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Macbook Air for grad school?


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The MacBook Air is all most people need. The Retina doesn't make sense because if you look at the data on the Retina only the 15 inch really performs optimally, additionally most people don't need a Retina screen. Are you a graphic artist, movie maker, photographer or someone else that needs really high quality graphics? If not, why pay the premium? Sorry to the person who bought one, glad it is working out for you though! 

 

I supped up my Air. It brought me close to the cost of a Retina, but I still wasn't in the same cost bracket. I added A LOT to this thing too, so not quite sure of the logic behind that unless prices fell. 

 

This thing is more computer than most people need. Your RAM is the big one to watch. Max out on that. Your storage can be augmented in a number of different ways. There's no reason for all your data to always be on your computer. It drives me nuts when people make that argument because it usually comes from people that don't know how to manage their data. I'm in the social sciences and I frequently run statistics on both the Mac and Windows side of my laptop that are on par with what economists do. I never have an issue. Ever. 

 

Some other computer related thoughts:

 

If you have an air, or any laptop for that matter, do yourself a favor and buy a desk and a monitor. The monitor will keep you from squinting. Plus it is best practices to have a lot of screen real-estate when you are doing a lot of writing and cross referencing. The desk will help save your back and wrists. 

 

Get an external hard drive and back up regularly. 

 

Use your Dropbox or Box account shrewdly. These aren't places to back up your data, these are places to store data you will need to access across PCs.

 

Learn how to manage your files. Jesus, it never ceases to amaze me how many people don't know how to manage data on their PC. I don't think folder structures are quite enough. I'm talking using databases for everything. 

 

Develop a workflow, and don't be afraid to experiment with how to optimize it for you. Really look at apps that can help you manage what you do!

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I would have to disagree with the consensus here. There are certain aspects of laptops that I believe many people overlook in the name of portability, one of which is a quality display. Yes, you could

The specs on macbook air are garbage for the $$ u pay... your better off getting a windows ultrabook

Just to add more fuel to the conversation - I currently own a base model 2011 11" MacBook Air and love it. Mainly because of the size of the thing - it's so damn easy to take around with you. It's als

That is quite an offer coming from an advisor. I've never heard of advisors make such an offer to a student before (at least in Canada).  :)

 

I'm using a MacBook Air (that I got refurbished) last summer. It's been great. I used to tote around a MacBook, and the difference in weight has been noticeable. My advisor offered to buy me a screen (when I need more screen space) and external hard drive. :)

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That is quite an offer coming from an advisor. I've never heard of advisors make such an offer to a student before (at least in Canada).  :)

 

I am a RA on his grant, so it makes sense that he would provide me with the tools I need to do the work. :)

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I just wanted to share that I am typing on my MacBook Air right now... What's plugged in? My power cord, a USB mouse (easier to use sometimes than the trackpad), my headphones (for music), and the external monitor (for coding or writing papers). I'm using all the available plugs (is that what they're called?), and it's just what I need to do my work... no more, no less. So, while my current MBA has served me well the past year... I'm thinking of getting the new MBA.

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That is quite an offer coming from an advisor. I've never heard of advisors make such an offer to a student before (at least in Canada).  :)

 

When I started my MSc (in Canada), my advisor got me a iMac (22'') and also a 2TB external hard drive. Like wildviolet said, it's actually the norm, I think (at least in the sciences) for all of a student's computer needs to be supplied by the advisor. Of course, when I say "my advisor got me", I don't really mean transferred into my possession -- it doesn't actually belong to me! After I graduated and left, the materials stayed with my advisor for his use and/or use of his future group members. There are some cases where students prefer to work on their own laptop, but this has been uncommon in my experience. It's tough to write a lot of sentences or code on a tiny laptop so most people work on desktops provided by advisors. I also feel that it is nice to have a different machine to help separate "work" and "play". 

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Is there any value-for-money in buying one of the 13' Windows 8.1 laptop\ultrabook alternatives?

I will probably have a dual-boot setup with a Linux OS.

I know MBA's Apple OS are Linux based, but I might still need all a Windows based OS for Windows-only applications (like Visual Studio).

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  • 1 month later...

Just wanted to up this thread to see if anyone has bought the new MacBook Air. I looked at both sizes in the Apple store, and the 11-inch seems small to me, but I'm not sure if the extra $100 is worth the longer battery life and screen size.

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Anyone have experience with running SPSS on MBA? I have had issue with regressions taking ages to run on Mac Book pro 2010, especially if running other programs. Will 128 be enough or should I go for more?

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Anyone have experience with running SPSS on MBA? I have had issue with regressions taking ages to run on Mac Book pro 2010, especially if running other programs. Will 128 be enough or should I go for more?

