Thursday, July 5, 2012

Should you buy a Macbook Air with 8gB RAM or Something Smaller9?

Yesterday, my brother asked me which ultrabook I'd recommend for his next machine. He was thinking about buying an Apple computer for the first time~ specifically, the 13" Macbook Air with 8gB RAM.

This is a tough question. Unfortunately, the 13" MBA is the only 13" ultrabook that can handle 8gB RAM. 

However, is it really the best option? If you've seen my previous posts you know that I have gone hands-on with a number of ultrabooks, after selecting the cream of the crop from CES in January.

 If you're in the market for a shiny new ultrabook, here are the main bullets between what many would consider the top two contenders, the Apple Macbook Air and the Samsung Series 9 (np900x3c):

MBA Pros:

  • 8gB RAM 
  • Idiot-proof Mac software with some nice software suites 
  • Magnetic power connection 


MBA Cons:

  • 16% heavier (2.96 pounds vs. 2.55 pounds) 
  • 30% less battery (7 hrs vs 9 hours) 
  • Much quieter speakers 
  • Worse resolution (1440x900 vs 1600x900) 
  • 15% dimmer screen (350 nits vs 400) - this is actually quite noticeable (I brought my SS9 to the Apple store to compare in person, and it was clearly better than the Air. All the employees were crowded around, it was funny) 
  • Non-matte screen (harder to see outside) 
  • 50% slower SSD than SS9 (200 mB read/write /s vs 440+ mB/s) 
Overall, I think RAM is probably the greatest consideration for me, as I constantly multitask, have 100s of tabs open, and run Virtual Machines. However, I'm not sure it's worth trading superior weight, screen brightness, battery, speakers, resolution, and SSD speed.

 In the end, I would wait for a better 13" to come to market or get the 15" Samsung Series 9 (NP900X4C or NP900X4D) like I did.

UPDATE: 7/12/2012-------------
Here's an email reply from my brother:

Here are some other thoughts after comparing a MBA 13'' against a 15'' series 9 NP900X4C-A01US...

Screen brightness - SS wins, able to produce almost painfully bright screen, though for all intents and purposes, the MBA is plenty bright
Screen resolution - SS wins though not handily.  the MBA feels crisper despite lower resolution
Screen display angles - MBA annihilates SS, particularly vertically
Processor - MBA wins 1.8Ghz vs. 1.7, both i5s (note the A03 is an i7 though that's not a fair comparison as it's a higher price point)
Ram - tied, though the SS can be upgraded to 16GB

Keyboard - the MBA keyboard is much more pleasing to type on, better depth of key press and backlighting is better (vs. the barely perceptible SS)

OS - I hate OSX.  It is really annoying how you can't easily resize and move around windows (or do anything for that matter) via keyboard shortcuts alone and need to click around like a n00b to do most stuff unless you custom configure everything.  If it weren't for this fact and the mac came with a windows keyboard, I would run windows on mac 100%.

Touchpad - the SS has this weird thing where if you click on the bottom right side, it counts it as a right click.  The touchpad in general feels looser, less responsive, and does not make the same satisfying click of the mba.  Also the scrolling is much more jerky on the SS vs. the MBA.

Speakers - I thought the SS would win hands down but the MBA actually seems just as loud and, when on a table, it doesn't get muffled as does the SS due to bottom-facing speakers

Chrome page load - this was another surprise- every website I tested loaded significantly faster in chrome on MBA vs. on SS.  The youtube video for cee lo fuck you would consistently start 3 seconds before the SS loading the same video.  This is also comparing a newly unboxed SS with nothing installed and norton removed against the MBA running IRC, excel, and powerpoint in the background.

Other aesthetics - i know this is dumb but the charger on a mac is just "better".  i won't penalize SS for this since my understanding is that Apple patented the hell out of this and so it is also their fault why the rest of the industry hasn't adopted but the MBA charger is way better.  Also the MBA passes the "One-hand-open-screen" test while the SS does not.  Why is it so hard to do this stuff right?

All in all, I'd rate the MBA a 9.5 in hardware while the samsung is around an 8.5.
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I disagree with a few things (one-hand-open-screen works for me, speakers work better on table, touchpad works for me and I like the right click, I don't believe the page load claim), but I think it's good to offer the opinion of someone who used the MBA for a while.

1 comment:

  1. Macbook Pro has better graphics, display and sound. It comes in 15-inches and 17-inch, unlike the Macbook, which comes only in 13.3 inch models.
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