MBA as desktop?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by AppleRyan, Mar 5, 2014.

  1. AppleRyan macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2014
    For those of you who have a MBA, do you also have a Mac Mini or an iMac?

    I say this because the MBA storage is very small and im curious as how one would you the MBA as there "main" computer if you will?

    I know its possible to hook it up the a larger screen and get a external drive.

    Is that what many of you do?

    Im curious as to people's "setups"

    Can one own a MBA and nothing else?
  2. Gav2k macrumors G3


    Jul 24, 2009
    I have a mini and an MBA. My storage is network based and I do use my MBA on the big screen as a desktop when at work.

    My mini is used as a media server and that's about it.
  3. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I upgraded to a 2011 13" MBA from a 2008 15" MBP and it became my primary computer. Used it with my ancient (2004?) 23" Apple Cinema Display and an Apple Extended keyboard. The 2011 MBA had a 256gb SSD and the 2008 MBP was only 160gb, so I did not perceive the storage as "small".

    Last summer I sold the 2011 MBA to a friend and got a 2013 11" MBA. I love this machine, so light, small and powerful. I have it maxxed out with the 17, 8gb and the 512gb SSD. So no storage problems for me. In addition to all the stuff I regularly need and all my music, I have 130 full length movies that I ripped from DVD's. And I still have almost 200gb free space.

    This is the best of both worlds for me. I can take all my stuff wherever I go or use it with the big screen at home. Right now I'm staying with a friend in Europe and we've been watching movies every night on the MBA.
  4. AppleRyan thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2014
    Does the SSD hold more? The reason I ask is because I have a desktop with about 20 movies, about 1,000 songs, and mayb 3-4,000 pictures and I use about 400GB
  5. Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    You can absolutely use the MBA as a desktop with external monitor, keyboard and mouse. Perhaps do something like move your music, movies and pictures to an external USB3 drive to free up the usable internal storage of the MBA.

    $0.02 worth.
  6. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

    Jan 5, 2011
    Do you need all that with you all the time? You could use the Air (either directly or through a larger monitor like the TBD), and use an external HD for holding everything. Then just copy what you need with you all the time on the Airs SSD.
  7. abta1 macrumors 6502

    Jul 5, 2010
    Paris, France
    I recently bought a 2013 11" MBA to replace my 2010 15" MBP which was my main computer. With the MBP, I would often connect it to an external monitor with wireless keyboard and mouse, as well as various external HDDs and that setup served me well.

    I realised that if didn't intend to do heavy gaming on PC then a desktop machine was no longer required so that's why I moved to a laptop as my primary machine. Portability was an important factor too.

    I think a lot of people like to have large built in storage so that they can access all their files, photos what have you at any given moment in time, but actually for many this turns out not to be necessary. Especially that cloud storage is taking off, you can have almost everything you need access to as long as you have some sort of internet connection (wifi or cellular). So I moved all my photos and iTunes library onto an external disk and haven't regretted it.

    I now use my MBA as my desktop replacement as it can do all the things I need it to do outside of my high end workstation at work and given that the portability of the 11" is just superb, I am very satisfied. I still have my MBP ofcourse, but it lies unused and may well end up going to a family member.
  8. drsox, Mar 5, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2014

    drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    Yes. I now only use the MBA. But I also have a 9TB NAS where all my active and media files are located. As I never use the MBA out of range of this NAS unit, this works fine for me. Essentially my MBA is a "in-house portable iMac" and is used all over the house and patio.

    The MacMini in my sig is used by someone else.
  9. richfromroch macrumors newbie

    Feb 14, 2011
    Rochester, NY
    I have a Mac Mini for heavy video/photo editing and on-air TV recording. I have a late 2013 128GB MBA W/8GB of ram for misc. stuff -- email, web browsing, hobbies, some photo and video, etc. I will warn you that a portable external USB3 drive will draw down the MBA battery rather quickly --and I was just using it for Time Machine. I have since switched to a 128GB STORedge SD card for Time Machine, which works great by the way.
    Rochester, NY
  10. AppleRyan thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2014
    Yeah I was thinking
    External monitor
    Hard Drive

    But it could get a little pricey
  11. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon

    I have a MBA as my main computer - in fact, an MBA has been my main computer - and my only computer - since 2010.

    My current MBA is a 13" 2013 model, 512SSD, 8 RAM and i7 core; a sweet and blazing fast machine, amazingly portable (I use it daily and move around a lot) and a laptop which has a battery to die for.

    The memory is more than quite sufficient for my needs (I have my entire iTunes library - 74GB on it, but, no movies) - although, granted, my old 2010 model was beginning to suffer before I upgraded last summer.

