Should I get the i5 or i7 Air?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by badlydrawnboy, Oct 11, 2013.

  1. badlydrawnboy macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    I'm about to buy a Macbook Air. This will be used mostly during travel and when working outside of the home, or on my standing desk in my home office. I have a Mac Pro in my home office at a seated desk that I use for photography and more CPU/GPU intensive work. The MBA is strictly for email, web browsing, iWork, some audio recording (Garage Band) and other basic stuff. I won't do photography work, video editing, or play games with it.

    I'm trying to decide whether to get the i7 or i5. Money isn't the issue; battery life is. I've read conflicting reports on whether there's a difference between the two; some article suggest the i7 actually gets better battery life, others suggest worse. There are several threads about this over on Apple's forum, and there's one particular guy that insists that the i7 gets 3 hours less battery life than the i5. (He does seem like kind of a crackpot, though.)

    Does anyone have firsthand experience with this? What's the consensus at this point? Battery life is my #1 criteria for this machine. If the i5 gets better battery life, I'd be inclined to go with it—especially since I won't be doing any CPU-intensive tasks.

    I will be maxing the storage (512 GB) and RAM for what it's worth.
  2. Idarzoid, Oct 11, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013

    Idarzoid macrumors 6502

    Mar 15, 2013
    From what I can gather, i7 gets slightly better battery life during normal use, but under load, it's a bit shorter than i5, by like, what, 30 mins? Maybe less.

    If you're not going to be doing any CPU intensive task, there's not much point in going for i7.
  3. Tinknock71 macrumors 6502


    Jan 18, 2008
    Westland Michigan
    My brother got the 13" i7 And I got the 13" i5 and we both have talked and compared we both get the same battery life except I keep my brightness up a little more then him and usually get about 45min less battery then him. So it depends what screen brightness, what apps or programs you using etc. if you just surfing the internet and using few other apps I don't think it would make much difference in battery life in which either one you chose.
  4. clyde2801 macrumors 601


    Mar 6, 2008
    In the land of no hills and red dirt.
    I think Annantech throughly reviewed the two. Think the i7 got 30 min less on moderate tasks, and up to an hour shorter on intensive tasks.

    I agree with you on the i7.
  5. ItHurtsWhenIP macrumors 6502

    Aug 20, 2013
    Get whatever you can afford comfortably. No one ever said "I wish I had a worse processor" or "Man, I sure do wish I had that slower processor, this upgraded and faster one sucks."

    I get amazing battery life (i7) and wouldn't change a thing.
  6. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Just curious: with normal web browsing, email, etc. how long does your battery last?
  7. ItHurtsWhenIP macrumors 6502

    Aug 20, 2013
    Days. From 2 up to 5 or 6 depending on my needs of it for the week. 9-12+ hours of actual use, give or take. Less if I go on a YouTube spree, but with minimal usage or none it doesn't drop the battery much.

    ClickToFlash enabled in Safari and screen usually not more than 6 or 7 notches of brightness. (normally around 4 or 5)
  8. PDFierro macrumors 68040

    Sep 8, 2009
    In light/basic use, battery life is going to be the same. Your battery life isn't going to magically drop by doing the tasks you mentioned in your original post.

    In heavier workloads, yes of course the i7 would get less battery.
  9. DisplacedMic macrumors 65816

    May 1, 2009
    and if you think it through, this makes sense.
  10. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    I have an i5 for home and i7 for work, same HDD and RAM.

    In a nutshell
    - The i5 edges out on the battery life by a little bit (being 1-1.5 hours)
    - The i7 is far quicker for basic gaming and intensive apps.

    Both machines perform well, I'd suggest if you don't need the extra power then the i7 might be a bit of a waste. In hindsight I am wishing that for my home machine I went for the i7 because I do a fair amount of transcoding, Diablo 3 and Photoshop and feel that the i7 would have made a better purchasing choice.

