To upgrade or not to upgrade my Mac: that is the question
November 28, 2017 4:10 AM   Subscribe

I've got an 11 inch Macbook Air from 2011, which 4GB of storage and 1.6 GHz processor. It runs Yosemite. It is second hand from my boyfriend and works fine. A lot of my work is online, or using sharepoint / google docs, so it doesn't need heaps of storage. However, I'm freelance so this thing is my livelihood to an extent - and I want to be as efficient as possible without replacing tech for the sake of it.

Mainly it's for email and documents, and streaming stuff when I'm at home.

I do do occasional video works which isn't so much editing but is looking at lots of clips, and I might be doing a little design work in the future via Adobe suite but not much.

I have the opportunity to buy a new macbook pro with a student discount, and for my current workplace to pay around 350 pounds towards the cost of it.

I'm wondering if it's worth it? I don't want to replace tech for the sake of it - and also I'm into sustainable development so it's a values based thing too. However, this computer maybe sometimes is a little slow (?) and it's getting to the point where I don't think I can have the latest OS or apps (I think? i'm not hugely technical!)

Any advice? Would I really notice if I upgraded to a macbook pro?
posted by starstarstar to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I recently handed down an almost identical machine to my niece. She's now using it as her primary computer for year 11/12. I generally try to think of my computer purchases as 5-6 year investments, and I got that out of the 2011 MBA. Good news is that's it's still in productive use by a high schooler. It's still a more than adequate machine for writing, browsing the web and light video usage. The biggest issue is the degradation of the battery over the years. It only gets 2-3 hours of use off a charger.

I upgraded to a 15" Macbook Pro with the touch bar. Close to top of the line. It's also replacing an ageing Mac Mini. I'm no longer working, but if I'm able to resume my hobbies, they are heavy on photography and video. So the newly added horsepower is useful. I'm also counting on it being at least a 5-6 year purchase.

I'm happy with the purchase and like having very good battery life, a great screen and some pep on what was not so peppy on the MBA and Mini.

If you think you'll still have the student discount and 350GBP benefit in a year's time, then I'd say wait. That sorta fits with the next major MacOS release and MBP upgrades. Otherwise, go for it.
posted by michswiss at 4:38 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've just got myself a fancy new MBP. It's great, and I like it. That said, if I hadn't destroyed my previous machine (a 4 year old MBA) I'd've been entirely happy to keep using it. Most of the upgrade-happiness is because the previous machine was already a bit dodgy in the keyboard and trackpad.

There are a few downsides to the new lot... mostly the USB-C ports, so there's a bunch of adaptors I can't use now, and I need to buy a port expander for things like USB sticks. The new ones don't have the magnetic power connector (I'm a klutz, and think that was just genius). Also, I gather there's going to be a new intel core CPU coming out in the not too distant future (someone who keeps up with that sort of stuff might chime in...).

Were I in your position, I'd hold off until I had a more solid need to upgrade.
posted by pompomtom at 5:34 AM on November 28, 2017

You could also look at possibly purchasing another used Macbook/Pro. Some reputable places will even offer a warranty on refurbished Macs from 90 days to up to a year, which is nice.

I agree with pompom that if all-USB-C ports is a bother (which at this point I think it is for most people who still need or want to plug things into their machines), look at one that is maybe 2015? or earlier. But it sounds like you mostly use cloud tech and wireless stuff so it's probably not a big deal if you did have something brand new. : )
posted by bitterkitten at 6:06 AM on November 28, 2017

I literally just went through this with my old Air which didn't have enough RAM to run social media sites usefully anymore and had a battery that was getting less and less robust. I decided to go with a new Air which cost $800 US on sale and I could use all my old cables with (with one $10 adapter). It's going to be less future-forward since it doesn't have USB-C for charging etc. On the other hand, no touch bar which I just could never get on board with. I notice a HUGE difference in responsiveness. If your only subsidized option is the Pro, however, I would go for that. I was looking at them also, just decided to go for a form factor that was familiar. I'd go for it. Getting a new laptop every six years is reasonable.
posted by jessamyn at 6:40 AM on November 28, 2017

I have this exact model and am debating an replacement. If you aren't shy about opening it up, you can upgrade the hard drive and replace the battery, but not the RAM — mine is 4GB which really isn't enough these days and is the only reason I'm considering a replacement. I hate the current crop of Apple laptops right now so I dunno what to do.

