MBA or MBP 13 inch?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by MadProfessor, Jul 4, 2009.

  1. MadProfessor macrumors newbie

    Jul 4, 2009
    I just can't decide on my new Mac.

    I've had my iBook 12inch G4 for about 5 years now and it's time to replace it with a new machine. The iBook is my only machine and I use it at work and at home. I'm an academic and my principal work uses are email, latex, keynote, pages, web browsing, and statistical computing in R and Python. My main personal/home use is web browsing, email, blogging, iPhoto and watching DVDs. Despite writing simulation programmes in Python, even for reasonably large datasets my iBook with 1GB RAM has been fine. The main reason for replacing it is the fact I'm now on my third HD, the battery lasts for about 20-30 mins and I'm fed up of the old OS. It's also quite heavy and runs hot.

    So my question is thus - would an MBA suit all my needs or should I get the MBP? My main concern is the lack of an optical drive for watching DVDs. Additionally I carry my laptop around quite a bit, sometimes working at home and office, as well as to different lecture halls and meetings.

    I'm also planning on getting an ACD for my office, which is where I spend most of my time and using that to connect my external HD to for back-ups. I don't think the lack of USB ports will be an issue therefore as the mouse/keyboard can be bluetooth. Both MBA and MPA can run a 24" ACD though right but neither can run the 30" - right?

    Anyway anybody using these laptops that could shed some light would be great.
  2. jackiecanev2 macrumors 65816


    Jul 6, 2007
    Wirelessly posted (BB 8900: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_0 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7A341 Safari/528.16)

    The MBA and MBP can both run 30" externals, but will require a $100 dual-link to miniDP adapter.

    If you are heavily reliant on having an optical drive, then you will get very tired of lugging around an MBA and separate optical that occupies your lone USB. Otherwise, either machine is more than capable for your needs, but since you appear to keep your computers for years without succumbing to upgradeitis, I'd reccomend the MBP solely based on it's expandability and probably better machine for long-term use.
  3. HLdan macrumors 603


    Aug 22, 2007
    The Air is a great machine and based on your listed uses it would be a fine addition...BUT not a fine "replacement". Your iBook has a lot of ports on it plus the optical drive. It may not be a real pain not having the optical drive as you can store movies on the hard disk unless you have a lot of movies then it's best to get an external hard drive or the companion optical drive.

    The Air is more of a companion machine for people on the go that have a full desktop or more powerful notebook at home. The 13" is a bit heavier but if you're okay with that it is definitely a better buy at this time. The 13"MBP is an incredible buy for less money than the Air.
  4. aleksandra. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 13, 2008
    Warsaw, Poland
    Air seems to be a great choice for you except for an optical drive. If you're going to carry it with you anyway, it'll offset Air's portability advantage. It'll will still be a bit lighter, but more bothersome. On the other hand, if you only need SuperDrive at one place most of the time, you can actually leave it behind, which you can't do with MBP. Another major issue is battery life - if you need more than 5 hours of battery life, MBP is the way to go.

    Air's great for taking it everywhere. I hate heavy bags and I knew if I got a heavy laptop, I'd end up leaving it behind most of the time... now I find I'm missing my Air if I don't take it with me.
  5. xpovos macrumors 6502a


    Jun 7, 2007
    I was an academic (mathematics) before I came to my senses. :) --- As a former academic who has used a MacBook Air in the exact same scenarios as those you describe, I can say that the primary peeves were the single USB port and the lack of other ports. In particular, I often needed to use an external hard drive AND a portable document scanner in meetings of a committee for which I was the recorder, and this required a powered portable USB hub, which was just painful.

    I have similar experiences with a 13" MacBook (before they rebranded it as a Pro). Much more pleasant on the whole. Of course you sacrifice a little portability, but the pros heavily outweigh the cons with that machine. Either of these will feel more portable than your iBook. The 13" Pro is likely to have a superior screen, given the strong possibility of getting an Air display with lines and/or yellowing and uneven backlighting.
  6. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    I am an MBA lover. I have two, but one is a degree hanging on wall behind my desk. Man I really wish there was an Air while I was in graduate school. No seriously though, I have had three MacBook Airs. The first was an original and a disaster. The second was a 1.86/SSD that cost me $3300 with all BTO options of software and such. That one was the winner of my heart and favorite Mac ever until stolen. Then I bought the new one with 2.13/SSD.

    My MBA is my sole Mac and primary computer. My setup is incredible, and I recommend any Mac notebook owner/buyer the following:

    24" LED Backlit ACD. This display is stunning. It works like a docking station - provides power, USB hub, camera, speakers, and incredible graphics.

    AirPort Extreme Base Station with attached backup drive and printer.

    Mobile Me. With drive attached to AEBS you can access files from anywhere. You can also print remotely. If you have an iPhone, there are advantages there too.

    The MBA USB SuperDrive can be plugged into the ACD hub too.

    Now to the MBA vs MBP question, if you don't NEED more than 2 GB of RAM, I recommend the MBA. It's incredibly fun. With SSD it's extremely fast for common tasks. I think most people do perfectly fine with 2 GB of fast RAM. Unless you are running virtual machines, you will probably be fine. Problems happen when people share RAM between OS X and Windows to run both at same time. All other nonsense about drive space and ports is overcome by the whole point of MBA - take advantage of wireless tech.

    Just remember, Snow Leopard is going to further take advantage of the 9400m and make the MBA even better. The MBA is plenty powerful as the specs are pretty good and it's a solid little Mac that is lots of fun and easy to carry around.

