MBA Unreliable?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Shintsu, Feb 17, 2014.

  1. Shintsu macrumors member


    May 5, 2010
    So I was interested in buying an MBA or MBP to use in a unique scenario. I want to give using OS X full-time a try, my current 24" iMac however is not compelling enough to use in place of the 30" monitor and sound system which I am accustomed to with my Windows gaming machine running a 3rd gen i5. I also currently have a ThinkPad T420 which I never use anymore since my needs to use it for school are gone and I don't really have a regular need for a portable computer. I still like the option of a portable PC as a just in case measure.

    This is where I thought an MBA/MBP would come in. Given Apple's non-standard lineup compared to PCs or custom built PCs, I figured one of these would give me the chance to use a KVM and use OS X on a more regular basis and still have a laptop should the need arise (I use a T430 work laptop every day in this fashion without fail). However, I have been seeing a lot of talk about MBAs having logic board failures (likely from overheating due to the small enclosure), SSD failures, hinges breaking, screen failure, and RAM failure. This leans me heavily toward the MBP route instead since it is far more user serviceable and isn't so small that it compromises its performance for mobility which ultimately while nice is not utterly necessary.

    My first assumption without any research was "I bet MBAs are real reliable because they have almost no moving parts" but then I read lots of stuff saying otherwise and people having issues only a little over a year or two in. My T420 is from 2011 and has given literally zero issues. It's worst "issue" is the fact the original battery instead of lasting 5-6 hours like it used to only lasts about 4 hours now. I used it as a college laptop regularly for over a year without any issue. Before that I used a huge Asus gaming laptop with no issues except the expected crappy battery life of 2 hours (Pretty good for as powerful as it was, and it never got hot).

    So my question is pointed towards MBAs and a little toward MBP if anyone can give me a truthful answer here. I don't need any "Mac is better than Windows" bias here, I'm open minded to Windows, Mac, and Linux. I say this mostly because when I've searched it seems like someone always says something derogatory against Windows machines. Sure the cheap Windows laptops can have issues (Although my parents are using an entry and mid-level Compaq and Dell laptop respectively and haven't had any issues), but I compare stuff like business grade Windows laptops such as Latitude/Precision, ThinkPad, and EliteBook which offer great build quality and features much like Apple but in the Windows environment - and are often discounted to entice businesses to purchase. I see new ThinkPad T430 laptops for $500 with extended warranty and they're loaded out with an i5 on the base model with 4 GB of ram - but I'm ok with the extra expense for the Apple stuff assuming it's just as trustworthy as that stuff is. The T430 of course doesn't have OS X, and I don't like Hackintoshes.

    From what I've read though, that's not true - and that concerns me. With laptops like the MBA has Apple compromised the longevity of the laptop by making it ultrathin which doesn't allow it to ventilate as well and thus stays hotter which wears the electronics out faster? I'm not sure a Mac Mini wouldn't work for me as well, but they aren't specced out like a 15" MBP nor are they portable which is what I'd like just for the versatility (Even if it will never leave my desk for 99% of its life).

    Thoughts? I have a Mid-2012 13" MBA I was considering for $600 which I was sure was a great deal but now am concerned how long it will last (And it's already past its AppleCare window).
  2. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    You only hear about the failures, since most people are not posting: "my MacBook Air is working great." They post only when something happened. And if you go search for something, you'll probably suffer for confirmation bias.

    With Apple selling record number of computers, you will of course hear some bad cases.

    Think about this. Why is customer satisfaction the highest for Apple products?
  3. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

    Jan 5, 2011
    There seem to be few manufacturing defect issues, but there have been a few, like the bad 128GB SSD's in many of the 11" Airs (which Apple replaced). I've owned 3-4 Airs from 2010 on, and I've never had a single issue. I think they are well built and as you mention, the lack of any moving parts is a big positive.
  4. dkl macrumors member

    Aug 4, 2012
    I'm one who personally had to deal with a failed MBA just a month over the 12-month warranty period. But I must admit that Apple's service and support was amazing! After speaking to them on the phone, they agreed to waive the repair charges and serviced my MBA under warranty. Needless to say, I am a happy customer.

