Friday, April 22, 2011

Macbook Air vs Macbook Pro

I recently had the opportunity to test out a 13" Macbook Air (1.86 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB RAM).  I specifically wanted to compare it to my 15" Macbook Pro (2.53 GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 4 GB RAM).  I'm sure you can read more technical comparisons on the web.  I thought I would provide my feedback as an administrator in the educational setting.  

With the solid state drive (flash drive like a USB stick for those non-techies), I found it was superfast to copy files to the MBAir. The solid state hard drives and associated benefits are the future of laptops.  The screen is really sharp and crisp (which also shows in the specs).  Overall, although it was less workspace, the smaller screen size wasn't a big deal unless I was trying to work in one window and reference another window at the same time.  It was not a big drop to go from 15" to 13".  I also found the trackpad more sensitive and responsive than my current MBPro which may just be due to a newer model.

The laptop is amazingly light and lives up to its "Air" title.  At the same time, it felt solid and wasn't flimsy despite its thin body.  It had 2 USB ports, the same as my MBPro and I really liked having them on each side.  In some ways, this was more convenient than having them both on the left.  The hitch for some users is that you may have to plug more things in like a USB to ethernet line adapter or a disc drive when needed.  I also applaud Apple for keeping the SD card slot in the 13" MBAir model.  This is a big plus for me.

The boot up time at around 15 seconds was roughly 1/3 of the time needed for the MBPro to startup.  I found video imported into iMovie slightly faster on the MBAir, probably due to the higher write speeds on the solid state drive.  Exporting and rendering the movie took 3 times as long on the MBAir (31 minutes as opposed to 9 minutes on the MBPro).  I concluded that it came down to processing power.  The MBAir just takes a lot longer to render.  You should plan on doing it overnight or over lunch for bigger projects.  I also found iMovie sluggish for longer movie creation (7 minute movie).  This may be remedied with more RAM.  I had no issues at all with a short 3 minute edit I worked on.  iMovie was the only program that I found sluggish, even with only 2 GB RAM and running multiple programs.  Garageband performed well under these same conditions.

As I tested the MBAir over approximately 2 weeks, I will note that I did not have some of my usual programs running in the background since I didn't transfer everything over.  For example, I didn't run iTunes or my task list manager in the background.  Although the computer performed well for most tasks, I would likely advocate for 4 GB RAM for my own daily use as I think it would help the multimedia and number of programs I use.

I have to say the new MBAir was very impressive.  Like many gadgets, it has a niche--mobility.  If you want mobility and a strong all around laptop, I was very impressed.  If you are doing a lot of multimedia and rendering of projects that take higher CPU processing, you may want to consider sticking with the MBPro for right now.  

The biggest missing component from the MBAir is the i3 processor.  The newest MBPro models utilize the i5 or i7 processors which are quite high performers.  The potential addition of the i3 processor in the MBAir in future models may make it even more attractive and I wish they had added it to this one.  The other two small perks that MBAir misses is the backlit keyboard and ambient light sensor to adjust screen brightness automatically.  These are hardly big omissions but aspects of the MBPro I do like.  

If you have questions about my experience, post them in the comments and I'll do my best to respond.

No comments:

Post a Comment