Replacing a non-retina MacBook for a MBA

Rodrigo Yoshida

macrumors member
Original poster
Jan 26, 2013
50
5
Brazil
I have a MacBook Pro i5 mid 2012, the last non-retina model, I upgraded it to 8gb ram and a 120gb Samsung 840 evo SSD and the performance is awesome, but someone offered me to trade his MacBook Air 13 mid 2013 for my MBP.

The MBA has a better battery, slightly higher resolution screen, it's much lighter and thinner and it has Haswell processor already, but there is just one thing that concerns me, it has only 4gb of ram and I know it can't be upgraded.

I am a web developer and use mostly Photoshop, Coda, MAMP and other normal apps like Chrome, Skype, Thunderbird, Spotify. I remember when I had 4gb ram on my MBP and sometimes it slowed down and the memory pressure went yellow, but I had a normal hard drive, so the virtual memory is much slower in that case.

Is it worth trading mine for the MBA? Would the 4gb ram be a problem in the future or the pci-e ssd works well when it needs to be used as virtual memory?

Thanks!
 

otacon

macrumors member
Aug 25, 2014
60
0
I wouldn't trade. The 4gb is a deal breaker for me.

Though, out of curiosity, check the Geekbench numbers of the processors to see how they compare.

You have thunderbolt on your MBP right? I'd keep it.
 

capathy21

macrumors 65816
Jun 16, 2014
1,365
534
Houston, Texas
I have a MacBook Pro i5 mid 2012, the last non-retina model, I upgraded it to 8gb ram and a 120gb Samsung 840 evo SSD and the performance is awesome, but someone offered me to trade his MacBook Air 13 mid 2013 for my MBP.

The MBA has a better battery, slightly higher resolution screen, it's much lighter and thinner and it has Haswell processor already, but there is just one thing that concerns me, it has only 4gb of ram and I know it can't be upgraded.

I am a web developer and use mostly Photoshop, Coda, MAMP and other normal apps like Chrome, Skype, Thunderbird, Spotify. I remember when I had 4gb ram on my MBP and sometimes it slowed down and the memory pressure went yellow, but I had a normal hard drive, so the virtual memory is much slower in that case.

Is it worth trading mine for the MBA? Would the 4gb ram be a problem in the future or the pci-e ssd works well when it needs to be used as virtual memory?

Thanks!
Tough call. Although the display of the Air has a slightly higher resolution, it's color reproduction is not as good as the non retina MBP. The battery life and weight/thickness should be your deciding factor. You would probably be fine with the 4GB model. However, if your usage becomes any more resource intensive, the 4GB may be pushing it.

Even with that, I would go with the Air for double the battery life at half the weight. Having PCIe SSD, the Air will be faster for most tasks even with less ram.
 

shaunp

macrumors 68000
Nov 5, 2010
1,736
1,309
If 4GB wasn't enough on the old machine, then it won't be enough on the new one. I'd keep the MBP as you can upgrade it even further to 16GB if you need to and replace the SSD with a 1TB model if you need to.

If CPU performance is limiting you, then a faster machine with less RAM isn't going to help, you would be better off selling the MBP and getting a rMBP with 16GB RAM and a decent sized SSD. Yes it's more expensive, but there's no substitute for getting the right tools for the job as compromises always end up being more expensive in the long-run.

It also says a lot about the Air if he's willing to swap it for an older machine.
 

jmoore5196

macrumors 6502a
May 19, 2009
739
252
Midwest US
As others have noted, 4GB is a deal-breaker. Much as I love the MBA, you're better off sticking with your MBP. I sold my '11 15" to buy a '13 13", and really regret it ... the MBA being somewhere between the two in terms of performance, I'd stick with your Pro for the time being.
 

Meister

Suspended
Oct 10, 2013
5,455
4,265
I think both of those machines would work fine. ram is irrelevant.

If you are happy with your mbp then keep it. Why change a winning team ;)
 

Rodrigo Yoshida

macrumors member
Original poster
Jan 26, 2013
50
5
Brazil
Though, out of curiosity, check the Geekbench numbers of the processors to see how they compare.
I checked the Geekbench numbers on EveryMac and mine is a little faster, I believe it's because MBA processor is low voltage, made for ultrabooks, but I don't think anyone would notice the speed difference in this case.

----------

Although the display of the Air has a slightly higher resolution, it's color reproduction is not as good as the non retina MBP.
I didn't know about that, I thought they had the same screen type. In my case image quality is not a huge factor since I use an external IPS monitor for hard work.

