MBP to MBA Review

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by m3digi, Apr 7, 2011.

  1. m3digi, Apr 7, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011

    m3digi macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Location:
    NYC
    #1
    Here's a bit of a review for anyone who cares. I would also like anyone interested in to weigh in on a few questions and thoughts I have.

    I sold my MBP 17" 2009 (Matte, 2.66GHz, 4GB, 500GB 7200RPM) recently. I got my MBA 11.6, 1.4", 128GB, 4GB in December but haven't used it very much. I bought it for a holiday trip since I do lots of photography while traveling. It fits in my camera bag, which makes for one less thing to carry through an airport, and to forget (Yeah, almost lost my MBP a couple of times on a travel excursion... long story.)

    Anyway, I've made the full transition from MBP to MBA. Here are some details around the transition.

    Hard drive

    I was using about 120GB on the MBP. I've transferred my iTunes library (21 GB) to my Synology NAS (2 TB) and have the MBA playing music and syncing from there.

    My documents folder was also quite sizeable. Also moved to the Synology NAS. I use Dropbox for syncing important and recent docs between MBA and iPhone. Synology also has a number of tools that allow me to access and manage files remotely.

    CPU

    I take lots of photos. I have my Adobe Lightroom library on my MBA managing about 26,000 photos stored on my Synology. Browsing and managing photos on the MBA is faster than the MBP. Interesting.

    The same holds true for photo editing. The MBA is far more snappy than my MBP for photo editing. I'm quite surprised.

    Also, the MBA doesn't get nearly as hot as my MBP when performing these tasks.

    Display

    I had the anti-glare screen on my MBP. The glossy MBA screen has not been an issue so far. It's calibrated so I feel comfortable with it for quick photo editing. It's still taking some getting used to, but overall very good. I plan to get a 24" external monitor for more serious photo editing.

    The resolution obviously can't match my MBP, so that's taking some getting used to. I'm learning to browse in full screen and with minimal browser toolbars. The resolution is very good. For photo work the 24"monitor will be essential.

    Video and Audio

    It only throws fits when playing 1080p content. This system wasn't intended for that, so I can live with that limitation. The MBP threw mild fits with photo editing. Considering that I do more photo editing than video watching on my computer, it's an acceptable tradeoff.

    I'm hoping that the MBA is capable enough to do basic video in iMovie. I haven't tried that yet.

    The speakers are pretty good for a system of this size. I also have very nice headphones if I want better sound.

    Trackpad

    The trackpad on the MBP is better than my MBA. The MBA's trackpad feels slippery by comparison, and isn't as responsive. I find myself having to re-gesture to get the MBA to respond. I do miss this out my MBP.

    Battery

    Pretty exceptional for browsing and basic productivity tasks.

    Ports

    I don't connect a lot to my MBA, usually my card reader and my iPhone. I have a wireless printer. I will admit that an SD slot would be nice. Anything to save me from carrying a card reader would be great. Oh wait, my Sony SLR uses CF!

    Networking

    I have the USB to LAN adapter in the event I need to have wired connectivity. I tether to my iPhone when I don't have WiFi access. I like the flexibility I have whether at home or away.

    Noise

    Even when under load, the MBA is whisper quiet. When my Pro was under load I have to check resources to make sure there isn't something tying up CPU resources to cause the heat and noise.

    Cool Factor

    I traveled to Seattle about a month ago and had to check email, and follow up to a number of voicemails. My room wasn't ready yet, so I had to hang out in the hotel lobby and used their WiFi to do it all. It's performance, and not feeling constrained by the display size made me think, "Wow, this thing is so great to travel with."

    Verdict

    I'm happy I made the transition from the MBP to the MBA. I really had no use for two laptops. Now that I've transitioned, I realize how capable a machine this is. To get performance equal or better than my MBP in a smaller package is pretty fantastic.
     
  2. aristobrat macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2005
    #2
    Similar experience with Aperture performance after switching from an 15" i7 MBP to a 13" Air. The MBP used to beachball frequently when flipping through the albums/photos ... the Air handles it perfectly.

    Guess that points to disk IO being the bottleneck on my old Pro.

    Glad your switch is working well for you. :)
     
  3. mBurns macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2006
    Location:
    USA
    #3
    I've had a similar experience myself. I'm not using nearly as intensive applications as you but I "upgraded" to a 1.4 11" MBA from a 2010 MacBook Pro i5 anti-glare. My only complaint (and minimal at that) is that the Air does not have a matte screen. Every Mac I've owned had a matte screen. Otherwise, I'm loving the Air. :)
     
  4. bcaslis macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    #4
    The SSD on the MBA makes a huge difference in these programs. What did you use to calibrate the screen? I used an Xrite i2 hardware puck with the Coloreyes Display Pro software. Just wondering if there is a better combination to use.
     
