MBA vs MBP

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Slivortal, Jun 14, 2012.

  1. Slivortal, Jun 14, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2012

    Slivortal macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2012
    #1
    Dear MacRumors,

    So, I have a 3-year old MBP. I like the physical size and the system, but was considering getting something newer (and a bit faster/stronger. Currently I have the mid-2009 model with 2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo and 4 GB of RAM).

    Now, I was originally looking at getting another MBP to replace this one. But as I looked at the MBAs, I realized that they often cost the same/less for SSD. Additionally, they're lighter and have the new MagSafe cords. However, I have a few hesitations about the MBAs in general (and are as follows).

    -The processor speeds on MBAs are 3/4s-2/3s of MBPs - does this translate into slower/less powerful computers?

    -Are the MBAs durable? Do they sacrifice their durability in lieu of a more compact design? My MBP has been banged around, dropped on hard surfaces, and is still kicking.

    -I have heard that MBAs run on a "mobile CPU" that is somehow less than the CPU on say an MBP - is this true, and if so, what does it mean? What kind of things would this prevent MBAs from doing?

    -Is DDR3L just a lower-power consuming version of DDR3?

    -I've also noticed that MBA's keyboards don't depress as much as MBP's keyboards, which I found irritating in short-term use. Has anyone found this irritating in long-term use?

    For record's sake, the computers I am considering are:

    13" MBA @ 128 GB, 1.8 GHz i5 +3MB L3, 8GB RAM (upgrade) - $1299
    13" MBA @ 256 GB, 2.0 GHz i7 +4MB L3 (upgrade), 8GB RAM (upgrade) - $1699
    13" MBP @ 750 GB, 2.9 GHz i7 +4MB L3, 8GB RAM - $1499

    One thing I don't like about the $1699 model is that it's only $500 less than the Retina MBP, but $500 is still quite a bit of money. Note that the actual size of the hard drive is inconsequential to me at the moment, and probably will not be in the future. I'm a notoriously low user of hard drive memory (my current computer is only using 30-40GB).

    Now, to explain what kind of computer user I am - I'm a college student, majoring in computer science. The main reasons I will be using my computer will be for coding and Internet browsing. I will also be running a few video games, mainly things like Portal/Portal 2 off of Steam. I may also need to be able to emulate mobile devices and possibly other computers while testing programs. Additionally, I may be considering VMing Windows.

    Or should I just forget getting another computer at all and get an iPad (which I see as somewhat useless)?

    Thank you for your help!
     
  2. r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Location:
    Detroit
    #2
    Have you considered putting an SSD and more RAM in the MBP you already have? It would be cheaper than an iPad and give you a nice performance bump.

    I would rather take an iPad to class than a MBA or MBP. If you want a lightweight note taking machine, consider an iPad to supplement your existing MBP, especially if you decide to upgrade and keep your existing MBP.
     
  3. mjar macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    #3
    You can't use an iPad for programming.
    Buy MBP and it will last 4+ years.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Slivortal thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2012
    #4
    As I said, my old MBP's been through a few falls and has the logic board replaced once. It has a few dents, and while it's not a machine I'd be against using for a few more years, it's not exactly a machine I'd want to sink more money into either.

    I also don't get what the big deal of note taking on the iPad is either. I personally enjoy physical note taking. Also, the iPad would be practically useless in my CompSci courses (which are a majority of the courses). I'm kind of interested in an iPad, I'm just not finding a real use for it.

    Thanks for the advice, though.

    EDIT: Why do you say an MBP over an MBA? Do MBAs not have longevity?
     
  5. NMF, Jun 14, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2012

    NMF macrumors 6502a

    NMF

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2011
    #5
    Crazy talk. I used an iPad exclusively for all my courses last year and absolutely hated it. You simply need a physical keyboard with a tab button. I tried to supplement the iPad with an Apple bluetooth keyboard, but it was still crappy because the desks at my university are small. Most students keep their desks folded back and rest their laptops on their laps. I attempted to do this with an Incase Origami for my iPad/keyboard, but it was an uncomfortable balancing act that distracted me from my lectures.

