A host of MacBook Air questions

Flashy

Well-known Member
Other half desperately wants a new laptop, I desperately want a Mac of some description to sit alongside our two iPhones, iPad and Apple TV. She seems happy enough with this suggestion, which is half the battle won.

Hoping to get something we can get a good few years out of, not particularly interested in selling on, so resale value not a factor. Looking at the 11in MacBook Air refurbs which come in and out of the Apple Store. June 2013 model (1.3GHz dual core Intel Core i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB flash storage, Intel HD Graphics 5000) is £599.

But, inevitably, I have quite a few questions for those in the know. Appreciate a lot of it could come down to "buy the best you can afford", but really I want to spend as little as possible while balancing that with getting the best deal for those pounds and not selling myself short by being a miser. So...

1) Is the spec enough? Usage would be some work (Office or similar), general web stuff, maybe occasional Netflix and possibly some Football Manager if I can find the time. Also the odd bit of amateur photo editing and I would like to give iMovie a go, too. Also the possibility of it acting as an iTunes server for the other iDevices in the house.

2) Is it worth spending another £40 to get the 2014 model (processor 1.4GHz instead of 1.3, plus 4GB of 1600MHz LPDDR3 onboard memory, 
128GB PCIe-based flash storage
, 
Intel HD Graphics 5000), or would we really not notice much difference with the usage above? Consideration for futureproofing?

3) Is 128GB storage enough, or should I be looking at 256GB? Neither's enough, really, given the size of my iTunes folder, which currently sits on a 500GB portable hard drive, but there's no way round that, beyond also getting a NAS/Mac Mini, or iTunes Match, or having the hard drive dangling from a USB port all the time. But ignoring the media side of things, 128GB or 256GB? The latter means going up to £749 or thereabouts.

4) Okay to leave it on for long periods of time acting as an iTunes server, with regard to general health of the machine and with power consumption if plugged in?


I think that's it. And, actually, I think in asking number 4 I've realised that I probably need a Mac Mini, and have that serving up the iTunes content. This could get costly...

If you've read this far, thanks, really appreciate it, and any feedback/answers/help would be great.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
1.) It will be able to perform those tasks. The experience will obviously not be the best you can find but it will be able to handle occasional work of this nature. Football Manager will run well enough but you might not find it the most rapid experience.

2.) in my opinion the faster processor isn't that big a deal. More RAM however will offer a significant performance increase on heavy web browsing, image editing etc.

3.) 128GB is not really enough in my opinion. If you have a NAS or other main desktop machine then you can get by. My advise would be to always stretch for the largest capacity internal storage you can afford. I added a 128GB Transcend Jet drive to my Macbook Pro. Its a little memory card designed to fit snugly into the card reader of a macbook pro or Air. Be advised, I don't think the 11" Air's have an SD card slot but will be an option if you go for a 13".

4.) Shouldn't be a problem. Especially now that most of these new laptops are all solid state they run cooler and quieter. Perhaps you should eventually be looking at a NAS or a Mac Mini later on to act as a always on server.
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
Thanks, really appreciate the reply. Thought 128GB sounded too little. The more I think about it, the more I realise that some kind of network storage is going to be essential. I like the idea of iTunes Match, but not the idea that the 10,000+ tracks I've got in ALAC would be streaming at 256Kbps.

Though, on the basis that either a Mac Mini or something like the WD My Cloud will be essential (probably something more like the latter, as it's a fraction of the price), maybe 128GB would be enough. Know I'll still need something with iTunes on it running to access, but that's not a problem.
 

CamFire

Distinguished Member
Here are a few more "data points"...

Till 9 Sep, Apple is offering 0% financing but not on those models you wanted since they are refurbs.

JohnLewis is bundling a 3-year warranty with Mac's at no extra costs.

How wonderful it'll be to combine both of these - free extended warranty with 0% finance.
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
That would be very nice indeed. We can dream.