    If you are concerned with failure, consider getting the Apple Care which extends your warranty period to 36mths. Electronics fail every now and then. Don't let these things bother you too much. Enjoy the product. And most importantly, you know you have a good service service team when it comes to Apple. :)
  5. jmoore5196 macrumors 6502a


    May 19, 2009
    Midwest US
    I've owned at least one of every MacBook Air iteration since the inception of the model, and have never experienced a hardware issue. I know others have had failed SSDs, etc., but my half-dozen MBAs have functioned flawlessly.

    The overall impression I have of the MBA is that it's built like a tank. I'm sure I could trash it pretty quickly if I tried, but given proper care, it's a very durable, stable and worry-free machine.
  6. MacLC macrumors 6502

    Oct 18, 2013
    $600 is a good deal if it works but it is almost suspiciously good. Either the person is generous by $150-200 or something is potentially wrong with that machine.

    Are you able to try this one out in person? If so, it may be worth it. If not, maybe not. FWIW, not sure of the T series, but most laptops don't work as Hackintoshes anyway so it's good you're not considering that route. A lot of them kind of work but random things like wifi, sound, or ethernet won't work.

    I do have a question about your iMac. Which 24" is it? Depending on model, external monitor support ranges from 2048x1536 to 2560x1600.
    For that matter, that is also the max resolution of MBAs. MBPs can go higher, but only at 24-30Hz.
    iow, your external monitor experience with the 30" may not improve if at all with the 30" display. btw, what is the native resolution on the 30"?

    Is $600 your max budget? How much is portability worth?
    If your iMac is REALLY old, and if portability is not worth much, you could try for a sadly-neglected-by-Apple 2012 Mac Mini. If portability is important, a new MBA would be better than a used MBP at most price points (unless the MBP had a warranty).
  7. Shintsu, Feb 17, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014

    Shintsu thread starter macrumors member


    May 5, 2010
    The problem is Apple only makes basically "professional" level stuff - if you wanted to be fair, the equivalent lineups in PC laptops would have to be the business class but I'm sure when they do those studies they just look at for example all of HP or Dell. And HP for example makes some pretty awful cheap laptops which would mar their reputation compared to how good their EliteBooks are. Just a little qualm there, I don't doubt Apple being good stuff only just that can bias something like that somewhat in their favor.

    The problem I have with Applecare is for example, if it were say a new ThinkPad - I'd totally never consider the extended warranty. Nothing really goes wrong, especially when you aren't abusive on it (and I'm sure it could take it even if I was). I always had a problem with "run out and buy this extended warranty which for most products is a waste of money because unless you're an idiot, it will last for many years without problems." It has been true for every computer I have ever owned, going back into the 90's with an old AST computer, a then new Compaq with a "blazing fast" 1.2 GHz Athlon (Nice and dated now!), Pentium 4 computer that was handbuilt, Core 2 Duo handbuilt, and my current Core i5 handbuilt along with a cheap HP laptop, the Asus gaming laptop, my ThinkPad T420, and even an old ThinkPad T43 from 2005 which I bought for not much of anything (Works great, just slow with a single core these days). What makes these computers (Some of which were definitely not the best stuff - namely the Compaq and HP) reliable to me, but not other people?

    Do you kind of see why to me it seems silly that an extended warranty should be bought for something which based on what I hear, should be a premium product that lasts? While the other laptops I have owned were not as hard to disassemble (which I know people usually say to buy Applecare for) I honestly wouldn't have been able to do much better if one of my laptops' main board died, or the screen died. Not any better or worse than an Apple product even if it is easier to disassemble. The only real difference is thinner enclosures and usage of metal which handles heat differently than plastic. Any propensity to failure on a MacBook gives me great cause for concern, since I - stopping to reflect on this right now - can't tell you of any relative with a problem with any of their laptops, and they mostly all buy cheap PC laptops (Personally I think these are a waste of money, you can buy surplus new stock business laptops for the same money as these consumer laptops and destroy them in every way except maybe entertainment stuff like speakers - but who cares about speakers on a laptop?).

