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Coal
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Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sat Sep 01, 2012 9:59 am

Hello

I need some help in deciding how much to spend on a new MacBook Air. Please keep the "Mac sucks, get a PC" comments to yourself as I am and have been a happy Mac user for 7 years and those posts will be suggested to the mods for deletion.

So, here we go:

Base Model

13-inch
256GB Flash Storage
1.8GHz Dual-Core i5
4GB SDRAM

What I will use it for

I am upgrading from a 2007 13-inch MacBook that, although still works, is due for an upgrade. I will use the MacBook Air for my MBA next year and will be installing Windows on it through VMWare. Other than that, I don't play any games, so I use it for music, movies, making and editing amateur videos, editing photos, browsing the internet, just the basics, really.

The most important bit is durability. I want to make sure I can use the new MacBook Air for at least 3-4 years if not longer.

What I am willing to pay more for

8GB SDRAM (+$100)


What I don't know if I have a need for

2.0GHz Dual-Core i7 (+$100)
512GB Flash Storage (+$500)

Questions I have

- What does Turbo Boost up to 2.8Ghz (for the i5) and up to 3.2GHz (for the i7) means? Based on my requirements, would I need this?

- I currently have about 150GB of music, videos, and photos. This will increase (obviously) as I get more music, take more vids, and take more photos. But properly managed in an external HD (I have a 1TB My Book external HD, do I really need double the capacity?

Greatly appreciate your help!

Cheers
Coal
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Hywel
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:09 pm

I was in the exact same situation as you 2 months ago. I just went for the 8GB of RAM in the end, I couldn't justify the extra $500 for a 512GB SSD. But an extra $100 for 8GB of RAM is a bargain and will help a lot when using VMWare - I run Windows 7 on mine and it's very fast.

Don't forget that SSDs don't slow down when almost full - I have 220/256 GB of mine used but it's still super fast with only 36GB free. So the 256GB SSD should be fine for you, I manage fine with my external hard drive.

And don't bother with the i7 processor, it will make very little difference compared to the i5.

I'm so happy with mine, it boots up from cold in 7 seconds flat and is the fastest computer I've ever used.
 
ajd1992
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sat Sep 01, 2012 12:30 pm

If you're doing any sort of video editing then the RAM upgrade is definitely worth paying for. The extra processor speed probably won't make the difference you're paying for although having a SSD increases performance exponentially.

I'm looking at a MacBook Pro next year for university - the one upgrade I know i'm getting if I get the Retina model is the 16GB of RAM rather than 8. I'm a computing student so the more power, the better. 

If you have a 1TB external drive then the extra $500 for the bigger SSD is a bit too expensive personally. I wouldn't pay for it but that being said it depends what you want. If you ever REALLY need the extra space, you could buy a bigger SSD drive and fit it yourself. I know it's a bit of a pain but from what I've seen on the web it isn't actually that difficult to do and a lot cheaper than paying Apple to factory fit it.

[Edited 2012-09-01 05:33:48]
 
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Aesma
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sat Sep 01, 2012 1:31 pm

I'm not an Apple guy so I did a little searching and you won't be able to replace the SSD with a cheap one, since Apple made it non standard on purpose. Now, will they offer the 512GB (or even bigger) in a couple of years for less money, I don't know. The memory is soldered on so buy the upgrade. I would also take the i7 since you want your computer to last longer.

The CPUs are dual core, Turbo Boost is when an app doesn't use both cores (or doesn't use them heavily, it's based on power output), then the frequency of one core will go higher in steps, up to the maximum number you mention. It means better performance for those applications (which are common, since programming for multicore CPUs is complicated).
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
Braniff747SP
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sat Sep 01, 2012 1:43 pm

Quoting Coal (Thread starter):
I currently have about 150GB of music, videos, and photos. This will increase (obviously) as I get more music, take more vids, and take more photos. But properly managed in an external HD (I have a 1TB My Book external HD, do I really need double the capacity?

