Macbook Pro or Air for College

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Resolved, May 26, 2011.

  1. Resolved macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2011
    I'm going to be a freshman in the fall majoring in political science and I was looking at either a MBP or a MBA for college. My friends and I continue to have some ongoing arguments over which is better.

    1) SSD vs HDD

    Especially for college kids, is the loss in hard drive space worth the extra reliability and speed of an SSD?

    2) Disk Drive

    I currently own a 4 year old gateway laptop that is honestly on its last leg but I figured it could be used for any disk burning that I would have to do. Is the lack of a disk drive really that big of a deal for the majority of people since there will be USB and other alternatives?

    3) Durability

    I honestly haven't heard a lot of complaints on the durability of the MBA but because its so small it honestly makes me worry that it's easily breakable. Is one of these two more durable and is it significant enough to need to worry about it.

    4) Processing Power

    I know that there are rumors that the MBA is going to receive an upgrade to sandybridge processors and if this is the case I really think that it makes the MBA the superior laptop in basically every way. But if you disagree, why?

    Thanks for your help
  2. jav6454 macrumors P6


    Nov 14, 2007
    1 Geostationary Tower Plaza
    1. SSDs at this point are for high-end or mid-high setups. Unless you need the extra speed boast, no need. Also, they are expensive for larger capacities. For college, a regular HDD will do more than fine, if you do need extra speed from the HDD, get a 7200rpm one.

    2. This one depends on your usage. Since you say you haven't used the DVD drive much, I'd say its not much of a loss for you.

    3. Get a case for it.

    4. While I don't doubt Sandy Bridge is coming to the MBA, I would no suggest you buy a MBA with a Core 2 Duo CPU at all... although the CPUs are not bad, the generation in architecture is very old by computing standards and their processing power is dwarfed very much. It won't make the MBA a "superior" machine, but it will make it a much better equipped machine.
  3. KwanMan macrumors regular

    May 12, 2011
    1) because of the small screen size and low specs, you would not be doing much video editing or watching full 1080p films and will mostly be for web browsing, word, excel etc therefore disk space is not as crucial

    2) I honestly have not used a disk drive for at least 2 years. I built my desktop about 2 years ago and it has never had a dvd drive and Ive never even noticed it was missing.

    3)i havent heard of anyone snapping theirs yet

    4) even if it is updated to sandy bridge it will almost definately be a ULV version meaning it will not be as powerful as the ones used in the new MBPs
  4. Resolved thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2011
    Even if this is true do you think that that loss in power with really be missed if I'm not doing a whole lot of heavy duty tasks? My friend's dad says its like having your Ferrari on main street. Yeah there's a whole lot of power, but you still will only be going 30 mph so it doesn't really matter.
  5. engaged44 macrumors member

    Jan 10, 2011
    if your gonna get an AIR get another computer like a desktop. thats what my buddy at school did and he has the perfect set up..

    if you are only going to have 1 computer get a MBP.
  6. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    If you're one of those people who uses a computer as a tool, turns it on to write papers, and then turns it off again, the macbook air is a perfect machine. If you plan on using it more, for iTunes, maybe some editing that isn't in word (movies, images, etc) I would not use the air as my only computer.
  7. KwanMan macrumors regular

    May 12, 2011
    No I doubt you would even notice. I was on about the point you made about the MBA being superior than the MBP if it had an updated processor.

    Overall I think the SSD and the ULV processor is the best choice for what the MBA is supposed to be, an ultraportable that can do simple everyday tasks very well.
  8. CFoss macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011
    I have several questions: Are you living on campus? How large is the campus? And what are your everyday activities?

    This really makes an impact on which model to get. I'm personally walking for more than 30 minutes per say at the very least due to the size of my campus. I've been borrowing the family MacBook Pro, which has been very helpful. Because I'm currently a part-time student, I'm not carrying as many books, so carrying the MacBook Pro is easy. I would seriously consider going with a MacBook Air, if it wasn't for the lack of power. I'm a music composer who uses Logic Studio, which is a VERY intensive CPU application.

