Yet ANOTHER i3 vs i5 MBA question!

Mohamed Kamal

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 5, 2020
21
10
Hi. Sorry to post again about this with so much discussion already done, but I want to ask specifically about the following: what do you think would be the limit of the i3? I mean, what is the point after which the i3 model will start struggling/hanging/lagging behind? Is it opening a 100mb pdf file? Is it running 7 apps simultaneously? Is it photoshop? Is it 15+ tabs on chrome?
I understand that everyone advises to go for the i5 because it’s double the performance for 100$ more, but for me (and some people) 100$ is a significant amount that I’ll be willing to pay IF it meant a real world difference to my use, and if I will have issues using the i3, but if the i3 suffices for my needs then I’m good with it! Regarding future proofing, I only need this laptop to last me 3 years, anything more than that is just a bonus.
Thanks in advance!
 

Pugly

macrumors regular
Jun 7, 2016
214
150
I think a lot of the talk about performance is just in theory. It's more about bragging rights than anything. A modern computer will have no problems doing any common task.

The limit is really beyond what is practical.

I have an old 2015 Air and I've done video editing, picture editing, playing games and a ton of audio production on it. I use it for Logic Pro X.

In a few of my projects I've pushed my Air up to what it's capable of, but that was with 50 tracks or so with really demanding processing.

The i3 is similar to what I'm using in the 2015 Air, since it's a dual core, but faster. Especially in single core, which everyday usage is primarily about.

The i5 is closer to what the MacBook Pros have now, as a quad core. It'll be about twice as fast as what I currently have in my 2015 Air, but just in what I need in Logic.

I think if you need the performance, you'll know exactly what you need it for. Just because it's slower doesn't mean it's not good enough.
 

Ericdjensen

macrumors regular
Nov 6, 2019
162
131
Springfield,VA
Hi. Sorry to post again about this with so much discussion already done, but I want to ask specifically about the following: what do you think would be the limit of the i3? I mean, what is the point after which the i3 model will start struggling/hanging/lagging behind? Is it opening a 100mb pdf file? Is it running 7 apps simultaneously? Is it photoshop? Is it 15+ tabs on chrome?
I understand that everyone advises to go for the i5 because it’s double the performance for 100$ more, but for me (and some people) 100$ is a significant amount that I’ll be willing to pay IF it meant a real world difference to my use, and if I will have issues using the i3, but if the i3 suffices for my needs then I’m good with it! Regarding future proofing, I only need this laptop to last me 3 years, anything more than that is just a bonus.
Thanks in advance!
Are you doing all of those things? What are you personally using it for?

Also, how is $100 a lot more if you only need it to last three years? It's a lot to me as well but I plan on having it last close to ten, so I got the i5
 

nordique

macrumors 65816
Oct 12, 2014
1,473
928
Use my late 2013 retina pro and it’s fine for everything I use it for

Mainly internet, mail, office suite, that’s pretty much it

generally speaking the core experience is the same. Still has 8gb ram, ssd and Retina display

it’s more powerful than my old retina MacBook 12”

just got the new 2020 mba i3 and will compare when appropriate
 

kreasonos

macrumors 6502
Dec 4, 2013
337
305
Use my late 2013 retina pro and it’s fine for everything I use it for

Mainly internet, mail, office suite, that’s pretty much it

generally speaking the core experience is the same. Still has 8gb ram, ssd and Retina display

it’s more powerful than my old retina MacBook 12”

just got the new 2020 mba i3 and will compare when appropriate
At $899.00 (teacher discount) the base model is such an amazing deal. Yes, the youtubers say to get the i5 model but that's $300.00 more which makes it feel like less of a great deal, to me anyway.
 

Falhófnir

macrumors 601
Aug 19, 2017
4,223
4,614
Chrome tabs are more RAM intensive than CPU, same largely goes for PDFs. Running 7 simultaneous programs - well, depending on what they are it could be ok on a dual core i3, or the 8 core MBP could struggle! Photoshop honestly isn't that intensive unless you're working on a really big, complex professional project. The i3 still packs quite a bit of power. It's got pretty strong single core performance, and though it's dual core, it is at least hyper threaded. It's difficult to specify an arbitrary cut off point, and arguably by the time you're doing more than the i3 can do, you'd likely be benefiting more from moving to the MacBook Pro than the i5 Air (for example those big professional photoshop projects, where not only the extra power/ active cooling of the MBP would come in handy, but also the more colour accurate display).
 
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aevan

macrumors 68040
Feb 5, 2015
3,255
4,247
Serbia
Hi. Sorry to post again about this with so much discussion already done, but I want to ask specifically about the following: what do you think would be the limit of the i3? I mean, what is the point after which the i3 model will start struggling/hanging/lagging behind? Is it opening a 100mb pdf file? Is it running 7 apps simultaneously? Is it photoshop? Is it 15+ tabs on chrome?
I understand that everyone advises to go for the i5 because it’s double the performance for 100$ more, but for me (and some people) 100$ is a significant amount that I’ll be willing to pay IF it meant a real world difference to my use, and if I will have issues using the i3, but if the i3 suffices for my needs then I’m good with it! Regarding future proofing, I only need this laptop to last me 3 years, anything more than that is just a bonus.
Thanks in advance!
There is a popular opinion that things beyond browsing and office work are "demanding tasks" that require stronger CPU options and people act like whatever the weaker option can only, like, read email or something. But if you're going to edit big files in Photoshop - you need the i5.... or i7.... or i9 - whatever is the strongest thing available.

And sure: 1. a faster CPU is going to do things faster and 2. some workflows really benefit from faster CPUs. But the fact is - you can do A LOT even with a modern i3. Heck, I used to have a 10 year old CPU in one PC and I worked in Photoshop with no issues, I did some 3D stuff, etc.

I am oversimplifying but - when you look at CPUs, look at sustained vs instant tasks. Also look at multi-threaded vs single-threaded tasks. Are you going to do a complex batch operation in Photoshop? A better CPU will take less time. Are you going to render something? Yes, a better CPU can do something several times faster. The Content Aware fill won't take 3 seconds, it will take 7. Or something like that. The longer the task - the bigger the difference. Not just because of speed, but also thermal throttling. But editing a photo? Running different apps? Opening a 100Mb PDF file? I don't think you'll see that much of a difference.

I haven't used the latest Air - but I can tell you, you can definitely run 7 apps simultaneously, you can work in some quite large Photoshop files and - I don't think you should have 15 tabs open in Chrome anyway and please use Safari, ffs. :)
 
Last edited:

jpadhiyar

macrumors regular
Oct 15, 2012
145
5
Ahmedabad, India
Hi. Sorry to post again about this with so much discussion already done, but I want to ask specifically about the following: what do you think would be the limit of the i3? I mean, what is the point after which the i3 model will start struggling/hanging/lagging behind? Is it opening a 100mb pdf file? Is it running 7 apps simultaneously? Is it photoshop? Is it 15+ tabs on chrome?
I understand that everyone advises to go for the i5 because it’s double the performance for 100$ more, but for me (and some people) 100$ is a significant amount that I’ll be willing to pay IF it meant a real world difference to my use, and if I will have issues using the i3, but if the i3 suffices for my needs then I’m good with it! Regarding future proofing, I only need this laptop to last me 3 years, anything more than that is just a bonus.
Thanks in advance!
The most important point to consider is your usage. And not in the sense of running 7 apps simultaneously or opening a 100mb pdf file.... It's about how often do you come across such tasks.

For instance, will you be opening a 100mb pdf file regularly or extremely occasionally? And don't just think in terms of now or just 3 years... broaden the perspective a bit.

What might you need in the future? Would the i3 suffice or an i5 could have been a better choice.

Also, consider the apps that you will be playing with. Most apps are going all out to present the best of features. In doing so, they are expanding the amount of power, RAM, memory or overall smarts they use.

What if you saved $100 now, but the app you really need has upped the ante by next year?

My suggestion is you give a good read to all the replies in the thread. Take note of important Pros and Cons and then finally, throw yourself into the future. Give a thorough thought to what you may need and I guess you will have your answer.
 
