Secondary Machine - Base 2017 MB or Base 2019 MBA?

2017 Macbook or 2019 Macbook Air?

  • 2017 Base Macbook

    Votes: 9 39.1%
  • 2019 Base Macbook Air

    Votes: 14 60.9%

  • Total voters
    23

Nacho98

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Jul 11, 2019
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Can get a base 2017 MB new for $1000, or a base 2019 MBA new for $850.

Would be a secondary ultraportable for just kicking around the house/coffee shops with, so specs don't really matter, so looking at base models. Kind of sick of using an iPad for this. Main machine is a 16" MBP desktop replacement.

MBA seems like a no brainer because both machines are plenty/equally portable, and the MBA has a more reliable keyboard, brighter screen, and more current internals, but at the same time if I'm picking up another machine it makes the most sense to get the smallest possible to create the largest differential with my 16".

Which would you choose and why?
 
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AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
11,573
8,290
Austin, TX
Go with the more reliable keyboard. 13" is pretty small.

Personally, I would get an iPad if I already had the 16" MBP.
 

Nacho98

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Go with the more reliable keyboard. 13" is pretty small.

Personally, I would get an iPad if I already had the 16" MBP.
Have an iPad mini 5, and while better than larger iPads I've had in the past (9.7"), I still find myself annoyed with having to prop it up as well as typing on it. Apple also destroyed cut/copy/paste with iOS 13 which is aggravating as hell. Figure with sales on both machines, a $350 Apple gift card I could sell for $300-$325, and selling my iPad, I could get into either machine without too much out of pocket.

Had a base Air Rev. B in 2009 in addition to my 15", and I liked the size. Sold it a couple years later because the 4200 RPM spinning drive was maddeningly slow and have only had 15/16" MBPs since, so 13" does indeed feel small.
 
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AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
11,573
8,290
Austin, TX
Have an iPad mini 5, and while better than larger iPads I've had in the past (9.7"), I still find myself annoyed with having to prop it up as well as typing on it. Apple also destroyed cut/copy/paste with iOS 13 which is aggravating as hell. Figure with sales on both machines, a $350 Apple gift card I could sell for $300-$325, and selling my iPad, I could get into either machine without too much out of pocket.

Had a base Air Rev. B in 2009 in addition to my 15", and I liked the size. Sold it a couple years later because the 4200 RPM spinning drive was maddeningly slow and have only had 15/16" MBPs since, so 13" does indeed feel small.
I hear ya. I have an iPad Pro for the pencil support for taking notes at work and home, but I'm a Mac guy.
 

tweeter

macrumors newbie
Nov 8, 2019
7
3
I just retired my 2012 Air base and bought a 2017 MB base. It does everything I need it to and I love the size. I'd choose it over the Air again.
 

revmacian

macrumors 68000
Oct 20, 2018
1,658
1,350
USA
Can get a base 2017 MB new for $1000, or a base 2019 MBA new for $850.

Would be a secondary ultraportable for just kicking around the house/coffee shops with, so specs don't really matter, so looking at base models. Kind of sick of using an iPad for this. Main machine is a 16" MBP desktop replacement.

MBA seems like a no brainer because both machines are plenty/equally portable, and the MBA has a more reliable keyboard, brighter screen, and more current internals, but at the same time if I'm picking up another machine it makes the most sense to get the smallest possible to create the largest differential with my 16".

Which would you choose and why?
I would get the 2019 MBA. It's newer, cheaper and the keyboard may be more reliable given that it is a late-gen butterfly kb. I have this same machine and it is plenty light and portable.. it's a dream to use.
 

Nacho98

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I should also say that aesthetically, I prefer the MBA - I like the look of the speaker grilles flanking the keyboard. But the size of the MB is tempting.

Only thing I worry about with the MB is that there's a real chance that Apple reintroduces an ultra portable running an ARM chip soon.
 

Drecca

macrumors regular
Aug 30, 2010
206
34
i went through the same thought process last month and bought a 2017 MB.

The footprint of the MBA is significantly larger (relatively speaking) compared to the MB. I already have the 16 inch MBP as a desktop replacement, had an ipad pro 11 that i sold, and landed on the MB as the default secondary device.
 

