Macbook Air with Time Capsule or Asus UX31a with external hard drive?
October 11, 2012 8:43 PM   Subscribe

Macbook Air with Time Capsule or Asus UX31a with external hard drive?

Hey everyone,

I'm thinking of upgrading my laptop. I have thought about this for a long time, and I would like everyone to tell me your opinion.

What I need:
1. New ultrabook
2. Router
3. External Hard drive

What I have:
XPS 15 L502X, 6GB Ram, 700GB HDD, i7 Quadcore 2.0Ghz, to be sold for the new investment.

What I'm thinking about:
1. Macbook Air 13" with Time Capsule
2. UX31a with external hard drive and separate router

1. Will 128 GB SSD be enough? Or should I opt for either ultrabook with 256GB? My thought is that with the external drive/Time capsule, I can store data on them while storing only applications on the actual laptop.
2. To people who have used both mac and windows, how does the user experience differ? I'm tech savy with Windows; but over the years, I'm getting tired of having to clean up junks every once in a while, random errors, and just small annoyances like popup saying I plugged in my headphones. I have never used macs before, but I believe it's very polished. And the trackpad with gestures is very tempting.
3. Time Capsule comes with 2TB hard drive, meaning I can use it as a wireless external hard drive. So how is the speed of wireless hard drive (NAS?).
4. All in all, the two options will be about the same cost. A separate router with external hard drive will be about $50 cheaper than the Time Capsule, but I think the hassle-free setup will make up for that.
5. If not Time Capsule, any other suggestions for router/external hard drive?
6. If not either one of the ultrabook, any other suggestions?
7. If I'm buying the macbook air, I'm thinking of paying monthly. Since I'm a student, it'll be a good way to build up my credit. Should I do that or pay up front?
posted by Thisispiggy to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
2) I made the switch in January (this question may be helpful). It was beyond easy -- though I do recommend getting the one-on-one to learn the basics (it does things I hadn't even thought of!). I have a 13" Air and take it with me everywhere. Within a couple months it felt like I'd been using a Mac my whole life, and embarrassingly I feel slow on Windows now :)
posted by DoubleLune at 9:06 PM on October 11, 2012

Apple has been focused on refining the human / computer interface for a long time now. They were better at it than anyone else through the 90's and they're (arguably still) better than anyone else today. The Air is a surprisingly substantial machine and OS X consistently reliable.

My advice on credit is to be very careful about playing them (be absolutely certain you can make each and every payment on time). Do not give them an opportunity to play you.
posted by uhom at 9:25 PM on October 11, 2012

Unless something has changed recently, the time capsule is not meant to be used as an external hard drive. It's for backups only. It's possible to mount it as a hard drive, but it's a pain in the ass and you wont get any support from apple setting it up.
posted by empath at 9:34 PM on October 11, 2012

Get the macbook air and an external hard drive. Get an airport extreme, and bam, there's your NAS.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:44 PM on October 11, 2012

Using Time Capsule as a backup solution is a bad idea. Get the Macbook Air, and back it up with any number of alternative back up solutions.

Time Capsule is garbage, it's something a board of directors decided Apple needed to have.
posted by Sphinx at 11:11 PM on October 11, 2012

To people who have used both mac and windows, how does the user experience differ?

I have to use and support both, as well as Linux. I would say they have their relative strengths, but the Mac has a more polished and less vulnerable interface. The trackpad gestures are so good that I curse at having to use the ancient modes of Windows and Linux — it is really jarring how productive these gestures are, once you learn them and have to use computers that do not support them. And unless you open up a shell, you really have to work hard to break a Mac.

If your time is valuable to you and you want things to just work, get a Mac. Sometimes Apple makes mistakes, but they are rare and usually fixed quickly. $50 may be a deal breaker for some and I respect that, but if it is not an issue for you, or if you need to see the value for that money, it quickly becomes clear where that extra $50 went.

The Time Capsule is not an external hard drive, though. It is for backups. Get a separate hard drive if you need extra storage. Avoid LaCie as their warranty support has been awful, in my experience.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 PM on October 11, 2012

Just note: Time Capsule is a piece of hardware that integrates a backup solution into your home wifi network. Time Machine is the built-in backup utility in the Mac OS and you can use it with any external hard drive (which is what I do). I.e., you can buy an Air and some other external HD and partition the HD so you use one partition for backups (via Time Machine or some other backup utility), and use the other partition for storing files. (You'll need a router if you want to do any if that wirelessly, if course.)
posted by devinemissk at 4:26 AM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I actually have a time capsule, and use it for back ups, and it is great for that, but I wish I had just bought an external hard drive. It would have been cheaper and I could use it a external storage a lot easier.
posted by empath at 5:22 AM on October 12, 2012

Things that depreciate in value quickly are not investments and should not be bought on credit[1] unless they are a required item for you to make your living [2]. To replace a computer sooner than 3 years is a luxury in most cases. Luxuries should never be purchased on credit.

