Rev B 1.6/128GB SSD (CTO) or 1.86/SSD? (How well do they handle HD video?)

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Esopus, Oct 5, 2009.

  1. Esopus macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #1
    Hi guys,

    I'm currently in the market for a new laptop for my mom after her hand-me-down 15" PowerBook G4 died.

    I have a friend who works for an Apple Authorized Reseller, and I've been offered a special deal on either a brand new Rev B MacBook Air 1.6GHz with 128GB SSD (a CTO model which they had in stock but didn't sell), or the Rev B 1.86/SSD model for US$200 more.

    To put the price difference into perspective, since I'm in Australia: the 1.6/SSD model costs the same as a new white 2.13 MacBook, while the 1.86/SSD model costs slightly more than a 13" 2.26 MBP.

    The 1.6/SSD is very tempting, and should handle everything my mum will throw at it, with one possible exception: HD video playback. This is of some concern, since a search of these forums shows many MBA users -- particularly those with 1.6 MBAs -- having playback/heat/fan issues with HD content, such as YouTube HD.

    Many of those posts are also a few months old. Has HD video and Flash performance improved significantly with Snow Leopard? Can the 1.6/SSD models handle such content better now?

    Would there be much difference in overall performance between the 1.6/SSD and 1.86/SSD? Would the 1.86 handle HD content appreciably better than the 1.6? Are the performance gains to be had with the 1.86 worth the extra $200 (i.e. a 20% premium)? (If I *had* to pay $200 more, the 13" MBP would also come into consideration, since the extra portability of the MBA is desirable but not essential.)

    Any help would be much appreciated! :)
     
  2. albigularis macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2009
  3. bloodycape macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #3
    It should handle Flash HD, and mkv, and HD video fine with out any lag(using the right software that is). As an example I have a Core 2 Duo ULV cpu and a intel 4500hd in my notebook, and it does even the heaviest flash HD files fine, so the MBA with a bit more powerful LV(clocked a bit higher) cpu, and better nvidia 9400 would do with even more easy.
     
  4. Scottsdale macrumors 601

    Scottsdale

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2008
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    #4
    Some people will say 1.6 handles stuff fine, but HD playback apps like iTunes state 2 GHz min recommended. With Flash and HD both really hitting the CPU hard, the minimum I would want moving forward is a 1.86 GHz. Remember Mac OS X is not as efficient at Flash and HD as Windows.
     
  5. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #5
    On paper, the specs should be fine for almost all formats of HD video thrown at it, and I'd be reasonably confident that the 1.6/SSD MBA would be able to handle the same content when played in Windows. However, Flash performance in Mac OS X has always been rather poor, and some video formats don't take advantage of the GPU. There are also many written accounts on these forums and elsewhere that document the HD playback problems MBA users are having. So I still have my doubts. :(
     
  6. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #6
    I guess my main concern is paying the 20% premium for the 1.86 model, only to find that it, too, struggles with HD content -- there are numerous accounts on these forums and elsewhere of the 1.86 also struggling with Youtube HD and the like. The 2.13 is out of my budget, and for $200 more I would be tempted to get the 13" MBP instead.
     
  7. bloodycape macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #7
    I didn't know that at flash or hd don't work efficiently on OSX. Then again I never had an issue with HD(not flash) videos on my MBP with old CD cpu using mplayer and VLC.
     
  8. adamjackson macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    #8
    I'd vote for the 1.86Ghz.

    If your mom isn't a power user, this machine will be just fine for most of her needs and she'll love the form factor enough that occasional slowness won't be an issue. Also, given she's upgrading from a G4, this will be much faster.
     
  9. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #9
    She isn't a power user, and the 1.6/SSD would suit her perfectly for 95% of what she does; whether or not it takes 5 or 10 seconds more to unzip a file compared to a 1.86 doesn't really concern her.

    I guess why I'm concerned about HD video performance -- on both the 1.6 and 1.86 -- is because it's the one area where a minimum threshold of performance is required to be met before the video becomes watchable. It's also an area where I'm finding plenty of conflicting information -- some say HD video (Flash or not) works fine on their 1.6, whereas some say HD video is unwatchable on their 1.86. And if the later is indeed true, my mum may be better off with a MBP. :)
     
  10. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #10
    Would the Rev C 1.86/HDD and Rev B 1.6/HDD be a useful point of comparison? (Particularly since I can't find Rev B-CTO 1.6/SSD benchmarks anywhere.)