Nacho98

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Have a brand new base 12" coming tomorrow from Costco for $1000. I'll give it a test drive and see how I feel about a nearly three year old machine.

Also have a base Air on hold at Microcenter. Reserved one at $850 but didn't act, now it's at $880 so reserved another.
 
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Erehy Dobon

macrumors 6502a
Feb 16, 2018
527
369
(Disclaimer: I replaced a MacBook Retina 2017 with a MacBook Air 2019.)

You would be paying a $150 premium solely on weight for the 2017 MB.

At least in mundane normal "coffee shop" usage, the fan on my MacBook Air 2019 never kicks on. It's as silent as the 2017 MB was.

I'm okay schlepping the 2019 Air when I need a real computer. Otherwise, my geriatric iPad mini 4 is fine for random "coffee shop" surfing.
 

Nacho98

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(Disclaimer: I replaced a MacBook Retina 2017 with a MacBook Air 2019.)

You would be paying a $150 premium solely on weight for the 2017 MB.

At least in mundane normal "coffee shop" usage, the fan on my MacBook Air 2019 never kicks on. It's as silent as the 2017 MB was.

I'm okay schlepping the 2019 Air when I need a real computer. Otherwise, my geriatric iPad mini 4 is fine for random "coffee shop" surfing.
What caused you to make the switch?

Personally I'll be using it for nothing more than browsing.
 
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Erehy Dobon

macrumors 6502a
Feb 16, 2018
527
369
There was no one single defining reason.

The MacBook Air 2019 has a better keyboard, better screen, better CPU than my old Retina MacBook 2017. The Air also has two Thunderbolt 3 ports in addition to the analog audio 3.5mm jack. And the two TB3 ports are side by side.

Items of lesser importance: the Air 2019 also has the T2 chip which does HEVC hardware encoding. The Touch ID button is actually convenient. The Air 2019's speakers blow doors on the 2017 MB.

Yes, the 2017 MB is lighter and thinner but the screen also wobbled a lot more, courtesy of a thinner, flimsier hinge.

Also, the 2017 MB exhibited severe stealthy thermal throttling. Since there was no fan, you could never really tell when the CPU was working overtime until the whole machine started slooooowing dooooooown. That is piss poor design from a user experience perspective.

At least on the 2019 MBA, you can hear the fans spin up, a clear indication that the machine is under load.

I ripped some video on my MB Retina 2017 and its predecessor a 11" MBA 2013. They encoded the same video in the same time. However, the MB 2017 was almost unusable due to thermal throttling during the encode. The MBA 2013 was still usable for light work (e-mail, web browser with one tab open) during this time.

But more than anything, I'd say the superior keyboard and screen on the 2019 MBA were the deal clinchers. After all, those are the two physical components you as the user are interfacing with the most.

The main things the 2017 MB had going for it were size and weight. But smaller screens aren't necessarily better. I think of notebook computers to be pretty bad on ergonomics (small screen, poor keyboard at the wrong height, bad neck angle) and everything about the 2017 MB is worse than the 2019 Air in terms of ergonomics.

I know most people seem to love their notebook computers but I generally see them as inferior devices compared to desktop systems from an ergonomic standpoint. There is NO FREAKING WAY I WOULD SPEND 8+ HOURS OF MY DAY WORKING ON A NOTEBOOK COMPUTER.

I'm not surprised that Apple discontinued the MacBook product line. Maybe it'll come back as an ARM notebook. Maybe it is gone for good -- replaced by iPad Pros + keyboards.

But a lot of nitwits here only look at weight or battery life or screen size or whatever single statistic they focus on.

Note that web browsing can be highly CPU intensive depending on the browser you are using, any extensions and the sites you are visiting.

Both Chrome and Firefox have long time well-deserved reputations at being unrepentant resource pigs. Both claim to have reformed their bad ways but I know many think the jury is still out.

Hell, Firefox was so porcine that it failed as a mobile browser once before and basically demolished the Mozilla Foundation's aspirations of mobile relevance. They tried making a mobile OS as well and that failed spectacularly.

One thing I do know is that browser poison, I mean web browsers have a long ignominious history of memory leaks.

