MBA + 27.5inch Thunderbolt Display VS MBA + 21.5inch iMac?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by respectabilia, Aug 14, 2011.

  1. respectabilia, Aug 14, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2011

    respectabilia macrumors regular

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    Oct 24, 2010
    #1
    I've decided to replace my 2010 MBP with a 2011 11inch MBA core i7 128GB SSD as in everyday use, the MBA is more efficient and portability is important to me (for work). For my needs at the moment (the most I do is an occasional video and photo edit, and lots of multitasking) I feel that the MBA is all I need and aim to use it, ike my previous MBP, as my only computer. Please also note that I also own an iPad and iPhone for non-work daily and mobile use.

    However, for those big multitasking sessions, I will definitely need a large display at home. Currently, I'm using my brother's basic LG 18 or 19inch display that's not the best quality, especially coming from an MBA screen. Therefore, I have a few options:

    1. Purchase the new £900 Thunderbolt Display.

    It's 27 inches (the largest I will ever have worked with) and seems to have been made for the very situation I'm in, as a display for an MBA or MBP to be hooked up to.

    Pros:
    - the 27 inch display
    - the built-in MagSafe and thunderbolt cables-in-one look very handy for quick plug and play functionality when I come home, as opposed to what I currently do with my pro: plug in the mini display port, plug in another cable for the mag safe, and a final cable for the speakers. And then there's a cable or two that gets plugged in for hard drives and printers. With the thunderbolt display, I can have all these plugged in to the display directly.
    - should my needs change and I feel I need more power, I can always purchase a decent Mac Mini for a further £600. I already own a wireless keyboard and trackpad.

    Cons:
    - the hefty price tag, is it worth it compared to the base iMacs?
    - the base 21.5 inch iMac is only £100 more than the Thunrbolt Display, and the 27.5 inch base model is £500 more.
    - no optical drive (although again, should i need this in the future, I can purchase a separate drive)

    2. Purchase the £1000 21.5 inch iMac.

    Pros:
    -It costs only £100 more than the thunderbolt display (note a £100 difference is a bit more than a $100 difference). But if I sell my current wireless keyboard and magic trackpad (as the iMac comes with these), then this iMac will cost the same as the thunderbolt display.
    -I will have another machine that's very powerful too
    -will give me an optical drive unlike the display
    -more future-proof. Should i need the power, it will be there for me.

    Cons:
    -the screen is only 21.5 inches. I would LOVE a 27inch! So this is the big question: is it worth it to get the thunderbolt display over this 21.5inch purely for the bigger display?
    -even though it's £100 more, the higher the price goes, the less affordable it becomes.
    -I don't think I need (at this moment) a second machine or it's mighty power. I already own an iPhone and an iPad, and a second work machine in addition to the MBA means I have to maintain two workmachines and ensure they're in synchrony with each other, etc.

    3. Purchase the base £1400 27.5 inch iMac.

    Pros:
    -similar to above, plus the main thing that it's 27.5 inch.

    Cons:
    -similar to above
    - at £500 more, the price is extremely heavy (possibly out of my range; the heaviest purchase I've ever made if I do go for it) but part of me keeps saying that it's ultimately worth it as for £500 extra I get a quad core machine, optical drive, etc.

    So as you can see, I'm pretty conflicted. I'm currently inclining towards the Thunderbolt Display but parts of me keeps telling me to sacrifice the screen size and go for the 21inch iMac (with internals I don't currently need but might need in the future maybe) for a relatively similar price. Again, for those who have the 27inch screen, would you give it up for a 21inch in my position?
     
  2. ntrigue macrumors 68040

    ntrigue

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    Jul 30, 2007
    #2
    I am in the same situation. I would either get Thunderbolt + 11" MBA or a 21.5" iMac and iPad 2.
     
  3. i0Nic macrumors 65816

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    #3
    I'm in the exact same boat.

    What I have found is that the MBA is enough power for my needs. If you got the iMac route, you are making compromises:
    - 2 machines to maintain, sync.
    - Smaller screen (compared to the 27" thunderbolt)
    - No SSD powering your machine (unlike the MBA)

    The better route is the MBA + 27" thunderbolt. You get the docking benefits of the thunderbolt display, the big screen, and the ease of just having one machine that can handle all your portable and desktop needs.

    The other advantage of the 27" display is that if you want to update your computer in a couple years you just swap out the MBA and you'll still have the beautiful 27" to power your new computer.

    I also have a work machine that I sometimes take home, and just having a multitude of computers to maintain and sync would be too much of a headache for me. That's why I'm going with the 27" display.
     