    How is that suspiciously good? Mac2Sell had it valued at $500 and I've seen similar ones go for not much more on eBay. I could try it on in person, though maybe not now as it was supposed to be a "today only" deal - tough they just as well might sell it for that on another day.

    My iMac is the Core 2 Extreme model - the only one which is from Mid-2007. Max supported external is 1920x1200. I could spend more, it's just not a critical purchase that I direly need - more just "if I find something decent, I'll buy it". I was thinking about getting a 15" MBP with an i7 and GT 650M graphics for $1,000 but it sold before I could come to terms with spending that much for a used laptop. I am in no way unhappy with my Windows experience, it never crashes and does everything I'd want. But I bought the iMac and have found OS X to be interesting to use, and thus wouldn't mind having an OS X machine to mess around with that's more current (The iMac is surprisingly quick for being so old).

    On reliability again, so far my 2007 iMac which I bought used seems great. Everything works, so that kind of thing makes me feel more comfortable about Macs. I think the Mac Pros are probably the most reliable Mac they make, but I'm not spending that kind of money on what is honestly just a curiosity at this point. I have nothing that requires Mac or anything in Windows that is direly lacking to me to make an "upgrade" needed. This is why I think a Mac Mini is probably fine for me, other than it's not portable which makes it less optimal (My plan was to sell my now not needed ThinkPad and probably the iMac too - and pay for the MacBook I buy with much of the proceeds of those two sales).

    It basically comes down to this to me. Is everyone with these problems with their MacBooks those same group of people who complain about and have issues with EVERYTHING they use? Or are MacBooks just that problem prone? I supported a company that used nothing but ThinkPads and I can tell you, the only computers that came back often were old Dell laptops from 5-6 years ago. And those computers have seen non-stop usage for those 5-6 years. This isn't me trying to talk about how great ThinkPads are, but more me thinking MacBooks don't have any reason not to be just as good - unless like I theorize, they prioritize the appearance and in doing so compromise longevity for the sake of form. My only personal experience was with a 2002/3 iBook which had a 700 MHz processor. This was only a couple years ago, but the thing was mint basically. Battery even still lasted for 5+ hours as the guy always used it on a charger. But the guy used it plugged in and for presentations only, so no idea what newer ones would do as they're much thinner.
  8. Shintsu thread starter macrumors member


    May 5, 2010
    Well, FWIW I've reflected and decided I'll just go with something like a Dell Venue 8 Pro and hold out for any revisions of the Surface Pro series (If I even get a tablet at all now). I tried a retina iPad Mini - it was ok, not bad but not quite "wow omg" for the price. Currently trying a Galaxy Note 10.1" 2014 - my experience is much the same, I just can't see why people pay this much for these things when they aren't that enjoyable to use compared to a regular PC.

    I wasn't looking for it, but some article comparing Windows and Mac made compelling arguments in favor of PC (which I have used forever). I don't dislike OS X, though I'm not sure I have enough real genuine reason to use it over Windows given the few things I do that have a specific platform are Windows only (Games) and everything else would run on any platform (Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, Linux, etc). This isn't a knock on Apple stuff, I guess I'm just too vested in the Windows environment to switch to OS X. As someone who is a programmer and a nerd, I can make do just fine on any platform but I am most comfortable with my Windows.

