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Thread: Of MacBook Airs and MacBook Pro Retinas

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    Of MacBook Airs and MacBook Pro Retinas

    This thread is to solicit the views and experiences of Apple Macintosh laptop computer users, particularly those who own/operate late-model equipment.

    My parents own an aging, first-generation white MacBook. (2006 vintage). To say the least, it is getting old and is on its last legs. They will have to replace it in the coming months, probably some time in the new year. They have very limited computer knowledge, usually relying on me for advice/guidance.

    I want to ask late-model Apple laptop owners about their feelings on the choices my parents are about to face. No anti-Apple or anti-laptop-computer comments, please.

    When I told them about the MacBook Air, their first reaction was to question why anyone would want a computer without a built-in DVD drive. While visiting a Best Buy in a small city about 65 miles away, I showed them an Air, and they still did not understand. Up until recently, I felt the same way. Now, I am more accepting and fatalistic. My view is that, while CDs and DVDs are still very much a viable medium, more and more folks demand greater portability from their laptops. The fact that the MacBook Air (MBA) and MacBook Pro with Retina Display (MBR) offer very lightweight, very powerful machines with the only remaining moving part being the cooling fan is beginning to impress me as a selling point. I am especially concerned about the use of laptop hard drives; I've seen several of these drives fail and their reliability issues cause them to sour on me. The use of Solid State Drives (SSDs) instead of spinning hard drives in the MBA and MBR is also beginning to impress me.

    Of course, all the weight savings of these ultra-thin sub-notebook-class computers is negated if you carry a USB SuperDrive, so from that point one can legitimately ask "This is progress?" But a failed USB superdrive would be much easier to replace than a failed internal SuperDrive in any laptop. And the improved battery life and relative security of using SSDs seems more attractive than laptops with spinning hard drives.

    Does any of this make sense to anyone else here?
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    Hey MtnMan

    I guess the first question to ask is do your parents travel with the computer? I could not go anywhere without a computing device of some sort, but my Mom is not of the same opinion, so while she has a laptop, that just means she can use it at a desk, or on the couch.

    If they don't travel with it much than the lack of built in CD drive is not a big deal. Almost any external drive works (I have an HP USB drive I use with my MBA if I need it) and you can simply plug it in if you need it.

    I do like the speed and security of the SSD as well. I have to admit dropping both my MBP and my MBA at some point (usually trying to get through security at an airport) the MBA has never batted an eye but I did have to replace the drive eventually in my MBP.

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    Mountain,

    I agree mostly with your thoughts on newer systems that rely on more Solid State storage than traditional Mechanical means but as most things Tech it is not without a few cautions as well.

    As Jeff said the external drive thing is pretty simple to live with and Apple is now going on their 4th Gen models with no mechanical drive in some of the line. They want you to live and learn the "Cloud" and in particular the Apple Cloud and while it may be handy and great in concept,I too remain "Old School" and prefer a hard copy of some sort to a virtual copy even with the inherent advantages of the off-site backup.

    That said it is a simple matter with all Mac' to run Time Machine Backup on a schedule and even wirelessly after the initial one to make sure any Data loss is minimized.
    I usually get a cheap portable USB drive and set it up for the machine and whenever it is plugged in it will just do the job without further intervention. It is an incremental backup too and writes as often as you tell it too.
    So far I have not had one of these fail though I am sure they can but for most people it is better than no backup and being standard mechanical drives they can often be recovered if needed even when "Dead".

    The only real drawback with the SS drives is the way that they fail and the likelihood that you will not be able to rescue data from them if they do! Unlike traditional drives which can almost always be salvaged if they "Die".
    This is one feature they don't seem to mention,go figure in a new SS drive world?

    So as long as you can live with a backup system(like the rest of us right?)the advantages of the newest machines seem overwhelming to me.

    I have an 11" Air,13"MBP and a 17"MBP and I use all of them almost every day for different tasks related mainly to the other systems that I deploy and maintain.

