Macbook Pro vs Macbook Air $1550

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by prnoct90, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. prnoct90 macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    I am currently looking at two configurations and trying to decide between the two. I was originally waiting for the new MacBook Airs to upgrade my laptop, but now it seems that they dont have an 8GB memory option, so I can't make this an easy decision.

    I was looking at a MacBook Air because I go to school abroad, and travel back in forth between there and the US two to three times a year, so it might have been nice to have a little lighter of a load. That being said, I should also note my current MacBook Pro's specs, because I am a pretty heavy computer user and the current one freezes (as in spinning beach ball, not actual freezing) sometime but I think that is because of RAM.

    MacBook Pro (13-inch Mid 2009)
    Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 2.53 GHz (2 cores)
    4GB of Memory
    500GB 5400RPM HD

    OPTION 1
    MacBook Air (13-inch Mid 2011)
    1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
    4GB memory
    256GB flash storage

    OPTION 2
    MacBook Pro (13-inch Early 2011)
    Intel Core i5-2415M 2.3 GHz (2 cores)
    8GB memory (user upgrade)
    256GB SSD (user upgrade)

    With my education discount (and user upgrade costs), both of these systems come out to around $1550 with a free $100 gift card if I use my student discount. What do people think?

    PS: Here are the two upgrade components I am looking at: Comments?
  2. lowdownshame macrumors newbie

    Oct 7, 2010
    you say you want lighter load to travel back and forth so MBA is best choice. not sure what kind of software youre running but 4gb should be more than adequate for most apps to run without any issues.
  3. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    I tend to do a ton of multi-tasking. For example, at the moment I have 8 applications open. And that is pretty normal when I'm using a computer.

    Sparrow (mail client)
    Apple Mail
    Reeder (RSS reeder)
    Google Chrome
    Twitter (desktop application)

    I normally would leave all of these on, and then I occasionally open even more applications, but those are more use and close applications.

    Will I even notice a difference if I were to get the MacBook Air over my current model?
  4. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    Performance wise I doubt there will be any difference at all. However, since the Air has an SSD the boot times will be about 60% faster and the application load time will be almost instant. That's it, except you will have only half the storage. Of course you could simply pick up a SSD and install it in your current MBP and use your old hard drive as both a cloned backup and a Time Machine backup by partitioning it
  5. lowdownshame macrumors newbie

    Oct 7, 2010
    i suggest that you open your activity monitor right now and check exactly how much of a load your utilizing (just to give u an idea). whichever new mac you choose, you should notice those particular apps launching quicker than before due to the fact that youll have a more powerful cpu. also MBA with SSD will certainly be a game changer performance wise. :)
  6. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    Well, it's kind of complicated. I was just going to upgrade this computer, but I have been going to school in Japan, and so when I went to college I got a Japanese keyboard with my Mac, I plan on moving back to the US soon, so I need to sell this Mac while I'm in Japan this year, because for obvious reasons, I won't be able to sell it in the US.

    What about comparing the processors in my two options, will I notice the jump between the MacBook Air and the new MacBook Pro? I don't really use any intensive apps much, just a lot of apps at once.
  7. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    I think you'd notice that the Air (because of the SSD) consistently feels more fast than your current machine, and it weights a ton less. The Air's screen also has a higher resolution than either what you're using now, or the new 13" MBP.

    I switched from an i7 15" MBP (7200RPM drive) to a 13" Ultimate Air. The MBP would beach ball frequently, even when there was plenty of RAM free -- I think it was the hard drive that couldn't keep up (esp in apps that are disk intensive, like Aperture). I rarely see a beach ball on the Air, and if I do, it's a quick one.

    If you really need 8GB of RAM, go with the new Pro. But if you're thinking your current system is beach balling because of lack of RAM and 8GB is the solution, I'm not sure about that. 4GB of RAM, for the apps you listed, seems like enough.
  8. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    There is actually this new application in the App Store called iCleanMemory, it is supposed to clear up your memory without having to restart your computer. After I installed it, it said I only had 150mb of Free memory, after I used the utility it is sitting around 600-650mb of free memory.