    I'll keep my eye out for a cheap Mac mini, might give that a shot to see what OS X feels like full time instead of just on my iMac.
  9. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    ThinkPads are solid machines, I've had a few T-series and own a X220 right now, but it terms of screen quality, lightness, thinness, you can't compare them to an Air. Quite different machines. If you want to compare costs look at the X1 Carbon, costs every bit as much as an Air, if not more, but it's a much closer match in the size department.
  10. Shintsu thread starter macrumors member


    May 5, 2010
    I understand that, but the portability is more of a "cool" factor to me not a necessity. I don't find a laptop the size of my T420 to be much burden to use, especially considering the power it offers. I wish the screen wasn't such crap (Curse you terrible TN panels or inversely, all the S-PVA/S-IPS panels that have spoiled me) but I paid a fraction of the retail cost for this and it works perfectly and quickly so I can't honestly complain that much. I've considered an X220 just so I could get an IPS screen (Isn't the MBA just a 1366x768 TN panel on the 11" and 1440x900 on the 13"?) and still keep the good old keyboard layout (I'd get used to the chiclet keys if they just left the layout alone...but no...). The X1 Carbon is very cool, however with employer discount pricing I can get an X1 Carbon for about the same as the 11" MBA and it's a 14" (Of course I'd have to get the 2560x1440 IPS screen option which raises the price :D) but buying a new PC laptop is even more silly for me than buying a MacBook as I'd have no real reason to use the PC laptop. At least a MacBook would have OS X which would get me to use it as an alternative to my main rig (Not much sense in switching from my desktop rig to a laptop if they both run the same OS and my desktop is more powerful).

    I think I'll pass my good deal on my iMac on to someone else and keep an eye out for a well priced MBP or Mac Mini (The latter sure never seem to show up for sale on Craigslist).
  11. PBG4 Dude macrumors 68030

    PBG4 Dude

    Jul 6, 2007
    My 2006 MacBook was still running when I sold it last year. I did buy a replacement battery for it in 2009 and added RAM at some point, but it worked for 7 years.

    My late '08 MBP bought in early '09 (bought from refurb site the day after MBP refresh for $650 off) still runs well. Great condition, except for the crack I put in the screen the day I didn't notice a screw between keypad and screen. :( This is my son's main Minecraft machine. I have it permanently set to run on the nVidia 9600 in order to play Minecraft on low/med-low settings. Minecraft gets the fans going full blast within a few minutes.

    My 2010 MBA 13" is still used daily by my wife, and my son's friends when they come over to play Minecraft. Still gets great battery life and even though it's the base model (2GB RAM, 120GB SDD), I hear no complaints from wife / son's friends. Minecraft gets the fans going within a few minutes. Not sure if they're running full blast, but they are audible.

    My 2012 11" MBA is too young to look for longevity, but it did pass the Toshiba 128GB SSD test, so I missed out on that problem (phew). This is currently my main coding machine, so no Minecraft tests, LOL.

    I know this is anecdotal evidence, but I've been happy with Apple laptops for years.
  12. robvas macrumors 68030

    Mar 29, 2009
    Whole point of a laptop is portability isn't it?
  13. ARSkemp macrumors 6502

    Feb 2, 2011
    I have a MBA I purchased new in Aug 2011.

    November 2011 - The keyboard went out on me (I babied this thing and kept it away from liquids). Replaced under warranty.

    October 2013 - Logic Board went out. Don't remember the cost, $300-400.

    December 2013 - Noticed the battery doesn't last nearly as long. Also getting a service battery error. Currently living with this and haven't gotten it repaired.

    I've had ~ 4 laptops (Dell, HP, MBP, MBA) over the course of 9 years. The MBA has been the most expensive laptop I have purchased to date and also had the most issues. I still have my old dell laptop that I bought 9 years ago thats still working (although the battery is shot but thats to be expected). However, the MBA has also been the one that I have enjoyed using the most so I have somewhat mixed feelings about it. The previous MBP I owned never had a single issue (my brother is now using it and has never had an issue as well).
  14. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

    Jan 5, 2011
    Things that are smaller, thinner, and lighter, with the same functionality, are almost inherently going to be more fragile than things that are heavier, bigger, and fatter.

