13" MBA vs rMBP, my 2 cents

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Big W, Oct 26, 2013.

  1. Big W, Oct 26, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2013

    Big W macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2013
    After spending 4 days obsessing over this question for 16 hours a day, trawling through countless number of threads on here and other sites, I've finally made up my mind. If you've reached a point where you cannot decide between a retina display or 4 hours of extra battery life, and plan to use your new laptop the same way as I do, then I hope this will help you make up a quicker mind!

    Starting off, I planned to buy a "travel" laptop so I can produce on the go (web browsing, Skype, document editing). For this reason I needed a laptop with a pretty long battery life.

    Now, for me, there aren't that many things that matters when it comes to the MBA vs rMBP
    - They are nearly identical in size (tapered Air doesn't make it smaller)
    - The weight difference is almost negligible (220g difference)
    - Processing power is not that important for web browsing and document editing
    But what do make the difference, are the screen and the battery life. The retina screen vs 4 hours extra battery life was what it ultimately boiled down to.

    Let's look at the quality of user experience in each case:
    - Retina display - Superior contrast and text sharpness (you don't miss what you never had, but it is easier to read text off a retina screen, the text is darker and the smallest text is immediately legible)
    - Longer battery life - Never carry a battery charger in your bag again for a day job

    The retina display and longer battery life each improves the user experience in a particular way, and while I'd like to have both, you have to choose.

    OK, so you're like me and you would like to work for a whole day without plugging your laptop in. But let's think for a moment, how long do you actually plan to spend out there before coming back home/hotel? The rMBP has a rated 9 hour battery life, will you actually be working for >9 hours ALL the time?

    For me I might want to work on my laptop continuously for >9 hours 10% of the time, the other 90% of the time a MBA's battery life doesn't make a difference.

    I'll look at my schedule for the day and will only take the charger with me if I think I'm gonna need it, which is going to be around 20% of the time. So looking at it like that, the retina display will improve my user experience 100% of the time, whereas the crazy battery life will only benefit me 20% of the time.

    Ultra high resolution screen is the future, I dunno about you but in 2 years time when all ultrabooks have a full HD+ screen, I'm gonna feel left out if I picked up an Air.

    Hope this helped you, sorry if it was a bore!
  2. dizmonk macrumors regular

    Nov 26, 2010
    I think you've made a very nice summary of the angst I've been having. I have literally bought several configurations of MBA and the new rMBP to test drive. After having returned my 8GB 256GB to the Apple Store today, I started having second thoughts...

    It really is an agonizing decision as I hope to have this laptop last 3-5 years. I'm still torn as I find the rMBP a little too dark.

    I still don't know what to do. I agree with you that the idea of going to work without the charger (MBA) is extremely appealing. I also agree with you that in practice, it is very unlikely we'll be without power for 10+ hours. When I was using my MBA (especially post Mavericks installation) I was getting 12 hours of "real world" usage. However I really like not having to THINK (or plan) about plugging in.

    I am concerned that with the rMBP I'm only going to get 5-7 hours of real world usage. I'm not entirely sold on the retina screen but I'm going to give it another week.... ... (so confused... :eek::eek::eek:)
  3. Big W thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2013
    I totally feel you.

    I did a few rather unscientific tests since yesterday (when I picked it up). With brightness at 70% and browsing the web intensely the battery estimate was showing 7 hours, however once completely idle, I get a reading of 12+ hours (wifi still on). Also the difference between 70% brightness ("dim on battery" setting turned on) and 100% brightness ("dim on battery" setting turned off) can be 2-3 hours according to the battery estimate.

    I think I might be able to squeeze 9 hours out of the battery if I don't work too hardcore during the day.

    Oh, after coming home yesterday I played with my laptop for at least 6 hours at 70% brightness before its 70% initial charge was drained (unless the battery wasn't calibrated properly), so I don't think you should worry about only getting 5-7 hours off a full charge :), although I only browsed the web and installed a few applications.
  4. illian macrumors regular

    Jan 13, 2008
    Porsche-City, Germany
    Always depends on the work you have to do on the machine. Even with the new haswell MB Air I would always need to plug in. Writing and surfing might be ok (but so might be a tablet), but any program that needs more power will cut this number in halve.
  5. neteng101 macrumors 65816

    Jan 7, 2009
    Just replaced my 2010 13" MBA with the 13" rMBP.

    I can see very little reason to go with the MBA other than battery life now... back when I got the MBA, it was the start of the SSD revolution, high-speed onboard storage, which wasn't cheaply available or as well integrated into MBPs. It was truly something else back in 2010 when Apple redesigned the MBAs, but I've been eyeing retinas since they came out.

    The initial reason to not get the retina has been addressed by the Haswell refresh... basically the lousy HD4000 graphics of the 13"s and the initial teething problems and lack of apps that supported retina. Waiting a generation made sense here, and now is a pretty good time to embrace the retina.

    As for power adapters - honestly I prefer plugging in whenever I can. I guess I can see how some might prefer having enough juice to go a full day between recharges, and that's the biggest attraction of the 2013 MBA's by far. Of course, even the 13" rMBP is rated for 9 hours now vs. the 7 hours of my previous 2010 which was already quite revolutionary back in the day.

    I do think that we might see that rumored 12" MBA replacing the 11/13 configs, and a further enhancement of battery life on the 13" rMBPs in the years to come... the 11" is just a bit too small, and the 13" doesn't have much size advantages these days, certainly not enough that people won't cross-shop it with the 13" rMBP.

    Also the footprint itself of the 13" MBA is larger. The 13" rMBP almost looks a bit too small at first to me.

    Bottom line - really glad I passed upgrading to a Haswell MBA, and waiting for the Haswell rMBP. Actually had ordered the MBA, but cancelled it before it shipped.
  6. Big W thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2013
  7. ckeck macrumors 6502a


    Jul 29, 2005
    For me I decided to keep the 13 MBA after trying both the 13 and 15 RMBP for a few days. Lag and stuttering still there on scaled resolutions. Unbelievable.

    When the screensaver kicks on in a scaled resolution mode it's jerking around at < 5 fps and takes 1-2 seconds per character for me to enter password. :eek:
  8. John25 macrumors newbie

    Nov 11, 2010
    I'm currently trying to make this exact same decision! I have the 2013 Haswell MBA, and while the battery life is amazing...I can't help but ignore the benefits of the Retina display. I'm usually always around a power source too. Was the retina display worth the upgrade?
  9. Big W thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2013
    I wasted a lot of time looking for an answer to this question, then I went to the Apple store and got an answer within 20 mins :p
  10. ckeck macrumors 6502a


    Jul 29, 2005
    I just decided today...the answer is no. Retina is beautiful and amazing to look at and use but the "retina" resolutions are so low it's extremely annoying. Then when you scale them up you start noticing issues with lag in movement and other quirks.

    If the 'best for retina' resolution was a bit higher so there was no need to scale it to something other than 50% then there would be no contest at all.
  11. Big W, Oct 26, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2013

    Big W thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2013
    Talking about retina resolution and lag, anything made by Adobe will also introduce atrocious lag. :mad:

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