Macbook Air, Pro or Samsung ATIV

srdit

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Hello everyone,

I need help choosing a laptop serving as a very mobile secondary machine. I am an architecture student and I primarily do all the work related to architecture on my desktop PC with a 24" 1920 x 1200 px screen (have been using a 1055T with 8GB RAM and a gtx 560Ti so far, just ordered an upgrade to a new motherboard with an i7-4770k, 16 GB and planning an upgrade to a gtx 780 very soon) but as much as I hate it, I sometimes have to use a laptop as well, when working together with other students or for finishing work before presentations and for presentations themselves.

Besides that, I also work part-time as a language trainer and I use my laptop a lot to play listening comprehension audio, videos with dialogues for my students etc. So for this purpose I definitely want it to be as light as possible (no more than 1,5 kg / 2,2 lbs for example) , but don't want to go below 13". I have even considered a convertible, like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, since I figured it would be much nicer to display videos and learning material in digital form, etc. with the screen flipped over, when teaching one on one; on the other hand, when teaching to groups and being plugged in to a projector or a larger screen, it wouldn't have much use.

As far as the use for the studies goes, I wouldn't really mind the 15", but given that, as mentioned, I really want to do all my work on the desktop as far as possible, I would much rather opt for a 13" as well. Still, the laptop would pretty much have to be able to smoothly run Adobe's Creative Suite applications and a few 3d modelling and drafting applications (AutoCAD, Rhino, Revit or ArchiCAD, Cinema 4D), but since I want to do my rendering and post-processing on the desktop, I don't think I would go so far as to need a quad-core on the laptop as well, since most of the named applications would much more benefit from a higher clock than from several cores. Storage is no issue, since I store everything either on the desktop HDD or on the external HDD, but I have heard that 128 GB SSDs in laptops are often significantly slower than the 256 GB versions, so if that is the case, I'd probably be willing to pay the extra cash just for the speed.

So having considered all that, and trying to find a sort of a compromising or a universal solution for both purposes, I narrowed my choice down to the following three options:

13" MacBook Air with i7 -4650U, 8GB, Intel Graphics 5000, judging from the benchmarks the processor is great in single-threaded use because of its 3.3 GHz turbo, and very energy-efficient at the same time

+ weight, battery life
+ 16:10 = great advantage for design and CAD
- screen resolution, unfortunately only 1440 px

1320 EUR with a 128 GB SSD
1520 EUR with a 256 GB SSD

13" MacBook Pro with i7 -4558U, 8GB, Intel Iris Graphics 5100

+ great screen resolution
+ best graphics of all the three
- somewhat more expensive and probably shorter battery life

1700 EUR with a 128 GB SSD
1820 EUR with a 256 GB SSD

13" Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus 940X3G with i7 -4500U, 8GB, Intel HD Graphics 4400

+ great screen resolution
+ weight as the macbook air
+ windows (compatibility)
+ probably good battery life (no idea, compared to 2013 macbooks?)
- weakest graphics of all the three
- weakest processor of all three

ca. 1700 EUR with a 256 GB SSD

Also worth noting, the Samsung has 2 years warranty, the Macbooks only 1, so I doubt I wouldn't purchase additional warranty, which isn't really cheap with Apple.


What do you guys think?
Many thanks in advance
 

srdit

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Thanks for your reply!

Would you care to elaborate? From what I've understood, judging from my needs, if I choose the Pro over Air, I'm basically paying for a better screen resolution but also for a shorter battery life and a bit more weight. I'm honestly not sure it's worth the extra price?
 

Gooplen

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Let me have the honors of breaking it down.

The pro has more power. Same specs, same everything, the pro has more power. How do I know? I own a pro, and my best friend owns an air. When using handbrake to work with a movie, we both have i5's, 4 GB RAM, and mine always gets done faster. All he has on his mac is schoolwork and minecraft. Where I have movies, and a bunch of other crap. So if your looking for a little more power, go for the pro. (The retina pro is not that heavy, the regular pro (which I have, mid 2012), is a little heavier.)
 

srdit

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Well, I guess the 0.5 lbs difference in weight isn't such a terrible encumbrance, on the other hand I would probably regret not having such a great resolution in the long run. So if Mac then definitely Pro. But the price really is high. Is the 128 GB SSD really that much slower than the 256 GB version? I'm very certain that I am not going to use the extra storage, so I would only be paying the additional 128 GB because of speed. Also, is i5 also an option for what I plan to do? There's also the i5-4258U with a 256 GB SSD for ca. 1400 EUR.
 

