New Laptop for College Advice

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by SameerT123, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. SameerT123 macrumors newbie

    Jul 13, 2015
    Hey MacRumors Forum,

    First time apple buyer here. I held out with PC for the longest time, but I think the time has finally come for the switch. I'm thinking about buying the 13" MacBook Air for college.

    I will use this laptop for internet browsing, research, spotify/pandora, answering emails, word processing, etc. I would like the laptop to last me at least till the end of college 4ish years. I will not be doing any video/photo processing, gaming, etc.

    Would you recommend the 4GB ram or the 8GB ram, as I am torn between the two.

    Nervous Buyer
  2. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    None of the things you listed are particularly intensive in terms of memory or SSD storage space.

    I think if you bought a base model Air you would be very happy with it.

    And if you are nervous, please know that the market for used Apple products is generally pretty active, unlike the market for used PCs. So if you decide in a couple years that you want a different laptop instead, you should be able to sell whatever you have and "only" take a loss of a few hundred dollars (if that), instead of the entire value of the laptop.
  3. bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    I would actually go out and say that either one would work.

    I've been on my mid-2011 MBA for the past 4 years, and have not had a single problem with it, and that is including upgrading from Lion all the way to Yosemite. I picked up the 4GB model at the time, and it is actually faster now than it was with Lion, showing how good at memory management OS X is. Oh, and this is me coming from the PC and Linux world, where I was used to having 8 to 16GB of RAM.

    You can definitely get away with the 4GB model, however, it will come down to how much disk space you want. With Linux, I had a good 2 - 3TB of space, which I barely used 15% of that, and that was including compiling everything I needed from source. After pairing down all that I really needed, including iTunes, with the 256GB that the 2011 MBA came with, I'm barely at 40% utilization, with the bulk of that being my iTunes library and apps.

    So I'd say to think about how much space you need, then compare the models based on that. if you're over 60 - 70% of 256GB, you'll want the 512GB model (which I believe may be BTO). But memory won't be the constraint here, as OS X makes a hell of a lot better use and management of it than Windows or Linux.

    EDIT: One More Thing[tm]. If battery life isn't an issue, you could also consider the MacBook. You'd lose 2 hours of battery life compared to the MBA, but the 512GB model isn't BTO, both models come with 8GB standard, and Retina (numbers based in comparison to the 13" MBA). Also, some of the Back to School offers should be coming up soon, so if you're looking to pull the trigger soon, you may want to wait to see what Apple has to offer.

  4. darknite38 macrumors regular

    Nov 18, 2010
    I would get 8GB of ram for sure. If you want to extend it into the 3rd and 4th year it will be absolutely necessary. Remember it only costs an extra 100 now but if you divide the cost by over 4 years it ends up being an extra 25 a year.

    Please buy 8GB of ram, there also plenty of other posts on the forum that explain why this is the best choice.
  5. SameerT123 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jul 13, 2015

    Why is that necessary? Just curious (remember totally new to MAC)
  6. bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    I'd like to know as well, and I've come from a Windows and Linux world where I had 16GB of ram in my towers. The memory management in OS X is leaps and bounds better than windows, while Linux buffers and caches more. Either way, 4GB has been more than plenty, especially for how OS X manages it with the various apps run, let alone what the OP's requirements are.

    If for what he is doing 4GB is enough, why would he need 8GB? I'm doing the exact same thing as he is and 4GB is plenty on my 4 year old MBA.

  7. 556fmjoe macrumors 65816


    Apr 19, 2014
    It will absolutely not be necessary for any of his uses and there are plenty of posts explaining why, especially this one:
  8. Mainsail macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2010
    I bought a base Macbook Air for my daughter when she started college 2 years ago. It's been a great laptop and is still going issues and no doubt it will last 4 years of college. She is a Government major, so she mainly uses office applications for papers and presentations. Honestly, for most college students, I think the base MBA is more than sufficient.

