/ advice on buying mac book air

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.
outtathaway - on 09 Jul 2014

Hi, I was just wondering if I could ask people advice. Is 8gb of ram really necessary or is 4gb ram enough? I went on the mac forums and they say that 8gb ram future proofs the computer. I will only be using it for ms office, maybe 1 other software programme and the net. I may use parallels but if ms office for mac is compatible then I'll just use that. I'm looking to keep it for a fair few years so was thinking 8gb might be necessary, but not sure. Any advice is much appreciated.
Post edited at 22:11
Coel Hellier - on 09 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

I'm typing this on a MacBook Air with 4 GB and it is ample for everything I've used it for, including Office for Mac. The argument about future-proofing has some validity I guess, but that is hard to predict.
ex0 - on 09 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

If you're just using it for Office and pron why don't you spend less money for 16gb ram on a windows lappy? :)
digby - on 09 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

Spend the money on a backup drive. That's far more important. And a solid state hard drive would probably be more efficient than more ram
ben b - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to digby:

All MBAs have SSDs so that isn't really a consideration.

I have a 3 year old 13' MBA with 4Gb in - stock at that time was 2Gb but I paid the extra (it can't be added later as it is soldered in). I think 3 years on I wouldn't be having much fun on OSX 10.9 with 2Gb, so my experience is that it is worth paying extra as software requirements only ever go up over the years and 4Gb is pretty much the standard now. Whilst 2Gb will run 10.9 it will be slow.

I also have a 2008 MBP which runs 10.9 really well - but has a retrofitted SSD and 6Gb of RAM, so I would certainly hope so. The moral being that sadly as Apple make increasingly locked down hardware with no upgrade path you are better off up-speccing the RAM at purchase, cos there's no doing it later.

Parallels does require quite a lot of RAM to run in reasonable time so if there is a chance you will need this to run, get the most you can. However unless you have need for OLE stuff in Word, more complex Excel stats, or do a lot of Powerpoint presenting then Mac Office is fine. Just watch out for minor inconsistencies in presentations and word docs when switching from OSX to Windows.

HTH

b
Irk the Purist - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

Have you looked at chromebooks. Do all you need for a tenth of the price and are light and thin. And no windows! I'm about to take the plunge myself
paul__in_sheffield - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

I had 4gb in my last Air, but upgraded to 8gb in my current machine as I run Matlab in a virtual machine. If you're just running office, 4gb is fine.
Lovely machine.
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to paul__in_sheffield:

I went for the Pro for the retina display. Even now they have been around for a while it is impressive, and few Windows hardware suppliers bother.

Neil
wilkie14c - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

DON'T GET A MAC!

I run a computer repair business and I'd go bust if folk keep buying these mac things....
Hardonicus - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

I have 4 gb in my MBA2013 and seem to have no trouble with general computing a bit of photo editing and running VMWare with scientific software like Matlab.

It's a difficult one as you can't upgrade later but the price for an extra 4 gb is paokey to say the least.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

I would get a better spec windows machine for less. 8 gb will be fine, no need for 16 for some time I imagine.
Only a hill - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

I upgraded my 2012 Mini from 4GB to 8GB and noticed a definite performance increase. However, storage tends to be the bottleneck on these machines, and your Air already has an SSD so should be very fast out of the box.

8GB will be future proof for some years if you use it for relatively lightweight tasks. MacBook Airs tend to last for a long time and are very reliable; that goes for Macs in general, really. I still use a 1993 LC475 on a daily basis.
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:
To be fair to Apple, if you look for a Windows machine with the same kind of build quality (the HP Folio ultrabooks, such as my work one, are almost identical in appearance to Macbooks) you'll pay a very similar amount as for a Macbook. And that's probably without a Retina display, though that of course isn't relevant to the Air which doesn't have one either (this being why I chose the Pro).

Personally, as a Mac is (a) expensive and (b) hard to upgrade I'd go for 8 now, it'll last longer and/or have a better resale value.

Neil
Post edited at 10:42
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:
> To be fair to Apple, if you look for a Windows machine with the same kind of build quality (the HP Folio ultrabooks, such as my work one, are almost identical in appearance to Macbooks) you'll pay a very similar amount as for a Macbook. And that's probably without a Retina display, though that of course isn't relevant to the Air which doesn't have one either (this being why I chose the Pro).

If you're paying the same price you're getting a better spec machine. How much is a macbook?
Post edited at 10:46
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:
So:

Apple:

500gb HDD
8gb ram
2.5gb i5

For 1079

Pretty steep.

