MBA 11" - i7 vs. i5 - price difference worth the performance boost?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by archangelg, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. archangelg macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2011
    #1
    Hello, I'm writing to get people's various thoughts on the i7 vs. i5 MBA 11".

    I currently see the MBA 11" i5 1.6 GHz 128 GB at Amazon for $1139; bonus: no tax (I'm in MD - hoping this won't change in the near future) and free shipping.

    I am considering upgrading it to i7 after reading Anandtech's review about the ~20% increase in performance.

    Amazon, unf, doesn't sell the BTO MBA 11" i7 1.8 GHz. Macconnection and Macmall does but now that Macmall charges sales tax, I'm considering Macconnection. They have it at $1349 (standard price) - no sales tax and free shipping.

    What do you think? Is the ~$210 increase (~18% increase in price) worth the performance increase?

    Amazon MBA 11" i5 1.6 GHz 128 GB - $1139
    Macconnection 11" i7 1.8 GHz 128 GB - $1349

    I appreciate people's input.
     
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core

    miles01110

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    #2
    Since you don't list what you use your machine for nobody can help you. Since you're asking the question it's probably not worth it.
     
  3. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #3
    What are you planning on doing with the MBA? A faster CPU won't speed up anything else but CPU intensive tasks and frankly, there aren't that many.
     
  4. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

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    #4
    Whether its worth it or not is a matter of your personal finances. Both machines are plenty capable, so if you want to save yourself $210, you probably will be able to do everything on the i5 that you would have on the i7, even if just a few seconds slower for some tasks.

    Having said that, no one ever complained about having too slow of a computer. I believe in getting as much computer as I possibly can, because once I get it, upgrading the CPU is unlikely (as in forget about it). So for ME, I would spend the $210, but my finances allow me to do that without too much concern. For other folks, $210 may represent a more significant amount, so for THEM, it might not be worth it.

    So the question is, is it worth it for YOU? Only you can say. But my suggestion (that I give everyone) is get as much computer as you can afford.

    Good luck! :D
     
  5. archangelg thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 19, 2011
    #5
    My apologies for not specifying my use.

    Currently, I have a 4 yr old Dell laptop. I used to use it for various purposes: browsing the web, writing my dissertation, reading articles, light/medium-level gaming. However, it's showing its age.

    Now, my wife and I primarily use it for light stuff such as general browsing and Skype. (We have a desktop, also 4 y/o but doing just fine since it has decent specs on it for a 4 y/o computer). I do game on the occasion (same deal - no heavy or current stuff - most current is SC2). However, b/c it is slow and hangs up on occasion, I feel it's time to move on. Also, it's a 14"er and thus, rather large and cumbersome to carry especially traveling now that we're parents of a young child (and thus, the motivation for buying an 11" vs. 13" MBA).

    Given that we still use Skype a lot and will do browsing with occasional use of working on it (we can both remotely log in to our respective work computers) and hopefully allow me occasional gaming (heh, *fingers crossed*), would that price increase be worth the performance increase?

    Thank you again.
     
  6. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

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    #6
    Don't let the size of the 13" scare you. It is perfect for travelling. It it (obviously) larger than the 11", but it is so thin it goes anywhere. It disappears in my briefcase or my backpack just as easily as the 11" would.

    ----------

    For your use. the MBA will be perfect. Either one will work. The i5 will work fine. The i7 will just work a little faster. :D
     
  7. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #7
    None of the tasks you listed would really benefit from the faster CPU. The 20% performance increase can only be achieved when the CPU is pushed heavily. In your case, it's unlikely that you will notice any difference between the two.
     
  8. alecgold macrumors 6502a

    alecgold

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    NLD
    #8
    I have the 11" i7 and it was worth it to me. I don't do anything special, heaviest what I do is encoding video to the H264 format, but mainly I work with it. Word, mail, excel, safari, some parallels with XP, but that's it.
    But with this i7, I know it works like a dream, and it will be the best future proof version. I also have quite some difficulties being calm when I see a beach ball, and so far I've only seen then when an application stopped or with iTunes doing to much (importing 18gb of music, together with trying to sync my iPhone for the first time. iTunes might be better, but it's far from perfect yet.).

    I don't know either macconnection or macmall, but if it is for full retail price anyway, I prefer to buy through the official apple store. That way I'll have the best service (Apple has quite a decent service AFAIK, it seems to be much better than Best Buys or the likes, we don't have them either over here in Europe).

    good luck with your choice and what ever you pick, do enjoy the SSD-speed!
     
  9. kilonet macrumors member

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  10. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

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    #10
    You mean going from 128GB to 256GB?

    Well, again, that depends on an individual's needs (and budget). Some people are packrats (like me) and like to have as much stuff as possible accessible as quickly and easily as possible. Others dont mind using cloud services or carrying around an external hard drive. $300 for the SSD upgrade is a lot of money, but for some people storage may be more important than the CPU speed boost.

    Me, I want it ALL!!!! :D
     
  11. archangelg thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 19, 2011
    #11
    To add on to alecgold's comments, I was also considering using Bootcamp and Parallels for Win 7 for any Windows-specific tasks that may possibly come up.

    Hellhammer: I'm curious - what type of CPU-intensive tasks are you thinking about?

