MacBook Pro buying advice

fbm3334

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2020
11
6
Hello,

I am looking to possibly upgrade my MacBook Air/possibly my whole setup depending on what people's opinions are. My current laptop is a 2018 MacBook Air 8GB/256GB, and I also have a custom built PC (Ryzen 5 2600, 32GB RAM, RX 580 etc) running Windows.

I am currently studying for an electrical engineering degree, and while I am at my university accommodation, I use my desktop PC and use the MBA while I am away from home/at uni etc. However, due to being away from university over Christmas, I have been using the MBA as my main computer for the past 3 weeks, and its shortcomings are becoming clear.

For example, I have been using Parallels on the MBA to run some Windows applications that do not have Mac equivalents and are required for my degree - this is showing the limitations of the dual core processor as it makes it hard to run Mac apps at the same time. The SSD is also becoming too small for my needs, as I am using 225GB at the moment, so any replacement would need at least a 512GB SSD.

The options I am thinking of doing are:

Option 1: 13" Pro and keep PC
I am thinking of selling the MBA and upgrading it to a 13" MacBook Pro (4 TB3 model, 2.4GHz i5, 512GB SSD, 8GB RAM). I am able to get this for £1620 from the EDUstore in the UK (Link). In terms of performance, it will be an upgrade over the MBA in every way, and I would not be sacrificing portability too much, as I really like the portability of the Air. However, I am not sure whether 8GB of RAM would be enough for Parallels etc, so I would consider doing a built to order machine as none of the standard configurations include 16GB RAM. However, the cost of a MBP with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD is £1700 for the 1.4GHz 2x TB3 model or £1960 for the 2.4GHz 4x TB3 model, which pushes the price close to the price of a base spec 16" MBP.

The other problem with this option is the butterfly keyboard - I do not mind it on the Air too much, but I have already had to have it replaced once on the Air, and I am worried about longevity.

Option 2: 16" Pro as only computer
The other option is to replace my setup entirely with a 16" MacBook Pro (i9, 1TB SSD, 16GB RAM model). This would be £2270 from the EDUstore (Link). This would be my preferred option in many ways, as it means that I would be able to have the same power everywhere I go. I have used a 16" Pro as my brother owns one, and it is an extremely nice computer to use (I especially like the keyboard and larger screen size). However, I would be sacrificing battery life and portability, and it would mean losing my Windows PC (I use it for gaming as well as uni work, and I could put the RX 580 from my PC in an eGPU enclosure). The gaming I do is quite light (mainly games like Cities Skylines), and I would probably go the Boot Camp route for Windows to keep the native performance.

Option 3: Wait for MBP/MBA refresh
The other option is to wait for a refresh of the 13" MBP or the MBA. From what I can tell, the keyboard in the MBP 13" will be possibly replaced with a Magic Keyboard in the refresh, which would mitigate the reliability concerns, but if the specifications and prices are the same as previously, the 13" MBP does not seem good value to me compared to the 16" price. The Air is rumored to get a quad-core CPU from what I can tell, and this would allow me to keep the portability and possibly save some money, but the performance boost may not be that great.

Thank you for all of your help in advance, and don't hesitate to ask me any questions.

Finn
 

cmaier

Suspended
Jul 25, 2007
18,029
16,007
California
I have a few electrical engineering degrees, so I have a general sense of what you might be using your machines for in that regard. It’s not clear what else you do with your desktop, though.

I wouldn’t count on an MBA refresh making it usable for your needs. An MBP could certainly do most things you can do with your desktop, assuming you aren’t a heavy windows gamer or anything.

If you are thinking about an MBP, I’d wait a few months - presumably Apple will release a new 16” with Intel’s 10th generation core soon, and possibly wifi6 as well; it was conspicuous that the 16“ launched with essentially the same chips as the prior generation, and it was probably designed with the 10th gen chip in mind.

As between a 13” and 16”, a 13” is certainly more portable, but a 16” is still easy enough to carry around and nothing beats a big screen canvas to work on, especially if this replaces your desktop, too.
 

fbm3334

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2020
11
6
I have a few electrical engineering degrees, so I have a general sense of what you might be using your machines for in that regard. It’s not clear what else you do with your desktop, though.

