MBA: need your help in choosing specs.

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Shadow-Man4, Aug 1, 2013.

  1. Shadow-Man4 macrumors newbie

    Jul 31, 2013
    Hi, I'm new to this forum and want the recommendations of those who went through the process of choosing their MacBook Air here.

    I'm heading to college in a month, and I want to get a the new MBA. Question is: Is the 13" or 11" better overall?

    I personally am heading more towards the 13" because:

    1. It is the "perfect" size in terms of portability and a good, reasonable-sized screen
    2. Has a better battery life
    3. Has a slightly better resolution

    Having said that, the cheaper price of the MBA 11" and it's increased portability is what makes me consider it. Although I don't like that it has less battery life.

    What do you guys think? I'll be using it for regular browsing, university assignments, downloading a few movies here and there, watching YouTube videos, and those regular tasks we all do.

    I would also like to ask if 128GB SSD is enough? I'm thinking of getting the base model and then buying an HDD for back-up and in case the 100GB isn't enough. Is that a better option than upgrading the SSD? Because it's quite expensive to get the 256GB tbh.

    And is 4GB RAM enough? If I get the 11" I can afford upgrading to either 256GB or 8GB RAM, but I don't think I can afford those upgrades if I get the 13". So which combination is a better deal? 11" with upgrades or a 13" without and why?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Zuxor macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2013
    If portability is important to you I would go with 11" 8gb ram. Even with light use, many safari tabs can make you page out like ***** with only 4gb (believe me, unfortunately :().

    You will get used to the 11" screen. It can be underwhelming at first but one week later you'll be very happy with the choice. That's really a laptop that you want to take everywhere you go.

    You will lose some battery but 8 hours is still very good to everyday use at college. And the better resolution of the 13" translates in a lower PPI (pixels per inch) than the 11" that has a higher PPI.
  3. SteveJobs2.0 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 9, 2012
    Lol safari tabs will not make you page out lol. I got the 8gb version but oy time I had more than 4gb used when I was running a game.
  4. Mopar macrumors member

    Feb 24, 2011
    We've got both. The 13" is the better machine, IMO - faster, better screen, better battery life etc - but my 11" goes everyehwere with me. Because it can. It's the perfect size for watching movies on a plane (13" is too big for most aircraft trays), weighs hardly anything, and is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper. There's little difference in the keyboard between the two and you quickly get used to the 11" screen - it's fine for typing and browsing, and is only really too small if you plan to edit photos.

    Battery life isn't as much of an issue now, either, as the new 11'' lasts much longer than the old model.

    As for specs, 4/128 should be fine. My last 11" was the same specs and I never needed anything more. I did have an external drive, and I wasn't CPU crunching, so for an average user I don't see the need.

    A higher spec machine will have better resale value if that's important to you.
  5. mbafan macrumors member

    Jul 29, 2013
    if u dont plan to run windows then 128 gb will be fine, just use some cloud service if u need more space for documents (e.g. Dropbox), and use Spotify for music

    4 gb vs 8 gb - if u plan to run VMs or some RAM extensive apps (adobe afterefects) etc. then it would be wise to get 8 gb, however 4 gb should be more than enough. Some time ago 1 gb was standard, 2gb was good and 4 gb was extreme, now just ram became very cheap and apple is using to iSheep customers :) for 4gb which retail cost around 30-40 USD they are charging much more :)

    ah and get 13 one it is small already, 11 is just overkill for everyday office use without external monitor
  6. alexandreds macrumors newbie


    Aug 2, 2013
    Hi there,

    All I can really say from my experience (been owning a 13" 2011 4go RAM model for 2 years) is to get the 8go of RAM. It's the only thing that will matter in the couple of years you will own the computer.
    Don't get me wrong 4go is enough, but if you want it to be more "future proof" (even though I don't like this expression) get the RAM since it's soldered and will not be able to upgrade it.


    Here is a review from a guy going from a 13" to 11", might give you perspective.
  7. AXs macrumors 6502a


    Sep 7, 2009
    I completely agree with mbafan.

    you should DEFINITELY go with 13". You will not regret it. And you yourself want the 13".

