Specs on MBAs are overrated.

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by SmOgER, Jun 10, 2014.

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  1. SmOgER macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    I keep hearing the terms on forums like "outdated architecture", "add x bucks and get more powerful y component" or numerous of topics people asking if they should upgrade every time new generation of MBs comes in.

    Now the truth is, unless you are constantly editing videos or playing games on particular machine, there is very little sense to upgrade it if hardware is the only reason you are doing it. Of course things like bigger battery or better screen are real deal, but we didn't get those for like 4 years.

    Now the reason I decided to make this topic, is because recently I've been positively surprised myself. I gave win8.1 virtual machine in virtualbox 1 CPU thread/virtual core (out of 4) and additionally set a 70% cap for it, meaning it got only somewhere 17% of all CPU computing power (considering full load as 100%). And guess what? It ran exceptionally good, no lag whatsoever, IE browsing was smooth and whole Windows system was very much responsible.


    So my point is, upgrading CPU/GPU architecture alone is not very much an upgrade, if it's for your portable machine which you don't use for resource intensive tasks. By that I basically mean, if your fans don't spin up up to 5000-6000rpm on daily basis (which would be inevitable if your would CPU/GPU is close to full load), and it's performing just fine (not using swap file and stuff), you don't really need a more powerful laptop.

    Another reason I was motivated to make this topic is because some people went as crazy as replaced their 2013 MBAs with 2014 models for additional 100mhz, even though most of them are the exact same models, just with different firmware being used to "overclock" (which for marginal 100mhz is only a fancy word) CPU :D
     
  2. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    #2
    They're only overrated if you don't need the specs. If you need the speed, sadly, apple only sells a single laptop with good specs, and its a 15".
     
  3. SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Well most people don't use MBA as their main machine, and it's purpose certainly isn't to replace the desktop PC. :p
     
  4. yosemit macrumors regular

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    Macbook Air was initially designed for IT professionals and people with similar usage. Remember the first Macbook Air had a price tag of $1,799 for the base configuration. For many of those professionals, $1,799 is about their salary for a few working days. It doesn't make sense for their employers to save money on their computers. :rolleyes:

    Later the price of Air dropped and it gets popular as a consumer-level laptop. Technology has advanced too, and now Air is very capable as a desktop replacement. Many IT professionals use it as so, mostly with a large external monitor. It's fast in CPU, memory, I/O and meanwhile is very quite. Desktop can be loud without customized cooling.

    I agree, though, it is not necessary to replace a 2013 Air with a 2014 Air. :)

     
  5. SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    I very much doubt so that IT professionals bother with external monitors. Air is for travelling, outdoor usage and general iPad alike device around the house, but it's not intended to be used on a large desk for extended periods of time, let alone professionals doing such silly thing. You've got iMacs / iMacs Pro for that and I don't think I need to state the obvious differences between them and MBAs.

    Of course you can connect external display, external storage, external dvd rom... LOL, I will just stop here. :D
     
  6. yosemit, Jun 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014

    yosemit macrumors regular

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    I'm one, I use it so, and I know many others do. :rolleyes:

    IT Professionals use computer somewhat differently from consumers. Before Macbook Air, they used to have ultraportables, in the price range of $1,800-$3,000, with docking stations to connect peripherals (external display, external storage, external dvd rom, you named them well :) ). But now Macbook Air/Pro gets popular.

    And they don't care about names with "Pro." They read specs and benchmark results.

     
  7. Vandefilm macrumors regular

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    #7
    Specs in general are overrated. Most people would do fine with a computer from 2009. The only thing worth mentioning is the move from HDD to SSD, which is a notable difference. But for the average consumer is really doesn't matter at all if you have to wait 8 minutes to export your iMovie-film or 10 minutes, or 20 for that matter.
     
  8. MyiBill macrumors 6502

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    #8
    I didn't know there was an iMacs Pro?
     
  9. SmOgER, Jun 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014

    SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    lol, Mac Pro.


    Benchmarks you say... Then how come any MBA's CPU is slower than 7 years old desktop intel Q6600? I will tell you why.
    One is intented for portability and ultra low power usage, while other is intended to get the job done as fast as possible without worrying about other things. Now imagine what is the computing power difference between Mac Pro and MBA.

