Need a laptop for school. Never owned one before. Should I get the 11 Air?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by MacYale, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. MacYale macrumors newbie

    Feb 20, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    So, I'm going to business school for 4 years.

    I have a pretty nice home office with a decent 24" inch imac (plan to replace with the next gen 27 top end). This is where I often work from home.

    But now I'll be spending long hours at school, away from my desktop. There are computer labs, but I'd like to have something with me at all times. I'm torn between the 11 air, 13 air, and 13 pro.

    USES: office suite, note taking, web surfing primarily. i'll save the big stuff for at home. i don't care about storage. portability is nice. good battery life is helpful but not crucial.

    so i have 2 questions:

    1. in terms of performance, considering the same price, which is a better beast, the 13 i5 pro or the 13 air (with 4 GB)? i get that the air's run on SSD but isnt their C2D chips fairly outdated? (not a real chip expert here). and extending from this, does any of this extra performance even matter for my uses? or would i be spending extra for speeds i wouldnt notice?

    2. is the 11 inch too small for long periods of typing? is it big enough to surf the web and absorb content? may sound ridiculous to some, but i've just always had big screen desktops and never a lappy, so 11 inches sounds insanely tiny to me, even if im not running adobe cs like on my imac...

    appreciate the insight guys!
  2. rekhyt macrumors 65816

    Jun 20, 2008
    Part of the old MR guard.
    This is the same situation I'm in right now. I will be going off for school in a few months and I don't think it would be wise for me to continue using a MacBook Pro 15". I was thinking about using a hybrid of a MacBook Air 13" and building my own desktop at home.

    Still thinking about it, but I can wait for the next release of the MacBook Air (Which I predict, according to the MR Buyer's Guide, to be sometime around September) for the Core i processors.

    1. 13 i5 Pro would definitely beat the C2D, especially since C2D's outdated.
    2. This question is a bit more complicated so I'll separate it into two different answers:

    Keyboard: The keyboard is the same size as the MacBook, MacBook Pro keyboards. There has been no change in the size of the keyboard; Apple did keep to their word (Saying that they would not produce a subpar ultra-light computer. The size of the keyboard appears to have been retained. Not so sure about the trackpad though.)

    Screen: Might be a bit too small. I am used to a big screen as well; I've been using a 15" screen for 2 1/2 years already, so it might be somewhat difficult for me to go down to a 11 or 13" one, especially when the resolution is so high.
  3. patrixl Suspended

    Jun 19, 2009
    I've gone from a 15" i5 MBP to an 11" ultimate Air as my MAIN machine.

    If you want portability, I say go for the 11". It's almost an afterthought whether I bring it with me or not when I go out, by default it's always with me. Almost always. That's how portable it is.

    Keyboard is full-sized, not like netbooks, so typing doesn't hurt or need new habits at all to learn new key sizes/layouts. Trackpad is big and comfortable. My eyes got used pretty quickly to the smaller screen and resolution, my 15" now seems huuuge on the rare times I use it. I can't imagine how that 24" iMac will feel haha.

    Basically, I'd recommend getting a 4GB model, just to future-proof it, that way it can be your companion for a few years. Can't upgrade RAM after you bought it.

    11" is just amazing as a form factor, in fact it totally destroyed my desire for tablets. Like I said, I plop it in a small bag or case, slip it in my bag and go. Biking, riding buses/trains, etc, doesn't matter. It fits on café tables, train trays, airplane trays, small tables with a meal (though I'm too paranoid to leave drinks nearby), etc.

    I can pull it out when I'm riding the train downtown and do some quick checks/edits, then slip it back in my bag. I'm at a café right now typing this, doing all my work (system administration), browsing, listening to music, editing web pages, doing some coding, etc.

    I say if you want portable, go portable. Don't go with a 13" Pro the weight will annoy you in the long run, 13" Air might annoy you with its size, I wouldn't know I never owned it.

    I love my 11" lol
  4. wisty, Mar 7, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011

    wisty macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2009
    1. Unless a CPU hits 100%, it's perfectly fine for the job. If you are hitting 100% (unlikely), then the 2.3 GHz i5 might be 2-3 times as fast - hard to say. The C2D can handle most workloads, but might be slow with heavy workloads. You have a fast desktop, and access to lab computers, so just pick the right tool for the job. Go for portability, anything made in the last 5 years can handle basic office tasks.

    If you don't have 100% CPU, then the CPU is not an issue. You don't need a Ferrari in a traffic jam. Often, the problem is the network, the hard drive (hint - get a SSD), or the user typing ... very ... slowly.... (as far as the CPU is concerned).

    2. Try it out, see what you think. Try the keyboard. I don't have your eyes and hands, so I can't give you any real advice. Also, how good is your touch-typing? The MBA isn't backlit, so you can't see the keys in the dark.

    The MBA has a very high resolution, so it packs a lot of detail into a smallish screen. The MBA 11" has more detail than the MBP 13"; and the MBA 13" is equivalent to the MBP 15"!