    Though if it's a choice between i7 or more memory then go for 8GB.
  11. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    This is helpful, thanks. I have a Mac Pro I use for Photoshop/Lightroom (which are the only more intensive apps I use), but I would occasionally use them on the MBA when traveling. I imagine the i5 would be fine for that?

    Do you notice any difference at all between the i7 and i5 with everyday tasks like web browsing, iWork, Office, etc.?
  12. ezekielrage_99, Oct 12, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013

    ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    For "everyday tasks" the light stuff, there really isn't much of a noticeable difference, but when you're using photoshop I've notice the i7 is discernibly faster and this is the case with transcodes.

    For Office, iWork, interwebs, starting up the i7 is a little quicker but when using unless you're completely pedantic I don't really notice a difference expect when I have an absolute tonne of stuff open (but I'm guessing it's more memory opposed to CPU).

    There is a performance difference between the i7 and i5 but with that said the i5 is a very snappy performer it's not like that it's not usable infact the i5 is perfectly fine for Photoshop, for battery life the i5 does win out.

    My point being the i5 is a great CPU but if you're going to use the power apps most of the time then for overall longevity and resale then the i7 *might* be worth investing in.

    I've run both models through Geekbench mark from my home i5 I'm getting 6075 while from the work i7 8698, thus the i7 is a much faster processor, in SC2 and D3 there's around 7-9fps difference (not massive but enough).

    The big difference, photoshop filters and actions while h.264 transcode there's a massive gap in performance when running off power. Still it comes down to if you're not going to do much higher end stuff then the i5 is an excellent little system, thus why for home I initially decided to go for the i5 because of the battery life.

    Battery wise, agreed I have heard a lot of conflicting reports about this though from my personal experience it's around 1 to 1.5 hours off a full charge.

    Overall I am very happy with my home i5 for the general stuff however for higher end tasks it isn't as quick as the i7, if anything I would suggest the 8GB option an absolute must. If you are going to max out the config then I am guessing the i7 would retain a little more value for resale.
  13. MrGimper macrumors 603


    Sep 22, 2012
    Andover, UK
    Not being funny, but the difference from reading this thread is about 30m to 1hr difference.

    Is that really a big deal with a device that has 12hr battery life?

    Honest question.

    Personally I'd take the best spec you can afford.
  14. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    Yep that's the point... The difference battery-wse with the i5 to i7 isn't that massive.

    Again it comes down to price and if you really need an i7.
  15. CJM macrumors 65816


    May 7, 2005
    Get the i7 if you do video editing (or relative equivalent) on there, or find you have your laptop plugged into the wall fairly often.

    I have the i5, run lots of apps concurrently and a Windows virtual machine and haven't found it to be slow at all. It is a smashing laptop.
  16. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Price is not a significant factor in the decision--the extra $150 for the i7 isn't going to break the bank. On the other hand, I won't be doing any video editing (that I know of) and probably very little Photoshop. I may use Screenflow to record screencasts and then export/convert, but that's probably the most CPU-intensive task I'll do.

    I will, however, be traveling for work for almost 6 weeks in Jan/Feb, so battery life is important. If the difference really is only 30-60 min (i.e. 11 hours vs. 12) I'd probably go with the i7 just for future proofing. But I had read elsewhere that the difference is more significant, which is why I posted this thread.

    FWIW I'll be getting the 512 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM.
  17. daviddth macrumors 6502a


    Jun 29, 2009
    I have the 8GB i7 here and love it. It does a lot of Photoshop work, and the odd bit of video editing as well, and I can not fault the battery life at all. Sit it to the side and watch movies and it lasts for ages, does not get hot and simply works. Push it editing video and it sucks the battery down, but gets the job done pretty quickly.

