MacBook Air or MacBook Pro for Running Windows 7?

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
Hi guys, I am in the market for a new laptop--a MacBook in particular. I am wanting to use it mainly to run Windows 7 Home Premium in Boot Camp, so I can go back and forth and eventually get to using OS X more. I have JAWS 14, Microsoft Office, Sound Forge, and a few other programs here and there that I want to run. I have a large audio recording and music database, some of which can be transferred onto external storage if necessary. I am considering getting either the 2013 13" MacBook Air with the 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB ram, and 256 or 512GB SSD...or the 13" MacBook Pro with the 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB ram, and 750GB hard drive. My concern is mainly about performance. I have JAWS 14, which in my experience is rather memory-intensive. I also use Microsoft Office (mostly Outlook), Sound Forge, iTunes, and a few other miscellaneous programs. I currently have a Toshiba Portege R835 (2011) with an Intel Sandy Bridge i5 processor, and it runs JAWS fine. I am just concerned about that slower processor in the MacBook Air. So, I am looking for recommendations, please. Does anyone have any experience using Windows with JAWS and other programs on a MacBook Air/pro? If so, how did it run? Thanks, Michael

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#1 Which Mac?

App Developer

I'm running almost exactly your same situation. 4Gig of RAM will be too little for what you want to do I think, so I'd go with the MacBook Pro. I bought a MacBook Pro 13" Retina display a few months ago (8G, i7-3520 CPU), 512G SSD and am running Parallels 8 running Windows 7 Ultimate. On windows I'm running Office, Sound Forge, Photoshop, iTunes and on the Mac I'm running mainly XCode (I develop iOS games) and Digital Performer. I'm happy with my performance (though I do notice better Mac performance when Parallels isn't running, and better windows performance if I boot directly into Windows). But since parallels requires you to partition your memory, a 4Gig Airbook would leave you with only 2G for mac and 2G for Win, which is really a bare minimum these days. I'm not familiar with JAWS, however... Btw, I was not a fan of parallels in the early days, and abandoned it completely. But this version (8) is really great. I'm running 3 monitors: the laptop 2560x1600, 1 external monitors at 2560x1600 via Thunderbolt and another 1920x1080 via HDMI. With a single all three monitors instantly switch from Mac to PC or visa versa. It's really quite cool... Brian http://www.EarGames.com

#2 Thanks Brian

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hi Brian, Thanks for your thoughts on this. I didn't realize the ram had to be partitioned out, too...and yes 2GB is not enough for what I need. JAWS is rather processor-intensive, which is why I thought I might need a more powerful processor if I want ultimate performance. I'm thinking to get the maxed-out non-retina 13" MacBook Pro. I thought about getting the MacBook Air and upping the processor to the 1.7GHz, memory to 8GB, and the SSD to 512GB, but when you start doing that stuff...it gets really expensive really quick.

#3 mac and windows

hi. a few things to note. if you are going to run windows in boot camp, it would be better to run it natively. I know that you can technically install it to a boot camp partition, then run it virtually from with in OSX, but this is never the best way to do it. simply because any OS runs better when running natively on the hardware, and not virtually. I was considering getting a mac to run both OSX and windows, but decided not to at this point, simply because of cost. the cost of the mac's is just too high at the moment. they are slowly, ... ever, so, slowly! ... coming down in price. but I got myself a Toshiba p850 laptop in stead. for under a thousand dollars, I got a machine with a core i7 quad core, 8 GB of 1600 speed ram, a 1 TB HDD with an 8 GB SSD cache, and other such nice things. including a blue ray drive, and a TV card. LOL. and 4 USB 3 ports. this thing is amazing. yet, to get anywhere near that in the mac world, they want me to pay over 2300 dollars! ... just not going to happen. LOL. so I'm very much thinking about grabbing a new iPad when they come out later this year. and one really cool thing I found with the Toshiba, is that it has a Toshiba app inside windows, that's totally accessible, that lets me modify settings in the firmware of the computer! now as good as accessibility for the mac is, I have yet to hear them be able to do that. and that can mean a lot, especially when it comes to being able to set boot orders, and change how SATA works, or how USB works, and all sorts of fancy stuff. LOL. but never the less, if you are going to grab a mac to run windows on, please, what ever you do, run windows natively. no OS runs properly as a virtual machine. not even if you have 16 GB ram. And that is even more important, when you want to run flaws for windows. LOL. As you said, JAWS is rather memory hungry, and running windows and JAWS virtually is simply not a good idea.