    Also, be sure to check-out deals at Best Buy and other retail outlets. Last year, I purchased another new base 13 in MBA for $750, which was on sale for $900 less a $150 student discount. I thought it was a great deal.
  9. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    If you are looking at upgrading an Air, definitely consider the 12" Macbook. As portable as the 11" Air, with a better screen than any model Air, and equipped a lot better at the base models, making it very price competitive. Still gets 9-10 hours of battery for many uses.
  10. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    Don't worry, 4GB is fine.

    The idea that you always need to max out your RAM is a holdover from the 90s, when computers were always running out and it was the go-to upgrade.
  11. JoePa2624 macrumors regular


    Oct 12, 2014
    I'm sure that 4gb of RAM will be enough given your needs, but I would really recommend going with 8 if you can swing it. My wife's MBPr runs great with only 4gb, but my MBPr ran noticeably better with 8gb. I use my computers the exact same as you do, and do no editing or programming.

    It's only $100, and if you can find the extra cash I think it'd be money well spent. If not, you'll enjoy 4gb just fine.
  12. z31fanatic macrumors 6502a


    Mar 7, 2015
    Mukilteo, WA USA
    I too say go with 8GB of RAM. 4 years is a long time and these operating systems and programs keep getting hungrier and hungrier. Plus it's only $100 more which makes it somewhat reasonable compared to the ridiculous prices for storage upgrades.
  13. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    It's not $100 though. You can often find good deals on the base model MBAs but no deals on the upgraded ones, so the cost of that extra 4GB is usually $200 or more.

    Also, I don't know that software these days does require more and more memory. Snow Leopard and Mavericks both required less than previous versions of OS X. The published requirement for OS X has been 2GB for several years now.
  14. 0007776 Suspended


    Jul 11, 2006
    For your stated uses 4GB of RAM should be enough for 3 or 4 years. by the end you might be starting to see some slowdown with the newest software or if your usage changes, but I wouldn't worry too much about it.
  15. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    There is no such thing as too much RAM. I mean other than more than what can physically be put in a machine and addressed by the OS and hardware, there is no such thing as too much. The only reason I got a MacBook Air last year with just 4GB is I got it at Best Buy so I could do no-interest payments for a year. 4GB is seriously fine for right now, but you never know what's going to happen in four years. I have gotten to be a tab whore, so sometimes that can eat up your memory very quickly. Thankfully Apple works at making OS X more efficient, but you can't upgrade the RAM later, so stick it in there if you can.

    I got mine almost at the end of my first quarter of my return to college. I had a PC laptop, but it was honestly just too heavy to carry around that much. Before when I got it I used it for stringing work, which didn't require quite the long walks. Those two pounds make a difference.

    I would also recommend an iPad if you don't have one. You can save some money on textbooks if you don't mind reading them through iBooks or the Kindle app. I've bought most of mine that way because they end up being cheaper and I can always have them on me. There are some benefits to the actual books since the ebooks aren't really designed the best for quick page flips, but you just have to choose cost or digital.
  16. makinao macrumors regular

    Dec 27, 2009
    1. Get the most ram you can afford. This will enable you to update to future versions of OS X. My daughter just graduated from college with a 2011 MBP 13" that came with 4gb. She updated to Yosemite and it still runs OK. But we're not sure if El Capitan or anything further down the line will run as smooth.

    2. If you can't afford a brand new MBA with 8gb, get an Apple certified Refurb. The savings from refurbs can go to higher specs. Many people here swear by them.
  17. motrek macrumors 68020

    Sep 14, 2012
    Sure it will. The requirement for El Capitan is 2GB, just as it has been since 2011.

    So your daughter's computer still has TWICE as much memory as required.