    ZBoater - great, making me confused about 11 vs. 13 yet again! I'm trying to keep sane in my decision-making ;). I just know if I somehow decide to go w/ the 13", I'm sticking w/ the i5 1.7 GHz 128 GB one.
     
  12. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

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    #12
    LOL! Welcome to MacRumors! :D

    I love this place because you get different viewpoints and great ideas (and some not so great ones). The whole 11" vs. 13" debate has been very interesting. That also boils down to personal preference. Anandtech took a really good picture of the two side by side, which in my opinion says it all. Portabilitywise they are both sooooo thin, they will fit anywhere. The extra size of the 13" has a marginal effect on portability, but a huge impact in usability. IMHO. :D
     

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  13. KPOM macrumors G5

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    Oct 23, 2010
    #13
    The i7 would make the biggest difference in running Windows 7 in Parallels. Even there, however, the i5 would be able to handle it. My 2010 MacBook Air was good enough with the SSD to handle running Quicken in Windows (my main reason for keeping Windows 7 on it). With the i7 version it is even better, but the i5 would have been very good, as well.

    If it comes down to $200 difference, I'd probably stick with the i5.
     
  14. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #14
    Anything to do with data processing is usually more or less CPU intensive. This includes tasks such as video, photo and music editing. Basically, anything related to productivity.
     
  15. archangelg thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 19, 2011
    #15
    To all, thank you so much for your input. After some more thought and considering my general 'upgrade' cycle of 4-5 years, I decided to go a little higher and made a purchase for the MBA 11" i7.

    I went with the 128 GB instead of the 256 primarily due to price concerns. For me, I felt it was not worth it and that I could always go the portable HD route for cheaper. However, I do understand it being worth to others who feel the need for space in a small package! I have considered that prices will decrease in probably ~2 years out or so; I am considering an OWC SSD as an upgrade then at a more affordable price...

    Many thanks again. This is a great forum!
     
  16. richpjr macrumors 68030

    richpjr

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    May 9, 2006
    #16
    I recall reading somewhere that in addition to the fast clock speed and bigger cache, the i7 also had some enhancements in it related to virtual machines (though honestly I'm too lazy to go look at what exactly those were).
     
  17. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #17
    Yes, i7 supports VT-d. The 1.6GHz i5 does not but for some reason, the 1.7GHz i5 does support it too (who said Intel's naming scheme is confusing? It's crystal clear! :rolleyes:)
     
  18. KPOM macrumors G5

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    Oct 23, 2010
    #18
    Of course, neither Parallels Desktop nor VMWare Fusion support VT-d yet, so it's academic at the moment.
     
  19. Queen6 macrumors 603

    Queen6

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    #19
    Late to the gate and all that, for you need I would have gone for the 13 inch i5 with 256Gb, the 1.7 i5 is only marginally slower than the 1.8 i7 and the 13 will prove to be far more usable over the course of time...
     
  20. archangelg thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 19, 2011
    #20
    I understand that the 13" is a larger screen but I really wanted to consider portability especially for my wife. I thought long and hard about it then decided with the 11"... then thought about it again and almost changed my decision (thanks ZBoater) but then reconsidered portability and went back to the 11".

    In addition, it's meant to be more of a light, 2ndary computer. For heavier computing needs, we still have our dual-display desktop setup in our office room. (However, this does not prevent me from considering purchasing a large monitor to hook it up near the kitchen table or family room ;)...)

    We did try it at a Best Buy and it seems fine. If we really don't like it down the line, I'll sell it and go with the 13". From this point on, it's about experience.
     
  21. yuanmoons, Aug 25, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2011

    yuanmoons macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2008
    #21
    The 13" MBA is

    2.5cm wider
    3.5cm deeper

    Measure it on a ruler - it is nothing - yet the extra screen, viewing angle & keyboard spaciousness is massive if its your main computer.

    I really like the 11" and would like one but as a main computer no.
     
  22. mac jones macrumors 68040

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    Apr 6, 2006
    #22
    You don't pay that much for the i7, and it's a rather substantial increase.

    Your move.
     
  23. nebulos macrumors 6502a

    nebulos

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2010
    #23
    a loose analogy:

    if the i5 is a car with top speed 100mph,
    the i7 is a car with top speed 120mph.

    the question is: how often do you drive at these speeds?
     
  24. KPOM macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2010
    #24
    I've had both the 13" MacBook Air and 11" MacBook Air. I settled on the 11" since that difference is bigger than it appears. Don't measure it on a ruler. Measure it on an airplane tray table, or in a briefcase. The 11" is a lot more portable.

    The difference is that there is no "speed limit" on a CPU task. Whether your trip to the grocery store takes 6 minutes or 5 minutes may not matter so much, but would you rather your cross-country flight take 6 hours or 5 hours?
     
  25. archangelg thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Aug 19, 2011
    #25
    I feel a slightly more appropriate analogy (again, a bit loose) would be traveling by train from point A to point B (or to other points). Which "life-time" pass do you buy to ride which train:

    1) the i5 'train' which can take you from point A to point B in C amount of time at Y amount of cost?

    OR

    2) the i7 'train' which can take you from point A to point B in C/D time (D = how much faster i7 is vs. i5) at Y+Z amount of cost (Z = the extra amount)?

    Ok, I should stop now :p
     

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