I have no regrets of ditching the MB Retina 2017 and its pathetic-beyond-belief "keyboard" [sic].
 
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Nacho98

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So, mine showed up a little while ago. Base 2017 model. First butterfly keyboard, and recall I have the new 16" with the excellent new keyboard. Typing this post from the new Macbook with the butterfly. Delete key seems hard to reach for some reason, need to get used to the larger keys.

My sole use for this secondary computer is browsing in Safari. No Office, no photos, no music, no nothing. Just browsing, with a keyboard. Don't like iPads with keyboards, and don't like iPads on their own, which is why I'm here.

1) I actually really, really like the size and weight/form factor for a secondary computer

2) I prefer the 16" keyboard, but this isn't that bad, it's just...unreliable.

3) Arrived with a flat battery (October 2018 production). Running Mojave.

4) Size of screen bezels on such a small computer dates the computer a bit, since they are larger than the Air bezels.

5) I really wish there were more display scaling options. I run my 16" at the maximum space setting, with everything nice and small. I'm running this the same way, but everything is still larger than is comfortable for me, especially on such a small physical screen. Menu bar looks way too big to me.

6) Unfortunately I don't think this particular version is a keeper - the gap between the display lid and top case when closed is not great on the right hand side. The gap on the left hand side is good, but the right hand side gap is too sloppy IMO, especially for a machine this small and rigid - gaps should be nice and tight.

I'll play with it for a couple days. Probably go pick up that Air tomorrow and play around with both for a few days and see if I want to keep the Air, order another Macbook hoping for better quality control, or return both and await something fresh in this Macbook size, which I suspect is coming.

I DO like it more than I thought I would though...
 

Nacho98

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Typing this post from my new base 2019 Air.

It's a nice computer, and a keeper in terms of quality control. Keyboard seems the same more or less, but sounds a little quieter and maybe is a little softer. I don't have a preference for either version I guess, they are the same to me.

But you know what? It just doesn't do it for me compared to the Macbook, for the intended purpose of replacing an iPad mini as a glorified ultra portable browsing machine. The Macbook sits on the arm of the couch better, sits on my lap better, etc., so I think I will be returning this Air, returning the Macbook as well due to the poor lid/body gap, and ordering another Macbook, and hope the next one turns out to be a keeper.
 

FilmIndustryGuy

macrumors 6502
May 12, 2015
288
129
Manhattan Beach, CA
even with having newer powerful Macs around the house, I still find myself grabbing the 12 inch MB half the time. There is a lot of talk about content consuming and web browsing. For document writing and main purpose, its a great laptop. The size and weight make a difference for me and I just never get over the grab and go with one hand. Looking forward to a cool ARM future but if apple never releases another 12 inch MacBook, ill just have to use a 8 year old 2017 as the MacBook should do well with simple things like writing.

also often I get in bed with it and it props nicely against my waist and legs without bothering me for hours. If I was using these devices for eating content or browsing the web, id sell them because I just dont want to spend my life staring at screens doing random things like some addict. well im looking at macrumores at the moment but old habits die hard. I really like that laptop. Its so thin I can squeeze it between my car seat and the elbow rest gap perfectly and it stays hidden and won't move. that thing has traveled with me all over the USA since 2017. I even dropped it and spilled a glass of water into the keyboard and it still works like a champ. still looks great. I dont even keep this laptop in a case or a bag. I just hold it with one hand and walk around with it like you would with an iPad. if you watch YouTube and browse web just get the iPad mini 5. I use that when I cook and eat to read or watch stuff.
 
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KPOM

macrumors G5
Oct 23, 2010
14,516
3,057
Can get a base 2017 MB new for $1000, or a base 2019 MBA new for $850.

Would be a secondary ultraportable for just kicking around the house/coffee shops with, so specs don't really matter, so looking at base models. Kind of sick of using an iPad for this. Main machine is a 16" MBP desktop replacement.

MBA seems like a no brainer because both machines are plenty/equally portable, and the MBA has a more reliable keyboard, brighter screen, and more current internals, but at the same time if I'm picking up another machine it makes the most sense to get the smallest possible to create the largest differential with my 16".

