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Old Dec 27, 2012, 08:58 AM   #1
Kabe Ayofe
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Should I get a 13inch retina, or a 15inch non-retina?

Hi guys! Longtime reader, first time poster.

I'll be buying my first MacBook in 10 days, and i'm still undecided on which to buy. It's between the 13inch Retina base model and the 15 inch non retina base model, as my absolute top budget is 1500.

I'm in my final year at university, and other than the usual word processing, presentation stuff and web browsing, I also produce music using Reason and will be (hopefully) designing a product using Photoshop. I'm also a download quite a heavy downloader, but I will be buying an external HD regardless of which Mac I buy.

I would really appreciate your opinions!
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:06 AM   #2
Barna Biro
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Music creation could most likely benefit from the quad-core from time to time, but it really depends on how complicated stuff you're planning on doing. I'm guessing it ain't gonna be mega-complex, so most likely the 13" rMBP dual-core CPU can also handle the stuff you'll throw at it just fine. Word processing, downloading and Photoshop ain't a problem for any of the two models.

Some people will argue that the 15" is better for graphics related stuff mainly because of the screen size, but I believe this is completely subjective. We also don't know what is / going to be your field of expertise... that might help give more helpful advice ( are you a graphic artist by any chance? ).

I think that for your case, it really comes down to how much money are you really willing to throw out... you could most likely get the 15" cheaper than the 13" rMBP and looking purely at specs, the 15" model is going to be more performant ( faster CPU, dedicated GPU and you can upgrade it to 16GB RAM if really needed ). Then again, how important is portability for you?
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:18 AM   #3
Kabe Ayofe
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Originally Posted by Barna Biro View Post
Music creation could most likely benefit from the quad-core from time to time, but it really depends on how complicated stuff you're planning on doing. I'm guessing it ain't gonna be mega-complex, so most likely the 13" rMBP dual-core CPU can also handle the stuff you'll throw at it just fine. Word processing, downloading and Photoshop ain't a problem for any of the two models.

Some people will argue that the 15" is better for graphics related stuff mainly because of the screen size, but I believe this is completely subjective. We also don't know what is / going to be your field of expertise... that might help give more helpful advice ( are you a graphic artist by any chance? ).

I think that for your case, it really comes down to how much money are you really willing to throw out... you could most likely get the 15" cheaper than the 13" rMBP and looking purely at specs, the 15" model is going to be more performant ( faster CPU, dedicated GPU and you can upgrade it to 16GB RAM if really needed ). Then again, how important is portability for you?
Thanks for the reply dude,

The music I produce is mainly house so only occasionally does it involve external sound input. I intend to take it into campus quite regularly, but the thought of carrying around a 15incher doesn't really faze me.. I'm a business student but designing is a hobby of mine that I do quite often, and possibly will do a lot more of in the new year.

One thing that is really important for me is the ability to upgrade, as I intend to use this laptop for 3-4 years. Is one easier to upgrade than the other?
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:33 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Kabe Ayofe View Post
Thanks for the reply dude,

The music I produce is mainly house so only occasionally does it involve external sound input. I intend to take it into campus quite regularly, but the thought of carrying around a 15incher doesn't really faze me.. I'm a business student but designing is a hobby of mine that I do quite often, and possibly will do a lot more of in the new year.

One thing that is really important for me is the ability to upgrade, as I intend to use this laptop for 3-4 years. Is one easier to upgrade than the other?
I put up a similar thread the other day comparing those two and a MBA option:

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1513760

Fo you, since you are taking it to campus a lot, I would lean towards the 13" machine.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:33 AM   #5
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I think in terms of completing work, the 15" seems like a better bet because of more power. I think the 13" retina display macbook pro is a macbook air with a gimmick screen to boost sales...
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:34 AM   #6
Barna Biro
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Originally Posted by Kabe Ayofe View Post
One thing that is really important for me is the ability to upgrade, as I intend to use this laptop for 3-4 years. Is one easier to upgrade than the other?
If upgradeability is important and so is saving some money now, then clearly the 15" looks better on paper than the 13" retina. BUT, if you don't mind ditching out some money on the 13" retina, then you're almost in the same boat. The user replaceable parts on the 15" are the HDD and RAM... in the 13" rMBP you can't replace the RAM ( it goes up to 8GB which should be plenty for 99% of the users for the upcoming years ), but the SSD can actually be replaced ( you would be voiding warranty in the process, but for sure you already know how to get around that ).

