Which 2013 MBA Config is right for a student?

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by phudge, Jul 4, 2013.

  1. phudge macrumors newbie

    Feb 16, 2013
    Hey there everyone, long-time reader but first-time poster! Thanks to all for your input on other threads!

    I will be entering university this fall as a Science student, and I am looking to get a MBA as my first laptop. I was decided on the 15" rMBP for months, but upon further review, I found the 13" air to have the best form factor for me. My needs include:

    • Solid battery life & Portablility
    • Light Gaming (i.e SimCity 2013 once released)
    • Light Photo Editing (CS6)
    • Internet Browsing (Blogs, videos, etc - I tend to have upwards of 15 tabs open at once)
    • Word, Excel, PowerPoint
    • Other school-related tasks
    • Occasional use of Parallels for specific tasks
    • Using a 24" LED 1080p External Display (likely not 2 screens at once but it could be a possibility down the road I suppose)

    Web browsing and word processing will be my most common tasks by far.

    I am pretty sure on upgrading the RAM to 8GB, as I would like this computer to last me at least 3 solid years of good performance and I do multitask a lot.

    I am more confused on whether I make the upgrade from i5 to i7... some say its performance bumps will go unnoticed, while others say it will be well worth the small battery life trade-off. For my needs, am I better off going with i7, for now and in a couple year's time? I had difficulty finding conclusive, consistent data on the i5-or-i7 debacle.
    (EDIT: I have now read the Anandtech review between the i5 and i7 processors. He found 20% performance increases with a maximum battery life loss of 1 hour. I am debating if that seems like a fair trade off for myself to make or not, as I'm sure others in the market for Airs are too.)

    Also, I am not sure if my needs are better suited for a 128GB or a 256GB SSD. While I will have a Time Capsule (with 1TB belonging to myself) I'm not sure if I would benefit from more storage on-the-go. I plan to try and keep 15-20% of the on-board SSD vacant to keep the system running smoothly, which may be difficult. Would I see performance improvements from simply upgrading the SSD size? I was told by an employee at Best Buy I would see bigger gains from upgrading the SSD size than I would from upgrading the processor based on more room being available, but I'm not so sure about that...

    With all of these upgrades, if I do determine they are all worth it, puts me into the 13" Retina territory price-wise. That makes me begin to think perhaps I should wait and see what is in store for the Haswell model, but I don't really have the time to wait until October (that's my bet..!) as I currently don't own a laptop and will need one come September. Add in the $100 gift card and buying now rather than waiting (and loose out on that offer) makes even more sense, never mind all the benefits of the air as it stands right now.

    I would really appreciate any feedback I could get. I know this topic has been beaten to death, so I apologize for another similar topic. Thanks everyone :)
  2. gabe. macrumors newbie

    Jul 2, 2013
    Based on your needs and wants, I would recommend i5/8GB/256 SSD.

    i5 - Unless you don't mind spending the extra money, I would totally skip the i7. The performance gain is nearly negligible, especially if you are not going doing heavily-intensive tasks (which you really aren't).

    8GB - Simply a must, according to many people and today's world. Apparantly, 8GB is the new 4GB.

    256GB SSD - If you are looking at things like Office, Parallels, and CS6, and want at least 3 years of use, I would recommend 256. If you opt for 128, Keep in mind you automatically start with 100 free because of pre-installed software and whatnot, which is not too much space. Even with an external drive, if could get bothersome if you are constantly having to transfer things, etc. But this is just a matter of opinion, and of course $.

    Hope this helps.
  3. phudge thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 16, 2013
    Thanks for the input! RAM is for sure going to need the upgrade.

    For the processor, you make a good point. I am not too demanding on my processor, I rely more on the RAM than anything probably for multitasking. At this point I'm not sure if I am willing to commit to all 3 upgrades financially, unless there was really value in doing so. My money is probably best spent on upgrading the SSD size rather than upgrading the processor. In order to keep it running smooth I do need to allocate some free space, so that leaves me with aproximately just 80GB to start clean with... yikes.

    Again, thanks so much for your input, truly appreciated! :)
  4. B... macrumors 68000


    Mar 7, 2013
    I recommend i5/8/256 as well. It seems to be the go to config for many users as 4GB is no longer plentiful and 128 can get tight quickly.
  5. phudge thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 16, 2013
    Agreed, thanks so much! That is likely what I'll go with I think. :)
  6. mattferg macrumors 6502

    May 27, 2013
  7. irDigital0l Guest

    Dec 7, 2010

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