Need Help Deciding between MBA 13 or MBP 15

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by livebackwards, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. livebackwards macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2012
    Hey there everyone.

    I have been following the forums for a while and this is my first time posting. I am getting ready to switch to my first Mac laptop but I am unsure which to get.
    I have used windows all my life (25 years:eek:) and I am finally ready to switch (it took me a long time) I used to really be into machine specs and building my own PC's, but I have not been into doing that for a while, and my knowledge has lapsed over the past 6 years and I am unsure what the limitations of the current hardware are.

    I am either going to get the
    Macbook Air 13" 2.0 ghz and upgrade it to 256 SSD and 8 GB of Ram
    Macbook Pro 15" 2.3 ghz with a Hi-Res Antiglare screen(I will add the 8GB memory myself) (not the Retina display macbook)

    This will be my only computer as I gave up Desktop for laptops 6 years ago and have not regretted it.
    I do currently have a 1gen ipad and an iPhone 4. Just mentioning it as those are my mobile computers. In fact these items (and my wife a life long Mac user) have gotten me to switch.

    anyway back to the point I am unsure which machine will be best for what I want to use it for.
    The MBP has a dedicated graphics card while the MBA doesn't, but the air has the SSD and weighs less. the other specs are similar enough.
    I know eventuall I could upgrade the Pro to a SSD if I wanted but aside from putting in the memory I am mostly done with hardware tinkering.

    I have extensively tested out the feel of both machines at the apple store and they both feel great. It was hard to get a feel for how different the weight would be in day to day use because of the security cord.:mad:

    My main concern is how much better the graphics card is in the MBP for my needs
    I was hoping people here would be able to guide me in my new purchase

    Here is what I plan on using the machine for in order of importance/most use
    1.) Writing (I use a program called Scrivener, but I will be using MS Word/excel till I get a handle on Pages and Numbers) I know this is not an issue with either laptop
    2.) Using a secondary display (2 if I can) but not a mac Thunderbolt display regular VGA. Can the Pro or the Air Handle 2 displays?
    3.) Light Photoshop and illustrator Editing
    4.) Handbrake or similar Video Ripping (if I get the MBA I'll get a superdrive)
    5.) Parallels or Vmware for Windows 7 Emulation (I have a few older Programs and games that are Windows only that I want use till I fully find replacement Software. I plan to use 3gb of the 8gb memory, its the reason I opted for the 8 gbs)
    6.) mosdest Gaming.
    I'd like to play maybe DC online or the marvel Online when it comes out (in windows 7 of course) nothing too heavy, I'd just like the option if possible.
    7.) limited portability. I am not a student and I travel out of town maybe 3 times a year. I will be taking the laptop out of the house 1-2 times a week to do work remotely so weight and size is a limited concern. My current laptop weighs 5 lb 10oz and it has not been a problem at that size. It is also a 13" laptop ugh
    8.) Light Photo Editing and light Video Editing (and I mean light)

    Here is what I have been using for the past 2 years
    Dell Latitude E5410
    13" screen
    i7 M620 2.67 Ghz
    4 GB ram
    256 GB hard drive
    Intel HD Graphics
    windows 7 of course
    I have Dell's Dock so it hooks up to a 21' monitor
    5lb 10 oz

    Works good (aside from windows :rolleyes: ) but the graphics can not handle hardly any of the modest gaming that I want and video ripping can be slow but aside from that the machine has been great.

    I am leaning towards the MBA right now, but I do worry that not getting a laptop with a graphics card again will make me regret the choice.
    the price is fairly comparable for each of the machine (maybe a $200 difference)

    sorry for the long post I wanted to avoid the questions
    what do you want to do with it?
    what are you currently using? and does it work for you?

    Any and all help/advice is welcome.

    ex Windows user
  2. Moshe1010 macrumors 6502a

    Jun 27, 2010
    Rule #1 when you're writing a question in forums: DON'T WRITE SO MUCH, NOBODY IS GOING TO READ THIS.
  3. marioman38 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Elk Grove, CA
    Air will be perfect for everything depending on your definition of "modest" gaming.
  4. livebackwards thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2012
    Thanks answering

    for modest gaming nothing like half-life, Call of duty or anything like that. I have an Xbox for that stuff

    Diablo 3 would be the highest I'd do, not sure if I'd even play that game its just the type of game I'd still have interest in on a PC
    so I guess Maybe some MMORPG or games like Dragon age.
    I am interested in the new Marvel comics online game (not out yet) it should be similar to DCU online. so if that game works I'd be pretty much set.

