MBA as Second Computer

Samoas

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 22, 2014
15
0
Hi, first time posting here. I have a few questions that i have regarding the MBA but here are some facts:

- I'm buying a MBA as a SECOND computer because my main laptop is too big and bulky to carry around campus.

- I will mainly be using it for the Internet, Microsoft office, YouTube, streaming sports/movies online, and iTunes. (If I can play games (csgo/lol) without having to upgrade options, those 2 would also be added but games aren't a priority as I have my main laptop to play games on).

- i might sell this MBA next year if the 12" comes out if the price is right. But if not, I will be using this for a long time (min. 3 years).

With that being said, here are my questions:

1) will the base model (i5/4gb ram/128 sdd) be sufficient enough for me for my purposes? Or should I go future-proof and upgrade just the ram to 8 gb? (Only have enough money for 1 upgrade)

2) I was leaning on getting the 13", but will the 11" be fine since this is my second computer? Trying to save as much money as possible right now and the long run.
 

mad3inch1na

macrumors 6502a
Oct 21, 2013
662
6
Hi, first time posting here. I have a few questions that i have regarding the MBA but here are some facts:

- I'm buying a MBA as a SECOND computer because my main laptop is too big and bulky to carry around campus.

- I will mainly be using it for the Internet, Microsoft office, YouTube, streaming sports/movies online, and iTunes. (If I can play games (csgo/lol) without having to upgrade options, those 2 would also be added but games aren't a priority as I have my main laptop to play games on).

- i might sell this MBA next year if the 12" comes out if the price is right. But if not, I will be using this for a long time (min. 3 years).

With that being said, here are my questions:

1) will the base model (i5/4gb ram/128 sdd) be sufficient enough for me for my purposes? Or should I go future-proof and upgrade just the ram to 8 gb? (Only have enough money for 1 upgrade)

2) I was leaning on getting the 13", but will the 11" be fine since this is my second computer? Trying to save as much money as possible right now and the long run.
For your uses, the baseline model will be fine. You won't notice any difference between the models for at least 3-4 years. Especially since you already have a computer, I would wait until Black Friday or for some other sale. The price of the 13" model can fall as low as 750$. You will be able to play csgo and lol just fine on medium settings, and an upgraded model won't have any performance boost for that. The 11" model has the same specs, so it will run fine. It just depends if you are ok with an 11.7" screen. Check it out in store.
 

capathy21

macrumors 65816
Jun 16, 2014
1,366
538
Houston, Texas
If I were you I'd go with the 13 inch base model. It will suit your needs just fine. You don't want to do any upgrades since you may be selling it next year. Upgrades generally won't get you any more on resale unless it is a maxed out model not to mention, with your usage, the 8GB upgrade wouldn't even be noticeable.
 

Cubytus

macrumors 65816
Mar 2, 2007
1,413
14
Same advice as above. Only if you intend to watch movies for any significant time on it, go for the 13". 11" is just too small for comfortable viewing. And if your other laptop doesn't have much disk space, you may want to put a larger SSD in the Air.
 

Samoas

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 22, 2014
15
0
I appreciate all the responses and I think I'm going to get the 13" base model when I find a good deal soon. But something that Im still questioning is the ram. I've read off some of the other threads here and from other people on a different forum that I go on that in future OSXs, more ram will be used and so it'd be a safer bet to upgrade the ram in the long run. They also claim that 4 gb is nothing. Is this true?
 

mad3inch1na

macrumors 6502a
Oct 21, 2013
662
6
I appreciate all the responses and I think I'm going to get the 13" base model when I find a good deal soon. But something that Im still questioning is the ram. I've read off some of the other threads here and from other people on a different forum that I go on that in future OSXs, more ram will be used and so it'd be a safer bet to upgrade the ram in the long run. They also claim that 4 gb is nothing. Is this true?
You won't notice any lag for your specific uses. It will be fine for another 4 years at least. Maxing out RAM for consumer uses is an outdated idea. Before SSDs were mainstream, the HDD was a huge bottleneck, so RAM had to counterbalance it by not allowing data to page to the HDD. Now that the MBA comes standard with an SSD, RAM is not an issue for most tasks. I am not saying that RAM is useless now, as it is very important for professional work and running VMs, but most consumers would be fine with 2GB of RAM today. 4GB will last quite a while, and considering you aren't keeping your computer for that long, it should be the least of your concerns.
 

