I've got a 13" 2009 MBP (8GB, 2.53Ghz). A lot of the time it runs a Win 7 web dev environment (Visual Studio, SQL Server databases, various editors, Photoshop etc.) under Parallels Desktop. It performs at least as well as a high-end Wintel laptop would if not better.

On the Mac end of things, I also mess around with Garageband and Coda, edit video and photos with iMovie and am learning Objective-C using XCode. And also for general use (web, email, officey-stuff, iTunes, DVD viewing etc). The laptop handles all this extremely well and although its a couple of years old now, I see no reason to upgrade to a newer model.

However, I'm very taken with the new (Summer '11) Macbook Air - they're light as a feather and most appealing. On paper, the 1.8Ghz i5 looks like its a bit weedy, but it has SSD. Is it going to perform as well or better than my current machine for the sorts of things I do with it or should I just invest in an SSD for my MBP?

UPDATE: Following the advice from @Benjamin Dubois and @user9902 to install an SSD in my current machine I did just that. For anyone who is wavering between buying an Air (and the 2012 editions are considerably more appealing than the 2011 model that seduced me at the time of posting this question) I would strongly suggest trying this option before splashing out big money on shiny new toys. After the installation of a sub-£100 128GB SSD the MBP absolutely flies. I would recommend this option without reservation.

  • 1
    I added an SSD to my MBP but it can't compete with the latest MBA (with 8GB RAM), mostly in terms of portability. Even games run just as well as on the 2008 MBP.
    – Coyote
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 8:41
  • Portability is in the eye of the beholder (or something). Thanks to an optibay caddy my MBP has 256GB SSD + 1TB HD. Suck on that Macbook Air ;-)
    – immutabl
    Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 9:37

4 Answers 4


The CPU will be adequate, but the MacBook Air is limited to 4 GB of RAM. This effectively gives you somewhere between 1 and 1.5 GB for your Windows 7 VM, which is not much. While the SSD will make for much faster IO than the HDD in your MBP, I expect you'll be doing a lot of pageouts.

  • That sounds like its the deal-breaker :-(
    – immutabl
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 21:41

Stick with a macbook pro : virtualization needs quite a lot of CPU power (there are 2 computers running in there !).

But you could also be just fine with a SSD in your current MBP (I have the same than yours, with à X25-M postville and 8gb/ram, and it is really fast).

  • 1
    Actually, hardware-accelerated virtualization has the CPU idle a lot. The problem is the relative lack of RAM. Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 20:59
  • @Sören Kuklau - That would depend pretty heavily on your workload, wouldn't it?
    – Fake Name
    Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 13:06
  • Absolutely, but Sarx specifically names Visual Studio and SQL Server. My workload is quite similar, and I've found that I/O is a bottleneck far, far more often than CPU usage. Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 16:03

You will probably find it runs better, because of the SSD, even with less memory. I'm sure you would get better performance putting an SSD in your existing machine, but then it's still 6lb...

I moved from a late 2007 MBPro with 4GB RAM to a mid-2010 MBA with 4GB of RAM, running Windows 7 under Fusion. It's DRAMATICALLY better, though I don't do heavy software development (so take my experience for what it's worth).

Rumour has it there's a "thin and light" MBPro coming soon, which would likely support 8GB of RAM - but then you can always be waiting for the latest and greatest.

The post above mentions more page-outs. You probably would see more page-outs, but their impact is probably less severe because of the very fast disk...

  • Thanks for the tip. The memory issue mentioned by @SörenKuklau means that I will be idling for a thin 'n light MBA. But if I find a 128GB SSD for under £100 I'll give that a go while I wait.
    – immutabl
    Commented Aug 15, 2011 at 21:43

According to a AnandTech review of the Macbook Air, its CPU actually performs well against older Macbook Pro models. See http://www.anandtech.com/show/4528/the-2011-macbook-air-11-13inch-review/9

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