    I think your doubt is concerning whether it is worth it to sacrifice screen size to get 8gb.

    No, it is not.
    It's not just screen size, but also battery life, and sd slot.
    Battery life is the most awesome feature.

    Get the 13" base. 4gb is plenty. As mbafan stated, unless you plan to run virtual machines, it will be more than fine.

    And yes while you could still run parallels/vmware and windows with 4gb, you still have the option for bootcamp to run windows where 4gb will be more than plenty.

    Right now, I have chrome running with 8 tabs, one with youtube vid playing.
    i have itunes running, appstore running, utorrent running.

    I just turned on ps3 media server as well.

    Believe it or not, I'm using only 800mb of RAM (wired), and there's 1.7gb active. That means I'm basically only using 2.5GB of RAM.

    There's another 1.1gb inactive (which means not used, but can easily be allocated to recently used apps), and the rest is free. I only push the RAM on ubuntu via vmware.

    If for simple everyday usage, I doubt you will be doing more than this. Maybe Microsoft Word or Pages... I don't have either since I do my work on Ubuntu... but I'm guessing it won't change at all, if any would be about 50mb more.

    128gb is completely fine. Especially if you're not planning on installing virtual OS. If you can keep your movies on an external hard drive then you'll never have a problem.

    If you concern is RAM, there is nothing to worry! Get the 13" BASE! 4gb LPDDR3 will get you through college NO PROBLEMO! I got through most of college with 1gb DDR1. :D Then DDR2 came out and we were like- "Aliens"

    Good luck!
  8. silvershamrock macrumors member

    Aug 1, 2013
    Edmonton, AB
    My MBA is a 2012 model, not a 2013. However:

    I got the 13" (mainly for the battery life and the SD slot) and I haven't regretted it. I upsized to the 128GB model (it wasn't standard on the 2012's) and also installed the extra 4GB of memory.

    That extra RAM is rarely used, though. (I chose the RAM upgrade primarily because installing more RAM later wasn't going to be an option. I was future-proofing.) The Mac OS is very efficient, so the computer doesn't need as much system resources to run smoothly.

    There have been times where I've needed that extra RAM. It doesn't happen every day, but it does happen.

    I didn't get the upgraded processor, however. I just stayed with the baseline on that. I don't know whether the faster processor would make an observable difference in the speed of this computer though -- it's already an incredibly fast machine.

    After using this computer for a year, I'm still completely happy with it. I was initially concerned about whether 128GB HDD would be enough, but it has turned out to be ample space (once I relocated my iTunes library, that is). The 13" 128GB model with the basic processor and 8GB of RAM has turned out to be more than enough computer for my needs.

    Good luck. :D
  9. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Don't convince yourself out the decision :)

    You stated that the 13" is a perfect size, balancing portability and screen size. Go with that. My opinion is that the 11" is too small and you'll grow frustrated by the small screen over time.

    As for the 128GB SSD, I found it too small but manageable. It really depends on your usage and data needs. I'm living happily with a 256GB SSD but YMMV
  10. Ztormie macrumors regular

    Oct 30, 2009
    Yes it was, in the 2012 models it was only the cheapest model of the 11 inch that still had 64 GB as standard.
  11. iMies macrumors newbie

    Aug 2, 2013
    If this is going to be your only/main computer, get the 13" (for the reasons you already stated).
  12. Zuxor macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2013
    Main computer get the 13"
    Just for college get the 11"
  13. Shadow-Man4 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 31, 2013
    Thanks, that was exactly what I was looking for! Thanks to everyone for their participation, too. Looks like I'm going for the 13" base model! :)

    One more thing: Will the base model last a few (4-5) years with "good" battery life and performance (provided I take care of it, ofcourse)? I need it to last, which is why I'm getting a Mac.

    And is it worth it to get AppleCare? It's abit expensive really.
  14. wolfpuppies3 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2012
    Virginia, USA
    Like Mopar above, I have both. The 13" is well worth the difference in price for the viewability and battery life.