    Can the Air output to 2 External monitors?
  5. NeonBible macrumors member

    Jun 26, 2012
    If you don't care about portability, go for the MBP. You mentioned that you seldom travel and that you also won't bring it with you outside the house very often, so go for the MBP. I have owned an MBA mid 2011 and am a lucky owner of the mid 2012 right now, and I really recommend it to everyone asking for a light and fast laptop. It handles both CS5.5 and CS6 very well, and I have yet to notice some problems with the CS-package. But you mentioned gaming, and I have only tried Limbo, GTA: Vice City and Braid on it—and it runs pretty well. But the fans really start to kick in while gaming these light games, so I don't really think it handles heavier games any well. But, as you said, you don't travel a lot, and therefore I think you could get more power with an MBP.
  6. asting macrumors 6502

    Jun 10, 2012
    To be clear, most of the games you list as not modest are very playable. The source engine runs fantastically on this computer, and I imagine that most of the call of duty games will run decently at medium settings.

    Diablo 3 is actually a bit more demanding than those, however it does run decently on the air at the native res.

    As far as external monitors, afaik it's still unclear whether or not you can do 2 external displays. If I remember correctly the gpu limited this on the last model, but that may not be the case on this one. At any rate, you'd really need to wait for a dock in order to use that feature, as daisy chaining two TB displays is highly cost prohibitive (unless you're rich enough to enjoy it, then I guess go for it if it's what you want).
  7. Devyn89 macrumors regular


    Jul 21, 2012
    Sounds to me like you should go for the pro, the graphics are better and the hard drive is bigger.
  8. NeonBible macrumors member

    Jun 26, 2012
    The MBA mid 2012 handles two external monitors with its Intel HD 4000. Last year, though, when it had the Intel HD 3000, it could only handle one single external monitor.
  9. livebackwards thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2012
    If I was Rich enough I'd be getting the MBPr.
    I am not..yet...
    I'd be getting a the adapter to run the Air on regular 21' monitor.
    I know I can get one monitor but it would be fantastic to have two.
    Gaming is just a very minor want out of what ever macbook I end up getting.
    I just know I had no games I wanted to even try out on a PC for just about 5 years now till DCU online came out and I wanted to try it but my current laptop it didn't work on, but even then it was not a big loss for me as I have transitioned 99% of my playing to the xbox. And I see no game in the future currently I'd like to play on the mac aside from the Marvel comics online game which isn't out yet.
    its just one of those "What if" kind of things

    if the MBA can run
    parallels or VMware
    Adobe illustrator and photoshop
    Handbrake/DVD ripping software

    with out much difficulty that may be the route I go...
    now If I can just figure out that dual monitor with it...
  10. ixodes macrumors 601


    Jan 11, 2012
    Pacific Coast, USA
    Rule #2 Please do yourself & us a big favor, Ignore Rule # 1. :)

    I read & appreciated your detailed post. Since I use both models you're interested in, and have years of Mac Laptop experience, I am able to give better feedback when I have the info you've provided.

    I'll cut to the bottom line. I truly believe you'll be the happiest with the MBP. It's gorgeous 15" anti-glare, hi-res display is fantastic. Having the ability to easily upgrade memory, HDD or SSD, I know you'll feel right at home. I use both my 15" MBP & 15" ThinkPad daily at work & at home. You're going to find OS X has lots of great features and only requires some patience as you make the transition.

    While the 13" MBA is nice and is likely to get more votes due to it being newer & rather trendy, on a day to day basis, the low-res display would disappoint as would it's lesser graphics performance as compared to the MBP.

    Enjoy your new Mac :D
  11. NeonBible macrumors member

    Jun 26, 2012
    The MBA is a really fast laptop due to its SSD. The pros are speed and portability—if compared to the MBP. But there are some cons as well, compared to the MBP: not upgradeable, lower res (compared to the high resolution version), weaker GPU and less storage capacity. The MBP will handle heavy tasks better than the MBA but won't necessarily feel snappier to everyday-use due to its HDD (contra SSD). But, as it's easy upgradeable, you can always buy an SSD to it in the future. It's really up to your usage and priority, but you'll end up happy with either model.
  12. livebackwards thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2012
    I know bait when I see it and I leave it alone :)
    On a computer forum board more info is always better.
    also most posts are followed up with a "How can we help you if you don't tell us what you will use it for" post.

    Good points all around both of you guys.
    thanks so much

    The tinker in me does like the idea of the being able to add things later to the laptop. The practical side says "With what time?"

    Am I correct that the MBP would be able to output to 2 external monitors?
    not daisy chaining thunderbolts displays. Regular displays like say 2 VGA, 2 DVI or 1 VGA and 1 DVI?
  13. forugaurav macrumors newbie

    Jun 28, 2012
    MBA 13' any given day.. better resolution :D and form factor... casual gaming is fine on it as well.

    SSD is a awesome!!

  14. marioman38 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Elk Grove, CA
    Go to the apple store and try them both out?