    These speedtests seem to suggest that there's barely any difference between the two (and possibly not enough difference to warrant paying 20% more for the 1.86):

    http://www.macworld.com/article/141296/2009/06/macbook_air_mid09.html
     
  11. Scottsdale macrumors 601

    Scottsdale

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2008
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    #11
    I would put far more weight on the SSD for any MBA I would want to own.

    I feel anyone wanting to buy an MBA now is already getting a huge discount over what they cost new five months ago. $1349 for a 1.86/128 GB SSD is a steal! If you cannot afford that, perhaps you should buy a different Mac.
     
  12. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #12
    The issue for me isn't being able to afford the 1.86 or not -- it's paying 20% more and still finding that it can't handle HD video/Flash noticeably better than the 1.6/128GB SSD. If the video stutters horribly on YouTube HD with a 1.86, my mom might be better off with a 13" MBP for the same money.
     
  13. Scottsdale macrumors 601

    Scottsdale

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2008
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    #13
    First, it's not 20% more for 1.86/128SSD over 1.6/128SSD. The 20% you're talking gives both 1.86 and SSD. For $1099 you get 1.6/120 GB HDD. For $1349 you get 1.86 and 128 GB SSD.

    Secondly, I tried to state this before, 2 GHz is what's truly needed for HD and Flash on a Mac. Some are going to disagree, and I will with stating the 1.86 is close enough. The problem is OS X is not efficient with either Flash or HD. And the closer the CPU is to 2 GHz the less problems it will encounter with overheating and etc.

    1.86 vs 1.6 is enough of a difference to give it some additional power and I would NOT want less than a 1.86 GHz 128 GB SSD in an MBA moving forward and thinking not just now but how about a year or two down the road. I have used a 1.6 and the CPU is hit much harder than a 1.86 running the same apps.

    Order of importance in my book...

    1. Nvidia 9400m GPU... Made the MBA a capable Mac not just a novelty.
    2. SATA-II SSD... Made the MBA fast!
    3. 1.86/2.13 GHz... Made the MBA a performer.

    In my opinion, all three of these are necessary for someone who wants to really use the MBA as a primary Mac or for intensive processes. I wouldn't buy an MBA if I couldn't afford all three. The discount and pricing is already less than half of what it was a year ago at $3099 and five months ago at $2499.

    For $1349 rev B, $1549 rev C refurbished is a great deal. And new at $1799 is not necessary. Save money and buy refurbished. Either rev B/C with Nvidia, 1.86/2.13, and SSD is a heck of a deal... We are getting a heck of a lot more value than just five months ago.

    Finally, I would wait and see if the MBA gets updated again soon and what happens to the MacBook. We all could be in for a price cut, changed MBA, and lighter better MacBook that may change views. I think the next MB is going to be a lot like the MBA is now...
     
  14. adamjackson macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    #14
    From experience, I have a 2.13Ghz w/ 128GB SSD new from Apple.

    Playing HD videos on YouTube, it can only really handle about 15 frames per second and sometimes less. I'll close all apps and it still can't do full 24FPS on YT HD videos.

    HD videos from iTunes play just fine and random HD files from the net. So, based on what scottsdale has to say, as long as you get the NVIDIA 9400 GPU, the jump from 1.86 to 2.13 won't make ahuge difference in playback of HD video (i think). just avoid the Intel GPU at all costs.


    ---------

    Personally, I always go with the computer that has the higest resale value. The faster the computer, the more it goes for on ebay a few years from now. that's why I say go with the faster one.
     
  15. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #15
    If you reread my original post, you'll see I said that I've been offered a special deal on a CTO Rev B 1.6 with a 128GB SSD, rather than a stock 1.6 with 120GB HDD. (This has subsequently been confirmed by me in person -- the label on the unopened box says "MB AIR/1.6GHZ/128".) I've also offered a good deal on a 1.86/SSD stock model for 20% more. All the 20% more is getting me is a 0.26GHz increase in processor speed -- the other specs are the same. Which is why I thought the benchmarks I posted above were interesting: on a shootout between the 1.6 and 1.86 with the same hard drive, the performance differences were negligible.