#4 Yes, but...

App Developer

I may politely semi-disagree with Dallas... Forgetting about costs for the moment, I was actually very surprised at the performance of running WIndows 7 on a virtual machine under Parallels. Part of that is that I have a hefty MacBook, but I think a lot of is just that the VM is finally mature and efficient. This is my main work/productivity machine and on the Windows side, I typically have multiple programs open including memory hungry ones like Photoshop. It is a bit snappier when I boot directly to Windows, but it by no means feels remotely sluggish. For me whatever productivity gains i'd get from a bit faster windows (if there would be any at all), are vastly compensated for by the instantaneous ability to switch from Mac to PC, which in my specific case, I have to do quite frequently. It's literally one ctrl/arrow press and I'm in the other environment. My original setup was an older MacBook from 2009, running only OS X. And I bought a new mac in late 2012 to run windows, replacing a Sony Vaio that died a horrible death from SSD failure! And I'd always boot straight into Windows, running it natively. I have a hardware keyboard/monitor/mouse switcher so they can share keyboards and monitors. But I figured, for a few bucks I'd try out parallels again on my new mac-- the last version I tried was 3, and it was horrible. I installed 8 and was stunned. Not only did it let me use my native bootcamp install as my virtual machine, but it was FAST. it literally didn't (doesn't) feel like a VM at all. So I gave my old Mac to my wife and now just have the single MacBook booting to OSX, running Win 7 virtually and have had virtually no problems. And switching between the two is far faster than the keyboard/mouse/monitor switcher was-- that took several seconds for the switch. now it's instant. Everyone's mileage may vary, of course. And in my particular case, I need to be able to run both, and to be able to switch back and forth quickly and efficiently and share files easily between the two as part of my workflow. And as noted, I don't run JAWS Now for the question of if macs are too expensive! There I agree 100%... but for me to develop iOS apps, I needed a mac, and my Adobe CS-5.5 license and audio programs/office, etc are for Windows so...

#5 agreed, but ...

yes, agreed, vm's can, run ok. but as you also said, i dout that you are running and under powered system. if you have enough resources, you can do almost anything without to much trouble. for example. having a macbook with a quad core core i7, would be far better, then a dual core core i5, that has been ramped back to save power. so firstly, rule out macbook airs. the new ones have very underclocked CPU's. not what you need for running a vm. you can upgrade them, sure. but they are still far under what you really want for doing vm stuff. next, is your standard macbooks. they would probably handle things a bit better, but are still farely low end, specually with the only two, that they still sell. they are most likeley going to get rid of them completely soon. then, you have the newer macbook pro retina. these would be your best bet, simply because they are the macbook pro that has the most resources to give to the two system's while running side by side. and obviously, they have one other good thing. SSD. that blows away a lot of the slow down you would get from running from an HDD. and who really wants HDD's any more any way. SSD's are miles faster, far more relyable, and getting ever cheeper. the only problem? macbook retina's are dam expensive. like you said, you can cut out cost if just considdering the hardware best for your task. but for example, this is the cheepest you are going to get from apple right now. 13-inch: 2.5GHz with Retina display 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz 8GB 1600MHz memory 128GB flash storage1 Intel HD Graphics 4000 Built-in battery (7 hours $1,499.00 and that, of course, is before you upgrade it. i'd always say upgrade the ram as far as you can aford to, simply because the more ram you have, the more you can dedicate over to windows. and you can of course upgrade other parts, like the CPU, and SSD. but like already said, starting to upgrade it anything past this, gets dam expensive, very quickly. and what really blows me away, is how much they are charging for upgrading the SSD. they are only putting 128 in this thing, at that price? hopeless. SSD's aren't that expensive any more. i agree, if you are writing IOS apps or mac apps, of course, you have to have one. but if you are constrained by cash restrictions, then a macbook pro is probably not going to be a very cheep way to go. unfortunately. if they made them a little cheeper, i would have gotten one far sooner.

