Uni student - 11" Air and Base mac mini query?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by DoorMouse, Sep 3, 2011.

  1. DoorMouse macrumors member

    Jan 12, 2010
    Hey all,

    My sister is at university and needs a new computer set up (her 4 yr old white macbook is nearing the end of its days).

    At the moment, we're thinking about the 11" Air for carrying around uni and a Mac mini for back at college (she already has a monitor/keyboard/mouse).

    Her main uses for air will be using it around campus/public transport - taking notes in class (microsoft word), web surfing, and itunes/watching movies occasionally (probably only on long train trips home!). For the mini she will be doing all of the above - word/safari/itunes/pdfs up but having everything open at the same time (basically listening to music/watching movies whilst studying)

    With both computers we were thinking about getting the base versions - 11" Air (64 gb; 2gb ram) and the base mini (2gb ram).

    Question: Is the 2gb ram is enough for the mini? With the air I don't think it matters as much as its main aim is just to take notes in class etc (although please feel free to correct me). But I just wonder whether the mini will cope (and cope well)?

    To my knowledge the air isn't upgradable after you've bought it - ie. we're stuck with 2gb if that's what we buy. But is the mini's ram easily upgradable should we need to? (coming from someone with no experience opening up computers...) Or should we probably just go with the next model up (4gb ram) just to be safe?

    Also, this set up should hopefully last her about 4 years. We will buy apple care for both machines.

    Thanks for your insight/help :)
  2. Bioguy35 macrumors newbie

    Jul 17, 2011
    I'm a mac newbie, but it seems to me that for the money you're going to spend on the base model Air and 2 GB Mini, you might consider getting an air with 4GB ram. Your sister could always hook the Air up to the external monitor while at home.
  3. coder12 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 28, 2010
    In my opinion, 2 gigs of ram isn't enough for the Mini. Sure, it's probably enough for the air (keep in mind the air has an SSD vs. the Mini's HDD, so read/write access will be a bit snappier).

    I'm not sure what this "Microsoft Word" is, I'll have to do some research. (I'm completely kidding of course, but why not use the less-bloaty, more fully featured Pages application for notes? I mean, those must be some powerful notes! ;) )
  4. LostSoul80 macrumors 68020


    Jan 25, 2009
    Buy the version with 2GB, and upgrade separately the RAM -- costs a lot less. It is worth upgrading to 4GB, unless she really doesn't make use of apps simultaneously.

    The MBA, having a SSD, is really fast by itself, but consider upgrading. It's a beast with 4GB of RAM, meaning you can run a lot of applications and still be able to run everything smoothly. However, be sure to upgrade the Mini -- the MBA is perfect even with 2GB!

  5. DoorMouse thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 12, 2010
    Thanks for everyone's help so far!

    The problem with the Air is the size of the hard drive. She can cope with 64gb as a secondary computer, but there's no way it would be enough for her normal usage. I suspect even the 128gb would be pushing it - she would have used it up in no time (and I don't think she'd like to have to keep everything on an external drive).

    We've always been using word (well since appleworks stopped being in existence), so i guess that why we haven't jumped ship to pages. My only concern with pages is compatability - sharing notes/assignments etc with other people using word - also uploading assignments to the online uni system - is it problematic? Does it change formatting etc? I was going to purchaser the new microsoft office 2011, however if pages is a better alternative, we could purchase that instead (also I believe has the positive of being cheaper)...

    So it seems definitely upgrade the ram on the mini - I've looked at the link lostsoul80 gave - just to confirm - is this easy to do yourself? And upgrading the ram yourself doesn't compromise the applecare warranty in any way?
  6. njsa04playa macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2010
    new joisey
    coming from someone who has 2008 ms office, 2011 ms office and pages... For school work MS office offers the best compatability with everyone elses documents, it can open pretty much anything and not screw up the formatting, but pages does that a LOT... MS08 is fine if your used to it, but with office 2011 it seems that they are getting a better UI and I would definetely go for that!
  7. cperry2 macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    Well, for the same price you could get the 13" air with 4gb ram and a 256gb ssd. It depends on if 256gb is sufficient, but I would argue it would be nice to have one machine - all one's files in the same place at all times, only one machine to insure, etc.

    If she is really going for the 11" form factor, she can get the same specs at $100 less (but eschewing the sd card reader and, imo, a much more useable screen).

    Anyway, pooling the funds into a great air makes the most sense to me, unless the computers are intended for more than one user for some or other reason.

  8. LostSoul80 macrumors 68020


    Jan 25, 2009
    The RAM won't void the warranty, don't worry.
    Upgrading it is incredibly easy. Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhTbJuveq3M
  9. DoorMouse thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 12, 2010
    I think the 11" form factor is important. But I'll take on board the idea of getting a maxed out air (4gb ram, 256 ssd, i7) rather than a mini as well.

    I guess the benefit of having two computers (and not a maxed out air) is that laptops aren't as durable as desktop computers (especially when you're lugging the laptop around all the time)- so if you get a maxed out air it will still probably only last 3 -4 years, whereas a desktop will probably last longer; and you can just spend less on updating the portability factor of whatever the new laptop (or even ipad if it gets more functionality) after 3 years.

    You also have the added benefit that when one breaks under warranty, you aren't scrambling around for another computer to use whilst its in at the repair store (i'd love to say if, but I tend to find every computer we've owned so far has had to go in for repairs at least once for some reason)

    I'm not sure if that is just a silly kind of future proofing for something that may not even occur - but based on past experiences, as I said, most computers we've had ends up needing to go in to repairs at some point... :eek:
  10. cperry2 macrumors regular

    Jul 23, 2011
    Good points on redundancy (the good kind) and upgradability!


    Can't say I'm sure anymore myself, but best of luck.

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