----------

If 4GB wasn't enough on the old machine, then it won't be enough on the new one.
4gb was not enough on the old machine because of the regular HD, but with a pci-e ssd maybe virtual memory is not an issue anymore.

----------

I think both of those machines would work fine. ram is irrelevant.

If you are happy with your mbp then keep it. Why change a winning team ;)
I am really happy with mine, but the AIR longer battery life and it's thickness really made me think about trading it. I am only afraid that when it needs to use virtual memory it starts to slow down too much, even with pci-e ssd. I can't do a real life test before trading it to check if it suits my needs.
 

shenan1982

macrumors 68040
Nov 23, 2011
3,641
80
I think both of those machines would work fine. ram is irrelevant.
I've never heard this before. Explain please.

Install a virtual machine (VMware or Parallels), load windows and watch as you error out on memory with 4GB (assuming you dedicate 2-3 GB to Windows 7, then you'll realize that RAM is absolutely relevant.
 

Rodrigo Yoshida

macrumors member
Original poster
Jan 26, 2013
50
5
Brazil
I've never heard this before. Explain please.

Install a virtual machine (VMware or Parallels), load windows and watch as you error out on memory with 4GB (assuming you dedicate 2-3 GB to Windows 7, then you'll realize that RAM is absolutely relevant.
I believe he means ram is irrelevant in my case.
 

shenan1982

macrumors 68040
Nov 23, 2011
3,641
80
I believe he means ram is irrelevant in my case.
As cheap as RAM is, 8 gb should be the baseline\entry point for a laptop. This is 2014, why they are still making 4gb ram computers is a bit of a joke, especially given it can't be upgraded.
 

Meister

Suspended
Oct 10, 2013
5,455
4,265
As cheap as RAM is, 8 gb should be the baseline\entry point for a laptop. This is 2014, why they are still making 4gb ram computers is a bit of a joke, especially given it can't be upgraded.
not this again ...

Please post activity monitor screenshots of a current 4gb macbook that maxes out ram with the OPs usage.
 

shenan1982

macrumors 68040
Nov 23, 2011
3,641
80
not this again ...

Please post activity monitor screenshots of a current 4gb macbook that maxes out ram with the OPs usage.
The OP asked about future proofing. There's zero logic to saying "4GB is fine" when it comes to future proofing.

Yeah, "not this again" because people have been bitching about everyone else having gone to 8GB as the norm 5 years ago, all the while Apple is sticking with 4GB. I'd say if it's a hot topic then it's a relevant topic.... especially with someone who is future proofing.
 

Meister

Suspended
Oct 10, 2013
5,455
4,265
The OP asked about future proofing. There's zero logic to saying "4GB is fine" when it comes to future proofing.

Yeah, "not this again" because people have been bitching about everyone else having gone to 8GB as the norm 5 years ago, all the while Apple is sticking with 4GB. I'd say if it's a hot topic then it's a relevant topic.... especially with someone who is future proofing.
then why not max out everything for "future proofing"?
Or wait till finally the future arrives.
 

Rodrigo Yoshida

macrumors member
Original poster
Jan 26, 2013
50
5
Brazil
I went to a local store today to test the MacBook Air. Since I cannot do a real life test I just opened every app available on the "Applications" folder and after that I checked the memory pressure on the Activity Monitor.

That MacBook Air had all the apps that usually comes with a new Mac, including iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, etc, I also opened about 10 tabs on Safari and played some songs on iTunes. Surprisingly the memory pressure was still green and the swap was zero bytes. I also noticed that it was considerably faster than my MacBook Pro, even with the upgrades. I know mine has more apps and other stuff installed but I was still impressed, I don't think mine would be as fast as that even after a clean OS install.

I don't know if it's just my impression, but after that test I am almost sure I will go for the MBA.
 

shenan1982

macrumors 68040
Nov 23, 2011
3,641
80
then why not max out everything for "future proofing"?
Or wait till finally the future arrives.
The future is here. And now again. And again.

In all seriousness, there's a point where you're paying for top specs and it's not worth it because you're paying a premium for the upper echelon of the technological capability. On the flip side, if you go the cheapest, you're not future proofing, but not even today-proofing (if anyone uses that I just coined the term). It's one thing to max it out, it's another thing to go with specs that were dated a year ago. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot.
 

capathy21

macrumors 65816
Jun 16, 2014
1,365
534
Houston, Texas
I went to a local store today to test the MacBook Air. Since I cannot do a real life test I just opened every app available on the "Applications" folder and after that I checked the memory pressure on the Activity Monitor.

