Macbook Air or Pro (& spec)

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
I currently run:-

15" Dell core i5 64Gb SSD work laptop. Email, Excel, etc.
MacMini (old style) Core 2 Duo 64Gb SSD
11" MacBook Air 2010 Core 2 Duo 64Gb SSD

The Dell for work and connected to a work network (dog slow). The MacMini is also at work, but rather than being on the work network, is on a consumer broadband line so I can do all sorts of surfing, downloading, etc. The Air hops between work and home and travels with me as it's light and easy to lug about. It has no files or anything on it of note. Just a handy surf/email machine. It has a virtual machine with Windows XP on it for when I travel with work. Despite having only 2GB memory, slower processor, it does this without too much trouble (the occasional stutter in XP when it runs).

I am going to sell the Macs (both mine) and replace with 1 machine. The Dell I want to make redundant in this process. I want one machine to do everything. It would need to run Lion and Windows 7 (in a virtual machine) without missing a beat. It must have a SSD of at least 128Gb (preferably 256Gb - happy to swap myself if needs be).

I love the small and portable nature of the Airs (I just adore the current one I have, but it's storage is too low and it doesn't quite manage to run Windows in VM fast enough to be my daily workhorse). it is last year's model.

What would you get? Will a 2011 higher spec 11" or 13" Air cut the mustard? Or should it be a 13 or 15" Macbook Pro (in which, I upgrade the internal HD myself).
 

dc8900

Distinguished Member
seeing as it will be your sole machine, I probably go for the MBP (and the 15" if you can afford it, unless of course when you are work you dock your laptop to a larger display?)
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
I do dock the Dell to a larger display in a docking station. This, however, is not an issue. Thunderbolt port is also a Mini Displayport (isn't it?), so an HDMI or DVI adaptor would do the trick. I think?
 

dc8900

Distinguished Member
I do dock the Dell to a larger display in a docking station. This, however, is not an issue. Thunderbolt port is also a Mini Displayport (isn't it?), so an HDMI or DVI adaptor would do the trick. I think?

Just wondering as you buy the 13" and spend more beefing it up, as you already have access to a larger dispaly
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
Just wondering as you buy the 13" and spend more beefing it up, as you already have access to a larger dispaly

Yes, could do that. Smaller is better for me, as I have to lug it around.

Shame I cannot get a matte display on the 13", but it's a small price to pay. I am going around and around on price/benchmarking, but I suspect the only real pay off in coughing for 15" and quad core will be in very intensive tasks (video encoding) and even then, compared to the Core 2 Duo in my Mini and Air, these will be way faster. Day to day, i7 dual vs quad core on surfing, email, file copying and running a VM won't make that much difference (it will get 8GB RAM and SSD).
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
I reckon it's either:

MacBook Air 11" with 256GB SSD, 4GB RAM, i7 1.8Ghz. For: total portability, low cost £1399. Against: Will it run Windows 7 with Aero, Office 2010 and hefty spreadsheet useand Lion with bit of downloading, web, HD video playing comfortably with only 4GB RAM (maxed out)? That's not too intensive, but concern is RAM.

MacBook Pro 13" with 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, i7 2.8Ghz. For: has RAM and processor to cut it. Against: Less portable, cost is £1750 (and that's fitting 3rd party SSD). No warranty.
 

RobM

Distinguished Member
What's your upper budget? If £1750 is doable... a touch more, £1828 in fact, would get you the 15" MBP upgraded to have the 128GB SSD (Apple) and high resolution matt screen.

The screen is superb for VM's (I have the same screen in my MBP) as you can fit a nice resolution Windows VM inside your OSX environment comfortably. It's also great for Excel, you get loads of information on screen.

The SSD might not be as fast as a third-party one, but it's still more than good enough to put a mechanical disk to shame. I know you'll be thinking 128GB is too small, but the answer to that is.... Optibay! Get the Optibay kit, put the stock HDD into it and you've got a nice fast SSD for OSX and applications and loadsa space for your data separately. I've made an assumption here that you can live without an internal optical drive, since you enjoy your current MBA.

The current 15" MBP has a decent enough graphics card, it's RAM can be upgraded to 8GB for a really good price from Crucial at the moment, it's not that heavy (not much more than the 13" MBP in fact) but as a 'do-everything' machine it's hard to fault, especially with the high-res screen.
 

Owen824

Well-known Member
I was in a similar situation to yourself. I moved from an XPS 15 to a macbook air 13" with just the i5 but the 256gb drive. As of yet I have not had any issues with it handling anything i do with it including running multiple apps from the adobe creative suite premium edition. I have a windows home server that all my business files, as well as movies, music etc is stored on that connects in nicely with it. Plex media server has no issues streaming blu ray rips to the machine over wifi and accessing all my business docs (excel, word, illustrator, indesign, etc) there has been no issues.