Which would you choose and why?
12” MacBook. It was my favorite Mac notebook ever. Hopefully they bring it back when they switch to ARM. It is noticeably lighter than the Air, and the latter isn’t that much more powerful. I have the 2019 MacBook Pro and the 2017 MacBook. The latter’s keyboard is still fairly comparable and I’ve had good luck with both.
 
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jamesdean74

macrumors newbie
Jul 15, 2008
8
8
I just scored a 2017 base MacBook 12” on eBay for $580, it is in new condition, only had 5 battery cycles, and Apple care until this March. I love it as it is just as portable as my 11” pro and they go together oh so well in my bag.
 

Nacho98

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12" and Air returned, another new 12" being delivered Tuesday, hoping for a keeper this time.
 

Nacho98

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Ugh.

Second 12" was also a bust, already returned.

Upon opening the box, it was beautiful, perfect fit and finish and I thought I had a real keeper. Much tighter gap between display and top case on both sides.

As I was handling it normally though, suddenly I felt something shift/move. All of a sudden I realized it had something nasty loose inside, shifting left to right, could feel it in the bottom case and it felt like something moving about 1/4" back and forth. My heart sank, this was never going to be livable on such a portable machine. It actually clunked around.

But since the quality control otherwise was so perfect, and because the Apple store had an open appointment slot tonight, I went against my own rule of always return if in the return window and don't waste time at the Genius Bar, and I took that appointment. I was hoping popping off the back would yield something simple and obvious, but it did not. They couldn't figure out what was moving and suggested returning it, so back it went.

So here I sit, out clean at the moment, debating if I should even bother with attempt #3, which would no doubt be the last attempt either way.

I just don't know if I'm up for trying again.

How hard is it to get an acceptable computer?

EDIT: ordered a third and final one, will be here Thursday.
 
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iandk

macrumors member
Aug 10, 2019
53
28
Just ordered an IPad Pro 11“ for this purpose.
But would love if they would release a new 12“ MacBook.
I don’t care about the performance or how many ports it has, it just has to be portable and run macOS
 

Nacho98

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Well I ordered #3, and Costco cancelled the order. Cited a limit of 2 per person which makes no sense if you returned two for being defective, those shouldn't count against your purchase limit. So now I either need to choose another color, move up $200 to the middle configuration which I don't need, or just forget it.
 

Mainsail

macrumors 65816
Sep 19, 2010
1,350
1,220
I would get the 2019 MBA. It's newer, cheaper and the keyboard may be more reliable given that it is a late-gen butterfly kb. I have this same machine and it is plenty light and portable.. it's a dream to use.
Same experience for me. The 2019 MBA has been a great machine for my use.
 
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playtech1

macrumors member
Oct 10, 2014
96
59
I am a big fan of the 2017 MB - I have just purchased a 'new' refurb of the top end i7 16GB model in order that I can sell my current i5 8GB model and have a newer machine with a full Applecare warranty.

I have a 13 inch MacBook Pro. And a 15 inch MacBook Pro. And a desktop PC. Plus a whole bunch of iPads and other stuff. But the 12 inch MacBook Pro is what always comes with me when I travel and is what I use when watching movies and Youtube in bed. It's my most used machine despite being the least powerful.

I find the performance is fine for office work, movie playback and web browsing. In day to day use it's no slower than a 2015 13 inch MBP. The small form factor is mind-blowingly great for me and I think is never emphasised enough in reviews, which seem to focus on the relatively small performance differences between the 2018 MacBook Air and a MacBook.

I am no fan of the new MacBook Air - the size and weight is almost the same as the 13 inch MacBook Pro, but without the performance to justify it.

In no way would I accept a 12 inch MacBook as my primary machine, but it fits the niche of ultraportable secondary machine wonderfully well.

Enjoy!
 
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Nacho98

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Welp, ordered #3, this time getting smart and ordering it under my wife's account to get around the limit of 2. Being delivered tomorrow, this is my last attempt with a 12".
 

Nacho98

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Annoyed. Ordered in time for delivery today and it sat there for 24 hours after label creation before they actually shipped it, so not showing up until tomorrow.