Been reading up and it seems 4GB might be enough, though who knows what will happen in a few years. More RAM is quite a lot more money, as I knew. Can see what will happen, I'll end up putting this off for ages then we'll just get a cheap Windows laptop 'to tide us over', but which will continue to frustrate for years to come.
 

batfinkus

Well-known Member
Whilst I'm not an advocate for putting things onto credit cards,santander have a credit card with 18 months 0% on purchases,so you could have the best of both worlds with 0% finance (sort of) and be able to buy from the refurb or education store (as apple won't allow credit on either of those) it's how I bought mine with finance and as soon as the payment went through I put the card through the shredder so it won't get used again
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
While 0% finance would be a bonus, it's not important, but thanks for the heads-up anyway. Getting the right thing's the important bit here. :)
 

malk

Well-known Member
The RAM difference between 4gb and 8gb (might in your case), be noticable,im not saying it will, but more than likely.
ive had a couple of macbooks, and an imac, and also my brother has a macbook, the diffeence between 4gb and 8gb IS noticeable,.
After 8, me personally, hasnt noticed much diference,(currently use 20gb),.
If i possible go for the more RAM.
have you looked at the Macbook pros? the 2011-2012 versions, they are easily upgradeable with HDD RAM, and can easily hold up quite well, and are quite cheap 2nd hand,,£500 for an excellent condition one.
Plus, Yosemite, the new OS, might be a bit more power hungry, so a bit more RAM would be nice there too...
Just my 2p worth!
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
Thanks. But...

So far, some of the advice involves more RAM and more storage, which combined pushes the price up to nearly a grand, almost double the price of the model I initially cited as an example. And that's still for a refurb model.

I don't care how good it is, there's no way I can justify the best part of £1,000 on a laptop. That's why I'm looking at cheaper refurb units, in the hope I can save some pennies and still get something half decent.

Also, should have mentioned that I'm coming at this from a seven-year-old Vista laptop, which the missus is currently wanting to replace her six-year-old Vista desktop, which is a hulking great beast. So, pretty much anything's an improvement.
 
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Stinja

Distinguished Member
I just bought an 11" Macbook Air off Amazon.co.uk for £580. It's only the base model, but is the latest June 2014 one, and functions fine as a non-main machine. (from the "other sellers" there's one that dispatches from Amazon itself. It appeared new, and came with Mavericks)
Apple MacBook Air 11-inch Laptop (Core i5 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 128GB HDD, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger): Amazon.co.uk: Computers & Accessories

It runs Diablo 3 fine, is fine for light text-like work. I wouldn't use it as a media device, so 128GB SSD is enough as i have no music, videos or other large space-sucking files.
And while more RAM is good (near essential) for certain tasks, but if you are only going to actually use it for non-media it will be fine.

I've not tried iMovie editing, but given the screen isn't great, and the capacity required for files, i think you'd be better off with a Macbook Pro (as an uneducated guess). Likewise i haven't done iTunes server stuff, but i'm guessing a Time Capsule or old iMac Mini would be more suitable. Saying that it runs Diablo 3 for some hours, and the temperature doesn't blow out.

The 11" Air is essentially a super portable, low spec laptop though, and isn't designed for heavy tasks.

You really need to think about what you want from a laptop, and not deceive yourself.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Interesting that you don't consider it a media device. I quite fancy an 11" Air for writing and watching video while travelling. For me an Air would be preffered to say an iPad mini for watching films etc on a plane. Not sure if the lower res screen would be that much of a big deal in that situation. I like the idea of having a lightweight laptop and a few 128GB USB keys with a ton of content on.
 

Stinja

Distinguished Member
Obviously more explanation needed.

I've got (access) to retina iPad and 15" Macbook Pro for video media (and TV and 27" iMac at home), phone and computers for music. 11" MBA is for other stuff.
Best example i have of screen issues is playing Diablo 3: the resolution isn't great for the tiny writing, so i sit quite close to see everything. My phone has better res, as it's full 1080p!

While i would happily watch a movie on the MBA, but probably as a second choice, i would not store media or use it as a media server. As the OP was querying that side. So my context of "i wouldn't use it as a media device" should be more in context of that and:

Flashy said:
Also the odd bit of amateur photo editing and I would like to give iMovie a go, too. Also the possibility of it acting as an iTunes server for the other iDevices in the house.
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
Yes so we are digressing slightly (sorry OP!)...