That depends. If you don't venture far from your hard drive or you put things on there that you don't always need with you, then that's fine. The standard HD size is one of the biggest reasons I chose a 13' MacBook Pro over the Air, among several others. I like to have al my data with me on-the-go.

Quoting Coal (Thread starter):

8GB SDRAM (+$100)

Again, this depends. I've had a Mac for the last five years that I got with the standard RAM and runs fine. It's probably a good idea though, specially since the MBA is not user-upgradable.

Quoting Coal (Thread starter):
2.0GHz Dual-Core i7 (+$100)

If it's one or the other, I rather get this than the RAM... But then again, since the MBA has a SSD, it's quite a lot faster than other computers anyway. If you do anything overly taxing, then it's a good idea. If you don't, then you don't need it.
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Klaus
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:11 am

I would absolutely recommend getting the RAM upgrade, particularly for working with both video and VMs.

CPU performance is of course important for video work, but running into RAM limitations or having to deal with overflowing drive space will cripple your effective working performance much more than a few more MHz could compensate if you have to compromise.

Quoting Coal (Thread starter):
- I currently have about 150GB of music, videos, and photos. This will increase (obviously) as I get more music, take more vids, and take more photos. But properly managed in an external HD (I have a 1TB My Book external HD, do I really need double the capacity?

Depends on how inconvenient you'd find having to connect (and carry around) external drives with your excess data. If having it all in one compact package matters to you, the 256GB SSD would be very tight already.

Another consideration is that the 512GB SSD is substantially faster than the 256GB one as far as I'm aware, since it uses a higher-grade controller. At this point this is a relatively costly upgrade, but it can be worth the money.

Quoting ajd1992 (Reply 2):
I'm looking at a MacBook Pro next year for university - the one upgrade I know i'm getting if I get the Retina model is the 16GB of RAM rather than 8. I'm a computing student so the more power, the better.

According to recent reports a 13" model with a resolution of 2560*1600 is already in production as well, providing an additional option there.

Quoting Aesma (Reply 3):
I'm not an Apple guy so I did a little searching and you won't be able to replace the SSD with a cheap one, since Apple made it non standard on purpose.

"On purpose" meaning that it is a lot more compact than the regular 2.5" drives and thus allows for the ultracompact form factor of the MacBook Air.

And there actually are third-party upgrade options at somewhat lower prices. But when you're getting a MacBook Air you've already decided for "higher grade" and thus by necessity against "cheaper" anyway.
 
CXfirst
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 4:40 am

Quoting Coal (Thread starter):
- What does Turbo Boost up to 2.8Ghz (for the i5) and up to 3.2GHz (for the i7) means? Based on my requirements, would I need this?

Simply put, you're i5 processor will run at 1.8GHz, and then when it is needed automatically boost up to 2.8GHz. Keeping the base speed lower, it lengthens battery life as well as CPU life.

Personally, I would add the ram and processor, as I would see it as lengthening overall computer life (by buying a top of the line product rather than something that is already middle-range).

As for SSD upgrade, I wouldn't. 256GB would be enough for my music, documents, and enough space for programs, etc. 512GB, wouldn't be enough for me to add all my movies anyway, so I would need an external hard drive. And it is especially big enough for anything that needs the SSD speed.

Currently, I'm surviving with a 128GB SSD, with a 1.5TB external hard drive (which cost a lot less than the upgrade, and fast enough for video playback), albeit not a macbook.

-Cxfirst
 
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Aesma
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 4:31 pm

Quoting Klaus (Reply 5):
"On purpose" meaning that it is a lot more compact than the regular 2.5" drives and thus allows for the ultracompact form factor of the MacBook Air.

Not more compact that any other mSATA drive. Except mSATA is a standard, and Apple can't have that, so they kept the mSATA connector but changed the order of the electrical connections.
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
Klaus
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 5:58 pm

Quoting Aesma (Reply 7):
Not more compact that any other mSATA drive.

Actually yes, they are even more compact than the mSATA devices.