    MAX the memory, you will use it and there is no upgrading that later. SSD size - I've always felt the speed, adaptability in the future, and overall future proofness dictates a larger drive for me.
  15. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    In my mind the 13" 8/256GB is the sweet spot. Being a college student, I would also recommend the savings to be had with a 2012 refurb although the config I mentioned has been challenging for me to find there. If the config is still out of your price range, maybe your folks can bridge the gap as a graduation present?
  16. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Typing assignments on a 11" would be a nightmare. They will probably involve browsing a lot of Internet tabs, going back to LibreOffice or anything that you'll be using, repeat as often as needed. 13" is defnitely not too large to take with you all day in a bag that will be loaded with books anyways.

    Just make sure you won't have to use the optical drive during your studies. For example most language learning methods still come with CDs.

    And yes, AppleCare is necessary on a laptop, for the reason that even a simple malfunctioning such as busted audio port will require replacement of the motherboard, a $900 repair.
  17. DisplacedMic macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2009
    whatever you do make sure you go to an apple store and play with them. i was sure i wanted the 13 until i went and played with them and ended up with the 11
  18. bniu macrumors 6502a

    Mar 21, 2010
    Even if a language learning method comes with CDs, usually the first thing I do is rip those CDs to MP3s and load them on an iPod/iPhone or any other MP3 player. There's no way I'm going to be held hostage having to carry around a CD drive everyday when it's simply not necessary. As a student, I find AppleCare essential, it basically ensures you three years of peace of mind of not having to worry about defects cropping up. Also, get Dropbox, it's nice to know that your important assignments are backed up.
  19. Ronnoco, Aug 3, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2013

    Ronnoco macrumors 68030


    Oct 16, 2007
    United States of America
    I went from an 11" 2011 to a new 13" 2013 and I must say, I WAAAAY prefer the 13". As others have stated, the 11" is certainly nice for the cramped quarters of a coach seat on an plane or perhaps a train, but other than that the larger 13" is light as a feather, the display is the perfect size for my on-the-go use. I grew a bit weary of constantly scrolling to see webpages and documents on the 11" defense of the 11", I did like the 16:9 display for watching movies...:D
    I am very happy with the 13" as it suits just about every purpose I need.
  20. Cubytus macrumors 65816

    Mar 2, 2007
    Quite the opposite. DON'T get Dropbox unless you absolutely have to, as this company is spying on you throu your data and metadata. There are other free (as in speech) alternatives, including ownCloud (if you can manage to make it work of course).

    The first part simply highlighted that you can't get away without any optical drive in your environment, even not using it everyday. Too many branches require to have access to such a drive.
  21. metanoiac, Aug 3, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 6, 2013

    metanoiac macrumors member

    Jan 21, 2012
    I just got the 13 inch model with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD.

    My use for it is university work as well, and for me it is the perfect machine. And I was skeptical, because I really like the retina screens movement these days. But I needed a laptop now that is fit for a lot of travelling, and so I grabbed the Air.

    Why 13 inch? The most important reason for me is simply that I often work with two documents side by side. Maybe a PDF on the left, and a Pages on the right. The extra horizontal inch gives me more space to display these documents on the same space. Also, I like my keyboards to be consistent, as I am working with an external keyboard quite often. Second (or after two days of using it still on the same charge) reason: Longer battery power.

    Why 8GB RAM? If you have a lot of tabs open on Safari / Chrome, you will max out 4GB. I did it all the time on my previous machine, which I upgraded to 8GB in the aftermarket - that was A M A Z I N G.

    Why 128GB storage? If you try to safe some money, I would rather save here. My photo library is 100+GB and growing, so there is no point in storing photos on the laptop anyways. I went into an official Apple re-seller (no Apple store in my town) and negotiated that instead of the iTunes gift card for Back to School I got 85$ off a Seagate Wireless Plus 1TB external harddrive with WiFi. With that discount, I got way more memory for less money.

    Another option to downsize to 128GB is to grow yourself a free cloud. For some time now, copy is offering 15GB of free cloud storage PLUS 5 GB for every friend you refer via a link like this: [. Copy is still catching up to Dropbox and not many people have heart about copy yet, so I am sure that you can quickly grow your cloud storage to 50GB or 100GB or more.