 

I have SPSS on my MBA. It works perfectly fine. Mines is only 128 gb.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest Gnome Chomsky

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet (I don't want to read the first three pages), but the Surface Pro (especially the Pro 2) have been getting increasingly popular. I must admit, I'm wishing I hadn't recently purchased my Lenovo because the Surface looks like a fun toy. I'd recommend the Pro/Pro 2 because they're just about as powerful as any laptop you'll find. The regular Surface is more comparable to a tablet/iPad. The thing I like about the Pro 2 is it comes with Microsoft Office, and since it's touch screen, you really get to take advantage of OneNote. It's basically a tablet with a detachable full keyboard, and a lot of people in my classes will use it as a notebook and hand write their notes on it in class. I'm a programmer too, and I like that the hard drive is big enough to fit my compiler, Microsoft Visual Studio. 

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I don't know if anyone has mentioned this yet (I don't want to read the first three pages), but the Surface Pro (especially the Pro 2) have been getting increasingly popular. I must admit, I'm wishing I hadn't recently purchased my Lenovo because the Surface looks like a fun toy. I'd recommend the Pro/Pro 2 because they're just about as powerful as any laptop you'll find. The regular Surface is more comparable to a tablet/iPad. The thing I like about the Pro 2 is it comes with Microsoft Office, and since it's touch screen, you really get to take advantage of OneNote. It's basically a tablet with a detachable full keyboard, and a lot of people in my classes will use it as a notebook and hand write their notes on it in class. I'm a programmer too, and I like that the hard drive is big enough to fit my compiler, Microsoft Visual Studio. 

 

I'm not sure if it was a regular Surface, Pro or Pro 2, but my roommate bought one and returned it less than a week later to get an iPad so... yeah.

 

Generally, I'll just say this about the Surface. Trying to make a device that is both a tablet and a computer means that it's not goign to be as good of a tablet as a tablet is, nor as good of a computer as a computer is. Tablets and computers are not the same thing, so if you're getting a hybrid just remember that you're splitting the difference and making compromises.

 

Also, it's a windows piece of garbage, but if you like that stuff then go for it I guess.

Edited by roguesenna
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Guest Gnome Chomsky

I'm not sure if it was a regular Surface, Pro or Pro 2, but my roommate bought one and returned it less than a week later to get an iPad so... yeah.

 

Generally, I'll just say this about the Surface. Trying to make a device that is both a tablet and a computer means that it's not goign to be as good of a tablet as a tablet is, nor as good of a computer as a computer is. Tablets and computers are not the same thing, so if you're getting a hybrid just remember that you're splitting the difference and making compromises.

 

Also, it's a windows piece of garbage, but if you like that stuff then go for it I guess.

I'm a fan of Windows. I got rid of all my Apple stuff. I would normally agree that a hybrid isn't a perfect tablet or laptop. I've been looking at hybrids since they started coming out like 2 years ago, and I never would've gotten one. But the Surface Pro 2 is definitely the best "hybrid" I've come across. I wouldn't even really call it a hybrid since you can get it with an i5 processor, 512 GB hard drive and 8 GB ram. That's just as powerful as the high-end laptops out now. I think hybrids are going to be the norm within a few years. All operating systems are beginning to be created for a touch screen interface. And technology is getting to where you can fit a lot of power into a little device. I remember 7-8 years ago laptops were pathetic. They didn't have nearly the power of a desktop. Now, they're making phones with quad-core processors. 

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I'm starting in the fall and what I'm leaning towards is a Windows 8 tablet with a docking keyboard station.  I'd be able to set up a keyboard at home and at my carrel or keep it with me, and could use the system as a laptop or tablet based on need.  It'd also be nice to carry around something smaller than a full-on laptop. I also have a macbook pro already, only 3 years old and still perfectly good, so looking more for something more mobile and lightweight personally.

I have been trying to decide on getting a new macbook pro (or air) and getting a Windows 8 tablet with a docking keyboard as well...I want something small to carry with me (not that MacBook Pros are large), but the ghost file thing on Macs is so annoying for me. I am a writer and so I have tons of documents that I like to keep organized and it is virtually impossible on a Mac. I have dropbox which helps quite a bit, but Windows does so much better with keeping things organized.

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I have been trying to decide on getting a new macbook pro (or air) and getting a Windows 8 tablet with a docking keyboard as well...I want something small to carry with me (not that MacBook Pros are large), but the ghost file thing on Macs is so annoying for me. I am a writer and so I have tons of documents that I like to keep organized and it is virtually impossible on a Mac. I have dropbox which helps quite a bit, but Windows does so much better with keeping things organized.

I'm confused - how do the hidden files keep you from organizing your files?

