MacBook Air/Pro, is the Air enough?

Long-term iOS user and looking to buy my first Mac.

Looking at either the 13 inch Air or the Pro, the “adorable” is too small. Much as I like the idea of the Pro it is a third more expensive than the Air.
I am a university student and my use is limited to a web browser (many tabs - it is a bad habit), word processor, reference manager and having multiple pdfs open at a time. And that is likely to be true for the forseeable future.

Is the Air sufficient to handle that comfortably, or do I spring for the Pro?

The Air would probably work for what you describe. Given your tab habit, you might look for one with upgraded RAM. The current model pretty long in the tooth, so you might consider a refurb (or even a refurb pre-touchbar Macbook Pro).


Get the pro!
The Retina screen will save your eyes and probably grades when missing out typo’s on the lower resolution MB Air screen.

You can skimp on storage but do max out the memory!!!

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B&H offers some discount and depending where you live you can save on the Sales TAX :wink:"%20MacBook%20Pro%20(Mid%202017%2C%20Space%20Gray)&sts=pi

The MacBook Air is currently available only in a 13-inch size that has seen only minor updates since the last major revision in March 2015. The ultra-portable notebook computer offers Intel Broadwell processors and Thunderbolt 2 connectivity. On June 5, 2017, the base 13-inch model was updated with a faster 1.8 GHz processor.

There are rumors that the MBA will receive a real update later this year.

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MacBook Pro! Better resolution will save your eyesight. Back in my day at university, all the reading was a terrible strain…many headaches.
Try to find a refurbished 2012 model. I found that the 13 inch model was sufficient. I found the 15 was just getting too heavy carrying around at the end of the day. It has multiple USB slots, network port, CD tray… and the most fantastic thing is YOU can upgrade the memory and hard drive when you have the dollars in your pocket.
Mine is 6 years old but still outperforms the latest windows laptops at work.

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I second the recommendations to go for a MB Pro. I bought a new 2013, 15", retina model in the year it came out. I have since swapped out the hard drive for an SSD and increased the RAM to its max 16GB. In summary, with the portable lines (Air or Pro), do not limit your purchase only to what you feel that you will need today. With care, the MBP can last beyond your four year tenure as a university student. To save money, look for an Apple Certified refurb. I recommend the 2013 models without the CD/DVD drive yet still with a host of Thunderbolt, HDMI, and USB3 ports. The CD/DVD drive is a waste (with software downloads now the norm – unless you are truly using the computer as a substitute DVD player all the time), and the single port portable models will end up causing you to buy extra connectors (that you will then lug around because … gosh darn, you always need to be able to plug in that USB stick to access your homework).


I routinely recommend the macbook air to my students due to the price. Check out BH Photo for good deals. The rumors suggest they will be releasing a new MacBook air (or affordable MacBook), so it might be worth waiting a 2-3 months and seeing what they release.

Today’s update did not include any upgrades to the non-touch bar MacBook Pro, which is what I assume ScottG was considering.

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I’m going to come at you from left field here: If you do not have a strong need for software that’s only available on the Mac, based on the uses you describe, I STRONGLY SUGGEST getting a Chromebook. You can get a very nice machine for $500 that does everything you describe except, possibly, that “reference manager” thing. I don’t know what that is.

The Chromebook will get you 10 hours of battery life. Sweet!

If you’re very partial to a Mac, I’ve been happy with my 2015 MacBook Air, which I use with slightly heavier workloads than you describe. It’s great - best computer I’ve ever owned.

I don’t miss the Retina display. I don’t miss what I never had. The MBA display is fine.

My only complaint about the MBA is that after three years the battery life is failing. I only get 2-3 hours out of it. wonder if I could get it serviced for a modest cost?

Zotero might work in Google Docs, I thought I remembered reading something about that recently. But then you are basically limited to one reference manager, and working in Google Docs may cause problems if like me you are required to submit in Word format (the export from other apps is usually fine, but sometimes weird stuff happens).

The battery on my 2012 Retina MacBook Pro had deteriorated to the point that, in addition to short battery life, I was getting random shutdowns. I had it replaced by an Apple Authorized Service Provider, which ran about $230.

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I can certainly endorse the quality of the retina screen on the MacBook 12" - it’s fabulous. However, despite the screen I would not voluntarily have changed to this machine from my beloved MacBook Air 11", which for me had the perfect form-factor and screen proportions. For me it struck the best balance between price, portability and utility of any machine I have ever seen, and it had a useful set of connections (so unlike the single not-quite USB-C port on the MB 12"). I know these things are subjective, and we all have different needs, but if my wife hadn’t spilled a cup of tea into it, I’d be using the MBA 11" still …

Sorry for the digression …

I’m a road warrior and travelled with the MBAir for about four years, doing more heavy tech demands than you, and found it to be a great, reliable and very portable machine. I’m now using a ‘15 MBPro and it feels like I’m carrying a brick around with me. Given your life as a student, I’m thinking you might appreciate the lighter MBAir…it’s got plenty of juice for what you need.

It can be done, but it is a copying and pasting affair rather than the swish interface of Word. I also need to submit in Word doc and frequently need to submit as an encrypted document.

An upgraded refurbed pre-touchbar model is the ideal but they appear few and far between in the UK.

If there’s someone you can borrow from for a day or two you might want to give the Adorable a try. I moved from a pre-retina 13-inch MB to the 12-inch Adorable last fall and with the higher resolution, don’t find the screen any smaller, even for my 50-year-old eyes.

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Mendeley also works on Chrome OS, so as long as you’re not using Papers, or Bookends, you should be fine if that’s what you use. Here’s an article on using Mendeley with Chrome OS.

Interesting to know. I have not looked into Mendeley enough. I am pretty happy with my Zotero workflow for citing and extracting annotations from marked-up PDFs. I might need to do some investigating.

I bought my 2015 MacBook Pro 13 inch from CeX in the UK. £765 for a 2.7GHz, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD. This was a grade A machine in perfect condition (the battery only had 20 cycles and came in the original box). This was last summer and they now want £720 for that specification. If you want a usb c MacBook Pro then this is £885 for a grade A machine.

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