Random HP Pavillion (from currys)

1tb hardrive

8 gig ram

Same processor

549. Half price pretty much, although 17 inch (larger screen).

For a grand you would get a stupid good gaming rig with a discrete graphics card and a ssd.
Post edited at 11:05
ben b - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Hardonicus:

My 4Gb 2011 MBA struggles a bit in Parallels (the curse of Adobe and SPSS) but mostly because it runs on an external 27' display. Somewhat sluggish and the fans crank up pretty quickly. Would have more room with 8Gb (and mine is the i7 1.8 which I think remains the fastest processor on offer).

In 2011 it shipped with 10.7 - by the end of the year we will be 10.10 (Yosemite), so will still be running happily after 4 OS upgrade cycles; the old MBP shipped with 10.4 and will manage fine on Yosemite - which isn't bad for a 6+ year old machine.

So I'm saying if you intend to run it forever (and they are expensive anyway, so might as well get the most out of them) go for 8Gb - (and try like heck to find a way that you can qualify for student or educator pricing if possible, and get AppleCare for a much reduced price). An extra 80 quid for an extra year or two of use seems like a good deal to me.

b
Hardonicus - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to ben b:

5 year warranty on educator pricing!
ben b - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

Eh? Assuming it's the 13' model:
256Gb SSD
4Gb RAM
1.4 i5 (i.e. not quick!)
Small, light, widely regarded as the industry standard keyboard and trackpad
1049

Some - even most - of the individual components may be quicker in a windows laptop but it is hard to get the entire package for less.

b
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to ben b:
I was looking at a mac book pro. Is that the specs for the air then?

Edit: yes it is


That's really poor value for a grand. There's a few apple specific programs, I'd consider a mac for but a lot more not compatible. Unless you're forced into buying a mac for that one program you have to work with I generally wouldn't do it.
Post edited at 11:34
woolsack - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

Would that mean having to endure Windows 8?
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to woolsack:

I'm not a fan of windows 8. But basically you can get it to look like 7 very easily and hide the new UI.
Irk the Purist - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

16 GB SSD (with 100GB of cloud storage for two years)
4 GB RAM
1.4 GHz Intel Processor
500g from than an MB air. (1.9kg)

250
HP Chromebook 14. So tell me, I want word processing, email and portability. Why would I get a Macbook Air?




Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

A "random HP Pavilion" won't...

1. Have as good a battery life
2. Have as good a build quality
3. Have an SSD rather than a HD (newer Macbooks)
4. Be as lightweight
5. Have a high resolution Retina display

Be fair and compare like for like. If you don't need the light weight/robustness etc that's fine, don't buy a Mac. But you can't compare the cheaper-end Windows laptops directly with a Mac in that way.

Neil
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:
Because you want more than just a large Android tablet with a keyboard? (Actually it's not even that, because you can't install Android apps). And you're at Google's whim on software.

Wouldn't bother with either. For just word processing, email and portability a used Windows netbook would be better.

Neil
Post edited at 11:34
Irk the Purist - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:
A chromebook is just a locked down linux machine (which you can unlock if you want). The operating system is browser based so if it's online you can use it. How is that being at Google's whim on software any more than buying a windows netbook is being at Microsoft's whim?

The only netbook I've found with similar specs is the Toshiba C50 and it only has 3.5 hour battery life and weighs 1kg more than an air.

Also - I'd have to use the abomination that is Windows 8.
Post edited at 11:44
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:
> A "random HP Pavilion" won't...

> 1. Have as good a battery life

> 2. Have as good a build quality

> 3. Have an SSD rather than a HD (newer Macbooks)

> 4. Be as lightweight

> 5. Have a high resolution Retina display

> Be fair and compare like for like. If you don't need the light weight/robustness etc that's fine, don't buy a Mac. But you can't compare the cheaper-end Windows laptops directly with a Mac in that way.

> Neil
1) You don't know that
2) This is basically a unquantifiable. Basically we're talking about aesthetics.
3) A SSD is a 120 - 520 add on. If you want to compare a higher spec machine that's fine too.
4) True. But it's a much smaller screen and lower spec so thats pretty damn obvious.
5) You do know a "retina" display is anything more than 220dpi ish. That's just apple naming something most people don't feel a need to name. You pay for that (admittedly good) marketing. Anyway, I didn't even use the retina model for comparision (that's even more expensive and has a lower clocked processor).