    I also have been a tech and service center for my clients since the 90's and can dismember and repair almost anything and often do. I only mention this as a prelude to saying that in my experience the Apple machines are just a lot more reliable and easier to manage than the others I have worked on.

    I also switch a lot of people over the the Mac as it can run Windows somehow just as well as MacOS and once comfortable with using a new OS I have very few people ever look back.

    As to your parents and the choice of a machine,I would caution you that while it is easy to be a sucker for the Retina display and its amazing rendition of images it may be equally frustrating for those with withering eyesight to operate daily with a ultra high resolution display.
    The higher the resolution,the smaller the pixel size and while you can blow up the screen view to enhance the readability it is often at the expense of smooth scaled fonts and the pain in the butt of performing the action especially for older users.
    Guess just how I know this?

    The Air are amazing machines in their own right so if the screen seems more comfortable for the parents do not hesitate to go that way too.

    All of the choices are so much faster and more capable in each generation than most of us require and have been for so long that it probably matters little from a computing standpoint which model you get.

    I even got my Mother into a MBP last year maybe and now she even has an iPad!
    Now I am not saying she really understands it completely and a little knowledge is a dangerous thing but my 12 year old Niece is working to make the transition easier for her every day!

    If all else fails a 12 year old can usually help these days!
    What have we become?

    Now this is fun,spending your money!

    Ed
    Last edited by AVService; 11-03-2013 at 06:59 PM.

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    95% of the time, their current computer moves about in the home. They appreciate the freedom that Wifi and a laptop affords them.

    The remainder of the time, the machine does go to public functions, presentations, meetings, and even to an annual sled dog race where a portable computer is a must to assure timekeeping for the sled-dog teams. So it is vital that they use a laptop. Based on experience, though, they use the optical drive (an old CD-R / DVD-ROM drive) only very rarely. But they do use it.
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    I have been a user of apple products for several years (since 1980) and also use other pc's. Currently I am using a MBAir 13 inch ( 2012 model) and had a MB Air 11 before that. In the 3 years I have used machines with out Optical disc players, I have had to use DVD player ( external drive that I purchased a few years ago for an old netbook - cost was about $25-40) once. I have not missed a spinning hard drive at all. I do have an external hard drive that I store photos/data/documents on as backups are important. I also back up to a cloud service just in case.... My solid state drives have never failed. MB pros are powerful machines that can be used as a desktop replacement. If your parents don't need that kind of computing muscle, an Air should work nicely. Many people are now foregoing laptops for tablets (iPads, Nexus 7/10, etc) as many tablet can do just about everything a laptop can do except for true multitasking and higher level graphics work. As an aside, if your parents are not scared by learning something new, the Microsoft Surface 2 is a very capable machine.

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    I've been thinking about this same question for myself. The physical strength and integrity, combined with the operating speed of SSDs is very impressive. This is particularly in light of my last MBA 13" which ran a 2.5" hard drive that failed, losing everything! I've been using a 13" MBP for almost three years since that happened with a fairly elaborate triple back-up. So, I've been asking one question for the last year... do I need an optical disc? Well, after a year, the answer is no. I used an optical disk for just two things. One was new soft wear and the other is to up-load CDs. As the only soft wear I've added recently has come from the AppStore or downloaded from the internet, I've not needed an optical drive. A few years ago I uploaded my thousand plus CDs on to a NAS and since I've only bought around 20 per annum. As it only takes less than 10 minutes to upload a CD, that's just over three hours per year. And even this is falling as I now down load CD quality music from the internet more and more. I'm happy that an external drive could be used for this. Certainly I was happy enough with this when I last had a MBA, and, of course, in those days I still used soft wear on disks.


