So where's this huge difference in speed with a SSD?...

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Smiller4128, Apr 24, 2012.

  1. Smiller4128 macrumors member

    Feb 1, 2010
    Hello all, I'm currently in the market for either a Macbook Pro or MacBook Air. I'm going back and forth between the 13.3" MacBook Air or the 17" Macbook Pro (Yes I realize there's a HUGE difference betwwen both models, I just prefer to get the top-of-the-line of whatever model I choose). Anyways comparing the air against the pro, people always comment how much faster the macbook air is but I just dont see it. So where is the macbook air faster than the pro's?
  2. applefanDrew macrumors 65816

    Jul 17, 2010
    Boot, shut down, opening files and apps.
  3. firewood macrumors 604

    Jul 29, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    Big Xcode compiles. Anything that spends most of its time reading/writing lots of files.
  4. Bigredhawkeye macrumors member

    Mar 13, 2012
    I just don't get how you are trying to compare the MBA and a 17" MBP. Even if you "like to get the top of the line regardless" they are completely different computers with very different purposes.

    What will you be using this for? That could help us help you more easily.
  5. Medic278 macrumors 6502a


    Feb 1, 2012
    New York
    The difference your referring to is the fact that the MBa has an SSD where the MBP has an HDD and the difference comes like this. SSDs are like a big thumb drive, its flash storage so it has no moving parts, therefore is can open files almost instantly. HDDs on the other hand do having moving parts and have to spool up and search for the file that you want to open, hence why you see a slight delay. That being said, the two machines you are comparing are hugely different. The differences between the two are really night and day, as others have said perhaps if you told us what you want to use it for we could give you some better advice.
  6. zap2 macrumors 604


    Mar 8, 2005
    Washington D.C
    What MBP? The most recent 17" model? Because if it is, and the are comparable, that alone speaks volumes for the speed of an SSD.

    Try transferring some files around locally on the internal drives for each laptop, there should be a noticeable difference for moving around files.
  7. TheRealDamager macrumors 65816

    Jan 5, 2011
    This really boils down to portability. If you need to travel with the machine and value size and weight, get the Air. If you are going to sit the machine on a desk and never move it, get the MBP.
  8. Smiller4128 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 1, 2010
    Here's what I mainly do:

    -iPhoto (I have a Canon 60D that Im investing in as a hobby and like to spend time with so I also edit very lightly in photoshop, etc.)
    -Light gaming (Xplane, possibly looking at using it for Diablo III) HOWEVER, this isn't too much of a concern as I have a Xbox 360 I mainly use if I want to game)

    The big deciding factor is that whatever model I choose, it'll be my only computer. I have no desktop what so ever. So which ever model I choose that will be my only and main computer. I go to college as a Civil Engineering major, but don't depend on my laptop for anything other than writing documents etc. and I also never really have a need to take my laptop with me anywhere so it'll spend most of its time sitting on my desk and moving to a chair stuff like that.
  9. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    For what you do, the 17" will be superior, especially in handbrake - it will KILL any air at that by a factor of 2-3x or more.

    Also, 3d gaming, will be no contest.

    SSD speeds disk access, but it looks like you do more than simply move files around.

    I went for a 15" pro for similar reasons, just save up for an SSD (for your 17" pro) and you'll have the best of both worlds.
  10. jacob-07 macrumors regular

    May 14, 2011
    Judging by your last comment, I wold say a 17" MBP would be better for you over the air. If the ssd was the deciding factor between the 2, you can easily put an ssd in the MBP.
  11. Carlanga macrumors 604


    Nov 5, 2009
    you can also add a SSD to a MBP and have the best configuration.
  12. wisty macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2009
    Stuff like opening new documents and applications is *way* faster with an SSD.

    Generally, computers are only limited by CPU / GPU if you play games, or do heavy video / audio / photo editing. Even then, HDD can be a limiting factor (depending on what you are doing).

    Also, the perceived responsiveness of a SSD-equipped machine will be better. Opening a document is interactive, and it's really annoying when it's slow. Ripping a DVD is not interactive - you set it to run, then do something else while it's ripping. Even if a MBP is 3X as fast, you may not have any real difference in productivity (unless you are like me, and keep checking what the status is).
  13. jmgregory1 macrumors 68000


    Jun 24, 2010
    Chicago and a few other places around the world
    Others said it, if money and size/weight are not issues, I'd get a BTO mbp 17" with 8gb of ram and a 500gb ssd drive and have a really rocking fast computer that only costs $4000!

    I'm completely happy with my air that has replaced my 15" pro I had been using since 2007. The speed issue is just so substantial going to an ssd drive that I can't stand using my wife's 13" pro with hdd - nor can she as she's always taking mine at night to just do basic stuff because it's so much more responsive.
  14. Smiller4128 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 1, 2010
    See this is where I don't quite understand things cause when I go into a store and planets them, I can't see a HUGE speed difference. Internet is the same, looking at emails or photos are the same (most of that though is same Internet connection so there's no difference there) Both start up quick and wake instantly from sleep....I dunno maybe it's just me who isn't seeing the difference...

    I should also mention that I have one of the "New iPad's", could that potentially mean that again the pro is a better choice for me since I have a smaller, portable choice for on the go with my iPad?
  15. jmgregory1 macrumors 68000


    Jun 24, 2010
    Chicago and a few other places around the world
    Trying out the computers in the store isn't the same as having it home and loaded with your own emails, photos, files, etc. Once you do that, you'll recognize why ssd is so far superior to hdd's. The spinning hdd will very soon become a thing of the past, except maybe for mass data storage and/or backup.