Name the model and add-ons for comparison. Windows PCs are cheaper for the same spec machine, that will always be the case. Apple make a lot more profit per unit than other companies.
Post edited at 11:52
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Irk the Purist:

"A chromebook is just a locked down linux machine (which you can unlock if you want)"

If you're an expert that would change the view. But a 16GB SSD is nothing. That said, I do like a powerful laptop as my main machine, which is a different market.

"How is that being at Google's whim on software any more than buying a windows netbook is being at Microsoft's whim?"

You can only (unless you hack it) install software on a Chromebook via the app store. Otherwise you have to work fully online (not much use on the train for example). And uptake is quite poor, so I can see Google dropping support. (I don't understand why they didn't instead produce an Android based laptop).

"Also - I'd have to use the abomination that is Windows 8."

Install 7. Or install Classic Shell, which makes 8 look like 7, the back end of 8 is fine, it's just the UI that's appalling.

Neil
Irk the Purist - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

16Gb onboard, you get 100Gb online for free. If you buy a model with an inbuilt 3G antenna you get 250Mb for two years free, or you can use your phone as a hotspot to access the storage. Or you can also work offline, using the 16Gb of onboard storage and just connect when you get home/to office.

I think uptake is going up now some decent models are being released. I can't see them dropping support. A cloud based computing model is forward looking if anything.

Windows in general is an abomination.


ben b - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

Well, the MBA battery life (12hrs) is extremely good; I think there are some carbon fibre Lenovo machines that are more expensive (1200-1500) of a similar weight with longer battery life but very few windows machines I have used have got anywhere near that long.

I fear this thread is going to go all Mac vs PC again.... the OP wanted to know about RAM :-)

b
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to ben b:

> Well, the MBA battery life (12hrs) is extremely good; I think there are some carbon fibre Lenovo machines that are more expensive (1200-1500) of a similar weight with longer battery life but very few windows machines I have used have got anywhere near that long.

> I fear this thread is going to go all Mac vs PC again.... the OP wanted to know about RAM :-)

> b

He wants the bigger ram. Paying a grand for a computer with 4 gb ram, is an absolute rip off. 1080 or whatever for 8gb is slightly less bad. Future proof that.

The battery life is very impressive I agree and Apple does have the aesthetics and the logo, but if I wanted a high spec machine for doing intensive jobs I'd go elsewhere. If I wanted a computer to potter about browsing and word docs, I'd also go elsewhere (for half price or less).

There are niche situations where I'd go for apple (certain programs like logic etc.). But the reasoning for most people is style over substance, they are good looking machines. If you are in that niche are where you need to us a mac only program, or perhaps a low powered ultrabook device (good battery) then there's more of a decision to make.

HakanT on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

4 GB should be fine. I haven't encountered any situation where I needed more and it sounds like we have pretty similar usage.

Comparing specs between a MBA and a Windows PC completely misses the point. A rocket-powered turd is still a turd. I switched to Mac about a year ago and my only regret is all the frustration I could have avoided by switching years earlier.
ex0 - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to HakanT:

So basically you couldn't be arsed learning how to use a windows machine properly and found it easier to pay twice the price for a mac running a childproof OS, correct?

Good for you if that's the case. The OP doesn't mention his reasoning though, so the people suggesting he doesn't need a mac are trying to save him money and get him a better computer in terms of future proofing, something he specifically requested info on.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to HakanT:
> 4 GB should be fine. I haven't encountered any situation where I needed more and it sounds like we have pretty similar usage.

4gb should be fine for now. But I imagine he wants to keep his laptop for more than a year. Getting the 8gb is the best bet for having it around for 5 years +.

> Comparing specs between a MBA and a Windows PC completely misses the point. A rocket-powered turd is still a turd. I switched to Mac about a year ago and my only regret is all the frustration I could have avoided by switching years earlier.

Actually, the saying is. "A shiny turd is still a turd", it may have an apple logo and sleek aesthetics but if it's a poor machine underneath it is still a poor machine. The OS is something that is subjective, few ever feel the need but I'm pretty sure you can install mac OS on a pc now. To be fair, the OS is pretty nice and friendly for those who aren't particularly savvy and prone to frustration, the hardware is locked down, and self maintenance is discouraged, 'go see our gurus', etc. They want the customer to rely on apple every step, more opportunity to sell customer services, warranties, apple approved solutions.
Post edited at 13:20
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

To look at the self-maintenance angle, though, who buys a TV and repairs it these days? If it breaks it goes in the bin and you buy a new one. To most people a computer is the same.

Neil
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:
> To look at the self-maintenance angle, though, who buys a TV and repairs it these days? If it breaks it goes in the bin and you buy a new one. To most people a computer is the same.