lautzki

macrumors regular
May 21, 2014
113
28
I'm an economics student in the uni and I just bought the base model MacBook Air (11-inch) for use as a second computer, mainly during classes and for word processing, presentations and for coding in Windows using Boot Camp. Also a lot of the same stuff that you do. I love the freaking thing. The only place where I get less is the display, but I'm willing to sacrifice it for the sake of portability.

I have had no problems regarding performance whatsoever. The disk space is adequate, even with Boot Camp. The 13-inch counterpart is basically the same in specs so you will do just fine.
 

motrek

macrumors 68020
Sep 14, 2012
2,428
150
I appreciate all the responses and I think I'm going to get the 13" base model when I find a good deal soon. But something that Im still questioning is the ram. I've read off some of the other threads here and from other people on a different forum that I go on that in future OSXs, more ram will be used and so it'd be a safer bet to upgrade the ram in the long run. They also claim that 4 gb is nothing. Is this true?
1) If you already have a "big" laptop and you're just buying the MBA because you need something more portable, then why not get something really portable, i.e., the 11"?

2) The people who tell you that 4GB is "nothing" and that you need 8GB for the laptop to be future-proof are idiots. Don't listen to them. 4GB is more than enough for almost any purpose. You didn't mention anything in your list of possible uses that indicates that you might need more than 4.
 

Samoas

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Oct 22, 2014
15
0
1) If you already have a "big" laptop and you're just buying the MBA because you need something more portable, then why not get something really portable, i.e., the 11"?

2) The people who tell you that 4GB is "nothing" and that you need 8GB for the laptop to be future-proof are idiots. Don't listen to them. 4GB is more than enough for almost any purpose. You didn't mention anything in your list of possible uses that indicates that you might need more than 4.
1) my main laptop is a 15" so it isn't that much bigger. I just said 13" cause I'm afraid that the 11" might be too small. But im going to go to the Apple Store tomorrow and test them out to get a feel for them.

2) gotcha. I'll stick with the 4gb.
 

Dweez

macrumors 65816
Jun 13, 2011
1,248
10
Down by the river
This is somewhat how I use my MBA. I've got a built 15" HP Zbook laptop which was provided by my employer, but it's not something I want to travel wtih. My 13" MBA is the perfect travel companion, and with the windows 7 corporate image in a VM I'm able to do anything and everything I need to.

For my use case the MBA has 8 gig of ram as I give 4 gig to the windows VM.
 

Cubytus

macrumors 65816
Mar 2, 2007
1,413
14
They also claim that 4 gb is nothing. Is this true?
You won't notice any lag for your specific uses. It will be fine for another 4 years at least. Maxing out RAM for consumer uses is an outdated idea. Before SSDs were mainstream, the HDD was a huge bottleneck, so RAM had to counterbalance it by not allowing data to page to the HDD. Now that the MBA comes standard with an SSD, RAM is not an issue for most tasks. I am not saying that RAM is useless now, as it is very important for professional work and running VMs, but most consumers would be fine with 2GB of RAM today. 4GB will last quite a while, and considering you aren't keeping your computer for that long, it should be the least of your concerns.
I have a SSD-equipped MacBook with 4GB RAM that currently runs Yosemite beta. While it doesn't slow nearly as much as with its older spinner when paging, there's definitely a noticeable decrease in performance when it starts, and I haven't loaded is nearly as much as my daily driver (fast spinner and 16GB RAM).

