Please help me make a decision Air VS MB

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by candeo, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. candeo macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    I have decided to buy a 24" display and a laptop. I currently have a 1.83 15" macbook pro with 1.5GB.
    I am trying to decide between:

    Macbook Air Rev B 128 SSD
    Macbook 13" 2.50GHz 4GB Ram 250GB

    I really love the form factor on the Macbook Air. I don't really mind the smaller hard drive as I have a TC where I can just keep my large files.
    I am more concerned about the processing power as it will be my main machine.

    I don't do much photo editing and never play games. Most of the time I run 2 JAVA applications (live trading quotes), do some email and web browsing.
    It is a little bit slow now on my old Macbook Pro, but I think it should be ok on the Air, right?

    What I also do is editing some movies with Imovie 09. It is just home movie, most of the time from my Flip Video HD camcorder. The Macbook pro is really really slow on it now and even playback does not work well.
    Is it the case with the Macbook Air?

    I would really appreciate any kind of feedback on this.
  2. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    The best you can do with an MBA is 1.86GHz/2GB, and that's well over $500 more (with the SSD) than the 2.4GHz MB with 4GB, no matter how you configure the other parts.

    For the $2500 the MBA would cost, buy an MBP and use the extra screen resolution.

    Otherwise, buy the MacBook - the new form factor isn't all that much "bulkier" than the MBA. Having used a Rev A MBA and owning a current-gen MB, the MB is close to as portable as the MBA but vastly more usable.

    The MBA isn't all that different spec-wise from the MBP you think is too slow - except it's likely slower than the MBP in real-world use. MBAs are fantastic, but the new MBs exceed them in every way except a tiny bit of bulk and weight*. Just MHO. I think it'll do a much better job of home movie editing as well. The 4GB is a big help there and other places.

    *Edit: and the screen, as shown in a link below.
  3. Macjames macrumors 6502a

    Dec 12, 2007
    Yorkshire, England
  4. jeffg819 macrumors regular

    Dec 25, 2006
    I don't do much in the way of video editing so I really can't comment on that part of your question.

    i recently purchased an MBA 1.6 with the 120 gig HDD and have the MacBook you've profiled for sale (it's five months old). I also have the base model current MacPro.

    That being said, I use the MBA around the house 90% of the time. I find it plenty fast for email, web browsing, opening and working with Excel / Word files, and such. The portability of this computer is awesome and it is very comfortable to use almost anywhere. With the MacPro around, the MB seemed like too much machine for my situation.

    If you search around on this forum you'll find folks using their MBA as their main / only Mac (especially those with the SDD drive). The only real drawback I see to that is the lack of expansion options for the MBA. I'd love to have 4 gigs on my Air and a bigger hard drive, but again, I can always use the MP for intensive tasks.

    If you see your computer needs in terms of horsepower growing in the future, I'd probably recommend the MB. Otherwise, for the parts of your question I have experience with, the MBA would work great.
  5. candeo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    Thank you for your replies. I agree that maybe the macbook 13" is as portable as the macbook air.
    I am wondering if, especially for Imovie, the 4G of RAM makes a big difference, and if it is not compensated by the fact that with the Macbook Air I would buy the SSD, which is faster than the HDD on the Macbook.
    Also, what about battery life?
  6. mlemonds macrumors 6502a


    Apr 9, 2008
    Lexington, KY
    I had a Unibody MacBook 2.0 from the day it hit stores up to this week. I sold it and purchased the MBA. The computer is noticably slower, but not so slow that it is aggrivating, but the reason i got it is for the portability. The computer goes everywhere with me and the smaller size and weight savings are invaluable.

    I got the HDD version, so the SSD might not have the same speed issues that mine has.

    Another BIG plus to the MBA is the screen quality.
  7. bobbleheadbob macrumors 6502a


    Feb 6, 2007
    My personal opinion is that the MBA makes a great 2nd computer to supplement an MBP, iMac, etc. But I'd hate to have to rely on it all the time as my primary machine. I love mine and my MBP, too.

    Since you already have the MBP, I'd say go for the Air!
  8. candeo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    So no one is using Imovie 9 on a Macbok Air Rev B 186 with SSD?
  9. candeo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    Could you please explain why? I have read in many places that the MBA was in fact faster than the MBP because of the SSD. What is it that you feel like you can't do on a MBA?