IMHO, 15" cMBP is a slightly better for 3-4 years ONLY because of the quad-core CPU. The dedicated GPU it has will be quite obsolete in 1-2 years max. anyway ( of course talking about gaming here and assuming that games don't suddenly become more efficient and less resource hungry - which is not likely to happen ).

Since you'll buy an external HDD anyway, then you really just need to answer a few questions to yourself: "do you actually see yourself needing more than 8GB of memory in the next 3-4 years?" ( considering your current plans and possible future hobbies ) "do you want to have the faster CPU that can handle tasks better on the long run?" ( I'm talking about CPU intensive tasks since "normal" tasks will look the same even on 12 cores / of course the dedicated GPU can also come in handy in some encoding scenarios compared to the integrated GPU of the 13" model - but only in games you'll truly notice the difference ) "do you want to save some money with this purchase now and delay the few upgrades for later or not?" ( considering that SSD prices will most likely continue to drop in the months / years to come - memory is already cheap as hell even now ).

As soon as you have answered those question, you've already made the decision

PS: A few other things you might want to consider: ports and optical drive. Does the HDMI port on the 13" sound good or would an adapter for the 15" be just as fine? Will you miss the built-in optical drive or not on the 13" model? Same for the 15" model ports...
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:35 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Kabe Ayofe View Post
One thing that is really important for me is the ability to upgrade, as I intend to use this laptop for 3-4 years.
In that case, you definitely want the 15" cMBP. Memory and hard drive can be easily upgraded, and you can even swap out the DVD drive and have both SSD and HD.

The memory in both rMBPs can't be upgraded as it is soldered to the motherboard. The SSDs can be removed, but they are custom Apple designs and third party upgrades are very limited.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:42 AM   #8
Barna Biro
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Fo you, since you are taking it to campus a lot, I would lean towards the 13" machine.
Well, he did kinda state that it's his last year at Uni. How "a lot" can he actually take the notebook to campus in this last year? Had he just started Uni, then I would agree that the portability of the 13" model is very nice and should be considered too... but that's not the case.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 09:57 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Barna Biro View Post
Well, he did kinda state that it's his last year at Uni. How "a lot" can he actually take the notebook to campus in this last year? Had he just started Uni, then I would agree that the portability of the 13" model is very nice and should be considered too... but that's not the case.
A year is a year to drag around 5.5+ pounds in your backpack. But like he also said, if he wants to use it 3-4 years and the option to upgrade, then the 13" or 15" uMPB models are the ones he should be looking at and not the Retina.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 10:06 AM   #10
Kabe Ayofe
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Originally Posted by Barna Biro View Post
If upgradeability is important and so is saving some money now, then clearly the 15" looks better on paper than the 13" retina. BUT, if you don't mind ditching out some money on the 13" retina, then you're almost in the same boat. The user replaceable parts on the 15" are the HDD and RAM... in the 13" rMBP you can't replace the RAM ( it goes up to 8GB which should be plenty for 99% of the users for the upcoming years ), but the SSD can actually be replaced ( you would be voiding warranty in the process, but for sure you already know how to get around that ).

IMHO, 15" cMBP is a slightly better for 3-4 years ONLY because of the quad-core CPU. The dedicated GPU it has will be quite obsolete in 1-2 years max. anyway ( of course talking about gaming here and assuming that games don't suddenly become more efficient and less resource hungry - which is not likely to happen ).

Since you'll buy an external HDD anyway, then you really just need to answer a few questions to yourself: "do you actually see yourself needing more than 8GB of memory in the next 3-4 years?" ( considering your current plans and possible future hobbies ) "do you want to have the faster CPU that can handle tasks better on the long run?" ( I'm talking about CPU intensive tasks since "normal" tasks will look the same even on 12 cores / of course the dedicated GPU can also come in handy in some encoding scenarios compared to the integrated GPU of the 13" model - but only in games you'll truly notice the difference ) "do you want to save some money with this purchase now and delay the few upgrades for later or not?" ( considering that SSD prices will most likely continue to drop in the months / years to come - memory is already cheap as hell even now ).

As soon as you have answered those question, you've already made the decision

PS: A few other things you might want to consider: ports and optical drive. Does the HDMI port on the 13" sound good or would an adapter for the 15" be just as fine? Will you miss the built-in optical drive or not on the 13" model? Same for the 15" model ports...
When you break it down like that.. i'm leaning towards the 15inch non-retina.