    On your other points -- I'm still unsure whether the 1.86 will handle HD video and Flash particularly well, such as YouTube HD. I've read plenty of conflicting reports here and elsewhere on this particular point. What I'm particularly interested in are experiences from people who've played HD content on the 1.6 and 1.86 MBAs -- how well it works, if there's stuttering etc.

    There's no point paying extra for 1.86 if it still can't handle what my mom intends to use it for; I'll get the MBP instead.
     
  16. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #16
    That doesn't sound too promising on the capabilities of the 1.86... I'm leaning increasingly towards a MBP. (Or maybe waiting around for updates, as Scottsdale suggested.)

    Yes, I imagine that most HD H.264 files (such as those on iTunes) would work fine on both the 1.6 and 1.86, since they both take advantage of the 9400m. Only thing they might struggle on is 1080P -- I've read conflicting accounts about this.

    Resale value would only really concern me if I was buying the computer for myself. My mom, on the other hand, will probably continue using this new laptop until it's either broken or worthless. :p
     
  17. Doju macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2008
    #17
    Ironically I bought my mother a MacBook Air Rev B 1.86GHz 128GB SSD model about half a year ago, and while it's been a neat machine, it's definitely not one for HD. We tried to output 1080p to our 24" Apple Cinema Display, and that DEFINITELY didn't happen. Stuttered to pieces.

    720p is alright, but the framerate definitely isn't impressive. Has about half the fluidity of my MBP 13" and sometimes completely stutters to still image for ten seconds. We even have to reset the video sometimes as the image will be stuck in this pixely glitchy picture.

    We thought it was a glitchy model, so we returned it. Same deal, same stuttery video.

    (This was mostly using .MKV files in VLC, Plex and iTunes. YouTube didn't handle much better.)


    All in all, I say go with the MBP. The MBA is definitely nice to look at and a fairly capable machine, but the MBP is made to be a workhouse, and is plainly a more powerful machine than the MBA. And at 1.5lbs more... I think your mom will accept the small increase in weight for smooth HD.

    I can play 1080p on a 24" monitor without a hiccup in Plex and VLC on this 13" MBP. :)
     
  18. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #18
    Thanks for your very valuable insight, Doju! I've pretty much decided to get her a 13" MBP now. :)

    The six year old 15" aluminium PowerBook G4 this new laptop is meant to replace could handle 720P H.264 video, including outputting the video to external displays (my family home has a LCD TV and projector), so it's disappointing to think that a 1.86GHz MBA could potentially struggle with a similar task.

    My 60 year old, retired mom is far from a power user -- being able to play a wide variety of HD content is hardly just the realm of power users these days -- but it doesn't look like the 1.6 or even the 1.86 MBA would be suitable for her.

    The extra portability of the MBA would've been great, but she's been using the 15" PowerBook for the past two years without much fuss, and the 13" MBP is still significantly more portable than that. The MBA is beautiful, but there's still plenty to love about the MBP. :)
     
  19. bloodycape macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #19
    I don't get how this is so, when people with lower power cpu, and the same software VLC(granted on Windows) are not having issues with HD video, but some how we OSX users are facing issue on a cpu that has more muscle to it.

    If she is going from a 15in PowerBook then the 13in MBP should be fine as in my experience the older laptops(Mac and PC) weight a bit too much for the respective size.
     
  20. Scottsdale macrumors 601

    Scottsdale

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2008
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    #20
    The MBA can play H.264 and most HD FINE. First, I totally disagree with some of the information people have given you. The 9400m and Snow Leopard will play H.264 fine using the 9400m depending on the software you're using.

    If you think your six yr old PowerBook is capable of outperforming an Nvidia 9400m MBA, with Intel 1.86 or 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, and a SATA-II SSD, you have either totally been mislead or have totally MISLEAD YOURSELF deciding to pick and chose which info to believe from each post.