Gooplen

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I have a 500GB HDD on my mac, so my knowledge on SSD's are limited. From my friends and their opinions on their SSD's, They say the 128GB is plenty fast for what the do (Watch a few movies, Basic gaming, and some photoshop.) I also have the i5 in My mac (2.5 GHZ, Since mine is mid 2012, I think it's sandy/ivy bridge technology.) For what your doing, I would assume the new Haswell i5 would work fine (Rendering and whatnot would take a little longer.) But if you have the money, I would recommend to go for the i7.
 

srdit

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Thanks. Well, I guess you're right. I think I was tending towards the MacBook Air a lot because of the other planned use, for teaching. But I've actually in the meantime considered buying an Ipad for teaching and a laptop for the studies. So if a Macbook than definitely Pro. Should I really not consider the Samsung?

As for teaching, do you guys think that the Ipad would suffice? I would prepare classes on my destop PC anyway (or on the new laptop); it's mostly one-on-one classes, so the screen size would be ok, I guess, and besides that I would probably play videos, dialogues, listening comprehension audio. the mobility and the interactiveness due to touch screen is just great!
 

King Hackintosh

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It's very hard to compare the Samsung to the Apple simply because the question goes from a hardware debate to an OS X vs Windows debate. Choose the operating system that best fits you, then decide on the hardware to run it. BTW I agree with what the others are saying about the Pro vs Air debate (I have a rMPB and my sister has an air and mine is far superior). Also, because the new rMBP (retina MacBook Pro) uses PCI-E based solid state drives (as apposed to SATA III) even the 128gb will be blazingly quick. I'd highly recommend going to a store and testing the Air and rMBP - I think you will fall in love with that display!
 

King Hackintosh

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I think that an iPad would be sufficient for teaching but I have no experience whatsoever with teaching so I really cannot understand the type of content your iPad would be doing. But you should know that iOS being a mobile OS is very limited in what it can do compared to Windows RT, which retains most of the features from its fully fledged cousin Windows 8 (I still prefer iPads, however).
 

Gooplen

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I got an iPad 2. For me and what I do (high school studies, lots of homework), the iPad works good for me when I can't bring my laptop with me. If your planning to do a lot of the work on the computer (preferably a mac, so you can use iCloud (a whole other forum post)), the iPad works great for displaying documents. If you plan to type though, I would recommend an external keyboard for the iPad. I have a logitech (dont remember the name), bluetooth, and it works fine. If you do get the iPad, I would highly recommend the MacBook with it, because it's so easy to share documents between them, Almost no hassle.
 

King Hackintosh

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Good point... Whatever ecosystem you choose you'll want to stick with it throughout all your devices. For example with iCloud you can access all your documents, photos, safari tabs, etc. from any of your Apple devices. So I can start a document on my desktop, work on it with my iPad on the subway going to work, continue it at work with my laptop, and even make changes from my iPhone. The same goes for google drive and android.

Not mixing up your ecosystem will likely prove crucial for a student like yourself where you may need to access content from a range of devices.

 

srdit

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Hi guys, I know this thread has been started quite a while ago, but I've been busy and we've had holidays and all, however, this topic is actually still quite relevant for me - anyway, I've bought the iPad Air and I can say that for me it does a tremendously good job with what I do as a teacher, especially with the addition of a stylus.

I still can't decide on the laptop, though. Given that the price of a 13" MacBook Pro with 8gb ram and an i7-4558U is practically the same as that of a 15" MacBook Pro with 8gb ram and an i7-4750HQ, I was beginning to think that I could definitely bear with the increased size and weight of the 15" if getting a real quad core for the same price. Besides, now that I already have an ultra mobile solution, it might make sense to go for 15" rather than 13" as the mid-mobile-solution. But I'm definitely not going to be doing any rendering on the laptop, so I'm not sure I would really benefit from the multiple cores, as 3d modeling software normally uses no more than one or perhaps two cores. Comparing the core speed, especially taking turbo into account, the i7-4558U seems to be faster; benchmarks for single-core use seem to confirm this. I'm also not sure that I need the dedicated GPU of the 15" since I'm certainly not going to be gaming on the laptop and plan to upgrade to a gtx 780 on the PC anyway, and for the 3d work on the laptop I'm really convinced that the mobile gpu on the 15" brings that much power than the integrated graphics of the 13", mobile graphics always being inferior anyway. So, basically, I'm thinking that a faster single-core speed with better mobility and slightly better battery life does logically seem to be a better solution. However, reviews usually unanimously experience the 15" MacBook Pro as simply "more powerful" on the whole. :-/
 