That MacBook Air had all the apps that usually comes with a new Mac, including iPhoto, iMovie, Pages, Numbers, etc, I also opened about 10 tabs on Safari and played some songs on iTunes. Surprisingly the memory pressure was still green and the swap was zero bytes. I also noticed that it was considerably faster than my MacBook Pro, even with the upgrades. I know mine has more apps and other stuff installed but I was still impressed, I don't think mine would be as fast as that even after a clean OS install.

I don't know if it's just my impression, but after that test I am almost sure I will go for the MBA.
We told you it would be faster and handle your work without breaking a sweat:cool:

Ram is only one factor. The PCIe SSD makes all the difference in the world.
 

JHUFrank

macrumors 6502a
Apr 16, 2010
645
54
Absolutely love my old MBA. The only area where 4gigs of RAM was an issue was with VMs. But if you aren't going to run VMs, go for it. Its an awesome machine.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
4GB RAM is enough for your needs. I'm doing programming in Java, visual C++ and C#.net (bootcamp), etc. and light gaming (Skyrim, Minecraft, LoL). Don't worry about 'future-proofing' your machine. 4GB is enough for *your* needs, so why get 8GB RAM if you don't need it?

I'm not convinced 8GB is the standard for everyone. The standard baseline RAM depends on your workload. Thus, the distinction between MBA and rMBP with a base RAM of 8GB. I guess, only 'pros' need 8GB RAM is what Apple is saying. Most people don't need 8GB RAM, future proofing or not. Even with my needs, I have the baseline MBA and it surpassed my expectations.

Don't speak for yourself, speak on the OPs behalf. Does he need that much RAM? Certainly not, according to my experience. Don't worry about what's going to come out, what will be. Get what you're happy with now and enjoy it. That's why so many people throw away their iPhones when a new one comes out. Sickening. I could barely afford my MBA. Anyways, that's my .02
 

capathy21

macrumors 65816
Jun 16, 2014
1,365
534
Houston, Texas
4GB RAM is enough for your needs. I'm doing programming in Java, visual C++ and C#.net (bootcamp), etc. and light gaming (Skyrim, Minecraft, LoL). Don't worry about 'future-proofing' your machine. 4GB is enough for *your* needs, so why get 8GB RAM if you don't need it?

I'm not convinced 8GB is the standard for everyone. The standard baseline RAM depends on your workload. Thus, the distinction between MBA and rMBP with a base RAM of 8GB. I guess, only 'pros' need 8GB RAM is what Apple is saying. Most people don't need 8GB RAM, future proofing or not. Even with my needs, I have the baseline MBA and it surpassed my expectations.

Don't speak for yourself, speak on the OPs behalf. Does he need that much RAM? Certainly not, according to my experience. Don't worry about what's going to come out, what will be. Get what you're happy with now and enjoy it. That's why so many people throw away their iPhones when a new one comes out. Sickening. I could barely afford my MBA. Anyways, that's my .02
Brilliantly stated if I do say so myself:) There are those that will INSIST that tasks that can be accomplished on a 1st gen iPad magically REQUIRE a MINIMUM of 8GB of ram if performed on a MacBook. I am convinced Apple pays them under the table to talk people into wasting money on unnecessary upgrades:cool:
 

Brian Y

macrumors 68040
Oct 21, 2012
3,506
600
4GB RAM is enough for your needs. I'm doing programming in Java, visual C++ and C#.net (bootcamp), etc. and light gaming (Skyrim, Minecraft, LoL). Don't worry about 'future-proofing' your machine. 4GB is enough for *your* needs, so why get 8GB RAM if you don't need it?

I'm not convinced 8GB is the standard for everyone. The standard baseline RAM depends on your workload. Thus, the distinction between MBA and rMBP with a base RAM of 8GB. I guess, only 'pros' need 8GB RAM is what Apple is saying. Most people don't need 8GB RAM, future proofing or not. Even with my needs, I have the baseline MBA and it surpassed my expectations.

Don't speak for yourself, speak on the OPs behalf. Does he need that much RAM? Certainly not, according to my experience. Don't worry about what's going to come out, what will be. Get what you're happy with now and enjoy it. That's why so many people throw away their iPhones when a new one comes out. Sickening. I could barely afford my MBA. Anyways, that's my .02
That really depends on how he works. And remember the onboard graphics will steal its share of the RAM too.