  5. entatlrg macrumors 68040

    entatlrg

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Waterloo & Georgian Bay, Canada
    #5
    17 to 11" is a huge change in screen size. As you're a photographer I was surprised to read you did it.

    Understanding you like the 11" size but wouldn't the 13" of allowed you to be much more productive and comfortable while working/editing plus you'd have added processing power ideal for editing and handling photo's and video.

    11" is a really cool machine, I'm not criticizing, just curious about your rationale behind it.
     
  6. m3digi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Location:
    NYC
    #6
    Agreed. Thanks!

    Yeah, the matte screen was definitely hard to part with on the MBP. It makes me a bit reluctant to do photo editing on it. I'm managing though!


    I used an Xrite i1Display 2 to calibrate. I calibrated the MBP and MBA with it and the calibration made the displays nearly identical.
     
  7. m3digi thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #7
    At the time I purchased, I didn't have any plans to part ways with my 17". The MBA was intended strictly as a commuter / travel platform. I didn't choose the 13" because it wouldn't fit in my camera bag.

    The MBP has also become a bit long in the tooth from a performance perspective for photo editing. A memory upgrade may have helped, but the bulk of that system was also becoming an issue. The 17" resolution was great for photography, but I feel like a large external display is the most ideal approach to photo editing.

    The other issue is usage. I barely used my MBA, so something had to give. My photo work is casual at best, so I haven't given up that much by parting ways with my 17". If I decide to do it on more of a professional basis, then I'd prefer to sit in front of an external display to do it. That's not to say that my current MBA will be a long-term solution.

    I'm evaluating whether to go with a 15" MBP with upgraded display, an iMac (unlikely to come with a matte display), or the 2012 iteration of the MBA 13". I'd prefer to avoid having two computers, because I wouldn't use both enough to justify the expense.

    It will likely be a 2012 MBA 13". I'm just hoping that Apple will do something about the graphics chipset. I live in NYC, and travel everywhere by foot and mass transit. There's also my travel photography. It would be ideal to have one computer with enough power and flexibility to meet what I would use it for, and connect it up to an external display for photo editing.

    I'm not taking it as criticism. I'm curious to know your thoughts.
     
  8. entatlrg macrumors 68040

    entatlrg

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Waterloo & Georgian Bay, Canada
    #8
    m3digi -

    The 11" MBA was made for guys like you, perfect for traveling in and around the city. I'm always on the go as well. Nothing beats full computing power anywhere.

    A 13" MBA 2010 or next revision may be the sweet spot for you. I bought both the 11 and 13" ultimate and ended settling on the 13". It was such a tough decision but there was no question the extra screen real estate was extremely useful, it's the 'cool' factor of the 11" I liked so much, and it's smaller size makes it that little bit easier to grab and makes you want to bring it with you that much more ... but in the end the bigger screen won.

    I tried using my MBA's with an ACD as my main computer a few times in the past. Bottom line I didn't like it. I don't like having a leash on my Air ... I move around with it too much, didn't like plugging and unplugging many times a day, and often I'll sit back in chair with feet on desk and type with my air on my lap ... leashed to a monitor that didn't work so well, lol.

    Having two machines seemed like a better solution for me. Dropbox etc makes that really easy. Then I've got one computer at my desk at all times for other things; back up, server, itunes sync, storage ... when I'm at my desk I use both my laptop and desktop, very handy.

    In addition to the Air you could accomplish that with anything from your old Mac Pro with added ram and an ACD, a mini, iMac etc.

    At my work office I have a Mac Pro but I'm rarely there, most of the time I work from my home office. There I have a 17" MBP with 27" ACD and my 13" MacBook Air. My Air gets used the most by far.

    I still have access to the 11" ... it went to my wife :) The problem is too many computers, one 'main machine' is for for sure simpler to use, but a complimentary machine to the Air is quite handy ...

    That's my conclusion from all my experimenting!
     
  9. m3digi thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Apr 5, 2011
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    #9
    Absolutely, which makes me really happy with my MBA when on the go!

    I think you're right. I will likely make the switch to a 2010 13" MBA. Of course, that's contingent upon what Apple rolls out in 2011. I think it will offer me the best balance since my 11 was never intended as a primary computer.

    The big question is how I'll deal after a while with the MBA as my primary computer. The small display will become an issue if I don't like being tethered to the desk with an external display. On one hand, I have the benefit of keeping my Air in my lap. On the other hand, it comes down to screen real estate.

    I think I get what you're saying here. I'm trying to make it work with my Synology, which does backup, allows remote file access, iTunes, and storage.