You may want to upgrade that Air to 8GB if the price is right.
 

motrek

macrumors 68020
Sep 14, 2012
2,428
150
I have a SSD-equipped MacBook with 4GB RAM that currently runs Yosemite beta. While it doesn't slow nearly as much as with its older spinner when paging, there's definitely a noticeable decrease in performance when it starts, and I haven't loaded is nearly as much as my daily driver (fast spinner and 16GB RAM).

You may want to upgrade that Air to 8GB if the price is right.
Not sure what you mean by spinner.

BTW -- I use some pretty heavy apps (XCode, Photoshop, Chrome with lots of pages open) and I could get by okay with 2GB RAM. I have 4GB now since I upgraded my MBA a few months ago but I don't need it.
 

eimis993

macrumors member
Nov 24, 2013
77
12
Hi! I recently swapped my 2012 13" i5 256ssd non retina Macbook Pro for 2013 base MacBook Air. Main reason for swap was much better battery life and lightness. Currently its my main and the only one machine. Firstly I was worrying that it has only 4gb of ram, but its not really an issue because of the ram compression (obviously if you are planning to use for something graphic intensive, you should go straight to at least 15" retina with dedicated gpu). Anyways so far Im pretty happy wit the machine, I even have parallels installed on it and while I can see the difference between 4 and 8gb of ram it still handles ok. :) I think fast ssd really helps in these situations where you are using all ram.
 

Cubytus

macrumors 65816
Mar 2, 2007
1,413
14
Not sure what you mean by spinner.

BTW -- I use some pretty heavy apps (XCode, Photoshop, Chrome with lots of pages open) and I could get by okay with 2GB RAM. I have 4GB now since I upgraded my MBA a few months ago but I don't need it.
Spinner is slang I often saw used to refer to classic hard drives who have spinning platters. Please correct me if this isn't correct as English isn't my native language.

Even with RAM compression, swap gets used to a significant amount, and I don't use those heavy apps you refer to. Which makes it even more worrying.
 

motrek

macrumors 68020
Sep 14, 2012
2,428
150
Spinner is slang I often saw used to refer to classic hard drives who have spinning platters. Please correct me if this isn't correct as English isn't my native language.

Even with RAM compression, swap gets used to a significant amount, and I don't use those heavy apps you refer to. Which makes it even more worrying.
I haven't heard spinner before but that doesn't mean much. You might want to say hard drive in the future though to avoid any confusion. I thought you might have meant the spinning "beach ball" or "color wheel" cursor that you might see sometimes when apps become unresponsive.

When you go to Activity Monitor and then the Memory tab, look at the bottom at the graph of "memory pressure." What color is the graph and what percentage (roughly) is it at?
 

Cubytus

macrumors 65816
Mar 2, 2007
1,413
14
I haven't heard spinner before but that doesn't mean much. You might want to say hard drive in the future though to avoid any confusion. I thought you might have meant the spinning "beach ball" or "color wheel" cursor that you might see sometimes when apps become unresponsive.

When you go to Activity Monitor and then the Memory tab, look at the bottom at the graph of "memory pressure." What color is the graph and what percentage (roughly) is it at?
As for "Beach Ball", I often use the acronym BBoD.

For the memory pressure, it is usually green, turning orange as Safari still leaks memory.
 

motrek

macrumors 68020
Sep 14, 2012
2,428
150
As for "Beach Ball", I often use the acronym BBoD.

For the memory pressure, it is usually green, turning orange as Safari still leaks memory.
As long as it's green, you shouldn't be seeing any performance degradation due to memory use.

If something appears to be slow it's due to something else. Network connection, or whatever software you're using is computing something.

I don't know about Safari memory leaks. I use Chrome. I don't know if it uses more or less memory though. These days it's too complicated to tell exactly how much memory something is using. There's virtual memory, physical memory, shared memory, wired memory, working set, etc. Basically I don't think it matters and isn't worth trying to figure out unless you're seeing yellow or red for memory pressure.
 