    I like my MBA a lot, but let's call the things for what they really are. ;)

    If you want more details, current MBA's CPU performance is pretty much equal to Intel's Pentium G860, which is considered pretty much low-end for desktops. Now Q6600 isn't normally miles ahead, but it's still faster, and after overclock (for which these CPUs are really very good) it can actually become way faster, and again, it's whole 7 years older and even back in 2007 it wasn't a server CPU nor anything like that.
     
  10. yosemit macrumors regular

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    #10
    Man, calm down. Just use whatever you feel comfortable. I took enough courses already on computer system design, and I read too many benchmark results. :)

     
  11. SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #11
    Well I can tell you the same, you can use whatever you want, just don't tell others that it's a common thing for professionals to replace the desktops with ultra portable low-power devices if you can't even back up your statements with your mentioned benchmarks and it obviously doesn't make any sense. :cool:

    I can put it this way, if you can "replace" desktop with it, then you don't really need a desktop PC, and there is nothing else to it. Professionals tho tend to work with resource-intensive software.
     
  12. scaredpoet, Jun 10, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014

    scaredpoet macrumors 604

    scaredpoet

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    #12
    You should probably ask an IT professional about their workflows before speaking on their behalf. :)

    Speaking as an IT professional, I should first point out that not every IT professional has the same workflow or methodology. How they work, and the tools they use to do their work, depends a lot on their skill set, their habits, how they think, and how the group they work in/with thinks and operates. Quite a few IT professionals use Macs and like them well enough, while other IT professionals I know wouldn't use a Mac of any kind, at all. Some are using Surface Pros; mainly the ones dealing with all-Windows environments. Others will instead use a laptop with linux installed.

    But, I'm not going to ridicule an IT professional because they use different tools than I do. My concern is whether they get the job done or not. If they do, then it doesn't matter that much to me what hardware they use to do it with.

    Having said all that, I'm an IT professional that uses MacBook Air, and I use it as a desktop supplement. I've got an iMac with dual monitors on my desk, but sometimes having another computer in the office really helps. So my MBA often sits on its perch next to my iMac, with a Thuderbolt dock attached, that connects to ethernet, an external monitor, keyboard/mouse, and some USB3 ports.

    Does it go out with me on trips to datacenters and conferences? Definitely, and does a great job of that too. Though if I'm a meeting, more likely than not the MBA sits in my office chugging away on something along with my iMac, while the iPad is in front of me in the meeting room.

    There are also some businesses and organizations, where IT people don't have their own office or assigned cubicle. These organizations do "hot desking," where a worker (including IT) will sit down wherever there's space and sometimes plug their laptop in to a dock with external keyboard and monitor. Guess what those people are going to use as a "desktop?" Probably a lightweight laptop, like an MBA. And if my job were like that, I'd be quite happy with the MBA.

    TL;DR: Not everyone works the same, but if you're an IT professional and like Macs, an MBA can totally do the job as a desktop replacement, and some people even dock their MBAs for that reason now and then.
     
  13. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604

    thejadedmonkey

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    #13
    And then they complain that Apple sells a Macbook Pro that's about as powerful as a Macbook Air ;)
     
  14. yosemit macrumors regular

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    #14
    I'm sorry, cannot follow your advice. We don't really listen to amateurs. :)

    When we use "resource-intensive software," we will use servers with processors range from dozens to thousands to hundreds of thousands, and memory of typically 256GB+ per node. If necessary, we can put 1TB memory into a server node.

    We don't use Mac Pro. Mac Pro is designed mostly for power but still consumer-level users, e.g. for Photoshop and video editing.

     
  15. SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #15
    haha,

    You can say what you want, but you still haven't backed up your statement with those benchmarks. :D

    ***


    Anyway, we started the whole new argument here.

    The point is, that if you aren't using your MBA as a desktop substitute, then these CPU upgrades doesn't usually matter.

    And if you do, well tough luck then. Couldn't help but say it, lol. But for the sake of argument, in this scenario, well uhm.. then yes, CPU/GPU updates are critical for you, cause these devices aren't designed for video editing.
     
  16. Bah-Bah macrumors member

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    #16
    Although they're not as fast as a desktop, the modern Airs are still capable of most intensive comp¡uting tasks if you're in a jam.

