Need help in deciding!

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by eckthroi, Jul 6, 2011.

  1. eckthroi macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2011
    I am buying my first mac before school starts. I have thought long and hard about this while reviewing sites like this for the last 6 months in order to have a better understanding of what would be best for me to do. I have a few questions I could use some help with in order to make my final decision.

    To start let me say that I will be using this for taking notes and writing reports while in class at college. For this reason I have chosen the Macbook Air as the computer best for my needs. I also use my computer to play simple free games online when I have time. (Does this mean I will have a problem with this as I read that Mac's dont like flash?)

    Other than that I use it for storing pictures and videos. Also watching videos on occasion. This is my biggest question. I am not that great at understanding how technologies work. I never have been up to date (just learned what an ipod did 3 years ago.) I would like to know what the cheapest Macbook Air I should get is that would be sufficient for my uses? (wanting it to stay usable at least 4-5 years) Also what is the best way to store my pictures and videos to make sure they are not lost as these are of my wife and kids and I cannot replace them?

    Also with wanting it to last 4-5 years is it wise to buy a refurb 2010 when the new airs come out, or do I need to be looking at one of the new ones?

    Thank you to anyone who can help answer these questions for me.
  2. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    Here's the best tip you can get right now:

    Read the threads that are already created. I just read the MBA thread category for fun and practically every question you asked was already answered. It would help you a lot more if you went through the forums and read the information yourself. you'll learn a lot more that way.
  3. xkmxkmxlmx macrumors 6502a


    Apr 28, 2011
    Congrats on going MBA :)

    Pretty much ANY of the models will be fine for what you need. It all comes down to screen size and "future-proofing" after that.

    Personally, I found writing papers and such on my GF's 11 inch was just a pain. It was fine for browsing and watching stuff, but that extra 2 inches went a long way. So, for school and paper writing, I would definitely bump it up to the 13".

    If you're just taking notes and just need something to transfer to school and back (and you have a larger computer or are willing to consider a cinema display in the future), get the 11".

    Like I said, even the base 11" should be good for what you want it to do NOW. But it might be a bit long in the tooth come 4 years from now. Personally, I would wait to see what the refresh has to say before making any decisions.

    No matter what you do, you should absolutely get the ram upgrade if you want to be using it for a while to come. At 2gb, it barely cuts it now for certain things; and who knows what Lion (and future OS updates) will demand.
  4. eckthroi thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2011
    Thanks, I appreciate the advice. As for "spade" I have constantly looked at these forums. My biggest question is in regards to the photo and video storage. I explained that I know nothing about the things I read on these forums. (i.e. cloud, dropbox, etc.) I would not post the question if I didnt want to be able to discuss the situation in order to learn. Besides, if you actually took the time to find my answer amongst the threads, why didnt you post the link for me to read?
  5. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    I would recommend 2 things at least for your purchase (in order of importance).

    1) Go with at least 4GB of RAM. The RAM is part of the Logic Board, which is the main guts of the computer. It cannot be upgraded. The only way to get more RAM is to buy a new computer. 4GB of RAM should last you 4-5 years.

    2) I'd stay away from the 2010 models as they use the older Intel CPUs. The Core 2 Duo, which is currently used in the Air, is already several year old in terms of design. Collectively, we believe that the new MacBook Air will use the Core i7 processor, which is the current generation processor. It is faster and more efficient than the Core 2 Duo, although it has the limitation of having a worse graphics processor than the Core 2 Duo models (for legal reasons, not technical). Since you said you probably won't be doing much in terms of graphically intense computing, I'd recommend that you go for the newer CPUs.

    A new (2011) MacBook Air will have no problems lasting 4-5 years and beyond.

    Now on to other less technical matters.

    Flash runs just fine on Macs, but has the tendency to decrease your battery life significantly. Don't listen to everyone complaining and just do what you do and you'll be fine.

    Screen size is really up to you. 11 or 13" is really a matter of personal preference.

    With regards to storage space, it really depends on what you want to store on the Air. If you are going to put a lot of music, movies and pictures on the device, you will probably need to get a larger drive. A 128GB drive should fit a lot of programs, movies, music and photos (documents are usually pretty small, so don't be too concerned about them). However, there is a rumor that the storage will be part of the logic board too, and again, unable to be upgraded after the fact. If you have the money, upgrading to a larger drive might be a good thing.