#6 MacBook Air Processor

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I have a 2011 Toshiba Portege R835-P70 with an Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor running at 2.something GHz. JAWS is very responsive and even two years later, the computer runs well on the inside. My question...is the slower but more efficient processor in the 2013 MacBook Air (Core i5 running at 1.3 GHz) going to be equivalent, slower, or perhaps even faster than my two-year-old Core i5 running around the lower 2.0 GHz range?

#7 macbook air

hi, it will be slower. they deliberately under clocked it to save battery. it will run ok, but really not something you want to be trying to use with a vm. if you were running windows directly, you could do it, but with jaws, i don't think it would be too pleasant an experience.

#8 Running Windows Via Bootcamp

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hi, I plan to run Windows using Bootcamp. So, my question is, even though the processor speed will be slower, will the performance be equivalent to the two-year-old i5, what with the performance increases over the last two generations of processors?

#9 Good Q!

App Developer

Hi Michael, that'd be a close call, since there are many factors (proc speed, proc architecture, bus speed and setup, etc.). Intel may have some stuff on their site comparing various processors (but of course, those may be biased towards showing the great improvements in newer chips). Also I should clarify my previous posts. If you're running Bootcamp (not a VM), then you have the entirety of memory all to Windows. It's only running parallels that you have to partition the memory.

#10 mac air

hi, i would say that probably not, no. its probably about half of the power, maybe three quarters, of the older core i5. what you have to remember here, is that the CPU type in the mac air, isn't the same as the standard mobile processors that are in the macbook retina's, and other windows notebooks. ultrabooks, use a version of the processor, that is lower in performance, to get better battery life. and yeah. running it as a bootkcamp, and running that bootcamp natively, is best.

#11 So confusing!

App Developer

True, but a lot of the feeling of how fast a computer is isn't necessarily directly related to CPU performance. Generally, (unless you're doing some serious number crunching) the biggest bottleneck to a system feeling 'snappy' is usually disk I/O bandwidth and seek times moreso that CPU speed. And a current SSD will beat your old Toshiba's spinning hard disk hands down. So even a slower CPU system might feel faster with a SSD. Bottom line is that it's very hard to extrapolate (or just plain guess) the performance of a system. Perhaps theres a way you can try things out ahead of time. That all said, Dallas is 100% spot on that the air is designed for power/weight, not performance. it might behoove you to get a bit beefier system than the air.

#12 yep

yep, this is exactly why a lot of systems are going towards SSd technology now. its way faster, and isn't as prone to problems as a HDD. now days, you can buy a 940 gb SSD for about 730 bucks. mind you, good luck at getting apple to providey ou one, for that cost. hell, they charge half again as much, even for a 512! lol.

#13 Thanks Guys

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hi guys, Thanks for the advice on this. It looks like I have more research and considering to do. ;-) Thanks again, Michael

#14 Might be of use.

Hi Michael, I now have the 2.9 i7 mbp with 7pro running via bootcamp. It is fast even with JAWS. What I think will be of interest to you is: Before my MBP I had an Asus Zenbook, 1.6 second gen dual core i5 processor with turbo boost to 2.0 GHZ and with a 128GB SSD and 4GB DDR3 1333MHZ RAM. This machine ran windows 7HP 64 bit and was pretty fast. I think the problem you will have is space and RAM with the MBA. As I say I have the 2.9 MBP because although the storage is standard and not SSD, I have a lot more of it and can put an SSD in should I wish to do so. I could either remove the disc drive and have a 120GB SSD for operating systems and the 750GB for storage, or replace the standard drive with an SSD when I can afford it. Also, the processor in the MBP is pretty good and hasn't been under clocked. Which ever you decide to do, 8GB is really a minimum for ram these days for me because of running a screen reader. VoiceOver seems to say "Insert app name here, busy" half as much as it used to do as an example. You could use NVDA on windows depending on how much functionality you would need too as it uses less RAM. As the MBP I have is one you are looking at, I am happy to test anything for you on my bootcamp, start-up times, CPU usage etc. I can be found on Twitter: @OutFirstBall

#15 Hi. Just to put more flies

Hi. Just to put more flies in the ointment I am running a mac mini that I bought at the end of 2011. I have 8 gigs of ram but can run vmware fusion and jaws with absolutely no problems. Actually it runs better and is more responsive than most windows machines I have owned. Sure I don't run windows all that often but when I do it's a very good experience. I also love the fact that I can switch back and forth etc. It's like having 2 computers in one box. Having to reboot just to boot in to windows then not having access to the mac os to me would be a real pain. lol. My next portable computer is going to be a mac for sure when finance allows.

#16 And I'll add my 2 cents also

I have the late 2012 11 inch Air with 8gb ram, 256mb ssd and the I7 chip. I run JAWS in bootcamp and heavily use Office and assorted other programs. I have never seen any delay in responding (either by an operating program, JAWS or VoiceOver) when running on either side. I love the size of the machine (I am totally blind so screen size doesn't matter) and the extra weight and size of the MacBook Pro wouldn't appear to give me much added value. Maria, are you using VMWare fusion to run JAWS in a virtual machine? If so, would appreciate an opportunity to chat.

#17 HI. yes I am running jaws on

HI. yes I am running jaws on a virtual machine. I don't do a whole lot with windows but when I'm using it I have no problems. I would be happy to chat.

#18 Another thing - Battery lentgh?

Hi all, a question in particular. For those are using Vmware Fusion on a Mac book Pro preferably the late 2011 models how much battery life do you get e.g. 2 hours 4 hours or longer. I understand this may vary but mainly asking for a rough pin-point because this would be another thing to consider and its something I would like to know about if this could be provided. I also think it would be benifitiual for Michael to know too since he is considering the portability side of Macs. Thanks Daniel

#19 Parallels 9

Hi Brian, I gifted my daughter with Mc Book Air 11" 2013 128GB. We purchased Parallels 9 online and installed it. She's graduating in college and will be doing her thesis in actuarial science and most of their applications are windows based. I would like to seek your advise on what windows is perfect for her laptop and where to buy it. Also will it lessen the performance of her new mc book air. Currently she has also installed Office for Mac. Please advise. Percival

#20 so, can I do this?

I have an early 2014 MacBook Air with 4 gigabytes of ram. I have looked in the about this mac dialog and found the appropriate place to see if my memory is upgradable, and it says no. so, is it a bad idea to install windows using bootcamp because I don't have enough ram on this machine? Anything I can do to make it so I can run windows seven natively on here? Thanks for your help.

#21 Heafty MACs

App Developer

I run a pretty hefty MAC. Windows has no problems in VMware Fusion 6. I have a late 2013 MACBook pro with 8GB of memory, I74 quad core (4 hardware processors, 8 virtual threads), and a 256GB sad. It also has a 17.5 inch retna display.

#22 Installing with bootCamp

Hi Joanne.
Yes, you can install with bootCamp and use windows 7 natively.
I currently do this, i will note though, with the macbook air 2013 and 2014, you need to install windows through bootCamp. I know there are talking windows environments but they don't work on the macbook air 2013/14.
It's less of a headache to just ask for sited assistance! Good luck!