Recom. for which older MB Air to buy?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by davekro, Dec 14, 2015.

  1. davekro, Dec 14, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015

    davekro macrumors regular

    davekro

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    No. Calif.
    #1
    Hoping to find advice on what year used 13" MB Air to shop for. My use is mentioned below. My extremely minimal work needs would easily be covered by the early 2008, but I'd prefer to avoid the antiquity of the 2008 - 2010 Core 2 Duo as I just retired my main machine (late 2006 20" iMac) with that same processor and replaced it with a maxed 2012 Mini (i7 2.6, 512 SSD, 1 TB HDD) which I am loving!

    I'd love to get the cheapest MB Air possible, but I would like to future proof myself to some degree by considering 2011 to 2013. So I'm deciding on a cost vs. future proof balance. Not knowing for sure, but maybe I'd also use it for surfing on couch, bed or travel trips. I've studied the Wiki specs comparison chart.

    Considerations I'd like opinions on:

    1) Drive: 128Gb is plenty. (Is SSD more durable bumping, jolting (& dropping??) wise?
    2) RAM: Std 4GB is plenty for now but would holding out to find and pay a bit more for an 8GB Air help towards end of life when I try putting the last workable OS on this old MB Air? Seems Air's w/ 8gb on C'List with lower spec & cheaper i5 are likely rare. :eek:
    3) Is 2011 max RAM really 4gb??
    4) Processor: I prefer dual-core over Core 2 Duo for longer OS upgrade compatibility.
    Though i5 is more than plenty now, if i ran across an i7 for not much more, would that help w/ that last OS upgrade?
    5)USB 3.0: I like the 'idea' for future proofness, but only actual value would be resalibility, which I probably would not do.
    6) MagSafe: I read reviewers not liking how easily the MS 2 is to accidentally knock off compared to MS ! on 2011 and prior.

    I need a light laptop to use just a few times per month just to use and Excel spreadsheet (only 500kb) to record inventory of 30 different products on my office coffee service route. I carry a laptop with me to each coffee station and move around that area as I count items. I'm currently using my wife's 5+ lb Dell, but between the clumbsy weight AND frustration using Excel on an alien to me Win 8 OS, I'm willing to invest some to get a Mac OS and lightness for ease of use.

    Sorry for the looooong post.
    Thanks for any insights and opinions. This community is the best!
    Dave
     
  2. cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502

    cincygolfgrrl

    Joined:
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    #2
    I have a mid-2011 MBA 11", i5, 4GB RAM,n 128GB SSD, that would work perfectly for your needs. No, you can't have it. I do Excel on mine, as well as writing (BBEdit or Byword, depending), and Lightroom.

    My opinion is the 2011 MagSafe is way better than what came after — the point is to not pull your computer onto the floor if someone trips on the cord.

    Despite my personal preferences, any MBA would fit your needs.
     
  3. davekro, Dec 14, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015

    davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    No. Calif.
    #3
    How come I can't have your MB Air? :p
    Thanks for the info. If you were shopping for that era MB Air today, would you pick a similarly spec'd '11 over a '12 because of MagSafe vs MagSafe 2?
     
  4. bingeciren macrumors 6502a

    bingeciren

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2011
    #4
    I'm on my 3rd 11" Air. I agree with those that the MagSafe 2 was a backwards design and it continues to annoy me. But, considering many other important parameters, it would not be a deciding factor to choose a 2011 model over a newer one.

    The biggest improvement they made on Airs over the years was the speed of the blade SSD. Each year they had a faster SSD compared to the previous models and the "perceived" speed of the machine is directly proportional to the speed of the SSD. USB 3 over 2 is also a very important factor. In fact, USB 3 was my main reason to upgrade from the 2011 to the 2012 model, because the speed difference is huge.

    The least important parameter is the ram being 4GB vs 8GB. Although 8GB is definitely more desirable, I haven't seen any Air visibly slowing down running on 4GB of ram. Starting with Mavericks, OS X introduced compressed ram, which uses memory more efficiently compared to the previous versions of OS X. So, as long as you are running Mavericks and above, 4GB ram would be ok for you.

    For your minimum needs, I would go for a 2012 or newer Air with i5, 4GB ram and 128 SSD. From what I understand, you will be using this machine on the go, so I'd also consider an 11" rather than a 13" Air. Apple refurbished store is full of such machines.
     
  5. davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    No. Calif.
    #5
    bingeciren,
    I appreciate the info. The only reason I'd consider the 13" is that I input my data on a very large Excel spread sheet where I scroll back for the previous months usage when I am on location. I'm currently using my wife's 5.3 lb 15" Dell TS Inspiron. Screen size is great. Weight and Windows Excel diffs. (fonts down scale right on zoom) are big downsides.

    One period's worth of data fits my guess at 11.6" screen at 75% zoom (pretty small font)
    One period's worth of data fits my guess at 13.3" screen at 90% zoom (doable font)
    Actually, bing, you make me think to try using a simulated 11.6" screen size on the Dell to see if I could make it work. smaller size of MB Air and price would be nice.