I have the latest 15" Macbook Pro which I use as a mobile workstation for location work. While its still loads slimmer and lighter then previous 17" MBP (used to slip a disc everytime I carried it) I still think its a little on the large side for plane seats, train rides etc. It's a strange time as I am waiting on Apple announcements to decide where to go next. I have an iPad mini retina which I love but loathe to take away because my wife and kids love it too. So I was considering buying myself a new 128GB retina mini but then a larger iPhone 6 might negate the need for that. Add in the fact a 12" MBP air retina is potentially round the corner I might aswell wait 6 weeks and see what happens.
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
Yes so we are digressing slightly (sorry OP!)...

No problem at all! Interesting to hear examples of use and it's all good food for thought.

With my situation, it basically comes down to the other half wanting a laptop and me wanting it to be a MacBook of some description and for us both to use it. It is likely to be the main machine in the house, by default if nothing else. What I want is:-
  • Portability (in the home, not being taken out and about)
  • Ability to play/serve iTunes media and work with other iDevices
  • A device that can competently cope with web, YouTube, Netflix, iPhoto and iMovie, and general Office/iWork stuff
What I can't work out for the life of me is the issue of storage. I want plenty of space (500GB, maybe 1TB), but I really like the idea of an SSD for speed. How much that speed would actually benefit me, though, in real-life use, I don't know. Anything's going to be substantially faster than a seven-year-old Vista machine, though. I'm also conscious of the fact that flash storage is the future, and if I want a 500GB MacBook, then it's last year's base model or nothing.

If I'm honest with myself, I don't think an 11in MBA fits the bill, and I was attracted to because it's the least expensive option. There, I've said it!

I think 13in is more sensible, which leaves the issue of storage — SSD and some kind of NAS or normal hard-drive. And then I need to get over the cost, which is creeping up. I'm also slightly apprehensive, in case she can't get on with it, but think that'd be fine. Decisions, decisions...
 

Hillskill

Moderator/Games Reviewer
For me any modern, content consuming home can benefit from a NAS or a server. I started with a QNAP NAS about 6 years ago. I soon added a 2nd NAS in an attempt to keep things organised despite outgrowing my previous unit. It soon dawned on me that this was a rather in-elegant and crude solution. I decided to build a PC with a dedicated RAID card with around 12TB of RAID5 protected storage. This is run completely headless (no monitor or keyboard) and I VNC in to the machine from iPads, laptops or other desktops. The server automatically downloads content, serves content (itunes, video etc) backups family pictures/videos.
So thats a very brief rundown of my server and its uses. Now all my actual desktop PCs and laptops are completely solid state for storage.
It is a money pit, there is no doubt about that. But the rewards are definitely worth it, and if your like me, the tinker and setup time is a real pleasure!
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
I've long pondered a proper NAS because I liked the idea. Now, it might be necessary. But the truth is, we don't have that much content – certainly not more than 500GB. Was thinking of plugging the portable drive into my router, then wondered if a Time Capsule would work? Mixed reports online.

That's something else to think about. At least now I've established three things: 1) that a 13in screen would be a better idea than 11in, 2) storage needn't be an issue if a NAS is bought, and 3) I'm going to have to stop looking for the cheapest way of doing everything.
 

malk

Well-known Member
You can get from the apple refurb, a 5th gen airport extreme for about £60, it has a usb input, and can be used with a powerd usb for more inputs.
Works well with a HDD for time machine , and storage places for films etc.
 

malk

Well-known Member
Have you checked the classifieds on here for macbooks/ airs? Often is some good examples.
 

Flashy

Well-known Member
Yeah, but would prefer new (or at least a new refurb from Apple). Might try just plugging in a portable drive to my router for the time being, as adding AirPort Extreme and powered drive means finding two more plug sockets that I don't have where they would have to go.
 

MartinPickering

Well-known Member
On 3-2-2014 I bought from eBay a used Apple MacBook Pro 13” Core i7 2.7 GHz 4GB, Early 2011 500GB for £573. So far I'm delighted with it!

I bought and fitted a 16GB kit (8GBx2), 204-pin SODIMM memory Upgrade but it didn't actually appear to make any difference to running Mavericks.

This model has 2 x USB ports and a Firewire port that I use for the backup drives. It's also got a card slot, in which I keep a 16GB camera card for watching movies and TV programmes. This extends the life of the Hard Drive which, due to its age, will probably need to be replaced in a year or two.

At home, I use this MBP with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse.
 

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