With Photoshop, if you have a large canvas with lots of layers, photoshop will eat right into that 4GB of RAM pretty quickly. If you're anything like most web developers, you'll probably have Photoshop + your server + mysql + about 5 web browsers open. That, plus OS X, will start to slow things down.

And "not future proofing" is a ridiculous thing to say. What if, next week, he takes on a job which needs him to test compatibility in several IE versions. So he fires up a VM, and realises that, with 4GB of RAM, performance is dreadful.

As has been said on here though - the biggest issue I'd have with the MBA is the colour reproduction. The pro's screen is far superior in this regard, which for designing, is probably more important than arguing over a few gigs of ram.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
That really depends on how he works. And remember the onboard graphics will steal its share of the RAM too.

With Photoshop, if you have a large canvas with lots of layers, photoshop will eat right into that 4GB of RAM pretty quickly. If you're anything like most web developers, you'll probably have Photoshop + your server + mysql + about 5 web browsers open. That, plus OS X, will start to slow things down.

And "not future proofing" is a ridiculous thing to say. What if, next week, he takes on a job which needs him to test compatibility in several IE versions. So he fires up a VM, and realises that, with 4GB of RAM, performance is dreadful.

As has been said on here though - the biggest issue I'd have with the MBA is the colour reproduction. The pro's screen is far superior in this regard, which for designing, is probably more important than arguing over a few gigs of ram.
I don't know much about Photoshop, but anyways, then just close all the apps you don't need open? It's not that hard to do. Believe it or not, but the ability to have multiple open apps at a time is a luxury, not a need. He wants to know what he needs. It may or may not be worth it. And anyways, I highly doubt that with features like swap and memory compression, that he'll have problems with memory usage.

Not future proofing... Sigh. Waste your money on something that you don't need, why don't you? He's talking about swapping out, so that's not necessarily an option and doesn't make sense. He's not going to be able to future proof when he's being a pre-set configuration. 2013 MBA 4GB RAM.

The screen is just fine. And if he really needs to, he can get an external monitor. It all depends on what he prefers.
 

Brian Y

macrumors 68040
Oct 21, 2012
3,506
600
I don't know much about Photoshop, but anyways, then just close all the apps you don't need open? It's not that hard to do. Believe it or not, but the ability to have multiple open apps at a time is a luxury, not a need. He wants to know what he needs. It may or may not be worth it. And anyways, I highly doubt that with features like swap and memory compression, that he'll have problems with memory usage.

Not future proofing... Sigh. Waste your money on something that you don't need, why don't you? He's talking about swapping out, so that's not necessarily an option and doesn't make sense. He's not going to be able to future proof when he's being a pre-set configuration. 2013 MBA 4GB RAM.

The screen is just fine. And if he really needs to, he can get an external monitor. It all depends on what he prefers.
So instead of having the stuff open he needs/uses, he's supposed to close everything and keep closing/reopening apps? Cause that really makes sense.

And the screen is worse than the MBPs. Whether you choose to believe it or not is your choice. Check online for colour reproduction specs if you don't believe me. (Although I find it funny that you say 4GB of ram is a waste of money, but then buying an external display is an acceptable solution to an inferior screen!)
 

thearmand

macrumors newbie
May 19, 2014
7
0
I have the MBA 2014 base model (Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) and I've run the following simultaneously:

1. Safari with nearly 10 tabs open
2. VLC with a video playing
3. Viber
4. Airmail
5. VMWare with Windows 8.1 Pro running
6. Adobe Photoshop

Activity Monitor showed Virtual Memory usage at 5.07 GB, but Swap was at 0 bytes and memory pressure was still in the green range. No beach ball lag time either.

Needless to say, while I'm sure the 8GB RAM variant is necessary for some people who use even more resource-intensive apps than the above, I have been pleasantly surprised with what my 4GB RAM is capable of handling.
 

joshlalonde

macrumors 6502
Jul 12, 2014
422
0
Canada
So instead of having the stuff open he needs/uses, he's supposed to close everything and keep closing/reopening apps? Cause that really makes sense.

And the screen is worse than the MBPs. Whether you choose to believe it or not is your choice. Check online for colour reproduction specs if you don't believe me. (Although I find it funny that you say 4GB of ram is a waste of money, but then buying an external display is an acceptable solution to an inferior screen!)
Firstly, I said close the apps he *doesn't need*. Perhaps you missed that?

Also, I thought it was understood that a Retina MacBook isn't up for grabs here? The screen on the older MacBook has a lower resolution than the Air... So that's not an issue either. I recommended getting another screen if he needed something slightly better or for more workspace.
 
Last edited: