Student notebook: 11" or 13" Air?

PalacePlayers

macrumors regular
Original poster
Oct 5, 2011
106
3
So I just realized my iPad 2 and iMac 27" isn't the perfect setup for a med student. The plan was to annotate lectures and take notes with my iPad with the wireless keyboard, and switch over to my iMac when at home or when I needed certain OS X apps or more power. It did work OK, I guess, but the lack of proper file management, multi-window-viewing and the fact that I had to connect the keyboard via bluetooth every damn time, made me make the decision - I need a laptop.

As I already have the 27" i5 iMac it's clear that power isn't first priority for my new laptop. As I will be carrying the laptop back and forth to school everyday, what I need is a thin, light and fast computer - of course I'm thinking MacBook Air.

However, my dilemma is - should I go 11" or 13"? I've decided to keep my iPad, so it might seem a bit weird and unecessary to have both 11" Macbook Air and the iPad. However, as I have the iMac, it might seem a little overkill to run the 13" when I already have the power and big screen.

So, what I will be doing with my new Macbook Air:
- Annotate ON lectute notes (=PDFs) with Preview (or any other app, if you guys have any tips)
- Take notes from books with Pages
- Browse the web
- View PDFs (possibly large ones)
- Looking up words

A few closing notes:
- The money difference is so little, it's a non-issue
- I will be carrying the laptop in a backback with a laptop folder
- I think 128 GB is more than enough for my use.
- I can charge the computer wherever I am at school.


Any thoughts? Thanks in advance.
 

Xikum

macrumors 6502
Oct 19, 2011
281
1
If you ask me it comes down to battery life. Are there places you can charge your laptop on the go in University? If not, 13" has a good few hours more juice in it. Do you need more than 4 or 5 hours life?

The 11" is perfectly fine for your tasks, and incredibly portable; its just limited by its battery life.
 

PalacePlayers

macrumors regular
Original poster
Oct 5, 2011
106
3
If you ask me it comes down to battery life. Are there places you can charge your laptop on the go in University? If not, 13" has a good few hours more juice in it. Do you need more than 4 or 5 hours life?

The 11" is perfectly fine for your tasks, and incredibly portable; its just limited by its battery life.
As I wrote, I will be able to charge the computer almost everywhere. Or whats more important, I believe I will be able to charge it during lectures :)

But what concerns me a little: is the keyboard really full-sized. What about the trackpad?
 

iStudentUK

macrumors 65816
Mar 8, 2009
1,439
4
London
You have the iMac for power, I'd go 11" (4GB RAM, 128GB HD). Plus you are used to carrying a small iPad around, and the 11" is wonderfully compact.
 

wgnoyes

macrumors 6502
Jul 20, 2011
287
30
the keyboard really is full size, except for the top row function keys and the arrow keys. Best bet is go find an apple store or reseller and put your hands on both and see what you think. Battery life would be a big deal for me; I wouldn't want to have to be constrained in my seating choices to somewhere where there is an outlet nearby. The apple ac adapter with the added extension cord is bulkier than the macbook air. Better if you could just leave it behind.
 

VMMan

macrumors 6502a
Mar 29, 2009
766
238
MBA 11" gets my vote. The battery life for light use is only about 35 minutes less than the 13" model as per Anandtech. The 11's trackpad is a little smaller than the 13" but you get incredible mobility from the size and weight.
 

Lurchdubious

macrumors 65816
Oct 15, 2008
1,150
19
Texas
I'm in a similar situation with dental school, and I chose 13" mostly because the 13" has the resolution of a 15." The 11 is just a little too small for me as my main computer, particularly for opening multiple windows. I don't have an iMac at home, but I still would choose the 13.
 

PalacePlayers

macrumors regular
Original poster
Oct 5, 2011
106
3
the keyboard really is full size, except for the top row function keys and the arrow keys. Best bet is go find an apple store or reseller and put your hands on both and see what you think. Battery life would be a big deal for me; I wouldn't want to have to be constrained in my seating choices to somewhere where there is an outlet nearby. The apple ac adapter with the added extension cord is bulkier than the macbook air. Better if you could just leave it behind.
I definetly see what you mean on the battery issue. However, I find myself so lucky that the whole hospital where I study was completely new in 2008, so there are outlets just about everywhere. I even think there is one per seat in the lecture halls. And even though the 13" has 2 hours better battery life, I belive I would be carrying the ac adapter still, since I often spend 10+ hours at the hospital.