    My MBP is nice because of the large screen. The added RAM will likely make a big difference. I've been debating whether to keep it, put it on my desk with an ACD, and have the benefit of two high res displays for photo editing and general usage. The problem with that is 1. It's still on the desk, where I don't spend that much time. 2. Extra cost for the ACD. I'm not sure the returns would justify the investment. 3. There are few instances where I use both computers. I'm trying to avoid having 'too many computers', but I definitely see your point. Plus, getting rid of my MBP puts me at the risk of really missing it. Replacing a 1920 x 1200 MBP matte display isn't exactly cheap! Perhaps a bump to 8GB and an SSD will make it fly.

    You're pretty much describing my situation. You're about a step ahead of me though, which is cool. Your testing out different setups is very helpful.

    I'm going to think more about the 13". I'll pay a visit to the Apple Store to give it a closer look. I'll need to find a camera bag that can hold it. My current bag holds the 11" with a sleeve. Camera bags either seem to be made for Netbooks or for 15" laptops. The latter tends to make the bags more bulky, as if I need that with my current camera kit!
     
  10. Cheffy Dave macrumors 68030

    Cheffy Dave

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida, on the Gulf Coast in Homosassa Fl
    #10
    Originally Posted by entatlrg
    17 to 11" is a huge change in screen size. As you're a photographer I was surprised to read you did it.

    Understanding you like the 11" size but wouldn't the 13" of allowed you to be much more productive and comfortable while working/editing plus you'd have added processing power ideal for editing and handling photo's and video.

    11" is a really cool machine, I'm not criticizing, just curious about your rationale behind it.

    I am sold on the AIR, spent another 2 hours at the Apple Store in Tampa deciding. A beautiful young woman in an Apple shirt, after poo-pooing MR decided to tell me "if 2 GB of RAM doesn't work, just switch to 4 its $100"
    I said my dear it's soldered to the MB, you buy what you want FIRST and from then on be happy, she was clueless, She further told me upgrading the Hard drive from OWC, would void the warranty, "No I said it won't go check"
    When She came back, she said you were right, and then disappeared, Thank you God,
    I brought up iPhoto, and was very happy with the display. Here is my 63 year old opinion of the MBA. Opening Word 1 bounce of the App, on the 13 " No bounces, on my 2.2 BMB 1.5 minutes, (with an SSD) I'm going 11" and NOT waiting for any 1.5 whenever in the future, and I will go REFURB with 64GB SSD and swop out for an OWC 360 GB and die happy!
     
  11. m3digi thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Location:
    NYC
    #11
    So after a bit of deliberation, I'm going to stick with my MBP 17"

    The rationale:

    1. The 1920 x 1200 is far too valuable to give up. Replacing it wouldn't come cheap if I decided I wanted it back.

    2. Upgradeability - I noticed you're running 8GB on your setup, plus a 512GB SSD. I'll go for an 8/256 with mine and pair it to an ACD. That would be a great pro setup. ROI is a slight give, but far better than reinvesting in a similar setup. The new MBPs aren't cheap!

    3. I'll still continue to use the MBA as my commuter / travel machine. I don't know that I'll upgrade to a 13". I like this particular footprint. It also keeps the lines between the MBP and MBA distinct enough that I don't have to debate whether I should really have both systems.

    Thanks for the helpful reply. By the way, how is your MBP's performance with the memory and SSD upgrades?
     
  12. entatlrg macrumors 68040

    entatlrg

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2009
    Location:
    Waterloo & Georgian Bay, Canada
    #12
    That's cool, now you have two excellent setups, a desktop and mobile solution. Also, Dell makes a good external display for less money than an ACD ... even try Craig's List for a secondhand ACD maybe, sometimes great deals can be found.

    My 17" is screaming fast, quicker than my 2009 Mac Pro. It's hooked up to an ACD most of the time. I choose it over an iMac or Mac Pro because I wanted the option to have a mobile large screen.

    I love both the 11 and 13" MacBook Air, I'm often grabbing my wife's to pay around with, but I had to make a decision between the two. Since I spend a LOT of hours typing on the Air not attached to an external display the 13" won, it's less scrolling, has as much screen real estate as the standard 15" MBP screens, for my work it was the wise decision although I question it often, :) .... damn Apple for making two size of MacBook Airs!

    Good luck with your set up! It's great so many people are realizing the Air's capabilities, such a great notebook, hat's off to Apple.
     
  13. bcaslis macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    #13
    To honest I think swapping the OWC WILL void the MBA warranty. It doesn't in the Pro, but in the Air it's not supposed to be user accessible. That's why they have the funny 5 star screws in it.

    You'll notice in the user manual for the MBP and the MB, there is a section about upgrading. There's no such section in the MBA because you can't without voiding the warranty.

    All that said, I've love to 360GB of SSD, but the price is too high for me.
     
  14. m3digi thread starter macrumors newbie

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    NYC
    #14
    Yeah, I have my eye on the Dell U2711. I've read lots of good things about it. I think I'll breathe some new life in my MBP by purchasing the Dell, an 8GB memory upgrade and a 256GB SSD.

