When do you reach the limit of your MBA's capabilities?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by DoNoHarm, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. DoNoHarm macrumors 65816


    Oct 8, 2008
    I'm trying to get a gauge of when people are reaching the limit of their MBA's. Can people currently using them give me -real life- examples of when they reach the limit of their machines? Obviously they will be slower in benchmarks or if you were compiling a video, but for most people, that's not really a big deal....
  2. thejadedmonkey, Apr 14, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2012

    thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    I think you'll find there's 2 types of people with Macbook Air's...

    Type 1 uses them for Facebook, word, email, and until Facebook's Javascript gets to be so outrageous that it slows Safari down, the Macbook Air will work just fine.

    Type 2 uses the Macbook Air for multiple VM's, programming IDE's and occasional CAD work, and they'll upgrade at every chance they can, simply because in that sort of line of work, you can afford to.

    In either case, the Macbook Air will probably be replaced before its' functional limit is reached.

    That's just my 2¢

    C'mon guys, show me how totally wrong my blanket statements are ;)

  3. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    The real "Limiting" factor is the 256GB SSD. I don't game on my MBA, so I guess that would be a factor for others too. As posted, It's a long way from reading it's full potential.
  4. Jobsian macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2009
    For me, in order of what I find to be most limiting for my use:

    1) Battery
    THE primary 'limitation' for me. I zero it almost every day, often multiple times.

    2) SSD
    Constantly juggling with Time Capsule

    3) CPU
    Not a huge issue, but when I'm trying to watch youtube for example at 720p or 1080p, skipping becomes more noticeable, especially with more than one tab or program running. Thankfully, heat and noise are still minimal on my 2010 MBA with the lower voltage CPUs (10W TDP as opposed to the rest which I think are 17W?).

    No other major limitations. I don't think I max the RAM (4GB) much, haven't noticed much page filing) I guess technically a limitation is the graphics in that I just don't install as many games as I'd like (save for some emulator action) because I don't like the idea of compromising much/tweaking down the settings.

    As I said, battery is my primary issue. If Apple released the next MBA with a better battery than their 2010 MBA range, I'd seriously buy it regardless of its other specs.
  5. Jobsian macrumors 6502a


    Jul 30, 2009
    Just to add that the fact that I drain the battery regularly is testament to its phenomenal portability!
  6. aleni macrumors 68020

    Jun 2, 2006
    it becomes slower when i'm working with photoshop and illustrator at the same time with big dpi images size. to make it comfortable again, i need to turn off all the other apps except for PS and AI.

    my machine is 2011" core i5, 256gb ssd, and 4gb of ram.

    but the slowness isn't really that bad that i take the thinness of the air over the mbp anyday.
  7. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    What would you be doing on an Air? That would help us point out exactly where you might run into limitations on your Air. Just remember once you get your questions answered, only you can decide if an Air is right for what you want and need.

    Also, the other issue is you're getting subjective information. Some people don't seem to mind a slower computer to get something the size and weight of an Air. Of course will it be slow depends on what you plan to use it for. For an example, multiple VMs can be a real drain on system resources depending on how many are active at once and what is being run in each one.

    The 4GB of RAM can also be a limiting factor.

    Also, depending on what is being done with the Air, the screen size and resolution can be limiting factors.

    This is a perfect example of something that is subjective about how well the AIr performs certain tasks.
  8. jmoore5196 macrumors 6502a


    May 19, 2009
    Midwest US
    Thus far, my MBA has handled everything I've thrown at it ... including InDesign and Photoshop usage.

    To my mind, the only real limiting factor is the size of the SSD. If there's one thing I hope we see in the 2012 iteration, it's a 512GB SSD!
  9. Boyd01 macrumors 68040


    Feb 21, 2012
    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    I agree that it's going to be very subjective. I replaced a dying 2008 15" MBP with a 13" i5 MBA. The MBA seems almost twice as fast as my old MBP for CPU intensive tasks, and maybe 4 or 5 times faster for disk bound tasks. My old MBP only had a 160 GB hard drive, so I am nowhere near reaching that "limit" with the MBA's 256GB SSD. Now I could have upgraded to another MBP but then I would have paid more and wouldn't have such a nice thin, lightweight machine.

    I run VectorWorks, Photoshop, Filemaker Pro and Final Cut Pro on my MBA and they all perform significantly faster than they did on my old MBP. There was a time when I used 3d modelling/animation pretty heavily. Back then I thought my G5 was pretty fast though ;) If I ever get back into heavy use of this kind of software I'll get a faster machine, but I wouldn't really consider this a "limit" of my MBA.
  10. drsox macrumors 65816


    Apr 29, 2011
    Network data-rates. Single biggest issue with the MBA.

    Wireless n at 300Mbps is OK for surfing, managing spreadsheets to/from a LAN NAS and dealing with Time Machine etc backups. NOT OK for moving 7+GB video files around a network.

    I have a Gigabit USB NIC that is good for 20MBps or so that I use when normal data rates get to be too annoying, but that is a far cry from the 90+MBps that I used to get from my Intel Gigabit NIC.

    This alone may make me want to trade-up to the new 15in MBP/MBA when it arrives.

    Second issue is the CPU power AND the fan noise when taxing the CPU. I might get an iMac or Mac Mini and use that for the taxing tasks (inc video file file management). If I do then I will keep the MBA as a "super iPad".

    Anyway, before year end I will have 2x Macs - the MBA and something else.
  11. bingeciren macrumors 6502a


    Sep 6, 2011
    I have the maxed out 11" Air, 1.8 i7 - 256 that is. For my typical business use, MS Office, mail, iCal and Parallels to run Windows only programs, it is hard to exceed the limit of this machine. However, when my wife borrows my Air to play her Castleville or Farmville, the poor CPU gets pegged, the machine becomes a lap cooker and the battery life goes down to 2 hours or less. As for the storage, I have 100Gb worth of pictures and 32 Gb of music. Despite all this, I manage to consume only 200Gb with roughly 50Gb to spare. Each year I add another 5Gb of pictures, so I am still good for a few more years before I consider to buy a flash disk from OWC. Since I can only squeeze 3.5 hours from my Air on normal use, the only thing I wish would be a better battery life.
  12. DoNoHarm thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 8, 2008
    I'm a med student who would be replacing a 2010 MBP. The biggest demand would be having 4-5 very large PowerPoints open and photoshop and watching a video at the same time. My current computer starts to lag when I open iPhoto and try scanning through the images, or when I'm starting up new programs. I doubled the hdd size but it's at best equal in speed, maybe a little slower.
  13. kooskoos1814 macrumors member

    Apr 6, 2012
    No problem here for the Air.
  14. DeepIn2U macrumors 603


    May 30, 2002
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    So you've sacrificed thinness over productivity and longevity of performance in ownership?!

    MBA 2011 corei5/256GB SSD & 4GB RAM vs MBP 2011 Corei7/500 or 750GB HDD & 4GB RAM.

    Lets see:
    Immediately performance gain for saving large files while mobile, more powerful dual-core cpu even if its a corei5 in the MBP; the Corei7 2.8Ghz is $100 cheaper than the topline MBA 13" Ultimate.

    Productivity oer time = performance:
    (Lets say 1-3yrs with AppleCare)
    Upgrade Storage: It'll cost you $1000+shipping for a blade SSD for MBA to go double (480GB SSD). MBP costs less than $700 for same 480GB (or 512GB SSD) with same peformance.
    Upgrade RAM: woops sorry cant do that on MBA so you're stock as Mountain Lion and more powerful Adobe Suite and similar apps increase in performance and features requiring more RAM. MBP ... ugprade to 16GB official Max for $130.

    All prices stated are Canadian; currently slightly higher than US$ value ... and I'm shopping online locally which means you should be able to get much cheaper prices on SSD. with MBP you still save $400 vs upgrading your MBA for better performance - unless of course you upgrade to a new MBA which means more than $1300US.

    weight ... barely a pound difference and I'm sure changing to an SSD in the 13" MBP you'd barely notice it ... unless thickness is a concern for you. The ONLY gain you get with MBA is the slightly higher resolution vs the 13" MBP ... I had the ultimate and for Logic, Office 2011 Suite (all running on corporate LAN), Safari, VM access via RDP (Windows Server 2008 R2's) and soon XCode the RAM limitation and exhorbitant SSD Blade costs tipped my hand to trade for 13" MBP Ultimate.

    PS: I cannot STAND the 750GB HDD WAAAAy too slow.:(


    If still under warranty:
    Upgrade the RAM, and switch to a 256GB SSD for $319 (Samsung) on Amazon. Wait until summer promotions ... sell it for decent quid (due to dedicated video card) and ugprade to 2012 MBA ultimate.

    I owned a 2010 15" Hi-Res MBP with 256GB SSD and I was incredibly impressed as the speed was equal to the 13" MBA Utlimate I owned. Going from a 15" to a 13" MBP/MBA is like night and DAY!

    I can imagine just how much 15"MBAir Pro's Apple will sell with high end dedicated video cards, 3x 3.0USB, 1 ThunderBolt, SDXC Slot and FW800 for those that still require it. :apple:
  15. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    It sounds like an issue of ram. The speed of an ssd can make paging and scratch disk functions less painful, but it's still not ram. We're past the point where holding something in the background is a real burden on the cpu most of the time.

    You didn't mention ram :p. The gpu would be an issue for some people too. While most people can gain something from it due to OpenCL functions integrated within OSX, the integrated graphics and low shared memory allocation (it allocates a bit more memory if you have 8GB or more installed with the HD3000) can make anything truly gpu intensive annoying. Adobe stuff is mentioned frequently, but most of it really isn't affected much. I don't know if that will remain the same with the CS6 upgrades. They seem to be changing direction in that regard.

    Again... aside from the video that sounds more like a ram bottleneck. You're not actively using all of those simultaneously. They take up a few cycles in the background, but at some point not everything can reside in ram. Lion is especially ram hungry.
  16. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Agreed, I will probably replace mine at the next refresh and get the best resale value I can on my current model.
  17. lyrrad721 macrumors regular

    Jul 28, 2010
    I use Solidworks in Bootcamp and it runs flawlessly. Had to tweak the registry to have access to the software Open GL option though.
  18. aleni macrumors 68020

    Jun 2, 2006
    it's not like the air becomes really slow like a one-legged dog. i know mbp is the better value for notebook, but for me, once i use a laptop with the air form factor, i wouldn't go back to mbp. it's not like im doing video editing with it. just tshirt designs.

    yes ram, but with ssd, it's not that slow. it's just taking 3-4 seconds longer but nothing really awful that makes me want to go back to mbp.
  19. hawk1410 macrumors 6502

    Jul 5, 2011
    I mostly have ram issues, find that several times the computer slows down and i have to start closing some tabs in chrome. Usually have Chrome, Spotify(or Evernote if i am in a class) and the mail app open at the same time. It is mostly a portable internet machine as i do most of my stuff on my desktop. 8gb ram and i would never run into any issues. It is the 2011 model with i5 and 256gb SSD>
  20. mickcordero macrumors newbie

    Mar 27, 2012
    To me:

    * Lack of harddisk space. I have the 256gb model, used to have 500gb in my old MBP.

    * Graphics. My MBA 13" 2011 is ok for most games, but not with all details turned on and highest resolutions.

    Otherswise it is perfect! The speed is excellent, also for heavy stuff like making music with lots of plug-ins and photo editing.
  21. bogatyr macrumors 65816

    Mar 13, 2012
    I fall into this category. Works great for what I do, no slowdowns. I only run 1 VM at a time though and I keep the VMs on an external drive. My MBA is under 25GB used, so I have plenty of space left on my 256GB SSD. Wouldn't trade this laptop for any other design.
  22. KohPhiPhi macrumors 6502a

    Feb 9, 2011
    At this time, I'd say that the HD3000 GPU and the 4gb RAM are the only bottlenecks for the Air, plus battery life in the 11".

    I dont know why people complain about the 256gb SSD. Simply store your videos, photos, music in a USB hard drive and you will have plenty of room in the SSD to run as many applications as you wish.
  23. sarah11918 macrumors member

    Aug 14, 2010
    Because people have different use cases.

    My MBA is my primary machine. The main reason I bought it was for size/weight and portability because I'm on the road for months at a time. I do travel with an external hard drive with all my photos and also for my backup, so that wouldn't change. But since I access my photos frequently, it's a PITA to have a USB connected drive on an airplane tray table, on those tiny coffee shop tables, in an airport lounge, waiting in a hotel lobby or even sitting on the couch ... all the places I usually have down time and want to deal with my photos.

    It's obviously not enough of a pain to make me go to a MBP, but I would definitely appreciate a larger hard drive. I have the 2010 11" with 128GB bought a week after these machines came out, and I have no problems with any of the specs except hard drive size. This machine doesn't need replacing (so far, after 18 months of ownership) and it definitely hasn't reached its limit. I will probably upgrade after the 2012 refresh (two years of ownership) but mostly for a larger hard drive, not because I find it lacking in any other way.
  24. bogatyr macrumors 65816

    Mar 13, 2012
    I'm not sure how large your photo collection is but they make 128GB SD cards now. I use one for my Time Machine backups.

    Of course this won't work if you have an 11". Hopefully they add an SD slot in those for 2012.
  25. DoNoHarm thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 8, 2008
    Damn! that's a lot of memory on such a small card!

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