    With storage, though, there is always the alternative of purchasing an external hard drive. They are pretty cheap these days (a lot cheaper than upgrading the internal storage). Not only do external drives address the issue of storage, but it also addresses your issue of backups. As a father of 2, I know how important photos are, and a good backup is essential. Time Machine is a piece of software that comes with every Mac for the purpose of automatically backing up your data. All it takes to get started is to plug an external drive in. Your Mac will ask if you want to use the drive for Time Machine backups. Click "yes" and you're done. If you don't want to hassle with plugging in a drive, you can always look at the Time Capsule, which is a wireless router with a built-in hard drive for Time Machine Backups.

    If you want an added layer of security, there are several good online backups for your data. Carbonite, Backblaze and Mozy are just a few of the more popular ones.

    Finally, if you're near an Apple Store, go in and check them out for yourself (if you haven't already). Contrary to the beliefs of some, not all Apple Store employees are dumb. ;) They also offer training in the stores as well as some pretty good phone support if you're ever stuck with getting something set up.

    And MacRumors is a great resource after the fact as well!

    Also, welcome to MR.
  6. ritmomundo, Jul 6, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011

    ritmomundo macrumors 68000


    Jan 12, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    As for the cheapest MBA for your needs, you could easily go with the base model 11" MacBook Air thats out right now ($999 retail, sometimes much cheaper with sales on MacMall or eBay, and with the refresh coming soon). This computer will last 4-5 years.

    If you're willing to spend a bit more money to upgrade, you *may* want to increase your RAM from 2GB to 4GB just to "future proof" your purchase, as other people here will say. But for the average user, like you seem to be, I don't think 2GB will hinder your usage in the least (unless you plan on taking up video editing or Final Cut or something).

    Also, since you're talking about storage, you *may* want a bigger hard drive. 64GB may not be enough, depending on how much you have (photos, videos, music, etc), so you may want to spring for the bigger SSD. However, in my opinion, rather than keeping everything stored in one place on your laptop, I would recommend getting an external hard drive and storing a master copy of all of your photos and videos on that (and keep this in a safe place). That way you don't have to worry about losing those memories if something were to happen to your laptop. Then, you can copy your latest photos and videos to your MBA that you want to browse more often, as free space on your laptop's hard drive will permit. Also, with the upcoming iCloud service, you may still be able to get away with a smaller SSD in your MBA, and store your media on the cloud.

    To wrap it up, I'd say the base model of the MBA should suit you fine. If you want to "future proof" your laptop with more RAM, or have a bigger hard drive, it'll cost you quite a bit. Definitely get an external HDD to store your media and keep it in a safe location. And go to Best Buy or the Apple Store and play with the different models, and see whether the 11" or 13" screen is better for you. 11" is smaller and lighter (and cheaper), but the 13" will be much easier on your eyes, especially if you're taking/reading notes on it.
  7. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Welcome to the forums and congratulations on starting college; it's a great and exciting time in life.

    I'd echo much of what has already been written.

    Even though I have a Rev C SSD MBA (i.e. 2009 although I bought it in 2010), I'd suggest that you go with the 13" from 2010, or better still, wait for the widely predicted upgrades to see what may be on offer then.

    While the 11" is a fantastic machine, the 13" gives you a combination of a decent sized screen and sheer portability which will be a huge help in college.

    I agree with jdechko re 4 GB RAM and regarding the external drive. Having said that, the cost of SSD drives inevitably will fall - probably considerably - over time, but probably not soon enough for you to be able to take advantage of this. Such a machine will easily last three to four to fie years, and Apple tends to enjoy a good resale value for whenever you wish to upgrade.

    Cheers and good luck
  8. halledise macrumors 65816

    May 7, 2009
    Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, QLD Australia
    13" MB Air with 4gb memory

    buy new next week - that way the latest and greatest should suffice for your stated use for the stated time

    I'd also consider the 13" MBPro as you can max out the memory as time goes by and also upgrade the HDD if needed - more capacity, SSD, etc
  9. FX4568 macrumors 6502

    Sep 6, 2010
    welcome to the dark side bud.

    First of all, I was a computer illiterate less than 6 months ago, but through browsing randomly the macrumors forums (not just the air) you will grab tons of information regarding such things.

    I think storage wise for video and pictures, you could upload them to iCloud when it releases.
    Also, according to your needs, a refurb 2010 (when 2011 comes out) basic macbook air could do the job. (999 one)

    Dont worry too much about the storage, and if you want extra safety, you can always buy a time machine for backups or a Airport Extreme with a Drive to back up your whole computer instead of just pictures and videos.

