it were me, I would get the low-end MBA, sell it next year (with the student discount, you might only lose about 10%, or about 10 dollars per month of use), and buy the next upgrade of the MBA. Money spent on extra RAM and processor power (unless, of course, you actually "need" it) is wasted if you are not going to keep the computer over the long haul. Obviously, as this user has said, keeping your computer until it dies a natural death is a different consumer strategy that benefits from extra stuff.

    The MBP? Not the 2012 MBP. It's the same processor, same RAM, and (even though I like the screen a little better) lower resolution. Why pay more for less? I am not sure what Apple was thinking with this "update."

    The 2011 MBP is a great deal now, because it basically has the same specs (with the exception of Sandy instead of Ivy Bridge) for far less money. You can always swap out the optical drive for an SSD and have a blazing fast computer. You'll probably still come out ahead, too.
  18. Glockron thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 16, 2012
    You've all made fair points. Seems likely that I'll go for the 13" MBA, probs with the added RAM.

    Yet - I just checked out the non-Mac alternatives. The ASUS Zenbook UX31A looks great, pretty much identical specs but cheaper and with a 1080p display. As mentioned earlier the MBA would be my first Mac. What exactly would be the advantage of paying more for an Apple machine vs. the PC Ultrabooks?
  19. TrollToddington macrumors 6502

    Feb 27, 2011
    You said you'd got a computer that would drag you successfully to next summer. Besides, I am of the same type of person as the other poster who said they liked to keep their computers until they die due to natural causes.

    Of course, if you've got the bug for a new computer just go ahead and get one. The macbook airs are surprisingly cool and capable computers.
  20. tuxon86 macrumors 65816

    May 22, 2012
    Mac os x...
  21. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    As far as I know, the Zenbook with Ivy Bridge is not available to consumers yet. According to reviews, it is a superior computer, and you might be better off purchasing it.

    I am OK with W7, but I enjoy Lion. In my experience, nothing has been able to match the current glass trackpad + operating system combo that Apple has. It makes such a huge difference in daily usage to have full-screen mode, swiping, and so forth. I packed my mouse away in a drawer last year and haven't used it since. There are all sorts of apps and other little things that I like about Apple, but when it comes down to it, I want to enjoy my experience on the computer, because I am using it all day every day, and I just don't "enjoy" Windows right now. Maybe W8 will change that for me, but I doubt it.
  22. jbouklas macrumors regular

    Mar 2, 2002
    I've checked out the ultrabooks too, and they seem to be a good value. But the build quality on many of them isn't par with the MBA, and their trackpads are generally awful. Check this out:

    The trackpad is how you will interact with the laptop 90% of the time, and if it doesn't work smoothly, then that's a huge problem. I have yet to use a PC laptop that has a trackpad that functions as well as an Apple laptop. Which is a true shame, because some of these ultrabooks look great and represent good value otherwise.

    Also, definitely get the extra RAM if you're concerned about using the laptop long-term. I just upgraded my 13" MPB from 4GB to 8GB and I saw a huge improvement in multi-tasking (I do a lot of legal research and writing and typically have 40 or 50 tabs open plus Word plus my RSS reader, etc, but no professional-type software like Photoshop). 4GB is more or less the minimum these days, and I see that moving up to 8GB in the next two years.

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