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I, too, am confused.  I have a Mac and I am also a writer, and I have never had a problem with hidden/"ghost" files impeding my organization.  They are, after all, hidden.  Windows and Macs organize files in exactly the same way - in folders.  In fact, I have found it easier to find things on my Mac when I can't remember where the f I put them with Spotlight search, but ymmv because I think newer Windows machines have ways of doing that too.

 

Honestly, it's really just about preference.  Mac OS X and Windows 8 do exactly the same thing for 95% of computer users.  It's really just about which aesthetic and operating system you prefer (and whether you are using a program, like SAS, that exclusively runs on Windows.  Sure, you can use Parallels, but that ish is slow with statistical programs).  Personally I use Stata almost exclusively now for my analyses - and I'm learning R - both are available on Mac OS X.  I tend to prefer Apple's products, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with the Windows operating system.  It's just that there's variability in the hardware that you can get Windows on.

 

Personally, I think I would miss having a laptop.  I would definitely want a tablet for portability (mostly for taking notes in class and reading on the subway), but I can't be one of those people who replaces my laptop with a tablet and just buzzes away with a desktop and a tablet.  That would be especially so when I take trips.  On the other hand, I have never used the Surface Pro.  My personal choice would be to have a desktop (Mac mini - $700), an ultraportable (MacBook Air - $1400) and a tablet (iPad mini - $500).  Of course, that's ridiculously expensive ($2600! not including taxes and AppleCare), so if I had to cut out one thing it'd be the Mac mini because I can always hook up my Air to an external monitor (and that would total out to ~$2000, not including taxes and AppleCare).

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I think apple care is a waste of money. The 1 problem i've had with my macbook pro (3 years old now) is one of the fans started making weird noises, so i went to ifixit.com and bought one for ~60 bucks and changed it out. It was super easy.

 

IMO, if you want a laptop, the 13 inch macbook air is the best on the market. Powerful, amazing battery life. The only bad thing about it is the screen resolution is from the stone age; its a decent TN panel but i think its like 1440x900 when most people on a 13 inch screen would want 1920 x 1080.

 

With computers, I'm a firm believer in you get what you pay for; I had very expensive windows laptops before my mac and they worked out OK. If you can, spend at least 1k on a computer, for something you want to use day in and day out, build quality matters almost as much as battery life. For most people, power shouldn't be a concern. Even most computer science majors dont need a powerful laptop. The only thing you need a powerful laptop for is Gaming, Data Analysis (and really thats just ram for most people), Photoshop/Illustrator (to make posters). Everything else is easy enough run on an i3 and 2gb of ram. Look for battery life, look for build quality. The better the track pad the better the usability of the computer is, which is why apples got so popular in the first place. Keyboards are also important, and it seems windows computers have some good ones. 

 

I am skeptical of the new lenovo laptops; They aren't the same bastions of build quality they used to be. If I were to buy a windows laptop today, it would be an Asus Zenbook I think. 

Edited by GeoDUDE!
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 For most people, power should be a concern. Even most computer science majors dont need a powerful laptop. The only thing you need a powerful laptop for is Gaming, Data Analysis (and really thats just ram for most people), Photoshop/Illustrator (to make posters). Everything else is easy enough run on an i3 and 2gb of ram. Look for battery life, look for build quality...

 

GeoDUDE!, I don't mean to sound nitpicky, but did you mean to say power shouldn't be a concern? It seems like the rest of the paragraph advocates for battery life/quality over power. Or maybe I'm a little sleep deprived.

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GeoDUDE!, I don't mean to sound nitpicky, but did you mean to say power shouldn't be a concern? It seems like the rest of the paragraph advocates for battery life/quality over power. Or maybe I'm a little sleep deprived.

 

Nope your right; my mistake.

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I switched from a Windows laptop to a MacBook Air last March, and I love it for the most part: light, battery lasts forever, and basically everything everyone has already said. It's durable, which means a lot to me- I spend my summers in the field covered in mud, sand, sweat, and all sorts of other fun stuff, and this thing didn't miss a beat. Only drawback is that a few people I work with love Access, so I have to use workarounds. My current school is set to work with Macs, so using it to teach and give talks is easy but I always have to keep that "workaround" mentality in mind, especially if I'm using it at other schools or smaller conferences.

 

 

Two additional things to think about:

 

1) What software does your school or department provide cheap/for free? My school provides a ton of free software for both Mac and Windows, but one of my previous schools only gave out free Windows software. If you need something like ArcGIS or Access, that's a lot of money to throw down out of your stipend.

 

2) What sort of discounts do you get through your school? I got a 15% discount on the price of my MacBook Air, as well as a free Apple Care for a few years. Not that big of a deal, but it could sway you if you're on the fence. 

