MBA 11" over 13" for College?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by DrJames, Mar 13, 2012.

  1. DrJames macrumors member

    Feb 5, 2012
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    I'll be attending college this fall and I'm was considering buying a MacBook Air. At first, I was considering the thirteen inch just because it is bigger. But I plan to have an iMac in my dorm so would you think the eleven inch would be more suitable for my needs.

    I've been told I won't use a computer in class all that often.

    What are your opinions? :)
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Well if you are planning on having an iMac in your dorm, then the 11" makes sense provided you're satisfied with the screen.
  3. mac26 macrumors 6502

    Dec 27, 2011
    You haven't told us your needs, I think what's best for you is a Thunderbolt display (with Apple keyboard and Magic Mouse or Magic trackpad) plus MBA 11", this way you have ultra-portable at college and desktop at home and you don't have to worry about syncing
  4. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
  5. bogatyr macrumors 65816

    Mar 13, 2012
    The only real differences are battery life and resolution. I'd go with the 11" if it offered the battery life and resolution of the 13" but it doesn't. Until then, I say 13".
  6. AlexH macrumors 68020


    Mar 7, 2006
    Both are excellent machines, and you can't make a bad decision (I'm typing this post on a 13" MacBook Air 2011). I'm a grad student, so I bet our usage would be similar. I opted for the 13" for two reasons. First, battery life. The 13" will get you an extra hour or two. It comes in handy for that last class of the day. Second, screen size and resolution. I really like the display on the 13". It's 1440x900, which is the same resolution as my previous 15" MacBook Pro! Good high res display.

    With all of that being said, the 11" is still a very good machine. It will perform like a champ. I've been impressed with the i5 processors in these computers. Blows my 2008 MacBook Pro away. :cool:

    PS - I always had a MacBook with me in class. ;)
  7. intervenient macrumors 6502a

    Jul 9, 2010

    This times a thousand if you don't care about losing that extra 2 hours of battery.
  8. mac26 macrumors 6502

    Dec 27, 2011
    I am pretty sure he will also have an outlet near his seat, most colleges do.
    This will make battery life not a problem either.
    I wish I could afford a TB display, although I am planning on getting a Dell monitor and an extra magsafe to make a set-up that is almost as simple as TB Display :(
  9. KylePowers macrumors 68000


    Mar 5, 2011
    I'm a third year in my undergraduate studies. I have a 27in iMac, so I went with an 11in for mobility. My thought process was- Large screen at home for work/studying/etc and when I'm on the go, ultra portability with a full-blown OS.

    But the problem is, that way of thinking is actually incorrect. Your setup at home really has no effect on your computational needs on the go. I mean, think of it this way: Just because you have a pitcher at home, does that mean you only need a sippy cup when you're out and about? No, of course not! You need something to satisfy your needs and requirements. They're independent events and you should choose what suits you best in both occurrences.

    The fact is, yes, maybe the 11in will work with you. Maybe the use of spaces and full screen apps does not impede your workflow. But for me, as I progressed more into splitting my computing half and half between my iMac and MBA, I found the 11in not suiting my needs.

    Yes, I can get by just fine for a few hours at a time, but if I want to be just as productive as on my iMac (work more than just a few hours, that is), a bigger screen would be just the ticket. So right now I'm in the midst of moving up to a 13in and seeing how that works. Main issues I've come across in using the 11in are having windows side-by-side and battery life. With smaller windows (when doing side-by-side), to have the document or something viewed in its entirety, it shrinks down a lot, making it difficult to read. So if you zoom in, you can read it better, but end up having to scroll left, right, up, and down quite frequently.

    It's certainly a first world problem, but don't get me wrong.. the 11in is an excellent machine, best in its class. But the screen size hampers it for me. But that could just be a factor of my uses. I really wish they could put in a 12.5in screen, or even a 13in. It'd fit (the latter without the camera unfortunately), but surely that'd affect the structural integrity of the lid (along with other factors I'm probably overlooking). Just a dream, I suppose.

    tl;dr: Test both, figure out which fits your work flow best, and don't be afraid to make the wrong decision.
  10. machacker macrumors regular

    Jun 25, 2008
    I agree with all of this.

    I had the 11 and moved to a 13, simply because I wanted the extra battery life, and I wanted the bigger screen. Other than that the two machines are identical. The power of the 11 was perfect for me with the 4gbs of ram and the 128 ssd.

    I have a gaming desktop at my apartment with a server like set up for all my media. So for the most part, the MBA is just to go to class and to work and still have access to most of my documents on the go. If I wasn't such a fan of OSX, I would get an ipad to do everything, but the thought of not having a OSX computer in my home makes my skin crawl. When I need to get something important done, I certainly don't do it on windows.

    In any case, I had the 11, loved it, but found it just too small to do long amounts of work on. I feel that the 13 is the better option of the two for a college student because it provides you the comfort in the long library hours that you might need it for. Yet at the same time, is still super fast and portable. My old macbook pro's are still jealous of how fast my MBA is. :D
  11. MakX macrumors member

    May 27, 2009
    My 11" just arrived, and am loving it. I'm a Uni student and find it fine for my use. I have a 27" iMac at home which I use for all my 'intense' Uni stuff (which is most stuff, really).