Gooplen

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I have the 13 inch MacBook Pro right now (Dual core i5. 2 core, 4 thread, 2.5 GHZ clock). The integrated graphics are pretty crappy when it comes to gaming, but when I use photoshop, illustrator, or i'm simply formatting a movie in handbrake, the performance is good. I don't have much experience with 3D work (At school here, I do that on a PC). From what I know, if your going to do a lot of 3D work on the laptop, go for the 15 inch quad core. If your only doing a little 3D work, then go with the 13 inch. The only difference in cores is that the 13 inch has 2 physical cores, but 2 virtual cores inside those cores, so basically 2 cores per core. The 15 inch has 4 physical cores, no virtual cores.
 

Reid Nystrom

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I graduated architectural school 3 years ago. If you want a mac go with the macbook pro with the i7. Don't waste the extra money on the retina, it's not worth it. Get a minimum 21" monitor in addition and just use the monitor with the Pro i7 as the second screen. I had a 15" gateway and its a lot of computer to lug around, it was so wide it wouldn't fit in my back pack. For the price get the non retina with the i7 in the 13" and spend the extra money saved from the larger retina version and get a monitor.

On the architecture note. Most offices run on windows platform. Most architectural softwares that are worth a damn and are used for the majority of the profession are on windows. In that case either get the mac if you like it then run bootcamp to use windows or spend less and get a windows computer. I worked at an office on Mac (the minority in the industry) now I have useless knowledge of Mac architecture software. Then they ran parallels for windows and switched over to autocad and it was very slow, but this was an issue with parallels vs bootcamp.

In the end the industry uses windows and whatever you go with buy the faster chip option because in 2-3 years you are going to think "holy crap my computer is so slow" so might as well get as fast as possible now to prolong that in the future. Good luck in architecture, it's fun in school at least...
 

srdit

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Hey Reid many thanks for your reply. But I think you might have misunderstood (or misread) my question - I stated at the very beginning of my inital post that I already use a 1920 x 1200 24" screen at home with my desktop Windows PC (i7-4770K, 16GB RAM, etc. as mentioned above) which is my main working machine, and that I need the laptop for those situations when I can't work at home and have to be mobile (group projects, etc.). So I'm not interested at all in the retina screen per se, the reason I'm looking into the the new versions of the macbook pro is simply because of the better processor inside. So my question was really whether I definitely need the i7-4750HQ which is a real quad core and happens to come in the 15" version, or whether I can go with an i7-4558U which is actually only a dual core, but happens to have a higher clock and benches slightly higher in single-core applications, and comes in the 13" version. Since most applications used in architecture don't really make use of more than one or (seldom) two cores (rendering is of course another thing, but I definitely always do that on the desktop PC), the increased mobility of the 13" would no doubt be a great plus.

In regards to price, the 13" with the i7-4558U costs pretty much the same as the 15" with the i7-4750HQ, and no older models cost any less where I live, so there is no price advantage and thus no sense at all going for an older model.

There is just as well no sense in not purchasing the prolonged warranty when cashing out so much for a laptop computer, so, to put it shortly, if I'm cashing out 2.000 EUR, I definitely want every cent to be invested properly, not in a quad core and a dedicated gpu that I might never need and that come with the additional pound of weight, increased size, and less battery life, if the i7-4558U is just enough or maybe even better with better mobility. On the other hand, I certainly also don't want to buy something that will again and again appear to be just not quite enough, should the i7-4558U prove itself not that powerful as the i7-4750HQ for what I do. I've spent the first three years of my architecture studies using a 6 lbs heavy HP with an old i5 and 2 GB of ram. Loading a 150MB .tiff image to use as a template for drawing in AutoCAD with that is pure pain. Especially with PS and InDesign open. I know what I'm talking about. My PC used around 12-13 GB of RAM for the same thing.

The fact that most applications relevant are actually Windows-based is also known to me, but the only thing close to the specifications I need would be the mentioned Samsung ATIV, I doubt however that it is nearly as powerful and efficient as the two MacBook Pros. And I'm not an Apple fan at all, for example. But it is a fact, that if you want high performance hardware packed in highly mobile machines, Apple rules that market segment at the moment.
 
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