So far I am well pleased with this as it is my first foray with using apple software. The SD card slot is quite handy on the 13" as well as it is quite cheap now to get a 32gb card for when you need to take files for work, etc that you don't need to keep on the hard drive.

the best thing has to be the portability for me. i still cannot believe how thin and light this thing is. That is what kept me away from the macbook pro. i wanted something that could handle everything i need it for but also easily portable and this ones ticks all the right boxes. :smashin:
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
Rob

Good points. I think the problem is, it's £1800, then an ssd on top and then some more RAM. Just pushing it a bit too far. If I thought I'd really get the use out of a quad core, I would go that way. And, the gfx card is not needed. I play no games at all. Of course, there's a bit of future proofing and expandability there - and it would like rip through what I throw at it like a buttered dolphin through water.

But, price, price, price... So, then I think 13" MBP. And then I look at the spec and wonder if i7 1.8 and 4gb will cut it. If it would, then why cough for more and the air gives me portability? I wonder if it will run win 7 virtually just fine. Screen size is no issue. It's mostly connected to a nice 24" Dell monitor.

Poo sticks. I just don't know!

Pete
 

RobM

Distinguished Member
I really wouldn't worry about the processors, all of the Sandy Bridge processors in used in MBA and MBP's are very good. RAM would be my concern too. 4GB is plenty for most tasks for most people, but when you add in virtual Windows alongside your normal applications you're pushing it a bit. One or the other is fine, but both together isn't ideal.
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
The 13 might strike the right balance and I can swap the hd out myself.

I'll go see the airs and 15" pro in action. One way another, I will have to compromise on ram or portability. The 13 might just be the middle ground.
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
Good idea.
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
Well, after much back and forth, I decided on a MacBook Pro 13" 2.8 Ghz i7. £100 saving on Amazon and will fit my own SSD and 8Gb memory. Total £1500 - blew the budget by about £200. I am not sure if I will do the optical drive swap out, now that I have the 256GB SSD. The work machine is using about 70Gb of space, the other 40Gb (with a Windows XP VM), so it should be enough and this swap is something I can do later, if I want.

My reasoning in the end was that 4GB RAM wouldn't cut it (I'm always using about 1.5Gb in Lion with lots of apps open and my Dell machine in Windows 7 wants about 2Gb just for starting up). So, the Air was discounted before we get to the weaker processor and lack of ports. The Pro 15" 2.2GHz Quad i7 was much larger, a fair bit heavier and has too much stuff I don't need. The gfx card would be completely redundant. A 15" screen that would be mostly only hooked up to a monitor seems a waste. That would all be fine and a nice bonus if it came in on budget, but it blew it by a mile. So expense ruled it out.
 

dc8900

Distinguished Member
If you are yet to purchase the RAM, there is currently 10% Quidco for Crucial :thumbsup:
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
If you are yet to purchase the RAM, there is currently 10% Quidco for Crucial :thumbsup:

Thanks. I got it for £30 and all being delivered from Amazon. I've never signed up for Quidco. Should I?
 

CamFire

Distinguished Member
Thanks. I got it for £30 and all being delivered from Amazon. I've never signed up for Quidco. Should I?

Quidco docks £5 (annually?) as some sort of admin charges, so for your single purchase, you probably won't get to see it at all.
 

dc8900

Distinguished Member
CH_Peter said:
Thanks. I got it for £30 and all being delivered from Amazon. I've never signed up for Quidco. Should I?

Unless you don't do regular online shopping then it might not be worth it as its a £5/year fee (in my case it's worth it as I've got back some £180 in cash back this year).

Anyway, when the RAM comes, let us know if you need any help :smashin: (although there is an official Apple how-to)
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
Thanks. I've done a drive swap in a laptop before and and mac mini, so think I should get on OK (my only concern is having the right tools to open the case).
 

RobM

Distinguished Member
The only tool you need is a small phillips screwdriver. It's extremely easy, just remove the back panel and you have direct access :)
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
So, ended up going for the 13" Pro . Installed the extra RAM and SSD without issue and put Lion back on from a USB stick I prepared earlier - which rather impressively installed in under 15 minutes.

Looks like it was a good decision. There was no need for the quad 15 because this one is running Lion and Win 7 in a virtual machine without any issues. There is no performance difference between Windows 7 on the Dell and on the MacBook in a VM for what I do. Incredibly pleased and getting stonking performance from it. Thanks all for the help and advice.
 

CH_Peter

Well-known Member
For the curious, the Win 7 VM uses one core and 4gb RAM. Seems to be optimal in terms of performance and is indistinguishablein the day to day tasks I do from the Dell.
 

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