I wouldn’t count on an MBA refresh making it usable for your needs. An MBP could certainly do most things you can do with your desktop, assuming you aren’t a heavy windows gamer or anything.

If you are thinking about an MBP, I’d wait a few months - presumably Apple will release a new 16” with Intel’s 10th generation core soon, and possibly wifi6 as well; it was conspicuous that the 16“ launched with essentially the same chips as the prior generation, and it was probably designed with the 10th gen chip in mind.

As between a 13” and 16”, a 13” is certainly more portable, but a 16” is still easy enough to carry around and nothing beats a big screen canvas to work on, especially if this replaces your desktop, too.
Thanks for your help. In terms of EE software, at the moment I am using MATLAB pretty heavily, and it is serviceable on the Air but not the best experience - the SSD space issue may be a problem with installing toolboxes etc in the future. I am also using Parallels to run simulation software (at the moment, National Instruments Multisim), and due to the limited number of cores in the Air, it seems to lock up a lot.

In some ways, I am slightly leaning towards going for the base spec 16" Pro (i7/512GB) and possibly keeping the desktop PC for gaming - the SSD space and RAM are still double that of the Air and I can use my PC for anything that the MBP 16" can't handle (more complex gaming, possible simulation work etc).

I am wondering if anyone on here has used the EDUstore in the UK? They are offering the base spec 16" Pro for £1950, which is £200 less than what Apple sell it for with student discount, and they offer a 4 year warranty as well. I would possibly still get AppleCare, as my uni city has an Apple Store within walking distance, and it makes support etc. quicker.

I am worried that the EDUstore's prices are too good to be true (not many reviews etc), but they seem to be owned by XMA, who, from what I can tell, supply Macs to schools and universities.
 

talmy

macrumors 601
Oct 26, 2009
4,711
274
Oregon
I had been using a 2011 15" MBP for years in teaching Electrical Engineering courses, using Parallels when necessary. Software included programs for FPGA simulation and programming, SPICE, board layout, and various compilers. Also using it in class for demos, slide presentations, and processing (with FCP) of my lectures which I put online for students. So I'd say that I was probably doing more with it than you are planning! (However I don't have any games.)

The model had a 512GB SSD, which was barely adequate with the video processing I was doing, and 8GB of RAM which was also barely adequate, but mainly for the EE CAD software + Parallels.

Although now retired, I did just replace it with a new 16" MBP so am familiar with the offerings.

You will be happier with the larger screen of the 16" and generally greater power. You won't be happy with the increase in cost. It comes with 16GB of RAM which should do fine. Processor and graphics upgrades aren't necessary -- the base 6 core i7 is twice as fast the the top end 4 core i7 on my 2011 and it still gives fine performance. That leaves the SSD. One thing nice about the SSD is that if you do run low on space you can attach an external inexpensively. But you should do fine there as well.
 

fbm3334

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2020
11
6
Thanks for everyone's help. I have just ordered a 16" MBP base config (i7/512GB) in silver from the Apple Store online (I have reservations about ordering from the EDUstore due to the lack of reviews, especially for a large purchase, and with AppleCare+ included, the price difference is less) I'll update you with my thoughts once it arrives tomorrow and I've had a play with it 😊
 

fbm3334

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 6, 2020
11
6
The MBP 16" arrived a couple of hours ago, and I have just set it up etc - I am really impressed with it so far, and I did not realise setup would be so easy with the Migration Assistant.

The things I am noticing right now are how good the keyboard is compared to the butterfly keyboard, as well as how fast it feels compared to the Air (although I was hoping this would be the case 😂).
 
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cmaier

Suspended
Jul 25, 2007
18,029
16,007
California
The MBP 16" arrived a couple of hours ago, and I have just set it up etc - I am really impressed with it so far, and I did not realise setup would be so easy with the Migration Assistant.

The things I am noticing right now are how good the keyboard is compared to the butterfly keyboard, as well as how fast it feels compared to the Air (although I was hoping this would be the case 😂).
Yep. I have an air I use when traveling and a pro I use for everything else (software development, writing legal briefs, drawing 3-D technical diagrams, etc.) and the speed difference is tremendous. I am in the market to replace my MBP (it’s a late 2016), but I’m going to wait until they come out with intel’s 10th gen processors, hopefully by June or July (unless my machine breaks or something). REALLY looking forward to a keyboard that works again.
 
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