    Hope you stay with your choice, and have fun reading the forums ^^
  10. eckthroi thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2011
    Thanks- that is extremely helpful. I noticed you mentioned that 128GB Drive should be enough. Currently I am just a hair over that with my current computer. However I was wondering if this was due to added installations that comes with a Microsoft computer? (read on these forums that this is an issue) I only have 51GB in pictures. Is this normal to have 80GB in use if there is no music and less than 1GB of videos on the computer? Just wanting to know so that I know the right size of Internal drive to buy with the MBA. Also is it wise to buy a large internal drive- what if it breaks or something? how would I retrieve the pictures?
  11. eckthroi thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2011
    Thanks for the help,
    Actually I am 32 and I have been going to college part time for 4 years now. I can only afford it a little at a time as its 2500 per class. I have been taking all my notes by hand and am just so tired of my fingers cramping trying to keep up when dealing with lectures. This was the area I was concerned regarding the 11 inch. I wondered if the keyboard would be too much of a problem since it is smaller than the keyboard on the 13 inch.
  12. Kyllle macrumors 6502

    Apr 25, 2011
    The keyboard on both the 11 and 13 inch MBAs (and all other Macs) are full sized, so you don't need to worry about that.

    As far as the screen size, I would only go with 11 inch if you have another computer to use at home, or at least have an external display to use at home, as the 11 inch is hardly any bigger than they iPad, and most would not be comfortable with the 11 inch for long periods of time.
  13. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    eckthroi, it was my mistake assuming that you didn't have much stuff on your computer. Although, 80 GB does seem like a lot if that doesn't include photos, music or movies. It's really hard to tell with these things.

    If you're curious about what is taking up your free space, you can always look at WinDirStat, which will break down everything on your hard drive and give you a picture of what's taking up space.

    The issue with how big of a drive to buy is a bit tricky. The Air uses a special kind of Solid State Drive (SSD). The maximum in the 2010 Air is only 256GB, and it's only available on the 13". There is a 3rd party vendor that sells upgrades, which aren't too difficult to install, but they are very expensive compared to a standard hard drive. A 480GB drive is around $1400. We don't know what options there will be for storage in the new Air, but it's really a balance issue for you between budget and capacity. Going from 128GB to the 256GB, for instance, is a $300 upgrade. Meanwhile, a desktop external hard drive is only around $100 for 2TB (Amazon).

    There are a couple of ways to approach storage. You could just store the majority of your photos on the external drive and keep only a few albums on your Air. The downside to this is that backups become rather tricky. You could also go through your library and trash the bad pics (eyes closed, blurry, under/over exposed). You might be able to pare down the photo library considerably, while keeping all of the good photos.

    Backups are pretty much the key to ensuring that a hard drive failure doesn't result in a loss of your data. Out of everything on my computer, the pictures are definitely the one thing that aren't replaceable. I still have all of my CD's and DVD's that I could rip again. Most of my documents are either on Dropbox or they aren't too important.

    The keyboards are exactly the same size across all Macs, so you don't have to worry about the 11" being more cramped (although it may feel more cramped).
  14. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Seriously, while the 11" is lovely, (and I'll admit I'm tempted myself long term, as I travel a lot and weight is an issue; this was the main reason I bought my MBA in the first instance), the weight difference between it and the 13" is negligible. There is a noticeable difference in weight between the 13" MBA and the 15" MBP (which I had), but hardly any between the 11" and 13". That means, as a college student, you can play to the strengths of the 13" which is the better - i.e. larger, which means more comfortable - screen. Your eyes will thank you for this.

    Moving off the thread topic for a minute, and my apologies for derailing it, I just wish to say that I have been a college teacher for over a quarter of a century; in my experience older "mature" students were much more motivated, interested and focussed than some of the rather privileged 18 year olds whom I also taught. They asked far better questions, too, and were actually extremely interesting - and demanding, in the best sense of that word - to teach. You'll do very well; just remember to remind yourself of why you are there and believe in yourself. It is not always easy to juggle life's commitments, jobs, partners, sometimes children, mortgages, with the demands of college and I always hugely respected those who attempted further education under these challenging conditions.

    Cheers and good luck
  15. Variant macrumors 6502


    Oct 22, 2005
    To be honest, if you want to use the Mac as your sole computer, it sounds like a MacBook (Pro) would be best for you. If you get an Air, you'll need to worry about backing up your data to an external drive/iCloud/ect.