    I have a base 11" 2013 Air, 4GB RAM and I've rendered 3d on it and edited video at 1080p. Of course it takes a bit longer but it gets there. the SSD speed makes a huge difference when it has to use virtual memory.
     
  17. scaredpoet macrumors 604

    scaredpoet

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    If you require a minimum benchmark before you'll even touch a computer, that's your business. I haven't run any benchmarks and my MBA works fine as a desktop system. My criteria? Responsiveness, no lag. So far, my 2013 MBA can keep up with my other desktop systems.


    There are real life users who disagree with you.
     
  18. TacticalDesire macrumors 68020

    TacticalDesire

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    #18
    I would in IT and what machines we use is dictated entirely on what is needed at the time or who is doing what. Most of the time I can sit down at any one of the workstations we have, sign in with my admin credentials, and see what I need to see, other times, I need a secondary machine, usually a laptop. Or sometimes I need to get into the server directly.
     
  19. w00d macrumors member

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    #19
    I am curious what industry you work in, what is your background?

    I am a developer, surrounded by both IT and creative professionals, and we don't actually have any desktop systems at all here anymore. Everyone has a laptop with a big monitor. Macbook air vs pro is about 50/50.
     
  20. SmOgER, Jun 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014

    SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Well at work maybe you could get away with MBA and all those peripherals I suppose, but don't you have a desktop PC / iMac at home where you could render videos and store data? Wouldn't it be more convenient to have one?
     
  21. FrozenDarkness macrumors 65816

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    #21
    people who upgraded from a 2013 to a 2014 macbook air are silly
     
  22. GhettoMrBob macrumors regular

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    #22
    Yes, but how many consumer-level individuals are rendering video or even storing massive amounts of data. I can think of two: those that dabble in photography and/or movie enthusiasts. Both would require storage and beefy hardware. That being said, the 15" MBP is more than capable of handling the grunt to render video or transcode video. Storage?-external HD on the desk at home.
     
  23. SmOgER, Jun 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014

    SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    whoa whoa...

    Ok the only conclusion I can see there is that there are 2 scenarious:

    1) MBA is your secondary computer --> CPU/GPU specs shouldn't matter as long as they are somewhat decent. The point of the OP.

    2) You are pushing MBA to be your one and only computer for all the tasks. In this case you have the equivalent of low-end desktop (in terms of computing power), so every little update matters or should matter.


    Personally, for me, frankly speaking the 2013 MBA's power today for main machine would be barely, but just just enough (if we exclude any gaming) considering that often I'am almost fully utilizing Q6600 @ 3.3Ghz. but year or 2 fast forward and I would inevitably need to replace that MBA with the new one . Now my current desktop is already several years old and I can just replace individual parts and keep it for as long as I want, not to mention the fact that I obviously can't install any PCI-E cards, like internal dvb-t/dvb-s or 7.1 sound card on MBA. So yeah, for me travelling/on the go and sitting at desk/home demand different kind of devices and I'am pretty sure I'am not the only one. :)
     
  24. jdechko macrumors 68040

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    #24
    3) One's workflow isn't massively CPU, GPU or RAM intensive. The benefits of having a lightweight laptop with an all-day battery outweigh the 5-10 seconds of wait time.

    As for benchmarks, I don't buy the notion that your 6-year-old Q6600 is faster than even the low-end i5 in the 2013 Air.

    http://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare.php?cmp[]=1038&cmp[]=1944

    According to this the i5 is 14% faster overall and 58% faster in single threaded operations. Obviously, there are other much faster chips in existence, so I'm not saying that the Air is the be-all, end-all, but it is disingenuous to say that the Q6600 is "better". As far as laptops vs desktops, that's a valid outlook, but for many people in many scenarios, a laptop is a better choice.
     
  25. SmOgER, Jun 11, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2014

    SmOgER thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    1) cpubenchmark.net. The fact that your point is based on that website alone means that you know little about CPUs (no offence). This site is known to be widely inaccurate. Stock 6 years old Q6600 is pretty much equal to Pentium G860 which in turn is equal to current MBA's CPU according to notebookcheck

    2) As I said, I'am running it at 3.3Ghz, which is almost 40% more than stock, therefore definitely faster than both newest low-power i5 and i7.
     
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