    Moral of the story for me is that Applecare is always a good buy for anything that is highly portable like a laptop. Every issue you had would have been fixed with no issue with Applecare.

    I understand that "tank-like" Dell laptops are typically going to be more durable. But they are hell to use.
  15. ARSkemp macrumors 6502

    Feb 2, 2011
    Even with the problems I have had I still don't think the extended warranties are a good buy. Its ~ $250 for laptops and $100 for phones, right? If I had bought them for everything "portable" (iphone 4, 4s, 5, ipad mini retina, macbook pro, macbook air) I would be out quite a bit of money in comparison to what I have spent (MBA is the only one I have had to take in for repairs regardless of whether I was in the 1 year warranty). Even if you disregard the phones and just say laptops (MBP and MBA) then I still would have spent more (or possibly right around the same amount with my battery being fixed).

    I expect smaller, thinner hardware to be less "durable" but not less "reliable". There is a very large difference between those two words in my mind. Using that mindset you are saying the iphone 5 is much more likely to have a hardware failure compared to the 4 (not talking about issues related to abuse - drops, sitting on them, etc). I haven't looked at statistics but I would be surprised if the difference was very significant.

    It also doesn't help that I live > 1.5 hours away from an Apple Store. Regardless of applecare its quite an inconvenience to have to take something in when I have an issue.
  16. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

    Jan 5, 2011
    First, I don't recommend AppleCare for phones and tablets, simply because the most likely thing to happen there is a drop or other damage that isn't covered, and the replacement cost isn't crazy.

    On the laptops, the repair costs are so high that (at least to me), the cost is worthwhile. But everyone needs to make up their own minds on these kinds of things.
  17. PBG4 Dude macrumors 68030

    PBG4 Dude

    Jul 6, 2007
    AppleCare+ allows two $50 replacements for accidental damage during the coverage period. Dropped my iPhone 4S just the right way and shattered the screen. Took me less than 15 minutes to get the phone replaced at the Apple store. No muss, no fuss, no hassle or having to explain anything.
  18. Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    I've only owned my MBA for a few months, and it's been rock solid so far.

    Our household has 3 macbook pros, 1 imac, 1 macbook air and 1 mac mini. The one problem I had was a warranty logic board swap on one of the MBPs. My son owns a 2008 MBP and that also had a logic board swap early on in it's life, but had been running strong ever since. It recently received an SSD upgrade to lengthen its life, so to speak.

    Having been in IT since 1984 and been exposed to quite a bit of computing hardware, I've found these apple products to be on par with or ahead of the rest of the vendors regarding product reliability. I don't mind paying a the premium price, as in my mind it's been worth it.

    $0.02 worth.
  19. Shintsu thread starter macrumors member


    May 5, 2010
    Not really when it comes to Apple. The lineup forces customers to choose models that might not be ideal. I have no desire to use an iMac in place of my current setup as I use a 30" Dell S-IPS display (I also wouldn't trust the reliability of the new ultrathin iMacs as it's detrimental to their performance by being so thin and offers no advantage). A Mac Pro is overkill for my uses and expensive. Mac Mini might do, but is unable to ever be portable (and in this I mean self-contained, I know it's quite doable if you take a monitor with you and a keyboard/mouse which I might be able to swing for the few occasions I'd need to be portable - but it's a little underpowered). MBA is a bit of a step up from the Mac Mini but mostly offers the same capability in a more portable format. MBP is the sweet spot in the Apple lineup for power.