    What is the actual viewed screen height and width of the MB Air 11" and 13".

    Thanks,
    Dave
     
  6. CoMoMacUser macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    #6
    I've got the MBA that came out in June 2012. My thoughts:

    Zero problems with mine.

    I got the 8 GB version. If I could do it over, I'd have gone with 4 GB and spent the money on a bigger SSD because that keeps filling up, mainly with my wife's photos. But if all you're doing is small stuff such as spreadsheets, 128 GB should be fine, as should 4 GB.

    Never had this problem. On a related note, the battery is still at ~80 percent health even after three-plus years of daily charging. Apple deserves kudos for sourcing high-quality batteries.

    Hope that helps. Good luck.
     
  7. infernoguy macrumors regular

    infernoguy

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    #7
    I'd echo everyone else's suggestions and go with a 2012 MBA. I just got one (4 GB/64 GB) for my GF from macsales.com (OWC) that has a few dents on the edge for $395 plus $6 second day air shipping. Works great.
     
  8. gertruded macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2007
    Location:
    Northwestern Illinois
    #8
    Note on the mi 2012 13" Macbook air

    My air, which I purchased new is still my main computer. After three years I see no reason to upgrade as I still get over 6 hours of battery useage, more than I need per day. The 2012 version is probably the sweet spot for the air line.

    I usually upgrade every three years, but not this time.
     
  9. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Singapore
    #9
    A 2013 MBA seems like the sweet spot, if only for the longer battery life and improved graphics that comes with haswell, plus wireless AC connectivity. Subsequent generations have seen only incremental improvements. 4 gb ram sounds like it might suffice for you, though you really might want to go with 256gb of storage.
     
  10. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Location:
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    #10
    I agree that the 2013 is the sweet spot. The battery life is substantially longer - approaching twice as long as the older ones. The 802.11ac wifi is also a big upgrade if you have a compatible router. You can access network drives over wifi at about 60MB/sec.

    I had a 2011 13" MBA and upgraded to a 2013 11" MBA. No comparision, I like the 2013 much better. You are correct that 4gb RAM was the max in 2011. They also sold a 2gb model back then, I would avoid those. I think USB 3.0 is also a nice addition (first available in 2012). Makes quite a difference if you are doing backups or copying big files.
     
  11. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #11
    2012 or younger, with 2013 being the best model to get as mentioned above.
     
  12. davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

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    No. Calif.
    #12
    If it has a 64 GB SSD then it's an 11" right? Am I right that 2012 13" came with 128 GB min. SSD?
     
  13. davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
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    #13
    Abazigal,
    Thanks for pointing out the AC Wi-Fi. I had no idea what that was, so I would have missed that! Though I prob. won't update my home router for a while because no other devices are AC, This is one of those future proofing things that I believe is important.

    Battery specs for 13" say: 2009 40-watt hr, 2010-11 50-watt hr, 2012 50-watt hr, 2013+ 54-watt hr.
    Is the 8% increase (50 to 54-watt hr) still a significant improvement? 8% more battery time does not seem significant, but the Wi-Fi AC is enough to choose the 2013 also w/54-watt hr.
     
  14. davekro, Dec 16, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2015

    davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2011
    Location:
    No. Calif.
    #14
    2013 Processor specs seem to indicate there is no longer a differentiation between 11" & 13".

    Both 11" & 13" come base w/ 1.3 GHz i5-4250U Dual Core. This seems a clock speed step down from the base 2012 13" w/ 1.8 GHz i5-3427U??? Should I hold out for 13" w/ the optional 1.7 GHz i7-4650U? Granted my spreadsheet and surfing won't likely see a benefit, but does the slower (than 2012) base processor make it significantly less valuable for resale? (My OCD is showing now , I know. ;))

    And as a principle, it kills me to play into Apples planned obsolesence plan of buying newer devices with lower specs than the previous year! :mad:
     
  15. infernoguy macrumors regular

    infernoguy

    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2011
    Location:
    Nashville, TN
    #15
    I think OWC bought a bunch of used MBA's from an unlisted educational SKU. The specs are a combination of 2011 and 2012 features (I.e. MagSafe 2 power adapter and USB 2.0 ports).

    It was still a great deal for my GF who could care less about spec differences.
     
  16. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #16
    I think you're missing the point here. In 2013 they changed to a new CPU that uses much less power. That resulted in a big increase in runtime, it's not the battery watt-hours.
     
  17. davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

    Joined:
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    No. Calif.
    #17
    So dropping the i5 speed from 1.8 GHz (2012) to 1.3 GHz was to use less power. Would there be a noticeable speed difference using one or two 500 kb Excel spread sheets at once or surfing Firefox w/ 10+ tabs open?
     
