MacBook CPU Snobbery

I have a 2015 13" MacBook Pro. Lately I have found that I don’t use it as much as I used to and have been toting around my iPad Air with a Brydge keyboard for lighter work like e-mail and web surfing. The laptop was more for when I was away for more than 24 hours and needed a mobile office.

However, at some point I will have to upgrade, and I was thinking of getting a MacBook Air. My audio, video, and photo editing are all done on my Mac Mini, so I don’t anticipate heavy duty usage on my laptop. I am an attorney using cloud based apps and Office 365.

The Baseline MacBook Air comes with an Intel i3 chip and 8Gb of RAM. I have always skewed towards the i5 chip, but am now wondering if I should/need to pay more for the i5. Do I really need it for my use case, or am I just being a CPU snob?

Also, although the 256Gb SSD on the baseline model is more than sufficient, should I upgrade from 8Gb of RAM to 16? I want to be sure I future-proof the machine against new versions of macOS that may be RAM hogs.

So what does the collective hivemind think? Should I get the i3 or the i5? Or should I wait for a MacBook Air with Apple Silicon? 8Gb of RAM or 16?

As a rule of thumb, I double the RAM and storage of successive computers, typically upgrading every 4 years or so. For the current MBA, I’d go with the i5, as it’s a quad core CPU, which should help with the perception of speed, even if you don’t use it for work that makes much use of multiple cores.

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i5 + 16 GB

20 characters blah blah blah


i5 and as much RAM as you can get - 8Gb is paltry for running multiple apps in Catalina

Okay, now I’m wondering if I should put Catalina on my 8Gb MacBook Pro that’s still running Mojave.

Honestly spec up as much as you can. I made mistakes not doing this. Really try to go beyond 8GB. It depends of course on what you do and need. I can’t tell you how Catalina works on 8GB as I , snob that I am and intend to remain, run it on 64GB

My usual bias would echo other people: the better specs tend to be worth it, although of course there’s disagreement as to which specs are most important.

As OS X (whatever flavor) never seems to escape some process or program running away with RAM, I tend to favor more RAM. Upgrades, in order of importance for me:

RAM > processor category > processor clock speed > storage; with 512GB a minimum.

All that being said, I think its worth it to examine the cost delta between a “properly” spec’d out MB Air and the baseline one, and consider putting the difference in the bank: the baseline machine may very well be all you need, and in addition – given all the underlying hardware changes afoot – you may prefer to change it again anyway (that is, sooner than you might otherwise have planned), after new ARM macs are released, if they prove to be impressively better than Intel ones now.

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Until COVID-19 blew up the world I was running Catalina on a mid-2013 4gb ram 13" MacBook Air with a workload similar to yours (the lawyer part) with no particular problem. Not the fastest machine ever but usable to get the work done.

That said if I’d be buying a new machine for office work I’d go for 16 gigs of ram

Since you said that you’ll need to upgrade at some point, the question is premature I think.
I would wait a while, believing that Apple will be eager to launch a stunning, new AS MacBook, so a purchase of a low end machine now would age surprisingly fast.
Other than that, I’m i5 all the way, and 8GB is fine if you don’t multitask demanding apps.

By the end of the year. In 1st-gen form, with teething pains for new OS + new processor. For a work machine?

If you need a Mac now, get a Mac now.

I’m running a 2019 MacBook Pro with a 256GB SSD and 8GB of RAM.

It does fine, even running multiple applications and outputting to a 4K monitor (from clamshell mode), and the fan doesn’t spin up all that often.

I’ve noticed that the fan does get going when I’m converting DVDs so I can store them on my Plex server. It will also get going when I’m encoding video (a narrated Keynote presentation or Screenflow screencast).

The former’s a one-time project, and the latter doesn’t happen very often. At least, not usually. We’ll see what the coming academic year brings (thankfully I’m on sabbatical for the fall term).

I think this sort of thing depends a lot on how you use your machine. I’m running a 2017 5K iMac that came with 16gb of RAM and a 1TB hard drive. I was getting a lot of beach balls (based on iStat Menus this was probably due to the ridiculous number of Safari tabs I have a habit of keeping open). Thankfully the iMac is one of the few machines Apple sells with easily upgradable RAM. Slapping in another 32GB cured the problem.

I’m also finding the 1TB hard drive a bit limiting. Nothing I can’t work around by archiving some old stuff off to the Mac mini with the big RAID array and moving some VMs to an external SSD, but my next desktop is going to have at least 4TB.

None of this is to say that LawyerSteve needs 32GB and a 4TB hard drive; just that asking someone else what’s sufficient for their usage doesn’t necessarily help if your own usage is different.

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&nsbsp; is your friend :wink:


… as is the backtick. :slight_smile:

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Um . . . huh?? 20 characters

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Yep. One additional thing to consider is that buying one of the higher end stock configurations tends to increase the resale value more than speccing a machine up with the build-to-order options. So if you’re planning on reselling the machine, even if you need a bigger SSD than the base model but don’t care about the processor, it might make sense to buy a stock configuration with both than BTO with just a bigger SSD (again, if you’re planning to resell in a few years).

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&nsbsp; is HTML for “non-breaking space” which is not visible, so it’s a good way to reach 20 characters without having “visual clutter”


I recognized the HTML code, but not how and why it was being used here. Thanks!

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20 characters blah blah blah

It makes for a great personal signature for MPU Forum though!

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Wow, I never knew that, it will be useful for me. Now, what is this 'HTML" of which you speak? :smiley:

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