You say you are going to sell your old computer. I can get a new better computer for $800 without issue. Looking at deal sites I could get one for $600. Based on the build quality of that machine and the atrocioous batteries Dell uses in nearly all of their machines, I would not suggest a friend buy it for more than $300.

You say this is an upgrade. In what way is this an upgrade? The ultrabooks will have similar if not worse performance cpu's. The video card will be worse. The hard drive will be much faster (which will make up for the usually worse CPUs), but it will also be smaller. The ultrabooks will certainly weigh less and have better battery life.

[1] When you do not have a stable income, you should be building credit in ways that do not cost you money. Loans cost you money. Get an apartment with real utility bills. Pay your rent and utility bills on time. Get a credit card, make normal purchases on it and pay it off every month. That's how you should be building credit now.

[2] or in your case, a required part of your studies as being a student is your job.
posted by fief at 10:46 AM on October 12, 2012

An external hard disk isn't part of a sound backup solution if you aren't in the habit of connecting to it frequently. Many of the people I know with laptops don't connect to their external hard drive regularly, so a backup target on their network is essential.

I don't understand Sphinx's assertion that TimeCapsule is "garbage," particularly since he/she seems to be conflating Time Capsule and Time Machine. The great virtue of Time Machine is that it is simple set-and-forget backup, and Time Capsule supports that. I use it along with CrashPlan so I have a backup stored offsite, with the added advantage that it also provides backups when I'm away from my home network.

Further, Apple doesn't sell this fact, but Time Capsule can work as a networked disk for other uses, like storing your data, and it can even be made accessable securely over the Internet, but I dont think that it, or an external hard disk, is a substitute for having enough storage space on/in your laptop for the files you are likely to need.
posted by Good Brain at 11:16 AM on October 12, 2012

Response by poster: Hey everyone,

Thanks for your responses.

I feel like 128GB is a lot of space. I remember using a desktop with 70GB storage for seven years before getting my first laptop. What I'm most likely to store on the external hard drive would be backup files, movies, music. I would store only the important documents and applications on the computer, backed up with Dropbox and Google Drive.

I am going to go with Airport Extreme with an external hard drive. So the amazon review on Airport Extreme says you can use VPN server with it, essentially making the hard drive your private cloud. How does one do that?

Fief, the reason why I'm trying to sell it is because I did not buy this computer. It was given to me a year ago as a scholarship laptop. My reasoning is that since I received it for free, it would make sense to sell it and make as much as I can off of it before it depreciates further more. Currently, XPS 15 L502x has a market price of ~$450 on ebay. To me, it's a good deal to get $450 for free and use it to invest in something I really want and that also do not depreciate that quickly.

I'm not looking for an ultra powerful laptop. I'm looking for something very light and portable with good battery life, an all around good performer. I used to look into tablets, but an ultrabook fulfills that role better.

On the Macbook Air page, I see that I can do 12 month financing with no interest. I have the money to buy it at once. So I'm thinking about splitting that money into 12 months AND get credit at the same time. So there's no risk involved. Wouldn't that be killing two birds with one stone?
posted by Thisispiggy at 12:52 PM on October 12, 2012

12 months at no interest is a way to build credit with zero cost so long as you can follow all the requirements. But in the end you will have a crappy credit card that you shouldn't cancel as longevity of credit is a very important thing. In general I think it is a bad idea to get credit because of a promotional offer. Further, I think such promotional offers from credit cards are harmful to society and not only should be avoided, but you should avoid doing business with companies that do such things. Alas, my idealistic view is not practical in the real world. I do very much think you should get your credit card from an institution you have a relationship with and provides good customer service.

You are not getting $450 for free. You are giving up a usable laptop. You are then spending $600+ more to get a different laptop. Is a less powerful, lighter laptop, with better battery life worth $600 to you?

You are not investing in a computer. There is no real posibility of the value of the computer increasing. You are purchasing a tool. It is an expense. Apple computer can generally be sold for a higher price compared to other computers. But for that idea a driving factor in choice is very strange to me. If you were a professional that has a need for new technology regularly I could understand it being factored in to your purchase plans. But as an individual consumer I do not see it working out in their benefit unless you are actively paying attention to the market and want to upgrade more regularly than every 4ish years.

You will be hard pressed to find a laptop that competes on the entire package (light, good battery, reasonable performance) that is the Macbook Air for the same price. I think the Asus Zenbook (The UX31 being one) is one of the few that is reasonably comparable. A problem with many ultrabooks running windows is that most are have 6-12 month old designs. This problem will be fixed at the end of the month when manufacturers start shipping models with Windows 8. I am generally impressed with the offerings that Microsoft selects to be sold in their stores under their Signature label.

I am impressed with the performance, features, and usability of the Airport Extremes. I find the performance of attached hard drives unusable for much beyond backup though.

I am a huge fan of network attached storge for backups. I think most people aren't that good at remembering to plug in an external drive regularly to get backups. I am also a huge fan of backup services like Crashplan as a second form of backup since few people are going to be diligent about taking a hard drive offsite.
posted by fief at 10:18 AM on October 16, 2012

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