    So, yes, it is more than possible to use the MBA as a main - or only - machine.
  12. DmbShn41 macrumors 6502

    Jun 22, 2009
    I use a MBA 13" 2013 model, with a 128 GB PNY Storedge SD card. Fits snug into the SD slot, barely notice its there. Doubles my onboard storage, $79. I also have a 120GB Samsung 840 EVO in a USB3 enclosure.
  13. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    No, it has nothing to do with the disk media, it's all about the file format and quality. I have ripped my 130 movies with handbrake at a resolution and quality appropriate for the 11" screen on the MBA and they look great there. Actually they look pretty decent on my Sony 46" LCD TV too (black areas sometimes show blockiness though). You could mistake them for standard definition DVD's most of the time. But you won't mistake them for blu-ray disks. My 130 movies take up about 147GB and I have about 2600 songs that take about 24gb.

    I'm perfectly happy with the quality of all this. You might not be. But I find more value in having lots of content available wherever I go. But this thread is about using a MBA as a desktop replacement. If it's just sitting on your desk, you could connect a big external disk or use some kind of media server and have anything you want.
  14. sflomenb macrumors 6502a


    Jul 22, 2011
    I'm at college and I have an external monitor setup at my dorm. It works great, I plug it in every day and charge it overnight.
  15. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    As I've mentioned in other threads, I only need to keep a subset of my media on my Air (so the 128GB model is fine for me). Everything lives on an old Windows PC that serves as my media server. I leave iTunes running on it, and it serves up DVD rips (HB Universal preset) to our AppleTV, Macs and other i-devices. I am also an iTunes Match subscriber, so I have all my music in the cloud as well.
  16. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I can work, but I'd go with the 13" one at least.
  17. Boyd01, Mar 6, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014

    Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    It comes down to a question of personal preference and style, like so many things in life. I am staying with a friend in Greece now so a media server in my home in New Jersey wouldn't help much. We've had fun watching movies on the MBA in the evenings. And the battery life is so great on the MBA, I can watch my own movies on a transatantic flight, but if they reside on a hard drive at my home then that doesn't work either.

    I live in a secluded location out in the woods, way off the road and any internet connectivity must come over the copper that Verizon buried there many years ago. I'm happy to have access at all (not to mention electricity!) and I'm not interested in cloud based streaming over 2.5mb DSL. :)

    I sometimes shoot professional HD video, and the MBA is terrific for editing that on the road - I don't want to carry a heavy laptop along with a big camera, mattebox and tripod. Last summer I was using my 13" 256gb MBA for this, and after two days I had almost filled the SSD. The 11" 512gb MBA is a big improvement for this. I would like a 1TB SSD even better. :)
  18. phitcharkorn macrumors newbie

    Jan 5, 2014
    If u don't use them very often, you can store in external drive. If you want more storage buy 512gb ssd 13" model (You can use SDXC card and the screen is not too small to use as desktop).
  19. AppleRyan thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2014
    Ok im leaning towards the MBA i5 w/ 8GB RAM

    grab an external HD and possible a monitor for home use.

    I will be doing photo editing, and very little video editing(if any). alot of docutment writing and your normal everyday browsing ect. I think ill be ok with this set-up right?
  20. nefan65 macrumors 65816


    Apr 15, 2009
    Did you settle on the 11" or 13"?
  21. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    Nothing you have written implies that you would need more than 4gb. But more RAM is never a bad idea, as long as you can afford it. In the end, only you can decide of course.

    I never was disappointed with my 4gb i5 2011 MBA, even when using Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro or other powerful software. The SSD is really fast on the MBA. No doubt some swapping was taking place but I really wasn't aware of it.

    The user experience on my 2013 i7 8gb MBA is really quite similar. The only times I notice much difference is rendering video or looking at latency stats in Logic.
  22. AppleRyan thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2014
    I was thinking the same with the 4GB, but idk I feel silly because in 2008 I bought a laptop and upgraded it to 4GB. In 2012 I bought a desktop(all in one). 6GB RAM. Now im headed back down to 4GB?
  23. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I think we could make a similar argument for CPU and SSD, couldn't we? A faster processor and more storage won't hurt anything and who knows what you may need a year or two from now.

    I tend to always buy the max myself. In 2011 that was 4gb/256gb. Now it's 8gb/512gb. My next one will probably be 16gb/1TB. But I also run more demanding software.
  24. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
    When ppl ask this Q, I immediately think, they are concerned about not enough CPU power but that's no it with u.

    Since my first Pentium-3 (ancient) laptop, I already made a decision not to convert it into an octopus. It kinda defeats the purpose of a light/thin laptop. Too painful to have to plug/unplug things to it continuously.

    But OK you work everyday with big spreadsheets and gigabytes jpegs, u need a big monitor.

    Storage... That's what file servers are there for, on your iMac, Mini whatever. Mine is a PC, with practically unlimited, CHEAP, storage. Why pay for expensive SSD? Do u REALLY need that storage with u at all times?
  25. AppleRyan thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 4, 2014
    Assuming I don't have a Mac mini (I don't) I'm assuming an external HD would be fine?

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