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June 13th 2013 9:38 am

Torn between 11 inch and 13 inch.

So, I held off buying a MacBook Air until Apple updated the line, which, as expected, they did. Originally, I had always been focussed on getting the 11 inch variant, as my purpose for buying it is a super-portable but also super-powerful computer. I can't remember if the 2012 MacBook Air's had different possible internal specs, but this year both sizes offer identical internals. I plan on getting the 1.7GHz i7 and 8GB of RAM and either 256GB or 512GB storage - depending on whether I buy a new AirPort Time Capsule as well, which I understand can be also used for storing an iTunes library?
As we all know, to our disappointment, Apple did not improve the displays on the MacBook Air this year, and this is where my new doubt arises - yes, I want the MacBook Air to be portable, and when I'm at my desk at home I'll have it connected to my monitor, but when I'm on-the-go I don't want to suffer from virtual claustrophobia (which I suffer on netbooks with their typically poor resolutions).
The only external difference between the two sizes is the SD card slot on the 13 inch model; I do use SD cards with my camera, so this would be handy, but not crucial, as I could just use the cable. Also, the 13 inch has better internal speakers (I despise tinny audio), but the 11 inch seems to have a more vivid screen and of course, a 16:9 aspect ratio. This is where my biggest problem is. My brother owns an old LG netbook, and often runs into difficulties where certain programs can't run because of the resolution limitations, namely games (I know, far from optimal on netbooks), but also basic software such as Handbrake. I do not want to end up buying the 11 inch MBA only to find out that many apps don't run, so, I have two questions for you:
  1. have any of you encountered Mac OS apps that require higher resolutions?
  2. from your personal experience, do you prefer the 11 inch or the 13 inch model and why?
(this is a discussion rather than question because I'm just wondering which size people prefer, not necessarily looking for 'answers' as it were)

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12 replies

Your best bet is to go to your local Apple Store, or any retailer that sells Apple products, and try the two. Compare them, try to find out which one is more comfortable for you. If you go to an Apple Store, ask a "Specialist" for assistance.

I personally prefer the 13.3-inch model, but that might be because I already own an iPad, so for me purchasing an 11.6-inch ultra-portable notebook computer would make no sense whatsoever, though I think it would fit you and your needs much better than the 13-inch model would. It's unbelievably small - you don't even need to get it out of your bag in the airport from what I've heard! As usual with Apple MacBooks, the keyboard and trackpad are excellent, no matter how small or how thin it is. The screen, as you mentioned, is slightly better on the 11-inch. Both are quite powerful, and they both provide better-than-best-in-class battery life.
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Another stab at #1. There isn't really any need to be afraid of the 11' because of its lower resoloution. I have an old secondary monitor (1024x768) hooked up to my 24' iMac and that can run any app on it. And as the 11' has a screen res of 1280x800 (same as 13' Macbook Pro) you should be fine. The only app I have really seen with a screen res restriction is Final Cut Pro X, which requires 1280x800

Now a stab at #2. I prefer the 13' Macbook Air, just because of its higher res screen, and the fact that size is more convenient for me. Plus its only and extra 100 dollars. But really, its just down to personal preference. Another thing to take into consideration is that you get an extra 2 hours battery on the 13'.

Hope this helped you out,
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regarding the 11 and the 13. so far it seems that i am the only on who went with the 11 over the 13. i wanted something that really light and portable. and yes i know both airs meet that criteria but for me i thought if i was going for the 13 i should go for the retina 13 retina instead of the 13 air. they are about 400 dollar different and the retina has the better scree, 8GB of ram, better graphics and better processor. and the Retinas are a lot sleeker than the pros. and please keep in mind when i 1st made that decision it was before the current models came out.

if i had to choose one today based on the current models i would have to go with the 13 inch air and the only reason for that is the battery life. for me the air is something i am carrying around with me all day from meeting to meeting its my machine of choice. Now if the 13 Retina can get close to that kind of battery life i may change my mind.
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Not exactly true, as the Air uses Intel's new Graphics 5000, to the 13' Retina's 4000. The Macbook Air now uses Haswell, which is superior to the Retina's Ivy Bridge. Plus the Air has PCI-e SSD, which is faster than the Retina's SATA SSD.

Sorry to point it out, but I had to. No hate :P
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not a problem and you are correct now. but when i bought my air that wasn't the case. when they get around to upgrading the Retina I'm sure it will be back to being a step or two above the air.

I am curious to see what they do with the Retinas when they refresh them. will we see similar battery life increases as we did with the airs?
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Same here. I think the retinas will get a similar battery increase because of Haswell's peformance per lower watt, graphics and overall peformance boost.
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I will only take a stab at #1

My 13" MacBook Pro (2010) has a resolution of 1280 by 800. This is slightly worse than the 11" macbook air.

I have not run into any apps where the resolution is too low to run it
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thanks, that's a relief :)
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Thank you all for the responses.

The fact that the price difference is only $100 is, to me, a nuisance, as that makes the choice all the more difficult. If the 13" was $250 more, I'd go for the 11". Either one is a big investment since I plan on going for the i7 and 8GB RAM (and potentially 512GB if I feel I'll need the local space). It really does all come down to simply convenience in my case, as I want portability, great battery life, and a comfortable screen. The better battery life on the 13" really makes me want to go with that, as well as the more comfortable screen. However, thanks Joe for the resolution information, as that makes the 11" a very viable option knowing that the lower resolution certainly won't result in as many Mac application limitations as I'd encountered in the past with Windows.
As IdoTDW said, the 11" is so small that the TSA lets you keep it in your bag, which while not currently an occurrence I encounter, I may end up flying more in the future. My number one reason for wanting a MacBook Air over other small notebooks was the blend of great performance and amazing portability, but I'm not sure whether comfort for my eyes or ease of portability will win the second priority. I think I will, as suggested, go to my local Apple store then and try out the two sizes to see which I find more suitable.
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I picked up the 11" Air and think it is absolutely perfect if you are looking for a portable machine like i was then i think you will go a very long way to better the machine.
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Just to update you folks, I went into an Apple store and tried them both out, and eventually sided with the 13". As much as Mac OS' visual features make the most of screen space, I found 11' just that little bit too small. Just over a week ago, the 13" 8GB/i7 turned up at my doorstep and I've been using it ever since. it's an incredible laptop, honestly the best I've ever used. From battery life to performance it shines, and although sometimes when I close the lid, look at it and think "hmm, that is rather large", I'm still very happy with it and it fits snuggly into pretty much every bag I have.

Thank you all for your responses and advice,
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This is the same decision I made last night.

For your #1 I have never had any situations on a mac where I could just not scroll naturally as you do in any app. I do not work on Photoshop so never really worried about it. But I will later tell you what I purchased.

For your #2 I purchased the 11 inch MacBook last night solely because of the weight difference and the portability. After playing around in the store for about an hour I realized that I didn't need the extra screen real estate but rather having that little extra amount of portability mattered more. I commute to work on public transportation and its a lot easier having an 11 inch laptop rather than a 13 inch.

All in all it is my personal preference and the 11 inch macbook just works for me. I absolutely love it.
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