    My brother has the 15" MBP and after using my air, the MBP feels so heavy just moving down the hall or using on my lap on the couch. Plus for some reason he keeps commenting how much he loves my screen (odd since everyone on the forum seems to think LG displays suck and insist on returning theirs). He has the 1440 MBP though, so your milage may very.
  15. ixodes macrumors 601


    Jan 11, 2012
    Pacific Coast, USA
    Yes, multiple monitors are no problem, I use two myself. I also carry my 15" MBP daily, with ease, and don't give it a second thought. After all it's so thin & light as compared to your average 15" laptop, it's at least one pound lighter. Being less than an inch thick reduces the bulk to barely noticeable.
  16. Seamaster macrumors 65816


    Feb 24, 2003
    I auditioned both a 15" Pro and the 13" Air when I was deciding what should replace my ancient (2006) iMac. Surprisingly, I preferred the latter. Using full-screen apps in Lion makes the screen seem much larger than its physical dimensions suggest. I've not found it difficult to make the transition from a 20" screen, and feel no need to have anything larger.
  17. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    He's comparing a 15" MBP to a 13" MBA so the resolution on the MBP is either the same as the MBA or better, since he is planning the hi-res anti-glare upgrade.
  18. jmgregory1 macrumors 68000


    Jun 24, 2010
    Chicago and a few other places around the world
    I know it's not an apples to apples comparison, but my wife has a late '11 13" pro (work provided) and she and I can't stand to use it compared to my '11 13" Air.

    The issue is ssd drive vs for-crap spinning hdd. My recommendation, if you can afford it, would be to get the Pro and do it BTO with an ssd drive instead of the hdd.

    The speed difference is just so great it's hard to live without ssd once you've tried it.
  19. livebackwards thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2012
    Now that's something I never checked on all my visits to the Apple store.
    The Screen on the MBP.

    the screens on the MBA and the MBP looked identical to me in the store. (minus the size)
    I bet the floor models I looked at had the MacBook Pro 15-inch Glossy Widescreen Display.
    I probably have never even seen the MacBook Pro 15-inch Hi-Res Widescreen Display. Anti Glare or glossy.
  20. heijdene macrumors newbie

    Jul 23, 2012
    I bougth the 15 MBP Anti Glare 2 weeks ago having the same questions.
    For me 256 SSD is 2 small and i do not want 2 work / carry with an external HD for extra memory. Working with Fusion and Win 7 takes already takes 40 GB. I transferred my work windows 7 image wich eats 80 GB!

    I like the Anti Glare screen, although i needed a week to adept on the High Res. I had a MBP

    I bought 16 GB Kingston (look at there site for the perfect MBP match) memory instead of 8 gb (i paid 105 euro's) . Geekbench index 11005 after upgrade was (10500)
    Handbreak takes 25 - 28 min ripping DVD movie

    I work with Dragon Speech. So Windows now can use loads of internal memory and still no down grade in performance on the mac site. (open programms Apperture Itunes Chrome Safari Handbreak Constant swapping file 25-50 mb!

    YESS with an SSD programms opens much quicker
    YESS you can upgrade 2 and SSD at the time you would like to upgrade de MBP (your old mac lasted 6 years) I expect an price drop at the time i will be back into the markted.

    PLEASE REMEMBER: Opening a MBA looks better first time opening programs smoother but for sure the MBP can handle every thing you want with ease.

    MBA you buy with your soul and de MBP HH Antiglare winns every day a piece of soul.

    Long run.... MBP

    Good luck buying
  21. livebackwards, Jul 23, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2012

    livebackwards thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2012
    I completely forgot about the HD Allocation for Windows 7. I'd probably use 40-80GB for that. That does cut the hard drive down and I will not be able to get the 512gb HD upgrade for the MBA.
    I don't think I will be able to fully transition away from windows as I will need to keep somewhat proficient in windows so I can support my family. So that will be a constant HD space Allocation.

    Then adding in 16 GB of memory to a MBP is outstanding. I checked the prices and its around $66 USA per 8 GB's. Which is not bad at all compared to what the prices use to be. I could then throw 4GB to windows and not worry about the mac.
    I feel old I remember one of my first computer had a 40MB hard drive and I had like 2megs of ram probably less maybe in the Kb's. Not only that the hard drive was huge! I still have it and use it as a paper weight.

    I think with what everyone has said here I am swaying towards the MBP, and then next year I can look at getting an SSD as the prices just keep dropping. Then I can enjoy that upgrade. It will feel like a new computer next year (with what everyone has been saying)

    But that may be the Spec hound in my coming out, which I have tried and mostly succeeded at curbing over the past few years.

    There is a lot about the MBA I find appealing but I think the lack of upgrading has me worried a little. I don't think I am ready yet to let that go. I really want to.

    I will be ordering my new Laptop as soon as Mountain Lion Drops (this week) as I want that installed for me.
  22. livebackwards thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2012
    I just wanted to thank everyone who replied. I ended up getting the 15" Macbook pro with the Hi Res anti Glare screen. I got it with 4 GB and I ordered 16 GB of memory from amazon.
    it arrives on Monday
    Everyones input was highly valuable and helped me make my decision.


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