Cubytus

macrumors 65816
Mar 2, 2007
1,413
14
As long as it's green, you shouldn't be seeing any performance degradation due to memory use.

If something appears to be slow it's due to something else. Network connection, or whatever software you're using is computing something.
Not even, because CPU is not at 100%, yet the UI is sluggish, probably because of unoptimized . It's really about the memory, I guess
I don't know about Safari memory leaks. I use Chrome. I don't know if it uses more or less memory though. These days it's too complicated to tell exactly how much memory something is using. There's virtual memory, physical memory, shared memory, wired memory, working set, etc. Basically I don't think it matters and isn't worth trying to figure out unless you're seeing yellow or red for memory pressure.
Poor performance is always a cause for concern. Yosemite has a noticeably worse perf than Mountain Lion.
 

motrek

macrumors 68020
Sep 14, 2012
2,428
150
Not even, because CPU is not at 100%, yet the UI is sluggish, probably because of unoptimized . It's really about the memory, I guess
Poor performance is always a cause for concern. Yosemite has a noticeably worse perf than Mountain Lion.
If you're maxing out one core then you will be limited by CPU performance even though the graph in Activity Monitor won't show 100% because the graph shows the combined percentage for all the cores. What's important is if a process shows 100% CPU usage in the list above the graph.

Even if you're not maxing out a core, a process could be sluggish because it's waiting on a network transaction or it's doing something with the disk.

I would be very reluctant to blame poor performance on a lack of memory if the memory tab is showing "green" pressure.
 

appleuserfan

macrumors member
Oct 16, 2014
87
37
i was in your situation and i need to do the same things.

Which MBA i had bought?

A late 2010 with C2D 1.4 ghz, 2 gb of ram and 11 Inch.

And, trust me, is perfect. The only limitation is that i have to use SL for 100% fast macbook.

But with SL installed i can do everything and FAST. Incredible FAST.

So if you will buy the one with 4 GB RAM and Intel i5 processor you will have even better performances and even with Mavericks or the others "newest" OS.

And last but not least, the 11 inch display is simply awesome. Is small enough but not too much small like an iPad. It's the right display for maximum portability.
 
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Cubytus

macrumors 65816
Mar 2, 2007
1,413
14
If you're maxing out one core then you will be limited by CPU performance even though the graph in Activity Monitor won't show 100% because the graph shows the combined percentage for all the cores. What's important is if a process shows 100% CPU usage in the list above the graph.

Even if you're not maxing out a core, a process could be sluggish because it's waiting on a network transaction or it's doing something with the disk.

I would be very reluctant to blame poor performance on a lack of memory if the memory tab is showing "green" pressure.
It is not 100%, but high usage during "idle" times, stays high during active usage. It kills battery life, and UI response is lagging.

Disk response shouldn't be a limiting factor with an SSD. I can't explain it, really, except by swap pressure.
 

motrek

macrumors 68020
Sep 14, 2012
2,428
150
It is not 100%, but high usage during "idle" times, stays high during active usage. It kills battery life, and UI response is lagging.
...
So wait, your CPU usage is high but you're blaming memory for sluggishness?
 

Cubytus

macrumors 65816
Mar 2, 2007
1,413
14
So wait, your CPU usage is high but you're blaming memory for sluggishness?
High but not 100%. High idle means never gets lower than 15%. A ton of processes are running in the background, and swap kicks in very quickly, and doesn't purge.
 

motrek

macrumors 68020
Sep 14, 2012
2,428
150
High but not 100%. High idle means never gets lower than 15%. A ton of processes are running in the background, and swap kicks in very quickly, and doesn't purge.
What do you mean, swap doesn't purge? Swap is already arguably data that is purged from physical memory so any swap at all is already "purged" ... or do you expect your swap to be deleted, which makes no sense, because what if programs need that data later?

Here's a quick test that should sort out this problem: look at the disk tab of Activity Monitor when your computer is running slow. Is there a lot of data being written to disk? If not, memory is not your problem.
 
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