15" MBP Retina or 13" MB Air for Grad Student

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by goldfronts1, Jun 16, 2012.

  1. goldfronts1 macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2012

    I am an engineering grad student and am in the market for a new laptop.
    I am interested in the power of the 15" MBP Retina but the portability of the 13" MB Air.

    I went into my local Apple store the other day and felt the difference in weight. It is very noticeable. I've been carrying around a Sony Vaio 16.4" laptop for about 4 years now. And am tired of the weight and size. Its about 6.9lbs with the standard battery, but I have the extended battery connected so it is a beast.

    Although both the Apple laptops are considerably lighter than my Sony:

    15" MBP Retina 4.46 pounds
    13" MB Air 2.96 pounds

    I still need the laptop to be able to handle everything I throw at it being a grad student: Writing code, designing, papers, literature reviews, web surfing, emails, multitasking, etc.

    Also, the 15" MBP Retina screen size is not much different from the 16.4" Sony Vaio, which I have been happy with, the only downfall with the Sony is the weight. It is like a brick to carry around.

    Also, when travelling having such a large screen is not optimal on a plane and I do travel quite a bit for conferences. And walking from class to class.

    So my dilemma is portability vs computing power.

    Oh and yes I have read all the other posts regarding which laptop to choose, but most want to know about gaming, which I will not be doing.

  2. JayInNJ macrumors regular

    Nov 10, 2009
    It sounds like you should go with the portability of the Air. It can certainly handle all the tasks you describe at any configuration.
  3. darwinian macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2008
    In R4, more or less
    Will you be doing any numerical simulation or data analysis?
  4. 88 King, Jun 16, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2012

    88 King macrumors 6502

    88 King

    Jun 18, 2011
    London, UK
    You could look into the Sony Vaio Z, it is the same size and weight as the 13” air but can be configured with 3.1GHz quad core Ivy Bridge only slightly slower than the 3.3GHz in the retina mbp, also come with very good 1080P screen. Price range between 13” air to 15” retina mbp.

    There is also optional slice battery taking the total battery capacity to 95Wh, still weight less than the 15” retina mbp.

    I think Sony is currently offering discount and free PS3 together with their laptop in the US, so you could get some money back by selling the PS3.

    Here is a review of the screen in 2011 version (same screen).
    Here is a good review site for both the 2012 quad core Vaio Z and retina mbp, also she did compare the two brifly in the mbp video.

    I've ordered a quad core Vaio Z and 2 retina mbp, I'll be carrying the Vizo Z with me and use the mbp as desktop replaement.
  5. goldfronts1 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2012
    Yes. I use Matlab and Labview.

  6. Chupa Chupa macrumors G5

    Chupa Chupa

    Jul 16, 2002
    I would imagine as an engineering student you will be using apps that do a lot of 3d modeling and complex computations? I'd go w/ the RMBP just for the discrete graphics alone. Plus the screen is amazing which is bound to help your productivity too.
  7. stevelam macrumors 65816

    Nov 4, 2010
    take note that pretty much NONE of the required apps you'll be using will be updated for retina display for a while.
  8. jterp7 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2011
    yeah definitely the RMBP with quad core will be better for complex modeling..of course I'm remembering from my undergrad where matlab occasionally took quite a while to spit out the solution, for grad work I think the time saved could be worth it vs dual core if you need a portable workhorse. OTOH the air is tons lighter and better for travel, but with the RMBP vs original I think it's light enough to the point that I wouldn't mind it for the screen and power. The reported battery life difference is within an hour too. TBH the main thing is that you'd be moving around a 2-3grand laptop vs one in the 1000s
  9. gwsat macrumors 68000


    Apr 12, 2008
    As a student who will be on the go with his new computer, the OP should consider that he is likely to benefit from the svelte form factor and ultra lightweight of the MBA a dozen times, of maybe a hundred, for every time he will miss having a Retina display or a quad core chip.
  10. Rhyalus macrumors 6502


    Mar 4, 2011
    Why is the conventional MBP not being considered? Isn't this a better choice / balance for power, price and portability?

  11. JohnnyQuest macrumors 65816


    May 25, 2006
    Because its a pound heavier,it's thicker, screen isn't as good, fans aren't newly engineered, and the list goes on.