    Thank you
  10. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    While I can't speak for that poster, I agree with his suggestion and my reasons are:

    1) The MBA does not have the capacity to store all of my pictures, music, and video. Due to the nature of iPhoto, and iTunes, splitting things and carrying around a subset is a real pain. The MBA does not have the capacity to store other files as well but they are more easuly split or remotely accessed.
    2) The MBA is limited to 2gb or RAM. I can expend efforts managing my work within 2gb and live with it but 4gb saves me that time and effort.
    3) The MBA's processor and Video is not as powerful as the high end MB's or MBP's so if you push these things with high CPU usage or have intense Video requirements the MBA can be more confining.
    4) While the MBA SSD is speedy at reads and thus speeds up many common activities, its actually slower ar sequencial writes than a good 7200rom HD so again if you are writing a lot of big files the MBA can be constraining.

    All that said, the MBA can be a fine primary machine for many people, and indeed could be a fine only machine for a lot of people. I've lived with the MBA's constraints for its extreme portability, but its performance and capacity limits would not allow me to use it as my only machine.
  11. candeo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    Thank you for our answer, Jimboutilier. The capacity issue is not really an issue for me as I have a time capsule. I keep my Itunes library on it, and I am fine not traveling with all my tunes (I use my Iphone to listen to music when I travel, not my computer), movies (2 or 3 movies is enough for me when I travel), or photos (I am fine with the photos I keep on my phone is well). And now, I can access my Time Capsule from anywhere with WIFI.

    About the performance, I am curious as to what you need 4GB for. I can understand that it might be useful for future applications, but right now, could you please give examples of something you can't do with the 2GB and SSD?
    You talk about large video encoding, what kind of files did you try encoding that you could not do on the MBA? I just want to know what my limitations will be before I make the purchase.
    Anyone has issues having multiple applications running at the same time on MBA rev B? Or switching between applications?
    That's the main issue I have right now with my old MBP: spinning wheels when I switch between apps.

    Thank you.
  12. scrapit macrumors newbie


    Jan 26, 2008
    air or macbook

    ok let me give you my take since i have both. i have version 1 of the air. after moving up from a 12" powerbookG4(a great machine) my air just didnt cut it in the real world. when im in the office i have the laptops connected to a 22: gateway monitor, this gives me 2 moniters to work with, i keep my calendar on one and do my everyday work on the big monitor. im a heavy user of filemaker, excel and quickbooks. average user of photoshop c3. the air works well for carrying around and connecting to the web wirelessly. never a problem. filemaker works ok until you need to transfer between machines wirelessly then large files just bog down. excel 2008 is a DOG on the air, use office 2004 instead. my files have alot of charts and the airs slow hard drive just cant handle them. i could go get a cup of coffee and and come back and the files would still be updated or saving. i even bought iworks hoping that would help but it didnt. the drive is just to slow(its a ipod drive, about the size of a quarter) photoshop works ok but i really dont do alot of heavy changes to pictures. the 80 gig drive is just barely big enough to hold what i need it to with about 9 gigs leftover. you just need to manage your space well. the air is a dream to carry, nothing beats it.

    now for the macbook, 4,2.4,250 it also has its weaknesses. it was easy to install the extra memory, 8 screws, im having a problem with the airport card. it doesnt want to connect to any of my wireless locations until i coax it using netgear n boxes in both of my location. it is heavier, you will notice it after having the air. the screen is just as bright as the airs but you get more reflection off of the macbook then i had with the air. the only real differences is the macbook has the drive inside of it(do you really need it, for the 2 or 3 times i needed a drive it was fine to just connect the external superdrive to the air. i didnt really miss it inside of the machine. at the office i connected a external moniter, keyboard and bluetooth mouse with no problem. i also had a powered 4 port usb for extra connection if i needed them. as for the costs theres only about 300 difference between the two.

    as for storage on the air i have about 5000 songs and about 4500 pictures, 10 short movies, all my excel and filemaker files for the last 8 years, office, filemake, illistrator, quickbooks, photoshop and about 20 other small programs and still have about 9 gigs leftover

    hope this helps
  13. jimboutilier macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2008
    4gb - I use a lot of applications (about 80) and at any given time I'm running 10-20 of them. That pushes a 2gb environment into swapping which slows things a lot with any storage option currently configured in a MBA (the HDD is painfully slow, and the write speed of the SSD is still not up to a 7200rpm HD). Using iFreemem I was able to live with 2gb but it cost me time and productivity monitoring and managing memory. People that use fewer applications at once or do not use a Virtual Machine could get by with 2gb without a noticeable performance impact, but it just depends what you are running when.

