Should I get a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro for college?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by flamewing62, Apr 6, 2013.

  1. flamewing62 macrumors newbie

    Apr 6, 2013
    I'm going off to college next academic year, and I'll be getting a new laptop during the summer.

    I plan to use the laptop for schoolwork (science and math courses) occasional gaming (diablo/WoW) listening to music/watching videos (of which I have a lot, but I could probably just store the non-DVD videos on an external HD, and I'm already planning on getting an external optical drive that reads blu-rays) and browsing the internet.

    I'd like to get a MBA 13" because it's light, but I suspect that I'll end up having to get the MBP 15" because it's more powerful and can have a bigger hard drive, et cetera... and just get a carrying case if I need it for class to save my back.

    Thoughts? (Sorry if that was kind of long.)
  2. stchman macrumors 6502a

    Jul 16, 2012
    St. Louis, MO
    What's your budget? rMBPs and MBPs are a lot pricier than a MBA.

    The MBA has a max SSD of 512GB while he 15" rMBP has a max SSD of 768GB.

    IIRC, Apple does not officially support Blu Ray. I believe there are 3rd party drives that may work on a Mac.
  3. dbroncos78087 macrumors regular

    Feb 27, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    When I went to school, I got the 13" MBP (2010) and it certainly served its purpose but I recently purchased an MBA and I love it. It's much smaller and does everything that my MBP did. If portability and price are your concerns, then definitely get the MBA. If you really need that extra space, then go with the MBP.

    My guess though is that the stock MBA (128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM) will suit all of your needs. It's probably more economical to get an external HD to store your movies and other files on than to get the MBP with a massive HD.
  4. csjo00 macrumors regular

    May 17, 2010
    After owning a 2010 and now a 2012 13" MBP, I think I would much rather have a MBA. However, the lower screen resolutions are terrible. If I could have a do-over, I would spend the extra and get a retina model. Probably a 13" but that's because I have a dedicated desktop for gaming.

    Just my two cents.
  5. TallManNY macrumors 601


    Nov 5, 2007
    Low res screens in MBA are terrible huh? I got say this is one my first "Man, the kids these days are spoiled." I agree retina is the way to go. but describing any modern screen as terrible is silly. what you mean is that witht effort you can notice some slightly worth resolution.
  6. srsub3 macrumors 6502


    Mar 10, 2013
    macbook pro retina 13.... maybe 256 gb version seems to me the best solution for you.... the 13 inches IMHO is the best form factor for traveling and moving
  7. Trey M macrumors 6502a

    Trey M

    Jul 25, 2011
    I've owned, at one point or another, the 11 inch MBA, 13 inch MBA, 15 cMBP, and 15 rMBP, and I'm currently a college student so I can definitely relate to your situation. I think, for the general college student, portability is definitely one of the most important factors when you're deciding which model to choose. If I were you, I'd personally spring for either a 13 MBA or a 13 rMBP. I find the 15 inch form factor to just be too large to use in most classroom settings, so I think the 13 would suit you far better.

    One thing you mentioned is gaming; obviously any 15'' Mac would be much, much better suited for gaming, however if you're a very casual WoW/Diablo player, you'll probably be able to survive with an Air or 13'' rMBP.

    What model should you choose between the 13'' Air and 13'' rMBP? It really comes down to how much you're willing to spend, as well as whether you really enjoy the Retina display or not. I've seen some people who could care less about the display while others will never go back, so that's really just up to you. If you think you'd really enjoy the Retina screen, don't mind paying a few extra hundred, and won't miss the even-sleeker form factor of the Air, definitely get the 13'' rMBP. Otherwise, I think you'll find the Air more than ample for all your needs.
  8. jojoba macrumors 68000

    Dec 9, 2011
    I'm a researcher and rely almost exclusively on my Air (in combination with an iPad) for all my academic work. At the university where I work, Airs are also really big among students, I'm guessing for portability reasons. I don't do any gaming, but anything else I do, my mid 2011, 4GB Air can do very well and very fast.
  9. fskywalker macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2009
    I went from a 13 inch MBP to a 15 inch rMBP because wanted the bigger screen, I'm in Law School and the bigger screen have serve me well, but is more heavy to carry. I think the 13 inch rMBP might be your best balance between size, weight and power.
  10. MBPMax macrumors member

    Jun 10, 2010
    Germany & UK
    I'm in my final year of uni and just replaced an almost 3-year old 15" MBP with a 13" MBA. The MBP was very powerful back in the day, but as I spent more time carrying around my Mac and stopped gaming early on I realized that a light machine is what I needed.