    Good luck with your decision.
  7. Disavowed macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009
    Totally the other way

    I was a MBA fanatic and it was certainly going to be my next purchase. (I visited the Apple store and tried out every version multiple times, ad infinitum)

    ANYWAY, the last time I went my "gut" told me something didn't feel right. Part of it was spec driven; this computer has to last and not having 4gigs started to bother me. Second, I realized that I really wanted more landscape no matter what. I don't know whether it's my age, my eyesight, my common sense, my budget, or a combination thereof.....I ordered a 15" MBP w/ 2.66GHz, 9600 graphics card.

    The weirdest thing is that i almost feel guilty. I have been in awe of the MBA but when push came to shove........" FOR ME, AT THIS TIME", it just didn't make sense. Yeah, it's a brick, but not a boulder. It's fast, has gorgeous screen, and will last me, which is what I really need it to do. Plus I really want to start dabbling into video editing.

    Finally (I know I am rambling), I am under a tighter budget than previously thought. If they come out with 256 SSD with 4 GB RAM with button-less keypad or 15" this christmas, I would stab myself in the foot! :p
  8. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    First of all, whether you get the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Air, you'll be making an excellent choice as both of these machines are solid upgrades to your ancient iBook. You'll be happy with either, to be honest.

    Now, remember that you won't want to carry around the portable Superdrive with the MacBook Air. You thus won't be able to watch DVDs on the go as easily with the MBA as with the MBP. What kind of DVDs are these? If they're movies, you can try renting them through iTunes. It's probably cheaper, and more convenient.

    The new MacBook Pros are much lighter than than the white MacBooks. The weight difference between the MBP and MBA is still noticeable, though. What I like about my MBA is how easy it is to take with you anywhere. It's just so thin and portable that you don't even know it's in your bag. It's just overall very handy to have such a lightweight, capable machine.

    Also, I haven't read into detail how good the new 13" MBP battery life is. I hear it's 7-8 hours, but of course that depends on usage. With the MBA (I have a Rev A), wifi off, screen low-medium brightness, taking notes, I get 5 hours. With wifi on, ~4 hours ,sometimes a bit more. Battery life is very important for me and if the new MBPs do actually get 8 hours regularly then it might be enough to make me switch over to it in the future.

    I can't recall which ports the iBook has, but you will probably be downgrading. The only thing you'll be able to plug into the MBA on the go is a projector/monitor, headphones/speakers, and one USB device (a mouse, 3G modem, etc.) I use my MBA for pretty basic tasks and it works great for those things.

    If you only NEED the numerous ports when at the desk, then the ACD you plan on getting should help you out if you plan on getting the MBA.

    Essentially, it comes down to this. If portability and lightness are most important to you, the Air is a fine choice. If you want the optical drive to be with you all the time and want more power and ports when on the go, the MBP is a far better choice.

    Again, either of these 2 machines will smoke your iBook, so for you the speed thing might even be a moot point. Both machines run OS X leopard very well.
  9. thegoldenmackid macrumors 604


    Dec 29, 2006
    dallas, texas
    I'd get the MacBook Pro, the hassle of carrying around the extra weight will make up for the hassle of the USB port and speed.
  10. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    if one has to ask then they dont need the mba
  11. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    That's a good point. If you're REALLY not sure then I'd say just get the MacBook Pro. It's not like the MBP is a house or anything. It's very thin/light for what it does.
  12. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Pretty much agree with that; the MBA is a stunning machine, but the current 13" MBP has far better specs, a far better battery and is also quite light. Overall, it offers a lot more and is far better value. Both are excellent computers and are far more advanced than the iBook they will replace, so you will enjoy either.

    Cheers and good luck
  13. aleksandra. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 13, 2008
    Warsaw, Poland
    13" MBP 2.26 GHz, 2GB RAM, 128GB SSD - $1599
    13" MBA 2.13 GHz, 2GB RAM, 128GB SSD - $1799

    Air's CPU is $100 more expensive, so that's $100 extra for portability. Of course you can upgrade MBP, plus there's other stuff (SuperDrive, SD card reader, ports etc.) which may or may not matter to individual people. It *is* a better value, but not nearly as much so as people seem to think.

    Replace "far" with "a bit" and you'll be closer to the truth.
  14. MacModMachine macrumors 68020


    Apr 3, 2009
    Agree totally,

    the air is not as bad as people make it out to be, im currently unloading my 15" fully loaded mbp 2.8 to a 2.13 mba.

    i tried it out in the store and understand the decrease n everything but like i told the salesman, i dont use usb devices and i dont need a significant battery life. i need somthing light and very reliable.
    The superdrive is useless...i dont even have anything thats hard media anymore, my time capsule holds all my files and i use mobile me.

    i see the mba being that,
  15. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Three cheers for an irrelevant response!

    OP: The MBAir suits my needs because I have a desktop machine to handle all the heavy lifting. The MBAir can handle some heavy lifting, but it's handled much easier on my desktop. That said, I would only get the MBAir if you do have a second machine or if you do not intend on doing anything super tasking.

    Yes, it can handle Photoshop CS3 (I don't have 4 to know if it handles it) and Aperture, but these tasks are best handled by something more powerful and the 13" MBP will probably be good for that due to your ability to increase the memory. If the MBAir had 4GB memory then I would say it is up to you whether you need an optical drive constantly or not.
  16. BaronvdB macrumors 6502


    Oct 22, 2007
    get the MBP...i had the air now I have the 13" mbp and would def recommend the pro
  17. Ping Guo macrumors 6502

    Ping Guo

    Oct 5, 2008
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
    2.66 24" iMac ($1499) + 2.26 13" MBP w/4GB RAM ($1299) = $2798


    2.13 MBA w/ LED Cinema Display = $2698

    So for $100 more you can get a more powerful MBP + an awesome 24" iMac desktop that will serve you for years.

    MBA + Cinema Display is nice, but the cost/performance ratio isn't really all that. Just my $0.02.

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