  4. iSayuSay macrumors 68030

    iSayuSay

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2011
    #4
    If that is the case. I'd say MBA + 27" is a better option between both.

    But if you let me suggest something. I'd go with 27" iMac first, and then wait a few months, save some more money and get a 11" basic Macbook Air just for a bit of portability.

    In the end my option would cost a couple hundred $$$ than yours, but that's a perfect combination to me. You get the power of iMac, the 27" screen, and the full portability of an Air. And don't forget you can connect the Air and use iMac as monitor (but really, why would you? Better have your Air paired to your iMac as target disk mode, use the iMac power to do anything stored on your Air)

    That's what I did, although I love my iMac much more (I wish I don't need the Air, but ... oh well) ... combination of both is the best of both world.

    iPad is okay, but ... I don't think it can fills the gap. At least for me
     
  5. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    #5
    I agree with this, but he already has a mba ... are you suggesting he sells that and gets an imac 27 and a low end mba 11?
     
  6. respectabilia thread starter macrumors regular

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    #6
    I actually don't own it yet but I've already placed the online order.
     
  7. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    #7
    okay then why dont you try just a normal 27 inch display (nonapple)
     
  8. respectabilia thread starter macrumors regular

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    #8
    Interesting thoughts. Similar to what I'm thinking. But there is a nagging feeling that for £100 extra, I could just buy the base level 21.5 inch iMac - that I don't need btw! But the notion that a full computer is just £100 away makes me question whether the Thunderbolt Display is worth it....

    If this Thunderbolt Display was priced just a little lower, the issue would be clearer to decide...
     
  9. respectabilia thread starter macrumors regular

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    Oct 24, 2010
    #9
    Yep, I've considered this. Currently, I'm already working with a non-Apple display. Aside from the aforementioned poor screen resolution (one big feature Apple's displays offer), there is an issue with ease of compatibility. Right now with the MBP, when I come home, I have to plug in the power socket and attach the mag safe, plug in the mini display cable into the port, plug in the audio/speakers cable, and then sometimes plug in the firewire cable for the external HDD and the printing cable. When I take the MBP out for mobile work, I have to unplug all these and then plug them in again when I return...becomes cumbersome after a while.

    With the Thunderbolt Display, it should be possible to just come home and plug the display's thunderbolt and magsafe cables in straight away (both are on one cable), and be ready to go. The external HDD, printer, SD card adapter and (possibly) the superdrive) can already be attached from beforehand and I would never have to plug in or unplug these. When leaving for mobile work again, just unplug the one cable and I can be off again.

    So either this all wins me over, or I decide (based on feedback) that dishing out £100 extra for a smaller-screen 21.5inch iMac is better. Currently, I'm leaning towards the former.
     
  10. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    #10
    From all this that im hearing the thunderbolt display truly seems like its your best bet right now, you wont be able to do the whole docking statino thing with a imac right?
     
  11. i0Nic macrumors 65816

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    #11
    You should also consider that in 2 years, you will probably want to upgrade, right?

    If you have iMac and a macbook air, that's two computers you'll want to replace. If you have the 27" display, you could still keep it as it will still be a beautiful big screen, just need to replace the MBA.

    Not to mention you'll enjoy the big screen of the 27". If you get the iMac, you'll be wishing you had the bigger screen and then having to manage two computers instead of one.

    The only factor that would sway me to the iMac route is that there might be some choppiness of the MBA powering the big display. My MBA is currently powering a 24" display, and the experience of swiping spaces and launchpad is slightly not as smooth as it would be on the laptop's display, or on an iMac.
     
  12. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Yes OP this is another thought to keep in mind, in the future laptops will get closer and closer to reaching desktop speeds so when you upgrade in the future why not just upgrade a laptop?
     
  13. treestar macrumors 6502

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    Feb 28, 2010
    #13
    I saw the Thunderbolt display in store last night and i was a little disappointed. I used a cinema display earlier this year to do some proofing for my art and it was great. The way I remember it, the display had a matte screen which was key to it's usability. The newer display is full gloss and it sucks for photo editing. I'm not getting it.
     
  14. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    #14
    if u want it for photo editing go for the discontinued 30 inch cinema display
     
  15. respectabilia thread starter macrumors regular

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    Oct 24, 2010
    #15
    Thanks for that. True point indeed.

    Regarding the choppiness you experienced, is that with a cinema display? If so, I'm assuming that the thunderbolt connection in the new display should iron out any of these old issues right given the quality of the connection? I mean, if thunderbolt can transfer 10th/sec and can power entire machines, I don't see how it can overlook basic things like screen choppiness. I can't see apple advertising it as a MacBook air perfect companion with this flaw.