    I can be pretty awful when it comes to web surfing too. Like i might have 10-15 windows each with 5-10 or more tabs. This is when things really start slowing down.
  9. Littleodie914 macrumors 68000


    Jun 9, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    If I were in your situation, the major downsides to each option would be:

    Macbook Air:
    • Forever limited to 4GB RAM (this will NOT go far in your scenarios)

    Macbook Pro:
    • Forever limited to a crappy 1280x800 screen resolution, which the 11" Air actually beats in terms of total screen space.
  10. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    Yah, that is true, I never really minded the lower res on my current mac though
  11. Littleodie914 macrumors 68000


    Jun 9, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    In that case, the Macbook Pro is probably the best pick. The lack of upgradability in the Air will get pretty old in a year or two. Especially since you obviously have the know-how to find/purchase/install the parts yourself. :)

    Plus, that SSD from Crucial will be faster than the SSD in the Air.
  12. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    Alright, its hard to tell with this stuff. The truth is I normally get a new laptop about every two years anyways, so if I did get the Air I'd only be stuck with the 4GB of ram for two years, but it would suck to buy it, and then find out right away the 4GB isn't enough and then not be able to do anything about it. Hmm...

    I'm not really sure how much the difference in processor speeds will affect me, its just the memory I'm worried about. Having it be half the weight would be nice though...
  13. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    Yah, the MacBook Pro I'm looking at got a 6448, but of course that is without the SSD or the upgraded ram...
  14. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    This is such a sucky decision, why can't the Air just have 8GB of memory, I guess I can wait and see what people that use them are saying
  15. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    It is not as bad as it looks since an SSD compensates. Remember, when you open a program on a non-SSd drive, lets say a big program like Photoshop, it might take 6-9 seconds (that's what it takes on mine), then I 'QUIT' Photoshop. Photoshop is then held in Inactive RAM (this is the Blue area in the screen shot below of my Activity Monitor). Now, if I open relaunch Photoshop again it will launch in about a second because it was stored in the Inactive RAM. Now, if you are using an SSD with limited RAM then your previously opened software may not fit in your excess RAM but since it is an SSD it will launch instantly from that drive, so the difference is essentially nothing.

    Also, again speaking in terms of Photoshop CS5 which is a RAM hog and can easily use more than 4GB on my 8GB MBP. The RAM used in Photoshop is dedicated as 'scratch', the area of fast memory for processing.... When the RAM runs out the program uses the slower hard drive - this is represented by the number of 'Page Outs' in the Activity Monitor. (when I had only 4GB RAM the page outs were up 2-5gb at times which is why I doubled the RAM and performance got much faster). But, if the page outs is doing its thing in a SSD drive the performance drop becomes negligible because the SSD, although not as fast as RAM, is much, much faster than the SSD. So the loss is little. It does mean if you do the type of work I mentioned that the read/writes to the SSD will be many and possibly over time slow down the SSD but now Mac has 'Trim' to clean it out those nooks and crannies so this older problem is no longer a real threat to the life and performance of the SSD.

    Bottom line 4GB RAM with an SSD is much better than 4GB with a HDD. For mine 2010 base model MBP I can't complain about my geek score of 5100 (which only measure the CPU not the ram or drive). with 8Gb ram and a larger relatively fast HDD (750gb, 7200RPM) I have the internal storage I need and great performance. The difference is it take 36 seconds to boot and applications take 3 - 10 seconds to load, slow by SSD standards but I have a second to two to spare and strongly prefer the added storage for my huge photo library :)

    Attached Files:

  16. prnoct90 thread starter macrumors regular

    Dec 11, 2007
    2011 MacBook Air and Virtual Memory

    The only thing keeping me from buying a 2011 macbook air at this point is the 4GB of ram. Can anyone tell me what its like once you fill up the ram and the things starts using virtual memory. Since it is ssd, its possible that it still works fine actually. So can someone test this for me?

    Here is some info about Virtual Memory
  17. stonyc macrumors 65816


    Feb 15, 2005
    None of the apps that you listed seem particularly intensive... I don't think you'll feel bottle-necked by 4GB.