    120/128gb - I travel away from home a lot so accessing some types of files remotely works just fine, but music and video and the sizes of pictures I deal with remote access performance is not good enough. At home via Airport Extreme its just fine but I don't spend much time at home.

    Video encoding - ripping DVD's using Handbreak to iPhone format movies. Unusable on my RevA MBA. I imagine RevB would be a lot better but still nowhere near my MB or iMac

    Hope this helps
  14. drjsway macrumors 6502a

    Jan 8, 2009
    The MBA will be much faster than your old MBP.

    The 1.86ghz is about the same speed as a c2d 2.33ghz from the late 2006 MBPs. Add an SSD and it's much faster (I had a 7200rpm in my MBP).

    The screen is also much better than a MB. I would say only get a MB if you don't plan to watch movies on your screen (the difference in screen quality is very noticeable for videos) and if you don't need the savings in size/weight.
  15. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    I own the unibody MB. I have not used it or booted it once since I got my rev B MBA with 1.86 GHz CPU and SSD. The MBA absolutely flies compared to the MB. The SSD changes the whole game for speed. In addition, the MBA has double the L2 cache as the MB CPU.

    I would say the only reason NOT to buy the MBA would be if you MUST have all of the ports for expansion.

    Another thing is the 24" ACD makes the MBA seem like a desktop and is like a docking station with USB hub included and all cables needed already attached. So you can leave your MBA's charger in your laptop bag.

    I vote MBA all the way.
  16. dealfreak macrumors newbie

    Feb 24, 2009
    It sounds like you're more interested in a MBA so why not just get one. I was in your shoes about 1 week ago and so far I love my MBA 1.86/SSD. The form factor and performance is what has really sold me on the computer.
  17. zedsdead macrumors 68040

    Jun 20, 2007
    It sounds like you need an SSD, but why not just get the Macbook with the SSD? The extra RAM is also nice to have.

    I love my Air, but if it is your sole computer, I recommend the Macbook. The only downside is really the screen, although you only notice when they are side by side.
  18. candeo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    Okay, you guys convinced me. Macbook Air it is. I just don't see one reason not to go that way. And no, I don't need the extra ports.
    The battery is the last thing that bothers me, for long transatlantic flights when I need to watch a couple movies, but I guess I'll just buy a second one and travel with a screwdriver :)

    Thank you everyone for some great insight!
  19. Miker2k macrumors regular

    Feb 2, 2009
    Also know that my MBA seems to take as long to charge as it does to discharge. Not good if you want to use it alot on battery power.
  20. entatlrg macrumors 68040


    Mar 2, 2009
    Waterloo & Georgian Bay, Canada
    great choice, you will LOVE your MacBook Air

    I've been thinking about various options too. I've decided to use my MBA as my main computer along with the ACD display. My MBA has handled everything I've used it for so far flawlessly.

    Can't say enough about this 'big' thin and light notebook !
  21. mikey28 macrumors 6502

    Aug 6, 2008
    love, love the MBA.

    I cannot recommend it enough. The Rev B 128/SSD is amazing, and really a lot of fun to work with.

    I am so pleased, and have not had one moment of regret!!
  22. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008
    For long flights, buy the Mac Travel Charger. For something like $29 you get two different charging adapters for both types of airplane chargers.

    Congrats on your MBA, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
  23. candeo thread starter macrumors newbie

    Mar 7, 2009
    Thanks, Scottdale. Do those kind of adapters work on most airlines?
  24. nph macrumors 6502a

    Feb 9, 2005
    Where do we find that adapter that works with MBA for $29? Is it an Apple product?
  25. Scottsdale macrumors 601


    Sep 19, 2008

    Well, it's $49 at I bought mine at a Macmedia Store for $29 a few years ago. I would imagine one could find them on eBay as well.

    Here's a link to the product at

Share This Page