    At the end of the day the iPad is not sufficient for note-taking in college lectures. I had one class that I liked using it in because the instructor made the lecture slides available beforehand. It was nice to use the Goodreader app to take notes "over" the lecture slides. However, for traditional lecture courses (every other class I took) the iPad was useless and I had to resort to using pen and paper like a caveman. Forget about programming too, the iPad is absolutely useless for that. Then there's the issue of not supporting Flash. I still have four semesters of Calculus/Discrete Mathematics to take, all of which will use Pearson's "MyMathLab." Without Flash I can't complete my assignments in the library. Useless!

    Get a MacBook Air. I imagine that this is the last refresh for the non-Retina MBP bodies. Even if next year's models don't have Retina screens they'll still get the slimmed-down bodies. A year from now the current-gen MBP's are going to look like mid-90's IBM ThinkPads compared to the current models. They already look kind of silly next to MBA's and the Retina MBP. This is the 3rd refresh of this model MBA too; the bugs are worked out and it will be reliable for years to come. As far as I'm concerned the non-Retina MBP's might as well not even exist. There are only two models for a forward-thinking individual to choose from: MacBook Air or Retina MBP.
     
  6. Slivortal thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2012
    #6
    This advice seems sound. Would you happen to have any advice in terms of which one of the two models I listed to buy? Also, can you answer any of the questions I posed about the Macbook Air (if you have any experience)? I'm particularly concerned about the ultra book (U) processors that the Airs use as opposed to the regular (M) processors that the Pros use (in terms of their model numbers) - does this mean anything in particular?
     
  7. razmanugget macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2008
    #7
    Geekbench lists the 2.5ghz Pro as being about 7% faster than the 1.8ghz Air. So you probably wouldn't notice any speed difference.

    I've been obsessing about which laptop to get and have the exact same issues. I also a agree with the previous poster about how the Air is more future proof and the 13" Pro is going to look very dated soon.

    The only real argument I can think of for getting the Pro is that it has the Kensington Lock slot built-in. Their are some 3rd party lock solutions for the Air, but they are $50+ and detract from its looks. It's very frustrating for me to feel this is the only reason to not get one, but then I think it's better to have a slightly clunky Pro and not have it stolen vs having an Air and having to take it wherever I go (ie. bathroom).

    If you aren't concerned about losing it, then get the base model Air and when you need more hard drive space, then add a SDXC card. You can find a 128gb Lexar 10 for $90. It reads as fast as the internal ssd at a fraction of the upgrade price. Pretty slow at writing though, but that's the trade-off.
     
  8. Slivortal thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2012
    #8
    My current MBP uses the older chips (2009), so the MBA actually has almost twice the GeekBench score of it. The big question of upgrading the MBA to the next level hard drive wise is that it allows me to get a 2.0GHz processor (15-18% more power according to Geekbench, but at the cost of $400 more than the other model).

    To make matters even more confusing, a Retina MBP is $2000 after student discount, which is only $300 more than the souped-up Air I was considering (since a student discount for RMBP is $200 as opposed to the Air's discount of $50). So RMBP may be an extreme upper option as well.
     
  9. razmanugget macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2008
    #9
    From my perspective, the upgrade to the faster cpu doesn't usually represent a good value. For $400 more you get a 10% speed bump for a 30% price increase. What makes it even more painful is that next year's low-end model will probably be faster than this year's high end model. Look at the old Geekbench scores. A 1.8ghz 2011 gets 6311 vs the low-end 1.8ghz 2012 getting a 6698.

    There are times when I think it's worthwhile to pay for the top-end. I'm on my laptop 12-14 hours a day, so having the best can be very appealing. But I've taken the route of regular upgrades instead. $400 would more than cover any loss on selling the low-end Air next year and you'll have whatever bells and whistles come with the machine at that time.