    The only thing that I have noticed is the battery life is worse than my Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro which I sold. In saying that, I've never had the battery run out on me [albeit I've only had it for a day or so]. Of course I expected it, but if the option for a bigger battery was there I would have taken it, without compromising on the great screen + overall size.
  12. GD0X Guest

    Mar 20, 2011
    coming from a freshmen and typing on my 13".... a 13"

    battery life won't be an issue, but two selling points that made me choose 13 over 11.... first is screen size; the bigger it is you'll be able to see much more (without switching windows every two seconds compared to the 11), and the more productive you'll be. My second also goes along with my first... the bigger palm rest. Instead of my palms half on and half off (or cramped) on the 11, my palms rest every so nicely on the 13" palm rest space.
  13. mikes63737 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2005
    Very dangerous assumption to make.

    For example, I'm a computer science major. None of the classrooms in the 8-year-old InfoTech building have power at the desk. But the 15-year-old school of business has power and gigabit ethernet at every desk in every room on every floor. Brand new buildings aren't getting power at any of the desks.

    Definitely get an additional power adapter. Leave one in your room, and leave one in your bag that you NEVER use in your room. If you find that rare outlet, you want to take advantage of it!
  14. BornAgainMac macrumors 603


    Feb 4, 2004
    Florida Resident
    Worst case just get a battery extender for the 11 inch Macbook Air.
  15. kulimer macrumors 6502

    Aug 30, 2011
    13"!! I am in college, I have heard so many complaints about the small screen size.

    You are in college, so you will be using your laptop pretty often, those expanded viewing space is so much better for the eye.

    When you have multiple windows open, the bigger screen size will allow you to overlap one window over the other. For instance, I have Chrome on the left half, and word doc on the right, so I type as I research.
  16. bniu macrumors 6502a

    Mar 21, 2010
    One thing I've learned from college, never trust a college's resources. At my school, the wifi is so bad that I have to use my own 3G mobile hotspot to use internet resources for class. Other schools, the computer lab computers are so bad that you can't do anything on them, some can't even open word or pdf files! How worthless is that? At my old school, none of the computer lab computers had wifi and they all relied on some 30 year old hard connection that predated ethernet, and they never worked and yet the school was too cheap to buy some $20 USB wifi adapters...even though they spent thousands on wifi hotspots right next to the computer lab!
  17. c.bite macrumors newbie

    Feb 21, 2012
    I've also heard some complaints about the small screen size on the 11''. Two of my friends ended up trading it for the 13'', but it's your choice. Just play with both of them and see which one you're more comfortable with.
  18. jojoba macrumors 68000

    Dec 9, 2011
    As others have said, it really comes down to

    - battery requirements
    - preferences for screen size
    - whether you find the 13" substantially less portable than a 11" (this is a very subjective issue, beyond the actual specs)

    Personally, I went for the 13" due to the screen size, as I'm often in need of doing more intensive work when I travel (which is fairly often), I still find the 13" extremely portable, and I use an iPad for daily needs on the go. If my primary need was just to take notes in class, perhaps I would have gone for the 11".
  19. joshuaginter macrumors regular

    May 19, 2011
    My vote is for the 11" plus Thunderbolt Display idea if battery life is not a huge deal. This negates the need to sync computers and, more often than not, the Air will be sufficient for most people's needs.

    If you want battery life, then a 13" Air plus Thunderbolt Display is great.

    And if you are dead set on having some additional power, then go with a 13" Pro and Thunderbolt Display. You lose screen resolution, but you gain more CPU power and better battery life.

    All in all, my vote is to NOT get a laptop and desktop. Go with a laptop and external display.
  20. Snarlyow macrumors newbie

    Mar 14, 2012
    Wow - how much free cash do you (or your 'rents) have?

    Why the need for 2 computers? What can you do on iMac in your dorm that you wouldn't be able to do on a laptop?

    Go with the 13" MacBook Air - 11" screen is so short - too much scrolling for, well, everything

    Then, get external DVD drive & external hard drive for backups
  21. wineandcarbs macrumors 6502a

    May 2, 2008
    11" MBA, especially since it's a secondary computer.
  22. Lynn Belvedere macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2012
    Or blowing a thousand+ on a computer monitor. Anyone who earns less than 100k a year who buys that thing is crazy.
  23. A Hebrew macrumors 6502a

    A Hebrew

    Jan 7, 2012
    If you already have an iMac why not buy a cheapo PC since you have no advantage with 2 macs?

    Instead of complimenting a mac with a mac get a native mac and native windows combo.
  24. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    I had to walk across a fairly large campus. That book bag got really heavy. Really heavy after a long day. I would have loved to have had my MBA 11 back then to save the weight I had to carry back and forth.

    I use an MBA 11 now and have no problem with its screen real estate in lecture halls or in the library (etc.). Back at home, I can hook it up to a large monitor (or you can use your iMac).

    So I vote for the 11 if you can afford it.
  25. eric/ Guest


    Sep 19, 2011
    Ohio, United States
    Maybe that depends on where you go to school. Definitely don't have that experience at my university. The only issue we ever have is sometimes different buildings not recognizing that you left immediately.

    I a backpack there is no difference in weight. If youre concerned about an extra few ounces than idk what to tell you.

    Get the 13 inch and just get an apple thunderbolt display and youll be good to go. You'll appreciate the longer battery life and screen size and never having to carry your charger.

    Or just buy an iPad and save heavy work for doing at home.

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