Quoting Aesma (Reply 7):
Except mSATA is a standard, and Apple can't have that, so they kept the mSATA connector but changed the order of the electrical connections.

mSATA didn't even exist when Apple introduced their own format, so you have it backwards.
 
ajd1992
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:20 pm

Quoting Klaus (Reply 5):
According to recent reports a 13" model with a resolution of 2560*1600 is already in production as well, providing an additional option there.

Actually I was planning on the 15" one simply because I've been stuck with a 12" netbook for the last year. It's not bad but I miss a 15" screen even though it's a bit more difficult to carry round. Even If I had a 13" screen but with 2560x1600 I'd still want a bigger screen even with more space. I have a 12.1" screen but it's only 1366x768.

I'm hoping the SSD upgrades are cheaper come next August or so. I would really like a 768GB but I'm not willing to pay for one even with my student discount.

[Edited 2012-09-02 14:21:49]
 
Klaus
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:30 pm

Quoting ajd1992 (Reply 9):
Actually I was planning on the 15" one simply because I've been stuck with a 12" netbook for the last year. It's not bad but I miss a 15" screen even though it's a bit more difficult to carry round. Even If I had a 13" screen but with 2560x1600 I'd still want a bigger screen even with more space.

Yes, I would probably prefer the bigger screen as well (currently I've got an older 17" model, not just for the resolution).

Quoting ajd1992 (Reply 9):
I'm hoping the SSD upgrades are cheaper come next August or so. I would really like a 768GB but I'm not willing to pay for one even with my student discount.

Prices will certainly go down over time, but I'm not sure if they'll go that fast.
 
ajd1992
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 9:45 pm

Quoting Klaus (Reply 10):
Yes, I would probably prefer the bigger screen as well (currently I've got an older 17" model, not just for the resolution).

I did want a 17" one but some how I doubt my back would like that being carried back and to to university 
Quoting Klaus (Reply 10):
Prices will certainly go down over time, but I'm not sure if they'll go that fast.

Indeed, even on a student discount it's still £500. The 256GB upgrade is still £320 which I could sort of stretch to but I'm going to get one simply because they're more durable (it'll be in a backpack a lot of the time) and they boot far quicker.
 
Ken777
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:26 pm

If I was going to replace my MBP I would go with the bump in RAM and the i7 - plus Apple Care. All 3 would help you sell the MBA in a couple years.  

I would be holding off on moving the SSD up at this time as I believe there will be some major changes in the future and the next MacBook is where I could afford 1 Tb of SSD.
 
ajd1992
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Mon Sep 03, 2012 6:33 am

Quoting Ken777 (Reply 12):
If I was going to replace my MBP I would go with the bump in RAM and the i7 - plus Apple Care. All 3 would help you sell the MBA in a couple years.  

I would be holding off on moving the SSD up at this time as I believe there will be some major changes in the future and the next MacBook is where I could afford 1 Tb of SSD.

The extra 0.1GHz of processor speed is pointless though. It's that much for an extra (at least in the UK) £240. For that money you can buy a whole new computer in some cases.

I would personally buy the SSD now as you can always retrofit a newer SSD. Search for something like "MacBook HDD vs SDD Boot" and watch the video on YouTube. The difference is astonishing - the single core MacBook with the slower processor beats the dual core with the the faster processor by 45 seconds - literally, only difference is the slower one has an SSD rather than an HDD.
 
bueb0g
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:58 am

Quoting Coal (Thread starter):
2.0GHz Dual-Core i7 (+$100)

Get this, along with the RAM, if you can. Both are important for video editing and in this regard a dual core, 4 thread i7 is going to be noticeably more capable than a dual core, dual thread i5.

Quoting Coal (Thread starter):
- What does Turbo Boost up to 2.8Ghz (for the i5) and up to 3.2GHz (for the i7) means? Based on my requirements, would I need this?

It means that the processors are underclcoked when not needed but will speed up if the extra speed is required. Factory overclocking, of sorts.

Quoting Hywel (Reply 1):
And don't bother with the i7 processor, it will make very little difference compared to the i5.