    ----------

    I guess so. Especially as I can see iMacs heading towards ssdds as a
    basic standard in the next few years, by which time I may have to change my mac setup and configuration (one reason I'm inclining towards just an MBA at the moment over the iMac is the benefit of the SSD). Until then, it's true I probably won't want to upgrade two machines anytime soon.

    Having said that, I'm sure apple will upgrade the display too, but I don't think it'll be so drastic or incremental enough to justify an upgrade for a good few years.
     
  16. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    #16
    ii do believe you are correct
     
  17. respectabilia thread starter macrumors regular

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    Oct 24, 2010
    #17
    Thanks for the feedback. It's looking more and more likely I'll be going for the thunderbolt display. I'm probably going to wait for my MBA to arrive and for maybe a couple of more reviews of actual people using thunderbolt displays and for these things to come in stock (up to 5 weeks delivery time at the moment).

    But please keep your feedback coming. Helps me further and anyone else in a similar situation. I think many are going to be in this situation from now as newer portables like the MBA start to hit desktop power and people decide one laptop is enough to work as both a desktop and portable.
     
  18. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

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    #18
    yes exactly this, there really is no need for a desktop these days except for professionals who need more than a quad core computer.

    Myself, i run a 13 inch mbp on a 23 inch external display
     
  19. T-bag Guest

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    #19
    I've been debating the exact same options over the last few weeks. Can't believe I came across such a relevant thread. :)

    I got blind in the end. Almost went for the iMac 27. The only near to reasonable justification I came up with was that I would then have a spare machine, and a lot of power at my disposal. Idiotic in retrospect.

    I realized that I went from a MBP to a MBA because those needs simply does not exist in my life. If something (god forbid!!!) happens to my Air, and I truly need a computer within hours, I'll borrow one from a friend or purchase a cheap PC. Everything is in my Dropbox anyways.

    At least that's how I realized how much more I will benefit from the Thunderbolt Display. The convenient MagSafe, the single thunderbolt cable. It just makes sense.
     
  20. treestar, Aug 15, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2011

    treestar macrumors 6502

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    #20
    That cable is bogus! They really needed to use the older style MagSafe connector that is straight and not perpendicular. Those promo shots look awful with the TB cable coming in straight and the huge loop coming off the MagSafe. Big fail by Apple for that one.


    EDIT: I posted the Apple promo image and I believe they requested my hosting site to remove it due to copyrights or whatever. I'm not surprised as I might have been disparaging them.

    EDIT:

    [​IMG]
     
  21. respectabilia, Aug 15, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2011

    respectabilia thread starter macrumors regular

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    #22
    For a similar thread on these issues from someone else in a similar situation, see http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?p=13180129&highlight=#post13180129
     
  22. treestar macrumors 6502

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    Feb 28, 2010
    #23
    No. I sleep on a piece of foam on the floor and I can't use an iMac or a Cinema Display because I don't have a desk. I just lay on my stomach or sit in bed (foam) with my MBP.

    I noticed that poorly designed dual cable because I love my old MacBook charger with the straight connector. I use my computers for field recording and it really bothers me when I have my Firewire cable coming straight out and the MagSafe cable going an entirely different direction. I just don't have space for the mess of wires.

    I do think I get why they changed the MagSafe. When you sit with a laptop between your legs, the right-angle connector doesn't get pushed out this new way. It doesn't explain why they used the same design for the TB display. I think that was just economics or laziness. For that, Apple gets a -1.
     
  23. respectabilia thread starter macrumors regular

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    Oct 24, 2010
    #24
    As I understand it the new MagSafe was to ensure that when your plug gets accidentally pulled out sharply (eg someone tripped over the power cable), it would pop out safely without dragging your notebook with it. I guess the same could still be said about the MagSafe in the thunderbolt display, eg to ensure that if your MagSafe gets pulled or tangled, it doesn't end up dragging your light MacBook air over the table with it.
     
  24. treestar macrumors 6502

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    Feb 28, 2010
    #25
    It hasn't worked that way for me. In fact, it only disengages when the cable is knocked away left from the computer. When the cable is knocked right, behind the computer, it doesn't let go at all. You could probably pull it this way all day. At least with the old cable it came out if the cable was knocked left, right, up, and down. The new one only comes out with a tug to the left. I'm sure there are some lever forces acting here too.

    I assume you didn't design the new cable so please don't take offense.
     

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