    And, like you said... you'll likely buy again in 2 years anyway, that's probably 2 more refreshes to the Macbook Air line anyways.
  18. ForeverG5 macrumors newbie


    Jul 15, 2011
    New Jersey
    I am in the same dilemma, my friend. I have a 13" 2009 MacBook Pro 2.53Ghz with 8GB of RAM and 250GB HD. I am considering a top spec'ed 1.8GHz i7 MacBook Air. My main issue is that I will be running Final Cut Pro X and I'm not sure the machine can handle that with only 4GB of RAM. If it weren't for that, I'd jump on the machine immediately. Given the apps you will be using, I would say the Air is your best bet. It's going to be lighter and easier to bring with you yet quite fast and powerful running that SSD on simple apps like the ones you mentioned. :) Best of luck on your purchase, either way!
  19. Vantage Point macrumors 65816

    Mar 1, 2010
    New Jersey
    My main issue is that I will be running Final Cut Pro X and I'm not sure the machine can handle that with only 4GB of RAM

    If you are doing serious video editing you should get a quad core MBP and double up on the ram. The difference will be night and day. The Air is not designed to be a workhorse computer, just a snappy, lightweight, trendy machine that you can take anywhere and do 95% of what people do on computers. So heavy duty work like video editing you should invest in the right tool for the job.

    See this review
  20. cptcolo, Aug 16, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011

    cptcolo macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2011
    2011 13” MacBook Air vs. 2011 13” MacBook Pro

    2011 13” MacBook Air vs. 2011 13” MacBook Pro
    Both are the base models, the Pro has the optional 128GB SSD to match the Air.
    MacBook Air - $1299
    Macbook Pro - $1449
    Winner = MacBook Air
    MacBook Air – 13.3” 16:10 1440x900
    Macbook Pro - 13.3” 16:10 1280x800
    Winner = MacBook Air
    CPU Performance:
    MacBook Air – i5-2557M (1.6-2.7 GHz)
    Macbook Pro – i5-2410M, (2.3-2.9 GHz) Single Thread 5.5% faster, Multithread 13.5% faster
    Winner = MacBook Pro
    GPU Performance:
    MacBook Air – 384MB Intel HD 3000 (Integrated Graphics)
    Macbook Pro - 384MB Intel HD 3000 (Integrated Graphics)
    Winner = Tie
    MacBook Air – 0.68 in thick max, 45.2 in^2
    Macbook Pro – 0.95 in thick max, 108.5in^2
    Winner = MacBook Air
    MacBook Air – 2.96 lbs
    Macbook Pro – 4.5 lbs
    Winner = MacBook Air
    Battery Life:
    MacBook Air – 50WHr, 7 hours
    Macbook Pro – 63.5WHr, 7 hours
    Winner = Tie

    13.3” MacBook Air by A LOT
    So you give up slight loss in single thread speed, for something that is much heavier, much larger, and has a worse screen. Basically you would be mad to pay more for a MacBook Pro.
  21. ciapka macrumors newbie

    May 20, 2009
    @prnoct90: You think too much and I'm very sorry, you're not good at this regarding this topic. Purchasing new PC is waste of money (now).

    1, make sure, computer will run as long as possible. E.g. 1 or more weeks. you can put it in sleep but don't restart or turn off... Use computer like you would like to, install apps you want to use.

    2, after week check picture from: Vantage Point post and see Page outs and swap. Is it few MBs? then you don't need more than 4GB ram. is it much more? then purchase more ram to your MBP. RAM is cheap as hell now. here it costs 50€ for 8GB. Buy SSD (HDD and specially your 5400rpm is slowest part in notebook). Buy either Intel (320) or Crucial or Kingston v100+... do not purchase OCZ or corsair(as they're very faulty in latest versions).

    you're done. You've saved more than 1000$ and you'll feel like you've new PC.

    CPU is OK for you.

    in case you want better display, purchase external monitor. Display in MBP will is fine for work in field.

    Do not waste money unless critically necessary.
    Sry for english, not time to double check.
  22. mfr1340 macrumors regular

    Mar 4, 2011
    n. cal
    why do you need so many apps open at the same time?
  23. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2010
    new joisey
  24. akhbhaat macrumors regular

    Sep 30, 2010
    You would be mad to pay more for a faster machine with more functionality?

    The only two advantages of significance that the Air has on the Pro are screen resolution and weight, and the former comes at the cost of color accuracy and a high incidence of artifacts like visible gradients and spotlighting. Battery life is actually in the Pro's favor, by 1 to 2 hours in controlled tests designed to emulate "common use" scenarios. I shouldn't need to cover things like ports, RAM and user upgrades.

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