    AppleInsider is listing a rumor about a retina 13" coming this October. I think everyone knows it's going to happen eventually to all the models. That's a game changer. I'm just looking for a solution that will last for 5-6 months after a 13" retina release (give everyone time to work out some bugs).
     
  10. semicolon macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2012
    Location:
    Maryland
    #10
    I'm going into my junior year at a large public university, and after having a PC for two years, this is why I'm getting a MacBook:

    1) Battery Life. Sometimes you won't be able to be near an outlet in the library when trying to study for hours at a time; the same goes for sitting in the student union, lecture halls, etc. You'll move around a lot during the day in college so you'll want something with really good battery life.

    2) Size. The desks are my school (and many schools) are TINY because they fold into the sides of the chairs in the lecture halls. You don't want to feel like your laptop is teetering; it's a very scary feeling.

    3) Weight. You'll be walking around a lot and perhaps even biking. You also may be carrying textbooks, lab notebooks, English novels, lab coats - the point is this: no matter what field you go into, you'll need to carry a lot of stuff with you at least SOME of the time, so you'll want something light.

    Battery life, size, weight. The Air is better than the Pro in all three of these aspects and still has enough processing/power/RAM/etc (I don't know tech jargon) to be as powerful as the Pro. I have no doubt the Air is the better choice for college.
     
  11. OTAU macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2012
    Location:
    Melbourne, AU
    #11
    I was in a very similar situation. I actually needed a laptop for the past six months but managed to get by using an iPad somehow. I was hoping for a retina 13" MBP, but seeing as that's a while off I really can't wait any longer...

    I went for a 13/8/128 MBA, my reasons for this over the pro was mainly weight. I'll be carting it most days. The screen was a little bit better resolution wise (quality I am not entirely sure), and in the end price. Processing wise I am not sure if I'll find any noticeable differences between the two processors as what I will be doing will not be that intensive, at least not to begin with. I will be installing Photoshop however, so I'll see how that performs. But at the same time I don't really have any high demands perhaps just some basic web graphics editing.

    If a 13" retina comes out somewhere down the road with any bugs/problems found in the 15" ironed out I'll be more than happy to upgrade, as this laptop is for myself and my partner.

    I guess we'll see how it goes, my MBA just got shipped :)
     
  12. Slivortal thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2012
    #12
    Yet the thing is, as a computer science major, specs are QUITE important. While I could probably get away with less, more will never go to waste.

    After having used a 13" MBP for a while now, the weight difference between 4.5 pounds and 2.5 pounds is honestly an insignificant percentage of your backpack's weight.

    Battery life is approximately equivalent across all MacBook models (coming in at 7 hours or so for all of them).

    Size is an issue, to be sure, but you have to balance physical size with screen size.

    Anyway, I am discussing specs, so a non-specs discussion is pretty irrelevant to the conversation. My main choice for the MBA would be cheap access to SSD, not any of the above reasons.

    I'd like to see a 13" RMBP like everyone else, but I don't know about the logic behind waiting 4 months for the result of a rumor.

    That said, the 8MB/128GB/1.8GHz MBA sounds interesting - I might choose the 15" RMBP as well, but I'm not sold on the 15" size (at $2000, I better be getting everything I want).

    For anyone with a 15", does it feel bulky at all?
     
  13. csjcsj macrumors member

    csjcsj

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2011
    Location:
    La Jolla, CA
    #13
    answers for two of you:

    1. If you are going to be using Photoshop or other graphic-intensive applications, go with the Pro. I had a Pro that died (liquid in keyboard) and replaced it with an Air. Too many things I want to do in Illustrator and Photoshop give me the spinning beach ball for what seems like hours, when these operations flew along with the pro.

    2. For the person wondering about the size of the 15" - compared to the Air, it's like a desktop!
     
  14. Slivortal thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2012
    #14
    By graphic-intensive, do you mean mainly graphical editing?

    And as for the 15" comment - I'm using a 13" MBP now; does the 15" MBP feel a lot different size-wise?
     

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