Also, I remember I bought the iPad to be like a notebook with the size of a book. It didn't work that way because I needed the wireless keyboard, and even without the keyboard it didn't work well as a work station since my back started to hurt from the touchscreen typing.

My point is: with a 13", I don't have that size-of-a-book study netbook to have next to me everywhere anymore. Still, 2" larger screen, faster processor, greater battery life and SD-card for 100 bucks usually is a no-brainer..
 

JohnnyQuest

macrumors 65816
May 25, 2006
1,442
187
I would never want to take notes on an 11" screen. Especially when I'm online shopping or on Facebook at the same time.

13" gets my vote.
 

Trav29

macrumors member
Sep 17, 2011
82
0
11" gets my vote. Taking notes on an 11" screen isn't as bad as what others say. I just got the 11" for the same reasons you are getting a MBA. It's great, I thought originally I would go for the 13" but I realized I liked the size of the 11" more.
 

sysiphus

macrumors 6502a
May 7, 2006
816
1
I've now got a 2010 13" MBA as my sole college computer (I specifically wanted the Nvidia chipset for light CAD work--the HD3000 sucks for that).

Yes, the 11 is smaller/lighter, but the screen resolution of the 13" is killer. Well worth the extra half-pound.
 

KylePowers

macrumors 68000
Mar 5, 2011
1,688
197
I sold my iPad 2 to put the money toward an MBA. I decided to go 11in (4GB/128GB) since I already had a 27in iMac. Sometimes I wonder what the 13in would be like, but you can't beat the portability of the 11in.

It takes a little time to get used to, but I've managed to be quite productive on it. At times, I've even chosen to work on it rather than on my iMac. Just make sure to incorporate multiple desktops and full screen apps in your work flow.

Yes, the battery life is subpar compared to the 13in, but 4-5 hours isn't that bad. It's very manageable and carrying around the charger isn't a difficult task if you're keeping everything in a backpack. Also the .1Ghz difference in clock speed isn't going to be noticeable, so don't buy into that.

It's an amazing little machine, but everyone clearly has their opinions. The best advice is to just try it out for yourself.
 

Trav29

macrumors member
Sep 17, 2011
82
0
I've now got a 2010 13" MBA as my sole college computer (I specifically wanted the Nvidia chipset for light CAD work--the HD3000 sucks for that).

Yes, the 11 is smaller/lighter, but the screen resolution of the 13" is killer. Well worth the extra half-pound.
It's not that the 13 is heavier, it's that it has a larger footprint. Which is why I chose the 11". The 11" is the size of a tablet which makes it really nice to carry around.
 

HstephenG

macrumors newbie
Jan 1, 2012
29
0
You mention battery life is not an issue as you can plug in everywhere at school/hospital but remember that does mean you have to carry round the charger also which is perhaps bulkier than the Air itself. Just something to consider that may help you make your mind up. I am in a very similar situation myself and thinking it all through.
 

macbaldy

macrumors newbie
Dec 1, 2011
1
0
Student notebook: 11" or 13" Air?

Your major should influence your screen size needs. If you're going to work mostly on reading texts, note taking, and writing, your personal druthers are reasonable either way. If you're going to be dealing with graphics, like charts or diagrams or maps or medical images, you may benefit from the larger screen.

I have a 13" MacBookAir1,1 with a third-party 128 GB SSD added later. That first generation has lousy battery life. Its power adapter is always with me.

I've tested at the new 11" MBA, hands-on. At first, I too was attracted to the compactness of the 11" version. But, as I mulled over my usage style, I decided that in exchange for that smaller size and weight, I lose screen size and battery life, for only a $100 price difference on similar technical specs. Where I work, I have ready access to recharge outlets but I cherish the freedom to be literally mobile. And when I'm in lengthy meetings or talks, I wouldn't have to worry about where I sit.