    My recommendation without knowing more is this: Wait for the MacBook Air revision. At the very least, you should wait a few weeks, as if the rumours are true, Apple will have the free iPod with MacBook promotion (which has happened for the past several years every summer).
  9. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    mba is a question of making tradeoffs in portability over performance. the mbp 13 is not a ferrari. the mbp 15 and 17 are the real perfomance machines. the 13 is an suv with extra space in the back in case you want to help a friend move or need a place to spend some alone time with someone on a camping trip. it is a little more practical and versatile, because of its size.

    ssd? if you decide the mbp is too slow for you, then remove the optical drive and put in an ssd upgrade. you cannot change e mba config. down the road.

    optical drive? a waste of space in my opinion. external drives are more than sufficient.

    durability? probably the mbp, but i imagine both would be fine for regular use. the ssd is the more durable drive.

    power? you can never have enough, even if you are only doing word processing. you sacrifice power for portability. how much are you willing to sacrifice for those extra grams?
  10. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    also, you'll want to thi k about how you will actually be using it. for me, i rarely use a computer in the classroom and i was sorely tempted by the mbp 15.

    here is a link to a discussion about what i do. everyone has their own workflow. give some thought to what will work best for you.
  11. dmarch macrumors regular


    Nov 14, 2007
    Big Sky, MT
    My daughter is entering her senior year in college and her 2.2Ghz Santa Rosa BlackBook still does everything she needs and more. Any Mac you get will get you school with no problem.
  12. CubeHacker macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2003
    If you have no other computer available to you, then I would personally recommend the Pro over the Air. If you have a desktop in your dorm and want a laptop to bring with you to classes, then get the Air. The lack of a drive, the lack of HDD space, and the smaller dimensions make the Air less desirable as a "sole computer" in my book, unless you really don't require lots of drive space.
  13. Resolved thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2011
    I will be living on campus and the campus by the number of students is about 6,000 and from the south end to the north end of campus it is no more than a 5-7 min walk. My everyday activities will probably change but at some point I am assuming that I will be working some internships in the city and will be taking public transit (mostly the DC metro).
  14. jason221 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2009
    In response to the amount of space on HDD vs. SSD, you can get an external hard drive and then have both speed & high storage capacity. I'm getting an MBP with a 128 GB SSD (since it's only a $90 upgrade). I already have a 2 TB external HDD, so space isn't an issue.
  15. Resolved thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 26, 2011
    This link was super insightful. Thank you.
  16. Blues003 macrumors 6502

    Apr 18, 2010
    I am a 4th-year Med Student without a fixed income, aside from allowance (which makes me save... 50€ a month tops?). I recently won two contests, thus getting 2 iPads 2 which I intend to sell to get my first Mac. I was debating this same question: MBP or MBA (both 13'' versions; MBA 11'' would be too small).

    Keeping the iPad 2 to replace my laptop on-the-go was out of the question. My current laptop will not hold on much longer, and the iPad 2 is a product suited for content consumption. As a student, content consumption is extremely important, but so is content production. In particular, I will have to write a Master's Degree's thesis next year, and I couldn't type it on an iPad. Add to that the number of essays and powerpoint presentations one has to elaborate...

    Between the MBP and the MBA, I narrowed it to the most fundamental differences I could find, and went from there to make my decision:

    - Weight: I walk around 30 minutes to get to faculty or home. I acknowledge a MBA would be a lot better for this scenario. However, I also notice that my friends (who have Macs) don't carry them around all that frequently; only occasioanlly. As such, this point loses some of its relevance.

    - Power: I am a musical composer, and so I need all the power I can get. While the future LV i7s which are supposed to come to the MBA might be good, by the time I have the money to buy a Mac there will probably be Ivy Bridge MBPs around, which will offer not only better CPU but also GPU capabilities. This is particularly important for me considering I also want to learn Photoshop and some basic video editing.

    - Space: MBP wins, no doubt. I only have around 100 GB of space on my current laptop taken, but I'd surely like not to have to worry about that. In fact, those 100 GB are already the most fundamental things I have. And improving the SSD storage space (particularly on a MBA) can be REALLY expensive. Once again, with all the music composing, and image/video editing I want to learn, MBA's space won't be the best of things.