> Neil

TVs are different. If its the screen that is the issue (it usually is) it's not worth fixing as it costs more to repair.

If my phone or computer breaks, as long as its not an apple you can replaces parts yourself for very cheap. Strip and samsung phone down, and you will find camera modules, batteries, microphones, speakers all easily replaceable with a lot of parts costing around 5-10 quid in a 500 phone. My gfs 8 year old inspiron looked like it was dying, just needed a new heatsink/fan and a remount onto the cpu, cost less than a tenner and a half hour of my time.

Still running fine now. If you had an older apple machine, you'd probably just get rid. It would be bad business for apple to make their machines self repairable and upgradeable. Kind of like their lighting charger, charge you 15 quid for a new one, 30 quid for an adapter for previous connection and they reneged on pledge to the universal standard of usb. Really clever move financially, its just the environment and customers that suffer.
Post edited at 13:51
HakanT on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to ex0:

Yes, obviously that is the case.

One thing I miss from the 15 or so Windows machines I've had since 3.1 is The Blue Screen Of Death. I haven't seen a good crash for a year.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to HakanT:
Yeah that doesn't happen on newer versions. Less frustrating than the death spiral, as you knew you were f*cked with blue screen of doom and restarted whereas the spiral keeps you waiting. Haha. I think newer macs have sorted that also, takes me back.
Post edited at 13:55
HakanT on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

Fair point about the 8GB and longevity.

The joy of the Mac OS is that it just works. When I feel like geeking out, I boot a Linux machine.
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

Yes, but you're clearly skilled at doing that, and have the time to do that.

Most people aren't, and won't. They *might* consider paying someone to do a repair, but often it's just a decent excuse for an upgrade.

Neil
The New NickB - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to HakanT:
Speaking as an IT numpty, who just wants to turn the machine on and for it to be fairly quick and not crash. I'm running a 3 year old MacBook Pro at home and a 1 year old Lenovo ThinkPad at work, the ThinkPad is utter shite in comparison.

I was amazed at just how expensive the ThinkPad was.
Post edited at 13:56
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to The New NickB:

ThinkPads are priced like Macs (because business will buy them anyway) but with few of the advantages other than build quality (which to be fair is very good).

Neil
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:
> Yes, but you're clearly skilled at doing that, and have the time to do that.

> Most people aren't, and won't. They *might* consider paying someone to do a repair, but often it's just a decent excuse for an upgrade.

> Neil

Yeah, when you want or need an upgrade, that's cool. We all use little excuses to justify a good upgrade. I don't like being forced into it however, when money is tight it's nice to know that I can sort it (or get a cheap third party to sort it) for little money. With the upgrade, often a little extra ram, buys you time with that slowing machine. However apple forces the choice the O.P is making. Pay another 80 quid or risk paying another 1,000 earlier than you wanted because you're fed up. It's not a enviable decision but an easy one, dosh out for the ram.

For a desktop computer, I would never throw one away, that's just mental.
Post edited at 14:06
Bob on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

The OP is saying he *wants* to buy a MacBook Air and is wondering whether to get 4Gb or 8Gb of RAM. There may be any number of reasons why he wishes to go the Mac route rather than Windows or Linux PC. In any range of products there are some that are good value and some that aren't.

There's a difference between *wants* and *needs* and the advertising industry (Apple included) have successfully managed to remove this in most people's minds.

I've been using DOS and then Windows based PCs for over 20 years but when around my 50th birthday my existing machine was on its way out so I decided to treat myself and buy an iMac. No reason to switch other than curiosity and treating myself. From memory it cost 1200, I've since upgraded the RAM from 4Gb to 8Gb but other than that it's the same hardware as five years ago. I've done three OS upgrades plus the occasional check for bug fixes when I remember. The machine still handles all my development work as good as it did when new. Typically a Windows based PC would last three years so assuming that the iMac lasts another year then a PC with 24" screen would have to have to be around 650 to be cheaper, though the second machine wouldn't need the screen updating.

Once I'd got the Mac set up how I like it it needs a lot less fettling to keep going than a Windows machine does. In part I think this is because Apple have reasonable defaults and the location of the configuration of those has remained constant whereas with Windows they seem to move things around all the time and hide all the stuff you need to get the machine to work in a reasonable manner.

I don't (didn't?) get on with Win7 though lots seem to like it, XP was decent. I don't like the non-upgradeability of the later Macs either.
dissonance - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to The New NickB:

> I was amazed at just how expensive the ThinkPad was.

It is risky though comparing a work build machine against a personal one.
I have two machines at work.
If you looked at just one you would conclude windows 7 is a pile of shit and so on. The other you would likely be rather impressed by.

