Matchmaker, pick me a Mac
June 12, 2012 8:29 PM   Subscribe

For you tech nerds - do you see it more worthwhile to invest in the new MacBooks or rely on Airs, with extra drives/support for doing occasional video and gfx work? Where is the future headed.
posted by Unred to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you asking for advice on a purchase? What do you need to do?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 PM on June 12, 2012

This is like asking whether the screwdriver or the saw is the future of hand tools. What are you using it for?
posted by mhoye at 8:39 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

What everyone else said. Personally, the MBP I'm using now is going to be the last portable computer I buy with an optical drive or mechanical hard drive, but I'm not expecting to replace it for at least a couple of years, by which time the balance will have tipped even further. If you need to buy now, then there'll be some very specific scenarios that favour the standard MBP over the Air, but for general purpose computing, I think the Wirecutter's assessment of last year's Airs is even more valid now.
posted by holgate at 8:49 PM on June 12, 2012

If you plan to have a desktop and a notebook, go with an Air. They go everywhere and you'll almost forget you have it with you. Plenty of power for web, email, Pages, and even some light farting around in iMovie. Use the desktop for the more demanding tasks.

If you're going for a single-computer solution, go for the MacBook Pro, trick it out, and get a larger external display for more serious video/gfx work.

A MacBook Air is more than sufficient for my needs, but I went with a MBP because I really thought I needed built-in Ethernet and an optical drive. I've used the optical drive exactly twice in almost three years (and both times it wasn't a real necessity), and I've used the Ethernet port rarely enough that a plug-in Thunderbolt adapter would work just fine, when needed. When it's time for a replacement, it's totally going to be an Air. The "real" work gets done on the desktop.

With iCloud as it is already, plus the coming changes mentioned at WWDC, starting work on one computer and then picking it up on another is only going to get more seamless and transparent to the user.
posted by xedrik at 8:52 PM on June 12, 2012

The future does not involve your average consumer hooking a bunch of wires up between various single purpose peripherals to slug away at media creation on a central hub. That's the reality where your MacBook Pro(essentially the endgame of the conventional PC) excels. MacBook air is definitely the "future," or more likely a transitional step to whatever tablet-type-thing will dominate many years from now.
posted by Patbon at 9:02 PM on June 12, 2012

From a purely cynical view, given that both Airs and the new MBPs don't really have user-serviceable parts anymore, you're not going to be "investing" in either one of them. MBPs are beefier at the cost of lightness, Airs are lighter at the cost of CPU/RAM/graphics, but they're the same tool: a real computer with a real OS and a real keyboard, that is portable but not particularly upgradeable. You should absolutely max out the RAM and CPU on whatever you get (but not the SSD), but they're pretty much the same tool.

All that said, if you don't know which you need and you're not a gamer, you don't need the MBP and should get an Air.

If you're going for a single-computer solution, go for the MacBook Pro, trick it out, and get a larger external display for more serious video/gfx work.

And this is where it's worth making the most of any investment. My 30" Cinema Display has lasted since the PowerPC era.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:45 PM on June 12, 2012

Where is the future headed.

The future of portables is an "ultrabook" like the Air. Optical media for software distribution is getting rarer, and flash storage is getting cheaper and more reliable. Other vendors don't have the supply chain competency that Apple has, and so Apple will be the least expensive option for fully-featured ultrabooks for some time to come. But that's where the others are headed (with subsidies from Intel).

That said, you'll be paying a premium for a 15" Retina display on a laptop at this point in time, but one can see that display being a standard option in a few years.

Think about how the first 11" MacBook Air was among their most expensive portables, and the past two generations of 11" and 13" models are now Apple's least expensive portables.

For video editing, if you only need screen resolution and cost is no object, then get a Retina display MBP. If you only need raw performance and cost is no object, get a Retina display MBP. If you only need larger amounts of cheap storage and price is a concern, then get a regular MBP. If you just need regular computing, then get a MacBook Air and a separate iMac/Mac Pro for video editing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 PM on June 12, 2012

In my humble opinion, the major deciding factor is whether or not your eyes can handle the Retina display. Some people can't. Secondary is if you can minutely adjust your mouse to deal with the ridiculous resolution that the Retina can put out. 1080p on that display is gonna look like a postcard. I'll stipulate that it's gonna be one hell of an incredibly well rendered postcard, and I know that you can drop the resolution if you so desire, but why would you ever do that? You're gonna want to sit real close though.

If you plan on doing mobile HD video capture/editing/conversion-compression/FCP*/etc. I really can't think of a better machine right now 'bang for the buck' wise, (buy an external drive) especially since the Mac Pro is way overdue for a revamp. The Air is for people who want to spend way too much on a netbook.

*I have absolutely no idea where the future of FCP is headed. It worries the hell out of me, due to the fact that I've used it to make money for about a decade now. My Mac Pro is circa 2007-2008 and feels old as hell.
posted by Sphinx at 1:43 AM on June 13, 2012

The only way a computer (like a car) is an investment is whether it can do what you need it to do. Figure out what you want in such a purchase, and then buy the one that does that. Don't worry about the direction "technology" goes, worry about the direction your usage needs will go.

IE, will you want to use the device to watch DVDs/BlueRay disks? Then you probably want one with a built-in drive unless you really enjoy pre-selecting your disks ahead of time, ripping them to the hard drive and then hoping that is still what you want to watch later.

So, start with your minimum requirements, and then look at what the next step up machine will get you, and decide if that's something you will want/need to use.
posted by gjc at 6:32 AM on June 13, 2012

Thunderbolt is a game-changer - there's already a company making a PCIe expansion chassis that runs high-speed networking cards, fiber-channel cards, video and audio editing cards and they're working on drivers for high-end video display cards.

The new MacBook Pro is worth it if you need a lot of processor grunt and want the resolution - otherwise the Air is fine, too. Both systems have USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, giving you a lot of expansion options.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:40 AM on June 13, 2012

In my humble opinion, the major deciding factor is whether or not your eyes can handle the Retina display. Some people can't.

Human eyes do better with retina displays, not worse - Apple has effectively decoupled the screen resolution from the size of the text, so there's just a slider now saying "how big do you want your text to be" and you dial it up and down to whatever you're comfortable with. If accomodating weak eyes is a critical part of your computer using experience, you should spring for the 15" Retina-screen MBP.
posted by mhoye at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2012

I agree with others that the big question is how much you care about processor-bound work. To put some numbers on it, the best Retina MacBook is getting 11892 on GeekBench, while the best Air is getting 6879. That's going to make a huge, huge difference in video rendering, software compiling, etc., and basically no difference in web browsing, word processing, etc.

On the other hand, note that the best Air is neck-and-neck with the 13" MacBook Pro from 9 months ago, which was certainly a usable computer to edit video on. So if it's more like "I'd like to be able to do it occasionally" than "I'll be doing it regularly," the Air is probably a better bet.

Either way, max out the RAM, since you can't upgrade it later. Max-out-the-RAM-max-out-the-RAM-max-out-the-RAM. (This doesn't apply to the other MacBook Pros, which are perfectly lovely and can be upgraded later -- just the Air and Retina.)
posted by Honorable John at 2:02 PM on June 13, 2012

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