It makes very little difference - when we're talking about quad cores. But we're not, so the i7 should be considerably faster, especially for the application he'd use it most - video editing.
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Coal
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:29 am

Thanks for all the responses! It has been really useful!

I have decided to go top of the line, except I will not be getting the 512GB SSD. I have a large external 1TB HD that I can use both to back up all my 128GB of files in addition to keeping all the videos.

However, since I will be using this for graduate school next year, I would really like to buy a 500GB external portable HD. I was looking at both the LaCie Rikiki USB 3.0 and the LaCie Porsche Design USB 3.0. At $90, they seem like really good value for money, though it worries me that there are a couple of reviews online of people who said the product quit after a couple of months.

Does anyone have any experience with these? Or any alternative suggestions? It will have to be HD because an external SSD will cost me the same as going from 256 to 512GB on the MacBook Air.

Thanks!

Cheers
Coal
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Braniff747SP
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:15 pm

Quoting Coal (Reply 15):
I have decided to go top of the line, except I will not be getting the 512GB SSD. I have a large external 1TB HD that I can use both to back up all my 128GB of files in addition to keeping all the videos.

However, since I will be using this for graduate school next year, I would really like to buy a 500GB external portable HD. I was looking at both the LaCie Rikiki USB 3.0 and the LaCie Porsche Design USB 3.0. At $90, they seem like really good value for money, though it worries me that there are a couple of reviews online of people who said the product quit after a couple of months.

Sounds great. Congratulations.

In terms of the hard drive, I've never had problems with LaCie. I use an old drive that was given to me by my uncle; it's still going strong.
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JAGflyer
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:36 pm

Unless you plan to keep it on a desk most of the time (little or no movement) I'd strongly suggest a regular MacBook or MacBook Pro. The Air is too flimsy IMO and is just asking to be broken. Considering that my Aluminum MBP broke in 2 years with minimal abuse these ones would be even more likely to break.
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Klaus
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RE: Help Me Build My MacBook Air

Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:50 pm

Quoting Coal (Reply 15):
However, since I will be using this for graduate school next year, I would really like to buy a 500GB external portable HD. I was looking at both the LaCie Rikiki USB 3.0 and the LaCie Porsche Design USB 3.0. At $90, they seem like really good value for money, though it worries me that there are a couple of reviews online of people who said the product quit after a couple of months.

Have they said what exactly the defects were?

The power supplies of such external drives are often not very good quality. That can be one source of problems. I've had both power supplies of my older FireWire drives die on my not far apart, likely because of dried-up capacitors. With replacement supplies both keep on working. They've had worked quite a few years already, but still...

Cooling can be another, either with failing fans or on fanless cases with insufficient heat dissipation (metal cases can be better than plastic for this). External drives usually want to have good ventilation and fanless drives should not be stacked.

The actual drive would be another point, but I'm not aware of major problems with any of the current drive models. Slower "green" models (5400rpm, for instance) can alleviate several problems and can have better reliability and longevity than faster ones (7200rpm)..

So unless you can really extract a relevant common issue from the reports about a specific model there is probably not all that much to determine your selection either way.

Quoting JAGflyer (Reply 17):
Unless you plan to keep it on a desk most of the time (little or no movement) I'd strongly suggest a regular MacBook or MacBook Pro. The Air is too flimsy IMO and is just asking to be broken. Considering that my Aluminum MBP broke in 2 years with minimal abuse these ones would be even more likely to break.

What kind of problem did yours have?

The MacBook Air is actually quite a bit more robust than the "classic" Pro, since the conventional Pro (mormally) has a mechanical hard disk and a mechanical optical drive which are major points of failure.

The Airs also have Unibody chassis milled from massive aluminium as well and the hinges have less mass to deal with, so I'm not surprised that particularly the Air is being used by millions of people on the go without unusual failure rates as far as I know.

If anything, the Air and the Retina Pro are probably more durable and reliable than the "classic" Pro.

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