The difference between the two is the latter is a developer build which central IT havent gone near. Whereas the former has a ton of crap software on which makes it flaky as hell.

For the OP: I would go for 8gb. My old macbookpro (2010ish) started getting creaky with 4gb of Ram so I upgraded it to 8 for a massive improvement. Given you cant upgrade a MBA yourself its best to get as good as possible now.
Only a hill - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to r0x0r.wolfo:

> Still running fine now. If you had an older apple machine, you'd probably just get rid. It would be bad business for apple to make their machines self repairable and upgradeable. Kind of like their lighting charger, charge you 15 quid for a new one, 30 quid for an adapter for previous connection and they reneged on pledge to the universal standard of usb. Really clever move financially, its just the environment and customers that suffer.

I agree. If you look at older Macs it really is astonishing how easy to maintain they are. I can strip my LC475 down and repair or replace any part without any tools. I could probably reduce it to a stack of discrete parts in less than three minutes.

Try doing that with a MacBook Air!
Bob on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Only a hill:

I think the only one you can do that with these days is the Mac Pro but that is hideously expensive (though apparently about right given the spec).
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Only a hill:

Let's be fair, though - we do want small, lightweight, long battery life devices now, and integrating them so they aren't user-serviceable does make that end easier to achieve.

Neil
Only a hill - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

Absolutely - and it's clear the trend is for thin, light, sealed devices (unless Project Ara takes off!) it's a trade-off I'm happy to make for things like phones and tables, but I still think desktops should be modular and repairable. That's an area where Windows PCs beat the Macs of today.
Neil Williams - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Only a hill:

Desktop PCs might as well be (there is no motivation to make them small or light) but increasingly people are preferring small, light laptops.

Neil
Only a hill - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Neil Williams:

An understandable trend ... I used to lug around a brick of a laptop and I would have paid through the nose to own something half the weight, if it had existed ten years ago :)
outtathaway - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

Thanks everyone for your advice. It's a computer I'd like to keep for a long while so I might be better off with 8gb. I'm still undecided though. Basically if I carry on with my freelancing then I'll go for the 8gb as I may need it for more complex usages but if I decide to do a pgce it won't be necessary. I can make a big saving on amazon if I decide to go for the basic model. I can see I started a windows/mac debate, macs are more expensive but one thing mitigating the big price is that they often sell for half the retail value 4 years later. Also I'll need something that's portable for my job so the mac air is ideal. Thanks.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to Bob:
Really reasonable post that. Enjoyed reading. Good reasoning for that choice.
Post edited at 20:03
r0x0r.wolfo - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

What's the price difference? Might be easier to quantify. If you are changing jobs it might be an idea to see what the school uses.
thom_jenkinson - on 10 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

Having been a both heavy user of a 6 year old Macbook Pro for working purposes in software development and a 'same spec' Windows machine, the Macbook is still going strong - the windows machine (which lasted about 2 years) is broken. I will let you draw your own conclusions. The arguments made about build quality are in my eyes 100% accurate - you get what you pay for!
ben b - on 11 Jul 2014
In reply to outtathaway:

I can't emphasise enough the benefit of student/teacher pricing if you can get it - a minor discount on the price but a much, much better warranty (extends out to 3 years for free).

Given that new mac laptops are very difficult to do any user servicing (although surprisingly the MBA SSD is quite easy to upgrade!) I think this is well worth it, and a PGCE would certainly count as a 'student' role...

IIRC only machines with accessible RAM are the old unibody MBPs, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, and 27' iMac. On the others it's soldered on - get as much as you can soldered on by Apple as it can't be changed later.
r0x0r.wolfo - on 11 Jul 2014
In reply to thom_jenkinson:
> Having been a both heavy user of a 6 year old Macbook Pro for working purposes in software development and a 'same spec' Windows machine, the Macbook is still going strong - the windows machine (which lasted about 2 years) is broken. I will let you draw your own conclusions. The arguments made about build quality are in my eyes 100% accurate - you get what you pay for!

Scope of one. Not all windows machines are equal. Do you know what went wrong with it?

The only conclusion is that there might be one model out of a score of models from a multitude of different manufacturers that may or may have not cost anything like a macbook, that may have been used/abused by a great deal of incompetents possibly had no serious hardware malfunction or fault before someone decided it was broken. You can't even draw a conclusion about that very particular make and model of machine let alone the entirety of windows operated machines. You sound pretty daft to me.
Post edited at 01:25

This topic has been archived, and won't accept reply postings.