I only websurf & do email on it right now. If I did any video work or anything in the Adobe suite I would definitely prioritize an upgrade ASAP. But I don't, so I can wait. If I could upgrade the RAM it'd be less of a dilemma.
posted by Ampersand692 at 6:45 AM on November 28, 2017

Thanks for the answers so far. I don't necessarily need to get a Macbook Pro, but my understanding is they're a lot more powerful than Air and I sometimes do download and work on huge files... the reason why I think it might have to be now is cus the free money probably has to be spent quite soon (I only have a year's contract with this company, so it's really nice they're offering it in the first place!)
posted by starstarstar at 6:50 AM on November 28, 2017

I have the exact same computer and have also been considering when I will replace it (and with what). If I relied on this for my work (and even better, had that subsidy), I would probably replace it now with a pro; since I don't do any work on this computer and it is still limping along, I will probably wait for a while more.

So my thought is that yes, you should use the subsidy and get the model that you think is most likely to stay useful for another 5+ years.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:00 AM on November 28, 2017

Personally I'd say a 2011 MBA has reached the end of its useful life. One major indicator: if it breaks Apple won't repair it. My niece's 2012 MBA got tea spilled in it early this year and Apple said they didn't have repair parts for it. The 2011 model is even farther past the end of official support, so if you're in a position to upgrade I'd say go for it.

FYI the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro is probably the sweet spot for price/performance. Despite Apple's efforts I'm not seeing a lot of positive comment (or really, any positive comment) about the Touch Bar from my Mac-using friends. The fact they're now selling two configurations of the non-Touch Bar model does indicate to me that there may be less demand for the Touch Bar than Apple hoped.
posted by fedward at 8:04 AM on November 28, 2017

If you have a chance to snag a new one at a serious discount, I would do it. Your 2011 MBA is almost at end of life, and while it will probably continue to work for a few years, it will likely stop receiving OS updates soon, and eventually you'll need a new one. 4GB of RAM is almost unacceptably little these days, and you'll be blown away by the screen on the new "retina" macs.

Also, you can probably get at least $200 (100£?) for the Air on the used market if it's in decent cosmetic shape, so student discount + 350£ + 100£ means you'll be in good laptop shape for another 6 years for a decent discount.
posted by dis_integration at 8:13 AM on November 28, 2017

I'd strongly suggest upgrading - Yosemite isn't getting security updates, and MacOS really likes 8gb of RAM, especially once you are running a few browser windows.
posted by wotsac at 9:25 AM on November 28, 2017

You can get a Refubished, 2017 Model 13" MacBook Air direct from Apple that'll give you a fresh, new battery, twice the RAM, and all the comfort and all the ports and stuff you're used to, unlike with the new MacBook or MacBook Pros.
posted by SansPoint at 11:42 AM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

^^^ is exactly what I got. I got a brand new one on sale for about $50 less than that, if you're willing to wait for sales.
posted by jessamyn at 11:46 AM on November 28, 2017

Great, thanks guys! I think I'll look at the MBP over Macbook Air as it's more powerful from my understanding, though I really appreciate that nod to the refurbished Macbook Air - I will certainly think hard about that too and compare vital statistics (not that they mean much to me!) I'm in the lucky position of being able to afford this, so it was just a matter of making sure I wasn't being self indulgent or wasteful. We can always give the old one away or sell it. I think the security important is very important and hadn't crossed my mind. I will buy one in the next month. Thanks so much!
posted by starstarstar at 9:18 PM on November 28, 2017

« Older Not getting Interviews - Design work from past FT...   |   More biological learning systems? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.