    If your storage needs are driven by a large iTunes library, consider a music subscription service like rdio instead. 200$ less for storage will get you 20 months of music subscription, and the same reasoning applies to any other devices like phones and tables you are buying. If you have three devices you are using, it almost pays for itself by saving on storage. And then there is the benefit of having a 10 billion song music library at your fingertips.
  22. Shadow-Man4, Aug 3, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 6, 2013

    Shadow-Man4 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 31, 2013
    Thanks for the detailed post! Also, huge thanks for Copy, it's amazing that I can increase my storage capacity just by telling my friends. Will certainly do that right now.
  23. AXs macrumors 6502a


    Sep 7, 2009
    to be honest, I don't understand these people saying they need extra RAM to run tabs. People have been running browsers for 20 years. Modern browsers run fine one DDR2 ram machines.

    for the sake of argument, I have 20 tabs open now... including 1 youtube video playing at 720p.

    Wired: 800mb ram, Active 2.2GB ram.

    This, while I have itunes running, dropbox running, and utorrent running.

    Honestly, I forced myself to 20 tabs. I have NO idea why anyone would EVER need 20 tabs opened simultaneously. Nobody can even view 5 tabs simultaneously on 1 13" screen... Nor should they have to.

    I understand "for research" and all... but nobody needs 20 tabs including hd videos. Close the tab in chrome, and get right back to it via history if it is THAT essential.

    Plus this had made my Air more warm then it has ever been before... but after closing the 720p youtube tab it's cooling down fast.

    By no means am I advising against 8GB ram... I have 8GB myself... but I don't think "I need a lot of tabs" is a good reason to get 8GB. I never reach 4GB for normal usage. Hell, this situation - 3GB is the most I've used, and that's because I forced 20 tabs plus flash pages and youtube vid at the same time.

    Only times I exceed 4GB ram used is when I run ubuntu on vmware.

    Conclusion: Get 8GB RAM for future proofing if you can cough up the extra $100, but by no means is it essential for browsing or Word or downloading stuff.

    but from what I gather, you're already stretching your budget with the Air, and there always will be somewhere and something that you can drop another $100 on when it comes to a Mac.
    You'll be fine with the 13" base Mac... It is the default Apple build for a good reason. Apple do not expect Air users to need more that i5/4GB. The reason almost everyone on here has 8gb RAM is because we're mostly techies and serious computer users. Hence we're on a mac forum. Normal everyday users aren't here on the board to tell you how they don't even know what RAM does... but work their Management jobs just fine with the Air they bought at the shop (base).

    good luck!
  24. Zuxor macrumors newbie

    Jul 20, 2013
    I only have two opened tabs on safari now, Facebook and MacRumors. Safari eating 1.4Gb memory. It just keeps eating memory over time until you need to close it completely and start again, really annoying.
    I too can open 40 tabs and still have Safari only using 400Mb, but with real usage specially with facebook, scrolling down a lot, viewing embedded videos, etc for 2 hours, you'll experience what I do.
    Now I only have 200Mb of free memory with only Safari (2 tabs), Dropbox, Adium, Mail and Skype opened. Tell me this is not a normal, average usage? B*llSh*t.

    If someone wants to be "free" from these problems, they should really get 8gb.
  25. AXs macrumors 6502a


    Sep 7, 2009
    God damn facebook - Taking up 2GB on a 2013 Apple Laptop. HAh.

    No, seriously... Number 1: Facebook isn't 'real usage'.

    Number 2: Why are you using safari?

    Number 3: Browser doesn't take 2GB on a 2013 Macbook, especially just running facebook. I mean seriously, anything that a mobile phone can run smoothly shouldn't be brought up in a discussion about modern laptops.

    Number 4: You clearly have background apps running that you're not accounting for. RAM isn't a human virus, it's not just going to keep growing and multiplying on its own. It seems to me you're not fully aware of what your RAM is going into.
    Number 4.1: It is likely that you're including inactive RAM into your total usage.

    Number 5: Why are you using Safari?

    Seriously... you're not going to even come close to making thing for half a milisecond that a 4GB Haswell Macbook has trouble running facebook and other similar browser-related contents... and skype.

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