Is it absolutely impossible to upgrade CPU? For instance an i5 dual-core to an i7 quad?
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 10:11 AM   #11
Barna Biro
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A year is a year to drag around 5.5+ pounds in your backpack. But like he also said, if he wants to use it 3-4 years and the option to upgrade, then the 13" or 15" uMPB models are the ones he should be looking at and not the Retina.
You're blowing things out of proportion IMHO... it's not as if he'll get hernia because of a few pounds. It's not weight lifting 24/7 you know... have you finished Uni? Just asking because you should know that the last year is usually the least attended year... you rarely have classes to go to in the first semester and almost none in the next one(s).

Anyway, that's not the point... the point is that realistically speaking, THERE'S NOT MUCH TO UPGRADE ON ANY OF THE MODELS. Be it retina or non-retina... the most important components, CPU / GPU are non-upgradeable and FOR SURE those components will be the first to get in your way as time passes. 8GB of memory is more than enough for the majority of people, pretending otherwise is just silly... he should be worried about memory only if he wants to run multiple VMs simultaneously or use other software that actually needs to store a lot of data / do a lot of computation in memory. The HDD / SSD as you have yourself nicely pointed out, is replaceable in both scenarios. We can argue that fitting an additional HDD in place of the optical dive is "cool" or not, but I'd say it's far from a "deal maker". If you have the room for a freaking 15" notebook, you'll find place for an external HDD too.

Really, you've just been mega-subjective so far... What the OP needs are objective answers / numbers ( as objective as possible of course ), so that he can decide which setup would actually benefit him the most. Calling one worse over the other just because you fail to compare the models properly is uncool... Sorry.

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Originally Posted by Kabe Ayofe View Post
Is it absolutely impossible to upgrade CPU? For instance an i5 dual-core to an i7 quad?
You can only upgrade them to what Apple is offering on their website. Again, the only user-serviceable parts for the 15" cMBP model are the HDD and RAM. No matter if it's rMBP or cMBP, you're stuck with whatever CPU / GPU configuration you end up choosing now. Those components will become obsolete in time and no amount of hard drive space or memory can "fix" that.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 10:38 AM   #12
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You're blowing things out of proportion IMHO... it's not as if he'll get hernia because of a few pounds. It's not weight lifting 24/7 you know... have you finished Uni? Just asking because you should know that the last year is usually the least attended year... you rarely have classes to go to in the first semester and almost none in the next one(s).

Anyway, that's not the point... the point is that realistically speaking, THERE'S NOT MUCH TO UPGRADE ON ANY OF THE MODELS. Be it retina or non-retina... the most important components, CPU / GPU are non-upgradeable and FOR SURE those components will be the first to get in your way as time passes. 8GB of memory is more than enough for the majority of people, pretending otherwise is just silly... he should be worried about memory only if he wants to run multiple VMs simultaneously or use other software that actually needs to store a lot of data / do a lot of computation in memory. The HDD / SSD as you have yourself nicely pointed out, is replaceable in both scenarios. We can argue that fitting an additional HDD in place of the optical dive is "cool" or not, but I'd say it's far from a "deal maker". If you have the room for a freaking 15" notebook, you'll find place for an external HDD too.

Really, you've just been mega-subjective so far... What the OP needs are objective answers / numbers ( as objective as possible of course ), so that he can decide which setup would actually benefit him the most. Calling one worse over the other just because you fail to compare the models properly is uncool... Sorry.
----------

Who the heck made you the Mac authority? Are you replying to the wrong post or something? You sure read a lot into relatively short answers. All I was saying is that if he's dragging it to class, lighter is always better. A 13" saves a couple pounds compared to the 15". What, do you know his class schedule or something? The OP can give us more specific feedback if needed.

I'm trying to help the OP here, not make an argument. If he's a university student and has found his way to MacRumors for advice, I'm sure he already is educated enough to know that the Mac laptops can't have the CPU and GPU upgraded. And has probably already searched Google or Apple to get specs and details. The only things that can be upgraded are the RAM and drives and that's only on the uMBP models.

If he's going to have an external hard drive, then his laptop should have an SSD inside, whether it comes with it originally like the rMBP or if he upgrades it himself in the uMBP.