BTW, a previous comment disparaged the apparent similarity of the 1.7 GHz vs. 1.8 GHz chip options, I hope that you're onto that oversimplification. Those are two different chips, i5 vs. i7, with real differences. However, my price comparisons above are between MBA sizes with the same chip choice. Good luck.
 

safelder

macrumors member
Jan 9, 2010
78
0
I just bought an 11", 4/128 Air as a portable, grab-and-go machine (to complement my early 2011 MBP 15") for similar, basic productivity uses to what you describe. I've got no complaints about screen size or keyboard size. But I did go play with both of them in Best Buy first to make sure I could live with whatever I chose.

BTW, I bought a refurb, and, but for the plain white box it came in, you would never know. Plus I saved $200, even over my military discount.
 

VMMan

macrumors 6502a
Mar 29, 2009
766
238
My MBA 11" competes with my 2011 MBP 17" in usefulness even when I have equal access to both machines at home.

I run Photoshop CS5 and Xcode on the 11" without any problems. It's easy to compare specs and to think the 13" is "better", but there is no useful measurement of mobility. One usually underestimates the impact of the smaller dimensions and weight of the 11".

I would have gladly paid significantly MORE for the 11" than the 13" for the improved mobility. It was completely unexpected that I would find the 11" so capable that it competes with the 17" for day to day use.

The OP already has an iMac and had sought a mobile solution in getting an iPad. The MBA 11" would be a fitting solution.

Also, for light usage, Anandtech found the 13" to only have about 35 minutes more battery life.

I get with 3 bars of brightness about 6 hours when used only for text input on the 11".
 

buddybd

macrumors 6502
Jul 28, 2011
359
0
I have an 11" too and I have no complains about it. However I would never do all of my work solely on the 11". Thats why I have my desktop PC and no portable solution can ever rival the freedom and flexibility of a full blown work space.

Since you have your iMac I believe you too will have no issues with the 11". I don't have recharge access everywhere but the battery hasn't been an issue for me. Sometimes it goes as low as 8% but I'm usually done soon after.
 

3bs

macrumors 603
May 20, 2011
5,430
23
Dublin, Ireland
I'm a med student and I have an 11 inch MBA and I love it! If you don't mind the smaller screen then go for it. I actually use mine all the time to watch tv shows and I was worried it would be too small but it isn't, for me at least
 

mortenandersen

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2011
402
16
Norway
13" not ultraportable

13" : bigger screen yet still ultra portable and better battery life.
I must say I certainly disagree: The 13" machine is IMO not ultraportable, but not on the other hand VERY big or heavy either.

But the 11" is the only TRULY ultraportable of the two models, and that fact will the daily experience of the question regarding shall I bring with me the machine or not, really bring to the fore: The 13" is just too big and heavy (like many other notebooks) just to grab when leaving the house, while the 11" is sooo much smaller and easier to take and grab when going out; this is a fact and experience that many users have reported that is of great importance in daily life. Further, the keyboard of the 11" is not significantly smaller, and IMO likewise with the screen. The only real limitation of the 11" is its shorter battery time, and that I can live with.
 

3bs

macrumors 603
May 20, 2011
5,430
23
Dublin, Ireland
I must say I certainly disagree: The 13" machine is IMO not ultraportable, but not on the other hand VERY big or heavy either.

But the 11" is the only TRULY ultraportable of the two models, and that fact will the daily experience of the question regarding shall I bring with me the machine or not, really bring to the fore: The 13" is just too big and heavy (like many other notebooks) just to grab when leaving the house, while the 11" is sooo much smaller and easier to take and grab when going out; this is a fact and experience that many users have reported that is of great importance in daily life. Further, the keyboard of the 11" is not significantly smaller, and IMO likewise with the screen. The only real limitation of the 11" is its shorter battery time, and that I can live with.
I haven't tried the 13 inch but I totally agree with everything else you said. I have a small stm messenger bag for 10 inch laptops but the MBA fits comfortably and it's so light and I never have to worry about the weight of the 11 inch and carrying it around all day.
 

Hexiii

macrumors 65816
Jun 30, 2011
1,113
373
Prague, Czech Republic
Well, I think 11" is better for you. The speed is really good for internet browsing/writing. The keyboard is the best I've ever tried, maybe because it's my first Apple laptop, but its really good for typing.
 

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