  18. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #18
    The newer models use less power and are at least as fast as the old ones. You can look at geekbench scores if you want to compare. I had a 2011 i5 13" MBA. It would run for about 5 hours on a charge. Switched to a 2013 i7 11" MBA. This machine runs around 10 hours and the CPU is about 30% faster. The 2013 13" MBA has an even longer run time (I think it has a bigger battery).

    Now before I got an Air I had a 2008 Core2Duo 2.4ghz 15" MBP. The CPU in my 2011 i5 MBA was almost twice as fast as that. Don't underestimate the MBA, it is a very powerful computer in a small package. I run software like Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, VectorWorks, PhotoShop, FileMaker Pro. Excel Spreadsheets and web browsers should be no problem. I don't use Firefox though, and would very rarely have 10 tabs open. That might benefit from 8gb RAM.

    The 2013 MBA also has a much faster SSD, probably 2x the speed of the earlier years. But you need to get the larger capacities - either 256GB or 512GB - to get the best performance. I get about 700MB/sec write and over 700MB/sec read on my 2013 512GB SSD. IIRC, the 128GB SSD is more like 300MB/sec write and 700MB/sec read (still not too shabby). Anyway, with a fast disk like this, you probably won't even be aware that swapping is taking place.
     
  19. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

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    Singapore
    #19
    With haswell, you are looking at about double the battery life. Which I feel is the most significant improvement.
     
  20. cincygolfgrrl macrumors 6502

    cincygolfgrrl

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    #20
    MagSafe would not be a deciding factor when considering an MBA.
     
  21. asoksevil macrumors 6502

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    Taipei, Taiwan
    #21
    I think the 2013 is the best bang of the buck. The PCI-e SSD and the longer battery life (on pair with the current models) makes it highly attractive.
     
  22. davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

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    #22
    With real world (as opposed to theoretical 450/1300 Mbps) Wi-Fi speeds: N ≈ 240 Mbps, AC ≈ 720 Mbps
    AC 3 x estimate is still true, just much lower than theoretical speeds.
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2014/12/30/802-11ac-vs-802-11n-wifi-whats-the-difference/
    For the home, I see the real world advantage of AC is in signal strength at 20 meters thru walls.

    With my home band width speed of +/- 60 Mbps, I see it would be silly to go out and buy a new AC Router.
    I would not use this MB Air outside my home very often for Wi-Fi, and then only for surfing not large data transfers.
    Do most commercial Wi-Fi hot spots have AC these days?
    If so, would a Wi-Fi 'N' laptop still be 1/3 slower on a heavily used AC Wi-Fi hot spot than an AC equipped laptop?
    If I were streaming a movie over a busy AC Wi-Fi hot spot, would the AC vs. N laptop be 1/3 faster (and 1/3 less likely to pausing?
     
  23. Boyd01 macrumors 68040

    Boyd01

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    #23
    I often copy large files between machines on my home LAN and the ac wifi is a big advantage for that. It's no advantage for the internet because I'm in a somewhat remote location and can only get Verizon DSL that rarely gives me better than 1mbit/sec.

    I also use a Mini as an iTunes server. The ac wifi shows a lot less latency accessing that library from my 2013 MBA. I know that the speed isn't actually needed for streaming, but movies open much faster and "scrub" just like they were local files. I just got an iPhone 6s Plus which also has ac wifi. When I use the videos app on the phone to access the library on the Mini, the difference from my old iPhone 5s is very noticeable. It was very slow browsing the video library from the 5s, the cover art took awhile to load. This all happens very quickly on the new phone.

    None of this stuff is a "must have", but it makes for a nicer user experience. :)
     
  24. rihia macrumors newbie

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    Brisbane, Australia
    #24
    2013 should be what you should be looking at... Less cycles on the battery and also less strain on the battery due to the low power processor.

    For a portability perspective this is a huge advantage over buying a 2012.

    4gb ram should be enough, and it uses the ssd as "backup ram"

    The i5 processors from 2012 is nearly as powerful as the latest so don't worry about future OS X
     
  25. davekro thread starter macrumors regular

    davekro

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    No. Calif.
    #25
    I got a 2013 i5 4GB, 128 GB SSD running Yosemite 10.10.5. Good news is that the 1st owner (not guy I bought it from) said he had the battery replaced by Apple. Indeed battery cycle read 2! It changed to 3 when I charged it later that same day.

    Bad news is that it suffers from what many that have upgraded to Yosemite have found. Battery discharge rate has doubled for the same things they were doing on Mavericks. For me I just watched the % drop as I looked at it with nothing being used, just the screen powered. Weird.

    I found a year long thread of many with this issue, but the guru's on that thread refuse to correlate it with Yosemite.
    https://discussions.apple.com/message/29512238#29512238

    From CoconutBattery: battery Mfgr date 8/1/15 After charge to 100%: Full Cap = 7474 mAh, Remaining = 7474 mAh, Design Cap = 7150 mAh,

    After unplugging 97.9%, battery usage 4.4 watts



    After unplugging... System says 100%, 14:01 remaining, no apps using signif. energy

    My EtreCheck report for the record is in above link.
     

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