Edited by PowderRiver
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I'm a fan of Windows. I got rid of all my Apple stuff.

 

I question your sanity...

 

 

I think apple care is a waste of money. 

 

I would normally agree unless you are buying a first-gen product. 

Edited by Human_
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I'm definitely getting a Macbook Air for grad school after extensively researching all my options.  A little bit sad because I want to play Skyrim and this will mean I have to partition my HD and use Bootcamp, but I think it'll be worth it, all things considered, to have the portability, battery life, usability, and to not have to buy PC versions of my software.

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I question your sanity...

 

I got a Macbook Air 9 months ago. It's been my first, and it will be my last, Mac. Yes, it's light and it has a great battery life, I'll give you that. However, in the time that I've had it, it's been to the AppleStore 4 times for repairs, twice getting it "fixed" on the spot and twice they held it in the store for a few days to "fix" it. It's had problems with spontaneously shutting down, the power adapter sometimes not connecting, when connecting the battery charges slower than it should, and the trackpad sometimes being jittery and unstable. When I left my computer at the AppleStore, both times, I lost about a week of work ability, and the computer came back unfixed. Both times, the following thing happened: I make an appointment at the genius bar; I talk to a "genius," show them the problem; They take a good 20-30 minutes taking the computer to the back, running diagnostics, writing up the problems they detected and detailing a plan for getting the machine fixed; They ask that I leave the computer with them "for 5-7 days;" I sign some document indicating that I agree to the plan. Both times, within 3-4 days I get an email saying that my computer is ready for pickup. I arrive only to discover that the tech team could not reproduce the problem and have in fact not done anything to fix the machine. The report from the "genius" who did detect the problems before (in my presence, during my apt at the genius bar!) has conveniently not been saved, or has gone missing (the first time I was very understanding, but after it happened for the second time I realized that this must have happened on purpose to hide any evidence of problems with my machine.) I leave the store, cursing the day my friends convinced me that Apple products are so great, swearing never to repeat this mistake again. My Lenovos (plural) were so much more reliable.

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I got a Macbook Air 9 months ago. It's been my first, and it will be my last, Mac. Yes, it's light and it has a great battery life, I'll give you that. However, in the time that I've had it, it's been to the AppleStore 4 times for repairs, twice getting it "fixed" on the spot and twice they held it in the store for a few days to "fix" it. It's had problems with spontaneously shutting down, the power adapter sometimes not connecting, when connecting the battery charges slower than it should, and the trackpad sometimes being jittery and unstable. When I left my computer at the AppleStore, both times, I lost about a week of work ability, and the computer came back unfixed. Both times, the following thing happened: I make an appointment at the genius bar; I talk to a "genius," show them the problem; They take a good 20-30 minutes taking the computer to the back, running diagnostics, writing up the problems they detected and detailing a plan for getting the machine fixed; They ask that I leave the computer with them "for 5-7 days;" I sign some document indicating that I agree to the plan. Both times, within 3-4 days I get an email saying that my computer is ready for pickup. I arrive only to discover that the tech team could not reproduce the problem and have in fact not done anything to fix the machine. The report from the "genius" who did detect the problems before (in my presence, during my apt at the genius bar!) has conveniently not been saved, or has gone missing (the first time I was very understanding, but after it happened for the second time I realized that this must have happened on purpose to hide any evidence of problems with my machine.) I leave the store, cursing the day my friends convinced me that Apple products are so great, swearing never to repeat this mistake again. My Lenovos (plural) were so much more reliable.

 

 

Thats interesting because I have never had to use apples tech support; 3 iphones 1 ipod nano 1 ipad and 1 macbook pro later. Seems like you just got a bad apple (hahahaha). Though I think if there was something wrong with my computer, I would probably try to fix it myself (and did with the fan) if I could. I guess I've just been fortunate to never have any major computer problems in my ~18 years of using a computer.

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Seems like you just got a bad apple (hahahaha). 

 

That may very well be. All I can tell you is I've had a bad experience both in terms of the product and in terms of the service. If it's really a defective machine, and I think there is no doubt that it is, a decent company would have just replaced it (say after my second/third/fourth visit to their store within the first 6 months of buying the machine) instead of continuing to hassle me without being able to solve the problem. It's expensive enough that you'd think they would treat their customers better. As it is, I am stuck with this dud and can't afford to buy a new one right now, but if/when it actually dies and I need to replace it, there is no way I'll get another Mac. They have made the whole experience too unpleasant.

 

Before this Mac I had one IBM and one Lenovo laptop, each for 5+ years. I had to have one of them fixed once, and that's it. I never had anything even resembling the amount of grief the Mac has been causing me. 

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