    MacBooks/MacBook Pros are very very portable (thinner than 95% of PC laptops) and will provide you with a lot more storage space.

    Don't get me wrong, the Air is a wonderful computer (I'll be buying one very soon), but they are best used as a companion computer to a desktop, unless you go all out with an external hardrive/iCloud.
  16. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    No offense, but that's pretty poor advice. Any data that's not backed up in more than one place is liable to be lost over time, mechanical drive or a solid state drive, Mac or PC, Air or Pro.

    If the data is valuable and/or irreplaceable, then it really ought to be backed up.

    And while it's true that the Pro is thin and light compared to the PC, based on the OP's use case, the only real advantage of the Pro is the cost.
  17. Variant macrumors 6502


    Oct 22, 2005
    I meant in the sense that not all of his data will be able to fit on the Air. Yes, everyone should back up their data, but sadly not everyone does that.

    Cost seems like a big factor for the OP. Paying for College is not easy task for 99% of the people out there. A 13" Air + External hard drive vs. a base MacBook or even Pro will be a substantial price difference.
  18. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    Fair enough. From the way I interpreted what you wrote, it sounded like you suggested he wouldn't have to back up data with a pro. :)
  19. halledise macrumors 65816

    May 7, 2009
    Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, QLD Australia
    that's what mummies and daddies (and grandies) are for :)

    13" Air 4gb memory = (US$1399 less with EDU discount) + external HD ($65)


    13" MBPro core i7 = US$1499 (less with EDU discount) + external HD ($65)

    base 13" MBPro core i5 - US$1199 + external HD ($65)

    they do have such things as student loans and part time jobs ;)
  20. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    The OP is a 32 year old with a wife and kids. Not so sure mummies and daddies and grandies are going to pitch in too much. And while student loans might be an option, I'm sure that a PT job isn't something he needs right now in addition to all of the other demands on his time. (Pesky kids ;))
  21. halledise macrumors 65816

    May 7, 2009
    Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, QLD Australia
    ah so - hadn't realised that.

    my advice would still be to bite the bullet and get the best one can afford

    option 1 would be my choice
  22. eckthroi thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2011
    I like how the Pro holds more- but in reality I want something small and lightweight to be able to comfortably take notes during class. I dont find using a back-up external drive too difficult as I will only bring it out once a month or so. I merely want to do classwork on it. I have heard that it is hard to use the 11 inch for papers. Why is that? is it really that difficult see? I like the idea that the 13 inch has more capabilities but it seems like it may take up too much room if having to sit on top of a school desk alongside papers,what do you think?
  23. eckthroi thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2011
    Thanks for that,
    In fact I have no help. I pay 5000.00 per semester for two classes which means my school costs more than my loans are for. I do work as well around 90+ hours a week so that my wife can stay home with our kids instead of having some stranger raise them. This purchase is the largest I have ever considered for a computer, however I am trying to make a wise purchase as opposed to just a convenient purchase. So in this instance I decided that for its purposes it was wise to go with the MBA instead of the MBP. Feel free to share with me any reasons you might think otherwise though,
  24. eckthroi thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2011
    Thanks I just ran the WinDirStat - it shows that I have 30GB listed as unknown- it doesnt break this down- any idea what this can be?
  25. Spankey macrumors 6502a

    Sep 30, 2007
    A 250GB hard drive is probably more than enough than you will need for school. While not in school, I am also contemplating a MBA to commute with to work, as my 15" MBP is just too heavy to lug around.

    On the MBP I have upgraded to a 250GB SSD with 50GB allocated to Windows. That being said, I have over 100GB left with typical apps installed. Office, iWork, iLife, Aperture, a few browsers and random smaller apps. I backed all my documents up to my iMac for storage and have access to all I need wirelessly through my shared folder on my iMac.

    I was initially thinking of going with another 250GB drive for a MBA. It almost seems silly. Take away the 50GB I have for Windows and I would still have about 30GB free for document storage if I subtract the 75GB differential between a 125GB (MBA) and 200GB (total OS X space). That is on the 13" MBA.

    So what am I waiting for and what would my suggestion be? I want to see what the refresh brings in terms of specs. I would love 4GB of RAM to become standard. Lion uses a bit more RAM and the extra memory can only help along with any improvement with CPU refresh. I would stick with the 125GB SSD and throw a few bucks into an external hard drive. Maybe a small laptop drive with an enclosure. You can always backup or move your data to the external storage device which you can even carry with you if necessary.

Share This Page