    I'm looking at getting a BTO iMac with ssd instead of the hdd. It's more expensive, but once you've tasted the speed, it's just really hard to think of moving forward with a new computer that seems more like a step back.

    Just think of how the original iPod was, with it's micro hdd. I had one and it failed in a year and a half. There was no way I was going to buy another - and thankfully I didn't have to given Apple began offering flash versions that didn't have the frailty that the hdd versions had.

    As for not needing an Air because you have an iPad, I'd say that they're just not the same. Yes, you can do a lot on the iPad, but you can't do a lot of things that the Air can do. And you have to decide whether you really want to carry around a 6 lb. / 3 kg. paperweight if you're considering the 17" pro. At that point, I'd almost recommend going with a 21" iMac and do what I'm considering doing by making it as a bto with an ssd drive. It will give you way more screen, better speakers, expandability, etc.
  16. xkmxkmxlmx macrumors 6502a


    Apr 28, 2011
    What isn't to understand though? Many people have already explained... it isn't going to make a difference in safari or in internet content. It will matter with files and apps already on your computer.

    It is hard to gauge in the store. But if you are moving big files around, you might see a difference. If you are moving them from partition to partition, you will see the big difference.

    But the true test are apps like photoshop and CS. Launching one of those on any HDD machine usually takes a bit. The latest PS on my MBA launches within 5 seconds.

    Also, instead of sleep, try restarting them. You will see the boot difference.

    All in all, SSD speeds are not a deal breaker for most. In fact, I would say the 'no moving parts' and small footprint is more of a factor. But the speeds are a plus.
  17. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I was still a little bit on the fence between the 13" MBP AND 13" MBA when I got to the store. Conveniently, they had them side by side so I shut both down and re-booted. That sealed the deal for me - the difference in startup times is dramatic.

    I would say that the SSD was the biggest factor in choosing the MBA for me. I see the speed increase in almost everything I do.
  18. bogatyr macrumors 65816

    Mar 13, 2012
    Definitely. I can't tell you how many laptop drives I've seen damaged due to movement (small, fast movements/drops) and data completely wiped out for the user.

    I like that I don't have to worry about damage if I walked around with my laptop running and no, the built in protection for HDDs isn't perfect, they're still vulnerable to movement damage.
  19. theSeb, Apr 27, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2012

    theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England
    No. The source files are very small, relatively speaking, and Xcode caches them very efficiently. Compiling code requires CPU power and RAM. HDD speed is less important.


    If those are the things that you mainly do, then you can easily stick to a HDD and get a 17" MBP, even though it will be even faster and snappier if you install an SSD. The SSD makes a huge difference in file I/O. Simply surfing the internet does not have much to do with the hard drive so I am not sure why you're wondering why surfing the internet isn't any faster with an SSD. It's like asking why you can't watch a DVD faster on a 48X DVD drive versus a 10X DVD drive. Because watching a DVD drive does not require the drive to be reading at 10X or 48X.

    Honestly, you could have just done 20 minutes of research and found out a little bit about how computers work, but I guess that's just too much effort for people today.

    Here are some "real world" benchmarks to show you the differences between an SSD and a mechanical HDD.





    An SSD won't help you encoding in Handbrake because encoding is CPU bound. A hard drive is fast enough


    However, what about resizing 140 image and creating thumbnails automatically.. something that people mucking about with photography might need to do. There is CPU involved and RAM and the speed of your hard drive. The 4 bottom bars are all done on the same 2011 Mini with 4 different configurations. The SSD makes a huge difference. Despite the fact that the MBA has a slower CPU and a "slower" SSD than the Mini, which has a Vertex 3, the real world difference is only a couple of seconds.


    What about resizing 140 images and then watermarking them via a pixelmator automated service? Well, this is very much a RAM bound operation. The CPU does not make a huge difference. It takes 980 seconds to do this on a stock 2011 Mini Server with a 7200 RPM hard drive and 4 GB of RAM. The 2011 MBA manages to finish this faster even though the Mini Server has a much more powerful Quad Core processor. This is because of the SSD in the MBA. However, things change when we add another 4 GB of RAM to the Mini. The time to do this is now 287 seconds, which is a huge improvement, yet when we add the SSD as well, the time is 206 seconds.

    Even the lowly, old 2009 MBP with a Core 2 Duo processor manages to beat the stock Mini Server quad core. That's because the 2009 MBP has 8 GB of RAM and a Seagate Momentus XT hybrid HDD.


    Hopefully I haven't wasted time typing this out and you've actually learnt something.
  20. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have all SSDs on all my Macs...and going to work it is torturous to deal with their slow ass HDD systems!!!!
  21. Defender2010 macrumors 68030


    Jun 6, 2010
    Don't buy now, wait until WWDC...otherwise your desire to have the latest will be tainted by the new models with retina display...
  22. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
    Xcode compiles don't spend much time reading files at all. My compiles have eight cores at 100% most of the time and not much going on in I/O at all. Faster CPU with 5400rpm drive will compile faster than an MBA.
  23. theSeb macrumors 604


    Aug 10, 2010
    Poole, England


    Yes, as I said just above, source code files are relatively small and Xcode is very efficient at caching them. CPU and RAM are far more important for working with Xcode and compiling source code.
  24. beowulf70 macrumors regular


    Oct 20, 2010
    hear hear! :rolleyes:
    Very informative. I'm glad someone here has the time, devotion and the resources to help provide us mere mortals with the important info we need. Much appreciated. Seriously. :cool:
    You may have just persuaded me to go with an SSD.

    (and I guess the slightly sanctimonious attitude is just a given?) ;)

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