    I have played HD from a 1.86 GHz MBA with SSD to a 30" Apple Cinema Display and it played exceptionally well. I used it with a 24" LED-backlit ACD, and I have used my 2.13 GHz MBA with SSD with the same ACD and I have always been STUNNED at the performance and capabilities of the 9400m in the MBA.

    I have told you twice before that the 1.86 is better and would be noticeable in the MBA from the 1.6 because of HD and Flash.

    You can really think that you have figured this out but you have really taken the wrong path of belief from this thread. Why don't you go figure out by using an MBA at an Apple Store that would simply blow away your 6yr old PowerBook. Or even check some of the benchmarking software to compare the two realistically instead of your misinterpretation based on this thread.

    It disappoints me that some threads go like this, as real MBA users should be giving out factual information based on experience.
     
  21. adamjackson macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    #21
    In this reply though, you didn't say how well your 2.13Ghz can handle HD video on YouTube in FireFox?

    Am I the only MBA owner that can't get full FPS on YT HD videos? CAuse I need your secret.
     
  22. Esopus thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2009
    #22
    I've never owned a MBA myself (I have a 15" unibody MBP), and know of nobody who does, so I have to partly base my purchasing decision by drawing on the experiences of others. The reason I started this thread, and asked the questions I did, was because I've found plenty of conflicting information about the HD capabilities of the Rev B MBA in various forum comments, blog posts, and reviews.

    Of course my six year old PowerBook G4 won't outperform a Rev B or Rev C MBA. I was merely stating a capability that it performed quite well -- playing 720P H.264-encoded video and outputting it to an external display. It is my hope and expectation that the next laptop I purchase for my mom be able to output not just 720P H.264 video with ease, but also 1080P H.264, and also other formats such as .mkv and HD video delivered through Flash.

    Doju's experience with a 1.86/SSD raised significant doubts in my mind whether I could expect a MBA to handle this. adamjackson's comment on his 2.13/SSD and poor YouTube HD performance also raises doubts. These experiences don't seem to be isolated, and are in line with many other experiences I've read on this forum and across the web.

    There are also others who praise the HD performance of the MBA, like yourself. I appreciate you mentioning your experience with the 1.86/SSD (before your latest comment, you hadn't told me about your own personal experience with a MBA) and have taken it into consideration.

    I'm still leaning towards buying a MBP, but am curious once again about the 1.86/SSD. It's perhaps unfortunate that I have no way of testing one since it's no longer on display in stores -- I've tried the Rev C 1.86/HDD in store and was disappointed by the HD framerates, but I did not take this as indicative since it lacks the SSD and didn't have CoolBook installed.
     
  23. bloodycape macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Location:
    California
    #23
    Will SSD vs HDD make a difference in the playback of HD video(not flash)?

    Also to note, I read that on Windows Flash works more efficiently on Internet Explorer vs Firefox, and Chrome. Maybe Safari or Opera will better utilize flash vs Firefox?
     
  24. Scottsdale macrumors 601

    Scottsdale

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2008
    Location:
    U.S.A.
    #24
    Firstly, FireFox is DEAD SLOW on a Mac compared to the Safari 4 version. I used to love FireFox, but it uses more CPU and performs much slower than Safari. Number ONE, I use Safari.

    I can play YouTube HD videos fine also. So, why don't you tell me one you cannot play and I will go see it myself. How about that??? But I will be using Safari, because it NOW is much better and faster than FireFox (in the past FireFox blew away Safari but not anymore).
     
  25. adamjackson macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2008
    #25
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8toHfZm6jNE&hd=1&feature=hd

    Firefox is fine for everything but playback of HD videos. I still don't think Safari would fare any better. I enjoy Firefox more and no I don't have any themes or add-ons installed.

    I just can't do safari. I've always had issues with it.

    Playing that video I'm getting over 50% frame drop even every 10 seconds a whole 1.5 seconds the video just stops playing. It's insane.

    You and I have the same computer w/ snow leopard. CPU utilization is about 12% prior to playing the video and hits 98% during playback.

    But I wish you didn't have an accusatory tone when I say ANYTHING about the macbook air in a negative way. It's the only flaw I can find with the MBA and I posted it. Just accept that. I always have your back, please try to have a little compassion.
     

Share This Page