    Get the 15" MBP if:
    - You don't need to carry it around a lot (I'd say <50% of the time)
    - The games you play require good specs
    - You really need a bigger screen (e.g. if you don't have a 2nd screen, you often find yourself having three documents open you need simultaneously or if you watch a lot of movies/shows)
    - You're reliant on a CD/DVD drive on the go

    Get the 13" MBA if:
    - You need a great degree of portability (>50% of the time)
    - You carry a lot of stuff around (such as textbooks, notepads, etc.)
    - You don't do much else than surf the web, word process, watch the occasional movie or play the occasional game
    - You're fine with a 13" screen

    If I were you I'd go for either the 13" rMBP or the 13" MBA; probably the former if you do actually game a lot. I suggest you go to your nearest Apple store and play around with each machine for a while as that helped me a lot with my decision. In the meantime you could look up online how each of your game performs on every Mac you're considering and go from that.
  11. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    Several here have compared 2 or 3 year old MBPs with MBAs. A 2-3 year old MBP and a current rMBP is like apples and oranges.

    Just a note that the new 15rMBP as well as the 13 rMBP is extremely portable and now has impressive battery time.

    A few months ago, the two things the 13 inch MBA has going for it was its battery time (~7 hour) and it was the right compromise for screen size and fit on a lecture hall desk, just big enough to complete tests with.

    If you need computer power more than portability (science or engineering), a rMBP will suit you better. If you need portability more than computer power, a MBA will suit you better. If you will be doing a lot of writing screen size doesn't make that much difference, but those spread sheets and accounting ledgers are much easier to navigate on a larger screen.

    BTW, using an iPad for portability plus a 20-27 inch screen desktop for computation is common. May cost less than a do all laptop.
  12. fskywalker macrumors 65816


    Nov 6, 2009
    If portability is your main corcern, I have a friend at school who went for a 11 inch MBA rather than an Ipad; the screens are about the same size and you get the keyboard, USB's etc. She's very happy with it; as said go to a Mac store or Best Buy and play around for a while before making your mind.
  13. LeeM macrumors 6502a

    Jan 1, 2012
    depends what programmes you end up having to use. id wait until you know this. nothing processor or graphics intensive id get a 13" air, but max the ram.
    my 13" pro is still a bit big to take in to uni, i always took my iPad instead.

    id potentially look into an 11" air with an external monitor, even better to take to class with you. but then i use an external with my pro anyway, so i suppose id end up with an 11" over a 13" air in most instances.
  14. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    The Core i5 13" MacBook Air sounds like it would be fine for what you need. While it isn't a gaming machine, it's probably better to just get a gaming console and still have money left over vs. getting a 15" MacBook Pro. Note that the 13" Air has the same resolution as the 15" MacBook Pro (apart from the upgraded 15" and Retina models, of course).
  15. JHUFrank macrumors 6502a


    Apr 16, 2010
  16. ratboy90 macrumors 6502


    Apr 15, 2009
    I just finished my degree so I'm speaking from experience. When I started I got a MBP and at the end of my degree I hated it for it's weight. Now I've opted for a MBA because it's much lighter and portable and I didn't need the extra fun stuff I got with the air. Would much rather upgrade my ipad to a retina in a year.
    I had to go from one place to another a lot and was working a lot on the go. So I guess it depends what degree you're doing and in what city. And also how much money you have.
  17. wolfpuppies3 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2012
    Virginia, USA
  18. DisplacedMic macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2009
    whatever Grandpa

    (just kidding - graduated in 2003, didn't even have a laptop until that last year)
  19. DisplacedMic macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2009
    definitely a fine computer and i doubt anyone who buys one regrets it. it has a smaller footprint than the MBA and only weighs about .5 lb more. beautiful screen and a SSD? seems hard to imagine anyone would be disappointed!

    That being said I don't think it's as good a deal as the MBA is.

    I was all set on the 13" MBA until I went to the fruit stand to play with it...
    The 13" MBA didn't feel that much lighter or "portabler" than the 13" RMBP.
    The 11" felt like an ultralight for sure...

    For me the real choice is between the 11" MBA "ultraportable" or a 15" RMBP power computer.

    I think the extra $$$ for the 13 RMBP doesn't seem worth it without the dedicated GPU...
  20. eric/ Guest


    Sep 19, 2011
    Ohio, United States
    If you weren't going to play games, I would suggest the Air.

    The MBP will play games a tad bit better than the Air, but still, it'll be somewhat lacking.

    I would suggest you purchase an iMac, and an iPad or iPad mini instead. I think the combo is great, and it should be around the same price.
  21. definitive macrumors 68000


    Aug 4, 2008
    wait for the haswell update to come out some time during the summer, because i don't think that the current hardware that the mba has will work well with the games you've mentioned. once haswell is out, then you could take your pick between the mba, cmbp or rmbp (whichever meets your budget).

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