    - Price: The base MBP here is 1150€ while the base MBA is 1350€. That apparently small difference can mean, for me, extra 4 months of waiting. Not to mention I can upgrade to a SSD later on (thus dividing my costs through time and enjoying my laptop sooner), and also upgrade the RAM (for when I need Windows on a Virtual Machine). In particular, I'm fond of the SSD + HDD setup, with an external optical drive when in need.

    - Screen quality: The MBA has a higher res but the MBP appears to have better quality of colour and such. The 1200*800 resolution has worked well enough on my 15'' Sony Vaio, so I don't see why I would need more on a 13''. The MBA has a superior resolution, but then again, I don't see the need. Specially when concerning the remaining screen quality lacks in comparison to the MBP.

    - Optical drive: I don't find the lack of an optical drive important. I barely use mine, and when I need one, I could just have an external reader. Not relevant.

    Ports, Backlit Keyboard: Not relevant in my case.

    I keep a constant debate with myself regarding what I should do with the iPads 2. I have already considered all hipothesis (keeping an iPad 2, selling to get a MBP, selling to get a MBA, selling to get an iPhone), and so far the MBP one is the one I'm leaning towards. In your case, it'll depend on the course you will be taking. Will it be demanding CPU and GPU-wise? Will you need your laptop everyday and walk a lot? Will you need a lot of storage? How much can you spend? Do you need to run Windows on VMs? Do you needs the resolution or screen quality? I think those are the questions you need to answer... so you can get a product based on your needs, and not set your needs based on the product you got. ;)
  17. palpatine macrumors 68040

    May 3, 2011
    Glad you found it helpful :)
  18. DustinT macrumors 68000


    Feb 26, 2011
    Getting a MBA as your only computer can be a little bit limiting. The MBP doesn't have those limitations and its less expensive to upgrade if you need to swap the hard drive or ram down the road.

    Since you don't have the need for extreme portability, why pay extra for it?
  19. ' r i S e n macrumors regular

    May 15, 2011
    I would say that there is no need to upgrade to a SSD - just use the stock HDD at 5400 RPM if that is what your machine includes and it will suffice and if not, upgrade to a 7200 RPM HDD or you can even try a hybrid drive which are less than half of the price of most SSD (Momentus XT 500GB Hybrid Drive is only $99.00). The preforming difference between this "Hybrid Drive" and a regular 7200 RPM HDD is arguable.

    The Optical Drive isn't really a deciding factor on anything, you can buy a USB optical drive for quite a low amount of money.

    As far as Durability, regular use isn't going to damage either of them. However, if you drop a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air - one of them isn't going to take the hit that much better than the other, really. I'm not really sure what you want out of it - I mean, if you're just putting it in a backpack or moving it around - either would do just fine.

    Finally, in terms of Processing Power - I would wait for the MBA Sandy Bridge and purchase from there ... although either machine's processing power will handle school work just fine.

    Hope this helps.
  20. billnye97 macrumors regular

    May 26, 2011
    I just ended up ordering a 13 i7 MBP for grad school. I was debating between that and the MBA. The 13" MBP only weighs about 4.9 lbs. The MBA weighs 2.9 lbs. The extra 2 lbs weren't worth it to me for all the power I get with the MBP.
  21. Gen macrumors 6502a


    Jul 15, 2008
    Two things; get an Engineering degree instead of Political Science, and get the Macbook Air. (or the base MBP if you want the better processing power now)
  22. CFoss macrumors 6502

    Feb 26, 2011

    I HIGHLY suggest going with the Pro over the Air for your needs. I'm using a 2008 Mac Pro at the moment, and the age of the processor has pretty much brought Logic and EWQL to a halt. It just can't keep up. At the very least, the Intel i series keeps up with that processor, if it doesn't outright beat it. As for editing videos/photographs, I HIGHLY suggest saving up for the 15" MBP. I know it might be a little out of your price range, but the fact that it comes with a dedicated GPU AND has a little more screen estate, you will REALLY appreciate spending the extra money on it. That, and the CPU is upgraded to a Quad-Core i7, which will make a big difference for composing among other things.

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