    Of course, you may have to squint a bit.

    The 11" = 1366x768. 13" = 1440x900. MBP 13" = 1280x800. MBP 15" = 1440x900.
  5. rekhyt macrumors 65816

    Jun 20, 2008
    Part of the old MR guard.
    Exactly. This would be extremely difficult on our eyes, wouldn't it? My eyesight isn't necessarily stellar, so I'm afraid having such a high pixel density on such a small screen (Planning to get the 13") would have detrimental effects to my eyes both long-term and short-term.
  6. Rolfmaomachizli macrumors member


    1. With the 'uses' that you posted here, you probably will not even get 3/4 of the CPU. Just because we have 3.4Ghz out there now does not mean that 1.4ghz is not enough. If you are really scared, make the 0.2Ghz jump to 1.6, but really you will not notice a difference rom 1.4,5,6,7,8,9 until maaybe 2ghz. And remember, people with core i7's rarely make full use of their capabilities. We will only see the difference in a few years ( 2-3), technology is always advancing at an incredible rate, so while 1.4Ghz may feel light years backwards, it still holds a good load of potential ( especially for taking notes).

    2. I have yet to receive my 11" air, but it is not that small at all, I mean I held it in the store and it feels tiny, yet you can do so much. The higher resolution ( 1366x 768) was especially made so you can have more space to have two windows open side by side.

    Although the thing you want to look at is RAM, how much do you want? If you are not tight on your budget, i STRONGLY recommend going for 4gb. While not many people report slowdowns for 2gb versions, it is better to be safe than sorry and make sure you are futureproof.

    All the Best!
    Rolfmaomachizlin at your service.
  7. MathiasVH macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2009
    I'm writing from school from my 11" MBA right now. Bought it yesterday. I up/downgraded from a 15" i5 MBP, because I bought a 27 quad core which I'll use for the more demanding tasks. I have not regretted this a second - On the contrary I now have the portability of the 11" MBA and almost ultimate power back home. When using chrome in fullscreen and hiding some of all the unusable (at least for me) info in Word, everything is as(or more)-readable than on the 15" 1440*900 display. Some has described the Air as having an "almost retina display", and while this isn't completely true, it certainly comes very close. I could have chosen the 13", but it simply came to close as being a normal laptop-size. There's only 700g. (from 1.3 to 2.0) difference in weight between the 13" MBA and the 13" MBP.

    And one very underestimated thing about this air: The screen doesn't "glare" nearly as much as the ones found on the MBP's, which can save you a lot of "crank up my screen light so it's just barely readable"-energy, which was one of the most power consuming posts with my 15".

    One of my (jaloux) friends asked me: "What size did you get?" and when I answered "11", he said "Ooooh, you should've chosen a 13"". And this is the general attitude for people that haven't seen them in person. The 11" is fantastic - As a 2nd. computer that is.
  8. patrixl Suspended

    Jun 19, 2009
    It's the other way around for me, but I did have an anti-glare screen on my 15" before.. Still I'm glad there's no glass pane on the MBA, cuz that would really be annoying in comparison!

    Typical thinking about specs, rather than thinking about usability and ergonomics...
  9. Mac767 macrumors newbie

    Mar 4, 2011
  10. namtaB macrumors regular

    Feb 22, 2011
    I've gone through school using laptops and went from a Compaq Presario 1200 with 20 GB HDD to a Thinkpad with a 60 GB HDD. So unless education has dramatically changed in the last decade I think for your school related uses, performance won't be an issue with any of those machines.

    You should really focus on portability and screen size. The MBA wins on both counts. But, the 11" is really tiny. Personally, its too small for me to do anything productive on it. You may be different. But I would check one out in person before making a decision.
  11. iPhone1 macrumors 65816


    Apr 2, 2010
    San Diego, CA
    The pixel density of the 11" really sets it apart from the 13". It has a full size keyboard although the "F" keys are smaller. I think an 11" would be perfect for you. If you feel you need the 4GB of RAM go for it but I doubt you'll need it for your uses. It may not have the specs of a MacBook Pro but the flash storage makes up for that. It is snappy and perfect for portability. The lack of a backlit keyboard might be an issue. Just learn to type without looking at the keyboard. You probably do it now anyways.
  12. MacYale thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 20, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    Interesting. Double as fast in many instances.

    However, that Pro has an SSD, which is at minimum $250 extra. So is this not a comparison of a $1050 machine versus a $1500 machine (CAD)? Of course the Pro should be faster.
  13. ehoui macrumors regular

    Jan 27, 2011
    Some business schools have explicit, specific requirements for laptops in order to use software that you need for coursework. I assume you have verified that there are no such requirements, or that Mac OS X is supported? If not, then you may be looking at running VMWare (or Parallels) and I'm not sure what the performance of it is on an Air -- anyone?
  14. MacYale thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 20, 2011
    Vancouver, BC
    From what I understand the Mac office suite should suffice. It's my responsibility to ensure that I understand the software when they're explaining the Windows version, but I'm already accustomed to that.

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