I didn't see the OP asking for "objective answers / numbers". Actually, his question was more subjective if anything other than the size and price point. Isn't that what these forums are for? Subjective answers and opinions? Don't be such a jerk.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 10:53 AM   #13
Barna Biro
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If he's a university student and has found his way to MacRumors for advice, I'm sure he already is educated enough to know that the Mac laptops can't have the CPU and GPU upgraded.
But he is not educated enough to figure out that the 13" model is lighter than the 15" model? So that's what you're saying and trying to point out? Great... well, sorry for bashing on your wonderfully informative and insightful first comment.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 11:07 AM   #14
Kabe Ayofe
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Thanks for the replies guys, although it would be nice to have the retina screen, I think the future proof i7 quad of the 15incher is the final word. I'll probably buy an SSD and some more RAM and upgrade it myself in a year or so. Unless you guys have bad experiences with self upgrades?
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 11:11 AM   #15
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But he is not educated enough to figure out that the 13" model is lighter than the 15" model? So that's what you're saying and trying to point out? Great... well, sorry for bashing on your wonderfully informative and insightful first comment.
Don't put words in my mouth. I'm sure the OP understands the difference in weight per the specs. My comment was so the OP would not underestimate the weight difference and carrying it around. When I was in college 20 years ago, I had to walk 20+ minutes across campus for some classes. The weight of an extra textbook or two in the backpack is definitely noticeable.

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Originally Posted by Kabe Ayofe View Post
Thanks for the replies guys, although it would be nice to have the retina screen, I think the future proof i7 quad of the 15incher is the final word. I'll probably buy an SSD and some more RAM and upgrade it myself in a year or so. Unless you guys have bad experiences with self upgrades?
As long as the weight doesn't bother you, that uMBP 15" is a really nice machine. And upgrading the RAM and SSD is super easy in that model since it has a removable bottom cover.

Here's a good link to the repair and installation guides for that model:
http://www.ifixit.com/Device/MacBook...ibody_Mid_2012
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 02:05 PM   #16
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I think you should save, scam, beg, and borrow until you have enough to buy the 15" rMBP.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 02:43 PM   #17
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i think you should save, scam, beg, and borrow until you have enough to buy the 15" rmbp.
+1
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 03:13 PM   #18
Kabe Ayofe
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lol i've had a go on the 15inch retina and yes the screen does look nice, 1799 is a lot to lose out on a cd drive and have only 256gb. Also the lack of upgradability is a no go as I want my new mac to last at least 3 years. Not to mention I the audio jack being limited to output only. The 15inch non retina honestly strikes me as a better investment.
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Old Dec 27, 2012, 04:46 PM   #19
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lol i've had a go on the 15inch retina and yes the screen does look nice, 1799 is a lot to lose out on a cd drive and have only 256gb. Also the lack of upgradability is a no go as I want my new mac to last at least 3 years. Not to mention I the audio jack being limited to output only. The 15inch non retina honestly strikes me as a better investment.
You listed the 13" rMBP as an option which has the same meager/nonexistent upgrade path as the 15" rMBP. And if you plan to do serious photo editing the retina screen will be worth the investment. There is no reason the 15" won't last 3+ years.
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Old Dec 29, 2012, 09:59 PM   #20
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Retina is probably your best bet

Its a tough one, personally i would go for the retina

Mainly because it has 8gb ram instaed of 4 ( although easily upgradable on the 15 but thats more money, Either 80 ontop of the 1500 straight from apple or another 60-80 in the future if you by third party )

The proccessor on the 15 is more appealing but the 2.5ghz i5 should be plenty even if your running heavy applications

the 13 retina is alot lighter ( although not a deal breaker as you mentioned )

I know alot of people say there is no point and is not worth it, but the retina display is very nice to work on, I had the 13 inch macbook pro before i got my 15 retina and it is much easier on the eyes over longer periods definetaly worth it in my opinion.

The retina has a SSD drive and this is a good plus point as they are pretty dam speedy when it comes to boot times opening apps and transfering files etc. etc . ( you mentioned that you would be using externals any way so the low drive size shouldnt really matter )

the plus point for the 15 is:

Well a bigger display. ( Although not as good ) Makes logic much easier for me now ive gone from 13 to 15

has optical drive etc but to be honest you said you are a big downloader so i should imagine you dont use cds/dvds very often.

Yes you can upgrade it in the future but to be honest the retina will be more than worhty of 3-4 years use and by the time you had upgraded a 15 in 2-3 years your gonna be looking at a new machine shortly after most probably, and then upgrading would of been abit of a waste.

thats my opinion

which one are you drawn to the most ?
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