    So you can see, this is why I say portability is not super important. I used to carry around an Asus G73 laptop, and that thing with its charger weighed about 9 lbs or so. That kind of thing would be fine for this use as it's not going to move very often. So I'm saying the MBA being super lightweight and portable isn't really necessary for me. I think by this determination I've decided the only Macs that would work for me would be a Mac Mini (maybe) or an MBP. Forgoing the portability, an older Mac Pro would also be doable but they don't seem to show up very often and I'm not sure I need that much capability.
  20. Mrbobb macrumors 601

    Aug 27, 2012
    Shintsu, you talk more than my wife! :D

    Anywoo, I don't think there is a huge reliability issue with the Airs, but $&^% happens, mostly to people who don't know "what is normal." This is not your first laptop so you shouldn't have that problem. Buy one, put it through its paces and if something amiss and you don't feel like dealing with it, return before the 30 days.

    Am in the school of, if it doesn't fail in the first 30 days, it will probably be OK going on forward.
  21. ammar17 macrumors newbie

    Jun 29, 2013
    it is reliable!

    You just have to get all those worries out of your head. If you value the stuff you buy, and you are not careless, I believe that the MBA is one hell of a machine. I am using the same one for the past three years, and I have not had a problem with it. Battery still holding up and the keys are working and it is all good.
    I carry it around and I use it as my main machine. It is very reliable and you would seriously enjoy using it. Besides, seen anything more aesthetically beautiful than this machine?
  22. 62tele macrumors 6502a

    Apr 11, 2010
    I have a refurb that I purchased in Spring of 2011 and have never had a single issue with it.
    I find that there are lots of whiners, OCD who post negative things on everything.
    I have stop reading "customer reviews" on websites because they are unreliable and totally worthless.
    That's lot to say that you can't get a defective machine or have a problem. Apple is subject to the same limitations of QC as others.
    People with a negative impression are far more vocal than folks who have had a positive experience.
  23. kage207 macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2008
    I love my MBA. I've had it since fall of '12. No issues, no problems and mine is the model where the SSD are failing (and it hasn't yet).

    The MBA is one of the most reliable computers Apple makes and is the least serviced portable. This is their flagship computer now as it is now outpacing the MBP 13" & rMBP. It's a fantastic computer that doesn't compromise on speed and power with the new iSeries from Intel & SSDs in all of them.

    I highly recommend it. It's awesome. Just get AppleCare. I do not suggest AppleCare for iOS devices but Macs are worth it. Within the 3 years you have it, it will drop below 80% battery health and there's an automatic replacement (yes it is about $190 I think) but if anything else happens then it is worth it. I'm not saying something will happen but it is worth the peace of mind.

    The only reason I'm thinking about an rMBP for my next computer is that I don't like the port setup on the MBA. I want a better port configuration but I will miss the battery life. :/
  24. T.Doyobi macrumors member


    Dec 21, 2013
    I have a MacBook Air 11" I think it's Sandy Bridge and has the HD 3000 graphics, it let me down once when the batteries died but they were replaced under Apple Care and you wouldn't know it's been taken apart, it's worked flawlessly ever since. I do recommend getting Apple Care but for me this has been a reliable computer, and it's one of my favourite computers I've ever owned, I don't do anything too demanding like video editing or such, just iPhoto, iTunes, web and email mostly. But I can play WoW on this to a certain standard, at least it's fine for questing. My only regret is that it only has a 128Gb SSD and I could do with more as I only have about 12 GB left. My music in on iTunes Match so that helps but next time around I think I'll opt for at least a 512Gb SSD. Anyway it it really nice, so small and light I really don't mind the screen size and it is really portable which is important to me. A very sexy little laptop indeed, I love mine.

    All the best with your purchase and you need to do what YOU want to, so if thats a windows machine go for it, but I can recommend the Air.
  25. Diversion macrumors 6502a


    Oct 5, 2007
    Jacksonville, Florida
    I've had the past 3 year models of the MBA and they were all reliable without a SINGLE issue EVER. I've also had a few iMacs and Macbook Pros over the years.. ALL PERFECT. I'm only posting this because you never hear about the good experiences. In fact the only Apple product I ever had an issue with was an older iPod classic.. where the battery wouldn't charge anymore. They replaced it on the spot in store.

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