    Compared to friends i5's I would say I get very similar life for browsing and low CPU intensive tasks, maybe 15-20 minutes less, and for very CPU intensive video editing yes it flattens maybe an hour to 90 minutes quicker, but it finished the tasks in less time than the i5.
  18. NMF, Oct 13, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2013

    NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    Definitely. I just downgraded from a 2012 MBP with the 2.9 GHz i7 and I haven't noticed any performance decrease whatsoever. Obviously for the real number-crunching tasks the i7 would be better, but I use my MBA the way you're describing and it's perfectly fine. If anything, the PCIe SSD makes it feel significantly faster than my old MBP during day-to-day tasks (and I had a Samsung 840 SSD in there, too). I only have 4GB RAM in the MBA too. Perfectly adequate, even for light/moderate Photoshop work. That said, I'm planning on upgrading to the Broadwell MBA's next year so I'm not terribly concerned with future proofing. All I can say is that right now 4GB is perfectly fine.

    You could save a few bucks, grab the base model 13" MBA and likely be A-OK. It might be worth trying the base model first and make use of Apple's 14-day return policy if you find it lacking. In all likelihood you'll be pleasantly surprised at how capable the machine is. Crazy battery life too. I can't vouch for the i7, but my i5 consistency gets at least 10-12 hours per charge. Much better battery life than both my iPad and iPhone. Apparently the efficiency tweaks in OS X Mavericks are going increase the battery life by about 1-2 hours as well? Just crazy!
  19. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    I wonder... if Mavericks increases battery life by about 1-2 hours, then the i7 could get the same 10-12 hours per charge as the i5. That would be enough for me, and I think I'd rather have the extra horsepower with 10-12 hours than a little less with 12-14 hours.
  20. NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    I'm sure it'll be similar. I'd do the 8GB RAM before the i7 though. If you do both then fine, but if it's one or the other then you'll benefit a lot more from the 8GB down the line.
  21. badlydrawnboy thread starter macrumors 65816

    Oct 20, 2003
    Thanks. I'm doing 8 GB of RAM regardless. Just trying to decide between the i7 and i5.

    Even when traveling, I'm rarely away from a power source for more than 8 hours at a time. It's unusual for me to be on a flight that lasts more than 6.5 hours, and most of those have power outlets (in main cabin select on Virgin America, which is what I usually fly).

    So I think if I can get 10 hours with the i7 and Mavericks in normal use, I'll be happy.
  22. neiltc13 macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    None of the things you have described require the i7 processor or 8GB RAM.

    Get the i5 with 4GB RAM and spend the money you saved elsewhere.
  23. Flowiee macrumors member

    May 16, 2013
    For me the same question.

    Will bump to 8gb and 256gb ssd. Just need to decide between i5 and i7. Difference is €140 with student discount.
    Will use apps like:

    -Little gaming (guildwars 2 / football manager)
    -Autodesk Inventor
    -Maschine (audio mixing program)
    -Daily tasks as internet surfing and doing school stuff.

    Will use Imovie only for movies from vacation and motorbike rides. (vacation is every year 1-2 times, motorbike riding is in the future, 2 years or something)
    Autodesk Inventor is for school use, but I dont know if i need it for my master that much. (asking right now, waiting for response)

    Also I think I will use this Macbook for like 4-6 years.
  24. NMF macrumors 6502a


    Oct 27, 2011
    i7 then. Unquestionably.

    I'm cool with i5/4GB/128GB because I plan on upgrading again in 2015 at the latest. In all likelihood I'll upgrade with next year's Broadwell refresh. :p
  25. jdechko macrumors 68040

    Jul 1, 2004
    There are also tons of other factors to consider when trying to calculate battery life. What kind of WiFi are you connecting to and how far away? Bluetooth? What programs are you using and what files are you viewing? What is the ambient temperature. Individually, none of these factors will probably impact battery life significantly, but together, they add up. And like you say, on a device with a 12 hour battery, is it really that big of a deal?

    Why? It's not like Apple will support only the i7 model and drop the i5. They'll either support the entire 2013 generation or not. What could you do on an i7 in 6 years that you couldn't do on an i5?

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