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Pugly

macrumors regular
Jun 7, 2016
214
150
Opening a 100mb pdf isn't a hard task... it's instantaneous on my MBA. Using 7 apps at once is easy too. I don't use chrome, but I'll often have 20+ tabs open in Safari. (from what I've read chrome tabs need more RAM... but 15 tabs doesn't even seem like that much). All these are lightweight tasks that are no problem for computers made in the last 5 years.

The main reason for recommending the i5 upgrade is for the value. For $100 more you get nearly twice the performance(for some things). It's an easy sell, even if people will never actually use or need that extra power.
 

mj_

macrumors 6502a
May 18, 2017
698
387
Austin, TX
It's a very popular opinion on tech-savvy forums like these that anything less than a quad-core CPU, preferably i7 of course, 16GB of RAM, and a blazingly fast NVMe SSD is beyond useless for anything else than maybe reading emails (one at a time, obviously) and browsing the web with no more than two or maybe three tabs open. There was a thread here the other day where somebody asked that very question looking for a 2020 Air for his/her 10-year old son, and people went overboard recommending the i5 saying that it's basically a MUST.

The truth is that a modern dual-core is much faster than a modern human. On average, most users will be perfectly fine with the i3 dual-core and 8 GB of RAM because let's face it, it is still a very capable machine despite carrying the i3 moniker. Those two extra cores will only bring you more oomph if you actually use CPU-intensive multi-threaded software regularly, have extensive computational requirements (for example running mathematical simulations or statistical analysis using specialized multi-threaded software) or are playing games regularly. For everyday work, be it running 7 applications simultaneously, opening 100MB PDFs, having 20+ browser tabs open, or doing some light photo editing in Photos, Affinity or even Photoshop the base-model i3 will be perfectly fine and not noticeably slower than the i5.

Case in point: I am writing this on my 2017 base-model 12" MacBook with a Core m3 Dual-Core (abysmally slow and utterly useless if you believe people on the internet) and 8 GB of RAM (again, based on popular internet opinion barely enough to open one or maybe two browser tabs). I have 9 tabs open in two Edge windows, of which I am actively using one right now, and in the background I have Spotify playing music, Microsoft Outlook checking two Exchange and one Outlook account, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Apple Mail checking one Gmail account, 3CX Softphone, WhatsApp, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and a Remote Desktop Session to a remote Windows server open. My passively cooled CPU is bored to death, I still have more than 2GB of RAM available, and there are no slowdowns whatsoever.
 

Mohamed Kamal

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jan 5, 2020
21
10
Thank you to everyone who replied to this thread! I apologize for not replying to each comment individually.
After reading the comments, I think I’ll just go with the i3. I definitely don’t use many professional-level intensive apps, and seeing that for everyday tasks the i3 is enough, I believe it’s the better choice for me.
 

Ericdjensen

macrumors regular
Nov 6, 2019
162
131
Springfield,VA
Case in point: I am writing this on my 2017 base-model 12" MacBook with a Core m3 Dual-Core (abysmally slow and utterly useless if you believe people on the internet) and 8 GB of RAM (again, based on popular internet opinion barely enough to open one or maybe two browser tabs). I have 9 tabs open in two Edge windows, of which I am actively using one right now, and in the background I have Spotify playing music, Microsoft Outlook checking two Exchange and one Outlook account, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Apple Mail checking one Gmail account, 3CX Softphone, WhatsApp, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and a Remote Desktop Session to a remote Windows server open. My passively cooled CPU is bored to death, I still have more than 2GB of RAM available, and there are no slowdowns whatsoever.
Wow! If I had read this a week ago, I probably wouldn't have upgraded to the i5 or 16 GB RAM. For sure not both at least

You're right. Most people on here make dual core processers and 8 GB RAM sound useless
 
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kreasonos

macrumors 6502
Dec 4, 2013
337
305
Thank you to everyone who replied to this thread! I apologize for not replying to each comment individually.
After reading the comments, I think I’ll just go with the i3. I definitely don’t use many professional-level intensive apps, and seeing that for everyday tasks the i3 is enough, I believe it’s the better choice for me.
Good choice, I'm sure it will give you years of trouble free service. I'm probably getting the i3 version myself.
 
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