MBA powerful enough?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Nachos, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. Nachos, Dec 5, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2010

    Nachos macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #1
    I am close to buying a MacBook Air 13", because I’m starting university soon, and need a new computer as my main computer.

    I was going to buy it with 4gb ram and 2.13 GHz processor.

    I mainly uses MS Office and web browsing, but I also use Photoshop, Dreamweaver, maple and MathCAD when necessary, so I would like to have computer that can run these kinds programs properly.

    I was wondering if the MBA is powerful enough for this, or if it will be a good idea to wait for the new 13" MBP to arrive and get that with SSD.

    The price is not an issue, just want what suits me best ;).

    Thank you.
     
  2. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #2
    How intensive is MathCAD and Maple? For other tasks MBA is sufficient but not sure about those apps.
     
  3. Nachos thread starter macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #3
    They do require some CPU power. My old 2.0 core2duo Zepto computer were able to run it, but not that fast. I spoke to a guy in a apple reseller store and he told me even with 4gb ram and 2.13 GHz processor the MBA wasn't powerful enough to run Photoshop or any programs that requires that amount of CPU power that well.

    He told me they stripped the processor in MBA to make it more energy efficient, so the MBP 2.4 should in his opinion be A LOT more powerful than MBA 2.13.

    Is this really true?
     
  4. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #4
    Before MBAs were capped (CPU runs at lower clock speed to avoid overheating) because of heat but new ones have much better cooling system thus they are not capped. MBA actually wins MBP in some tests

    http://www.marketingtactics.com/Speedmark/

    MBA will definitely run those apps but maybe not as fast as you would want to. I would wait for next gen MBP, it should get an iX CPU and thus a nice bump in CPU
     
  5. Nachos thread starter macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #5
    Sounds like a good idea. Even though I must admit I am really tempted by the size, weigh, screen and design of MBA ;)

    Im just wondering if it is worth it..
     
  6. Nachos thread starter macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #6
    Do you have experiance running Photoshop on MBA?
     
  7. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #7
    I've tried PS on my MBA but haven't done anything big yet. Well, my PS usage is very light anyway, just some basic retouching and sometimes work with few layers. It seems to handle that okay
     
  8. Nachos thread starter macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #8
    My PS use isn't that much bigger than that. I just got the impression from the guy in the shop that if you use more demanding programs then MS Office or web browsing the MBA didn't cut it.
     
  9. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #9
    MBA's CPU is only ~11% slower than in base MBP. As usual, the rep didn't really know what he was talking about. He just assumed MBP is faster because it's bigger. Benchmarks tell the opposite.
     
  10. mrkramer macrumors 603

    mrkramer

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    #10
    I've done some light photoshop work on my Macbook air and it hasn't been a problem. Mine is the 2nd gen 1.83Ghz, so the one you are thinking of should be better. I also have run MathCAD on it using VMWare, and it worked but was slow, your 4GB of RAM may solve that problem, otherwise I'd recommend running MathCAD under bootcamp unless there's some OS X version I don't know about.
     
  11. Nachos thread starter macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #11
    Ya you are probably right about the guy in the store. No unfortunately I haven't heard of any OS X version of MathCAD, so Bootcamp will Probably be the best solution.

    It's a tough choise :D
     
  12. gonzaload1987 macrumors regular

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    #12
    Can you tell me about the temperature with your MBA when you stress it? My i7 runs like hell at 100* c :eek:

    In all the reviews that i've read i found that the mba was cooler than previous iterations, but i just to know more indeed :)
     
  13. urkel macrumors 68030

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    #13
    I'm not attacking the SSD fans, but I just dont get the obsession with SSD speeds. To me it's equivalent to the video card braggers on the PC side. Some people brag and brag about how fast their new $500 Video card is yet they never do anything that video intensive on it. Same goes with SSD. Yes, it's faster but whats the point in a computer that is bottlenecked in every other area.

    Im not slamming the MBA because I had the new one for a bit and returned it. It's an impressive machine and the MBA is "powerful enough" for now. But consider the long run where you need more than "just enough" to get real work done. Is 1lb really that much of a difference in your 11lb bookbag? Is it really easier to carry an external drive than to just have a single computer with an upgradeable 500GB internal? SSD is fun because its the new but if you could hold off for the Macbook Pro 13" then my bet is that will be a better value in both value and longtime usage.
     
  14. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    The point is that disk performance is now the 'biggest' bottleneck. Speeding up the disk I/O will improve performance - or at least perceived performance - across the board.
     