    There's really no reason to buy more unless you know that you will have a specific use for it (virtual machines, etc.).
  18. joeblow7777 macrumors 603

    Sep 7, 2010
    Actually, one area in which OSs strive to improve is efficiency. El Capitan and even Windows 10 can run on just 2 GB of RAM. Nonetheless, it is better to have the extra RAM and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
  19. 0928001 Suspended

    Sep 15, 2012
    Bought the 13" MacBook Air (baseline w/ 4GB RAM) for the same reason in 2012. It's still an amazing computer. Disregard all these people trying to get you to spend more.
  20. akimoriRyuuji macrumors regular


    Jun 28, 2015
    Or instead of wasting money on RAM, he upgrades his storage which will be more practical and applicable.
    Get the MBA with 4GB RAM/256GB SSD.
  21. jamesjingyi macrumors 6502a


    Dec 20, 2011
    I got my 2012 Air 11" with 4GB base and 128GB upgraded SSD (from 64GB). I personally haven't run into many places where I have needed more than the 4GB RAM apart from certain games and virtual machines needing more than that. In fact the place where I had the most problems was in Bootcamp with Windows constantly saying it had run out of RAM. That's the reason why I got 16GB in my Pro 15". I think I would have survived with 4GB for a few more years, the only thing that bugged me was the relatively short battery life compared to the models now (battery cycle count was ~500 with 80% remaining).

    Personally if I was buying a light laptop now, I would go for the 12" MB. It has 8GB RAM base and a 256GB HDD. The screen is so much nicer and I can see the MBA being phased out in a few years, making the MB the replacement. The design will not fade as fast on that.
  22. akimoriRyuuji macrumors regular


    Jun 28, 2015
    I don't think so. The new MB is crap, in my opinion. Too expensive. Too under-powered. Worse Battery life.
    No thanks.

    The MBA is much better than the MB with the exception of no retina display. That's about it.
  23. TheGenerous macrumors 6502a


    Nov 14, 2010
    I'm an Austronaut
    Regardless of your choice between Mac or Windows, get the most RAM you can afford and a SSD (solid state drive) hard disk.

    Plenty of RAM will let you open several programs with out lags. That is convenient when writing and having other window with websites or software for your classes, and listening to music. The SSD is a faster hard disk with no movable parts, so if your computer falls it may still continue working.

    If you could buy a lock it will be great too. Hope you get what you need!
  24. jamesjingyi macrumors 6502a


    Dec 20, 2011
    I get what you mean, it compromises on ports and other areas and I thought I would hate it, but when I visited the Apple Store, I was so taken aback; it's such a beautiful item and looks so much like the future. I wasn't sure about the keyboard but I could definitely see myself using it as my iPad/MBA 11" replacement. I wouldn't however use it as my sole computing device. I would consider it with my 15" Pro but not alone, whereas my 11" was perfectly useable as my main computer (even pumping Guild Wars 2 at one point :p).

    The thing I loved about the MacBook was it just was so stylish and the screen and trackpad were just awesome. It made me stop and think for a few days about getting it instead of my 15" Pro, but GTA V made me get the Pro :p.

    Anyway, I don't think you can go wrong with an Air, they are awesome machines, look great and have excellent performance and battery life for the price. The keyboard is also out of this world for such thin laptops.
  25. bluespark macrumors 65816

    Jul 11, 2009
    New York
    To the OP, the 13" MacBook Air is probably the perfect choice for college, especially given the typical uses you described. Apple has refined the MBA over many years and the result is best-of-class as an all-around computer. Also, the light weight and slim form factor are invaluable for those who carry the computer with them frequently, as typically is the case with students. You won't regret buying it.

    On the memory issue, those saying 4 GB is sufficient are correct for the anticipated usage. Where you may want to think about jumping up to 8 GB is if doing so would satisfy concerns about the future. If you're worried about software changing (e.g., a future version of Mac OS X requiring more memory), you probably don't need to. After operating system software grew in size and requirements with nearly every release during the 90's and shortly thereafter, that is no longer the case overall. For several years now, the focus has been on optimizing software. Apple has been a trendsetter in that regard. The OS in 2020 is likely to be about the same size as the one today, and it runs beautifully on much less than 4 GB.

    On the other hand, your own needs could change over four years. If you need to run Windows software, for example, more memory helps. This is especially true if you use Virtual PC or Parallels (etc.) to do so. Things like photo and video editing software also use lots of memory, so you might want more if you think you'll be getting into that sort of thing pretty extensively.

    Barring that, 4 GB should be plenty. Enjoy.

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