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    Here's a silly question: if you take a MacBook Air on a trip or otherwise on the road to a business meeting/presentation, how much of an advantage is its ultra-light weight and slim form-factor to you in handling it during active use in a gathering, or in transport? I'm assuming that road warrior types flock to this kind of technology because it facilities less mass and less bulk to carry around, correct? What about the actual use? Does anyone here have a late-model MBA or MBR? If so, how well does it perform in real-world tasks you demand of it? What kind of work do you do on these machines? Is it all things like Microsoft Office or databases, or do you do other work, like video editing or Photoshop?
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtnMan View Post
    Here's a silly question: if you take a MacBook Air on a trip or otherwise on the road to a business meeting/presentation, how much of an advantage is its ultra-light weight and slim form-factor to you in handling it during active use in a gathering, or in transport? I'm assuming that road warrior types flock to this kind of technology because it facilities less mass and less bulk to carry around, correct? What about the actual use? Does anyone here have a late-model MBA or MBR? If so, how well does it perform in real-world tasks you demand of it? What kind of work do you do on these machines? Is it all things like Microsoft Office or databases, or do you do other work, like video editing or Photoshop?
    The new machines are in general so much faster than even a few years ago you will seriously not believe it.

    Just one example from my experience.

    I program an automaton platform that uses a proprietary programming package for the MAC.

    Before getting my 17" MBP which is the last version that they made of the Beast my 13" MBP with spinning drive took 47 minutes to compile updates to the program and upload the the Automaton system before I could test any changes. The machine was maxed out on Ram(16gig) and had a 7200 rpm drive too.

    The 17" with SSD and the same Maxed out but faster speed Ram and similar processor speed does the same compile in under 4 minutes!
    The SSD in there is not the bus level model in the new machines either but one that Installed into the machine and thus not in the same speed league as the current models.

    For grins I then ran the same compile on a 1st Gen 11" MBA with only 2 gig of ram and the integrated SSD and the time was around 7 minutes.

    The current machines are much faster and use much faster Ram still.

    Everyone that I know that does Video or Photo editing can render in real time almost without exception.
    These machines just SCREAM!

    Then if you need fast transfer speeds and use external Thunderbolt drives you get that too and I run huge displays all the time in full HD with all of my machines which again are not the latest models either.

    Last but not least if I need to run Windows software I can and I notice no lag or slowdown even in a Virtual Environment.

    There is just all Good from my experience and it keeps getting better.......unless the enhanced really High Resolution bugs you which as I mentioned already it just does to some users.

    That is the one thing you need to be aware of before deciding between Retina or not.
    Last edited by AVService; 11-05-2013 at 04:55 PM.

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    Hi Jeffmac: I thought only the superdrive worked with the MacBook Air? I did not know that any external drive would work? or are you simply referring to storage drives, and not CD drives?

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    I own a 2011 11" MB Air and a 2012 13" MB Pro. In general, I don't miss the optical drive in the Air--but then again, I use the one in the MBP all the time. My usage pattern may not exactly be typical, however: I use films on DVD a lot at work, and the MBP is my work machine.

    As we age we get more easily frustrated with technology (speaking from experience here...), and so if your parents do use their optical drive, they might be frustrated by having to attach an external one.

    I spent over a year with the MB Air as my sole machine (using it 5-10 hours a day), and had no real problem with the 11" screen, but would suggest that, if your parents choose to go with the Air, the 13" might be a better choice. (And Shiva, I took a non-Apple external DVD drive with me--they work just fine, even with just drawing power from the USB port.)

    In my experience, the original Apple SSD's are quite reliable, but urge you to get the biggest one you can afford. You can get an aftermarket replacement, but my experience on reliability with them has been mixed.

    Finally, you wouldn't think the couple pound difference in weight between the two machines would matter much when traveling, but in my experience, it really does.

    But one question: if you think your parents would be able to learn how to use it, why not get them an iPad for their travels and a MBP for home? Is the dogsled race software something limited to OS X, or could they do what they need with an iPad? (better battery life, even lower weight).

    Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MtnMan View Post
    Here's a silly question: if you take a MacBook Air on a trip or otherwise on the road to a business meeting/presentation, how much of an advantage is its ultra-light weight and slim form-factor to you in handling it during active use in a gathering, or in transport? I'm assuming that road warrior types flock to this kind of technology because it facilities less mass and less bulk to carry around, correct? What about the actual use? Does anyone here have a late-model MBA or MBR? If so, how well does it perform in real-world tasks you demand of it? What kind of work do you do on these machines? Is it all things like Microsoft Office or databases, or do you do other work, like video editing or Photoshop?
    I use three Macs to accomplish my work as a management consultant... a 1 year old 21.5" iMac, a 1 year old 13" MacBook Pro Retina, and a brand new Haswell powered 11" MacBook Air. I ordered them all with the fastest CPU available as well as the additional RAM and largest available storage. For my work which involves developing and working with large, complex financial models in Excel and document writing and email there is no noticeable difference in speed with any of my machines. I use the iMac in my office and now use the 11 Air for traveling. The MacBook Pro is becoming my wife's machine. I can do all my work on the Air and the low weight is great for travel. I have downsized my bag to a Ristretto for the 11" Mac and it's great having such a compact, light bag. It handily fits my Mac and accessories, a Kindle Paperwhite, files and all my travel office needs with room to spare. It fits inside my Aeronaut or my Red Oxx Air Boss for true one bag travel when I fly to a client.

    By the way, I almost never use the USB Superdrive, but at $79 it is easy enough to have on hand for the rare (and increasingly rarer) occasions where I need it.
    Last edited by giantsteve; 11-05-2013 at 07:16 PM.

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    To jump in here, the MBAir will work with a garden variety optical disc player plugged in via USB. I have an inexpensive optical drive that I bought to use with a cheap net book many years ago. I plug it into my MBAir on those very rare occasions I have had to use such a drive. It works without problem.

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    The notion of using an iPad for a sled dog race is intriguing, but would require alot of technical assistance to set up. The ultimate desired products are Word and Excel files with the final time tabulations (total of two days' racing per team per race) to submit in required format (in order of by place in each race, of course) to Sled Dog Central for worldwide release. We have a customized time-based spreadsheet for each race set up in OpenOffice Calc, then we export the results to Excel and Word. Entering the info well in advance of the race requires a desktop or laptop computer with a keyboard so that we are ready on the days of the event to begin entering times and having them tabulated automatically. Sounds like a laptop job all-around. The scary thing is the weather; it's hard to keep the race HQ reliably warm enough if it gets really cold on the weekend of the event. That gets to be a concern for any machine or device, even if we can plug it in.
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    Does anyone know of any iOS race-timing software that can handle this kind of thing?
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    I'm not sure about all the requirements for the sled dog races, but RaceSplitter - Race and split timer for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad seems to be a very robust app that runs on iOS. Their website provides some information about the kinds of races supported and it seems like a dog sled race could work too:

    RaceSplitter is perfect for:

    • Long- and medium-distance mass-start races. In such races — like mountain trail running or half-marathons — in which racers tend to spread out and finish alone or in small groups, RaceSplitter is ideal.
    • Interval- and wave-start races. Races in which participants start alone or in waves, separated by fixed time intervals — such as nordic skiing or cycling time trials — are ideal for RaceSplitter.
    • Adaptive sport races. Races involving handicap participants, in which recorded times are adjusted by a compensation factor, are ideal for RaceSplitter.
    • Multiple-lap races. RaceSplitter automatically detects when a race has multiple laps.
    • Races requiring intermediate times. In addition to a timer at the finish line, some race organizers — particularly in trail running events — will send a handful of other RaceSplitter users out to record intermediate times at interesting locations on the course.
    • Multi-sport races. Organizers of triathlons use the multiple-lap support provided by RaceSplitter to time each leg of their event (as a different "lap").


    Here are some examples of race types that are regularly timed with RaceSplitter.

    - Nordic skiing
    - Mountain biking
    - Triathlons and duathlons
    - Trail Running
    - Half-marathons and marathons
    - Small fun-runs
    - Multi-stage races
    - Desert buggy racing
    - Sail boating
    - River rafting and paddling
    - 2011 Paralympics

    Another app which looks very full featured that might work is http://www.webscorer.com/race-timing
    Last edited by giantsteve; 11-09-2013 at 10:47 AM.

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