  15. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #15
    Normally, my temps are around 35c (CPU is ~45 then), sometimes the CPU goes to 55c when watching Flash or something. It never, never feels hot though. Even during (used CPUTest to max out the CPU) this test it was only a bit warm
     

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  16. Nachos thread starter macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #16
    I forgot to ask. How is it gaming on? Not brand new games, just games like CS 1.6 or flatout2 pr frozen throne.. Powerful enough?
     
  17. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #17
    Definitely enough. 320M is amazing GPU for an ultraportable, it's the same you can find from 13" MB and MBP.
     
  18. gdeusthewhizkid macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Just my two cents i would go with the new macbook pro 13. It's easily the easiest computer i ever opened up and upgraded. Changed the hard drive from the 160 gig standard to currently a 500 gig and upped the ram from 2 gigs to 4 gigs. I would go with the upgradeablity over anything. and photoshop will fill your hard drive space pretty quickly.
     
  19. urkel macrumors 68030

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    #19
    Sure. But all you're doing is shifting the bottleneck from one area to another.

    Putting an SSD in an old Mac Mini will give it a performance boost but it still doesn't compensate for all the shortcomings of running old hardware. 2GB, 1.6 C2D and 128GB capacity is stuff you find in a 2008 machine, and since the Mini is a brand new Premium priced un-upgradeable machine then I'd have a hard time recommending it to a college student who will be depending on it for a good 4 years.
     
  20. zafar9999 macrumors newbie

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    #20
    If you've been keeping up with technology, you'd know that the processing power of graphics cards and cpus has been increasing rapidly for.. a long time.. (think Moore's law). Meanwhile.. other than ssd.. hard drive technology has focused mostly on increased capacity rather than increased performance until the shift to SSDs. If you have a high performance (Yes, it scores 95% of what my 15" MacBook Pro does on geekbench) CPU and a high performance GPU (relatively speaking for an ultra portable or a non-gaming laptop), then you can increase the overall system performance by raising the lowest bottle-neck.. which is the storage.

    I was able to do as much photoshop as I wanted with a 15" MacBook Pro.. iMovie.. Word Documents.. anything I needed to (using the 9400M.. a scortched lap and reduced battery life for the 9600GT isn't what college students need).. and the 320M in the Air is significantly more powerful than the 9400M. With 90-95% of the CPU power and more GPU power, the MacBook Air is a capable machine.

    Computers today aren't "bottlenecked in every other area." they have everything they need to perform 99% of tasks people need to do. But in order to do anything with a computer (turn it on, open a doc, use a browser, you know - work type stuff), it's gotta go through the storage.. and since you raise the speed of the slowest component.. it'll make using the computer a much better and faster experience.

    Comparing SSD's to GPU's isn't correct either. You use most of your SSD whenever you use your computer (You're maxing out the bandwidth of the drive when you boot, when you open a large program, when you put your computer to sleep, etc. You barely use a GPU unless you're gaming or using a modeler/gfx accelerated app.
     
  21. Hellhammer Moderator

    Hellhammer

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    #21
    Increased capacity yields increased performance due to higher density.
     
  22. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    #22
    He is pretty wrong. The MBA runs photoshop fine. I use it all the time to texture for Maya. Photoshop isn't this super hard core program like you will hear people make it out to be. Plus photoshop likes ram more than anything.

    As for Maple it runs Maple just fine too. Not sure about MathCAD. Now that being said I have no clue what type of things you are running in Maple so your results may vary.

    FYI a lot of sales guys will have a certain thing they like to sell, and they do everything to sell it because they are most comfortable with it. I'm pretty sure this is what is happening in your case.

    As for which computer to get you can go with either really. Personally I would take the MBA but I may be biased since I have one :p
     
  23. gdeputy macrumors 6502a

    gdeputy

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    #23
    cs 1.6? yes.. but you'll have to bootcamp cause it's not OSX available.

    I tried CS:Source under OSX instead of bootcamp and i was getting no less than 40 fps and up to 100 at points at 1440x900 everything set to max, which to me was impressive, under bootcamp the results would be much better.

    So, yes, the GPU is pretty impressive for an ultraportable. I'm positive Left 4 Dead would run under bootcamp, or even OSX if you lowered some settings. I should try it honestly.
     
  24. Nachos thread starter macrumors member

    Nachos

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    #24
    Thanks a lot for all the replies, it’s been a great help :D
     
  25. SammySlim macrumors member

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    #25
    An MBA will be fine for what you plan to do. Note that the use of flash memory in lieu of a HD produces a substantial perceived increase in overall performance. You won't notice much of a difference between the MBA and MBP 13 to be honest on most tasks.

    Good luck!
     

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