    Here's where I stop reading your posts. I'm going to end up buying an 13" if I keep reading your experiences! Seriously, I will keep an eye out for what's happening with the updated MBA. If it doesn't look compelling, I may snag a 13" on clearance and max out the specs. The additional power would be nice.

    I'd still need to find a new camera bag to put it in, so I'll be evaluating things all the way around.

    Again, thanks for the tips. I was close to parting ways with my MBP before you weighed in. :cool:
     
  15. aleni macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    #15
    i really want to downgrade from my 17" 2009 to 13" ultimate air, but i think i will notice the difference in speed because my current 17" already has a 128GB SSD, so i already know what speed that SSD will give.

    i don't mind about the screen resolution of the 13" air because when i'm doing photoshop job, i always hooked my mbp to a 27" cinema display.

    what scares me is the lack of ram (4GB maximum) and the GPU power in the 13" mba to drive the 27" cinema display while doing big files photoshop (about 200mb each file).

    for information, my MBP has 8GB of ram, 9600GT and SSD.

    let's say i can live with 4GB of ram by closing apps i don't use when im working with photoshop with the 13" air, but is the nvidia 320M really that much of a performance downgrade from the 9600 GT found in the MBP?
     
  16. EspressoLove macrumors 6502

    EspressoLove

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    Jun 29, 2007
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    Bay Area
    #16
    apparently it's not worlds apart ....

    [​IMG]

    quite impressive for integrated GPU I'd say
     
  17. aleni macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    #17
    wow! impressive, this will make my hand itchy again to buy the 13" mba.

    thanks mate!
     
  18. Scottsdale macrumors 601

    Scottsdale

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    Sep 19, 2008
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    #18
    For reasons like that, it would be devastating to lose the Nvidia GPU for an Intel IGP at probably less than half the performance. When looking at a chart like that, it shows that even though it's integrated into the chipset, the Nvidia 320m is a real GPU... while Intel is a true IGP stuck to the CPU and absolutely sucks!

    The 13" MBA seems more pro than the current 13" MBP, and all pre-unibody MBPs too. In time, components improve greatly, until a company like Intel with anti-competitive and monopolistic intentions gets a chance to destroy the market and ruin the customers' experiences for years at a time! I hope Apple overcomes in the MBA better than it did with the 13" MBP. I still have faith...
     
  19. aleni macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    #19
    so u got an ultimate mba? do u have a 27" cinema display? is photoshop open gl acceleration can be turned on with that nvidia 320? or only the discrete gpu will be able to support it?
     
  20. EspressoLove macrumors 6502

    EspressoLove

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    Bay Area
    #20
    Oh, stop it already, let it go.

    99+% won't even lift the brow when Apple finally introduces some kind of Bridge CPU.
    It won't take much RDF to "convince" people that 2x CPU performance is a worthy tradeoff for 2x cut in GPU.

    MBA/320M never was targeted at gamers anyways.
    What counts is sales, popular reviews, and even visceral reactions in MBA/Apple's case.

    It's not even the loosing battle you struggling, it's windmills ....
    I only write this because I was in your place :(
    But then I've tried to find the definition of what "go get a I life" might mean :eek::D:cool::)
     
  21. stockscalper macrumors 6502a

    stockscalper

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    Location:
    Area 51
    #21
    Sorry, but a 1.4 GHZ SandyBridge chip is going to be two times faster than a 2.13 GHZ Core Duo. But Intel graphics will take a 50% hit on the performance front.

    And one last thing, it's losing, not loosing :D
     
  22. EspressoLove macrumors 6502

    EspressoLove

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    Bay Area
    #22
    Don't get me wrong I'm all for best specs (though I'm not religious about brands/tech :cool::p)

    So on that note my dream config would be an "MBP" with :
    - LV CPU
    - dGPU
    - no DVD
    - 8GB RAM option
    ≈ 4lbs 14" matte

    That probably constitutes a MacBook AirPro ;):D

    And if current sales mean anything, our chances to see something like that are improving :rolleyes:
     
  23. EspressoLove macrumors 6502

    EspressoLove

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    #23
    Yeah, my mom told me .... nitpickers gonna nitpick ...
     
  24. Cheffy Dave macrumors 68030

    Cheffy Dave

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    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida, on the Gulf Coast in Homosassa Fl
    #24
    Interesting points, I will have to consider your position, but I also have to say,The Apple Store said it wouldn't :apple:
     
  25. Cheffy Dave macrumors 68030

    Cheffy Dave

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    #25
    Scottie, I had this thought today, what about Apple designing their own chip, and then going to AMD/ATI for the graphics, wouldn't that be a surprise ?
     

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