    Seriously, why are people still suggesting the old Pro when the new one is infinitely more portable? And th screen speaks for itself.
  12. Gata macrumors regular

    Mar 23, 2010
    Not portability.

    RMBP is ~25% lighter and a quarter thinner than the old MBP.
  13. athletejmv macrumors member

    Mar 19, 2011
    Fan design is upgraded in the refresh for all systems.

    From my understanding, all the systems now come with the new quite fan design. I have a MBA with the new fan; you can't even here it under a full load when using the system normally (not holding it up to your ear).
  14. leo.andres.21 macrumors regular

    Oct 14, 2008
    Centre of the Attention
    As a fellow student, I would suggest you go for the MacBook Air. I have the 15" MBP last year and I seldom take it to lectures and leaning towards an iPad for note-taking and reading books. I only really take the laptop with me when I go to the library to study.
  15. goldfronts1 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2012
    Cool thanks for the info!


    Leaning towards the lightness of the air and keeping my Vaio at home connected to a monitor.
  16. amoayeri macrumors newbie

    Mar 5, 2009
    I am a PhD student and I found 13" MBA screen to be too small for writing papers /literature review and coding in LaTeX /MatLab so I sold my MBA and ordered RMBP.
  17. JohnnyQuest macrumors 65816


    May 25, 2006
    It just depends on what you want to use it for and how long you plan on having it. If you're looking for a computer that can handle heavy-duty tasks and last for a solid 3 or 4 years, go with the Pro. If you'll just be doing standard tasks such as web, email, music, notes, etc., go with the Air.

    I am into photography and film, so I need the Pro, and I really value the new screen and form factor.

    Both are great computers!
  18. Mojo1 macrumors 65816

    Jul 26, 2011
    From what you describe a 13" MacBook Pro is worth considering. Unless I missed something it will handle everything that you want to do with ease. I would add a Power Support anti-glare film to the display.

    If you don't already have an external display I would take the money that you save and get a nice monitor.

    After reading quite a bit about the Retina MBP I am underwhelmed to say the least... But I am sure that Apple will sell a ton of them because many consumers are beguiled by its form-factor and display.

    Me? I need a reliable small portable computer that doesn't cost and arm and a leg. I found the 15" MBP to be too large for traveling light with only carry-on bags.

    By going with a base model 13" MBP and getting it on sale for $900 I could upgrade RAM, buy a very nice 24" display (also at a significant discount), local and online data backup and an annual VPN account for less money than a 15" MBP.

    Frankly, if you are dependent on your Mac for school and/or work I think that it isn't unreasonable to have two computers instead of one Latest and Greatest Mac.
  19. Rhyalus macrumors 6502


    Mar 4, 2011
    A whole pound is "infinitely more portable"? Really? You need to go to the gym, my friend. :)

    Seriously, the price difference is extraordinary. I guess it depends on what is most important to the user in question.

    Can the new non-retina MBP be end user upgraded (hard drive and RAM)? The HD size on the non-retina is much more useful.

    I have the 13" MBP from 2011.

  20. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    My background. BS in mech engr and now a 3rd year grad student in atmospheric science. I use matlab ALL the time, as well as other languages

    I just picked up a 13 in base mbp and upped it to 16gig of ram? I have a monitor at both my home and work that I plug into

    Should be more than capable
  21. goldfronts1 thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 21, 2012
    Thanks for the info. But did you like the size of the 13" MBA and were you able to do all of those tasks on it? I use LaTeX and Matlab a lot and writing papers and analyzing data.


    How did you increase the RAM to 16gig. It does not have the option on the Apple website. Did you just by 2X 8gig online and update it yourself?

  22. MMMalex macrumors newbie

    Jun 14, 2012
    I agree, I would reconsider my options and think about 13" MBP if I were in your shoes.
  23. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    Yup, just bought a 16gig kit online. I would assume when 16 gig sticks come, may be able to update to 32gig as well
  24. TjeuV macrumors 6502

    Dec 14, 2011
    Weird only one person told so before, some specific apps won't get an HD versoin for a while, you won't get full advantage from the retina display and be paying way to much. So why don't you go for the "normal" macbook pro 15" ... When I'm carrying my 15" with me I don't even notice it so don't worry about the portability
  25. ZipZap macrumors 603

    Dec 14, 2007
    I spent some time using the Retina MBA at the Apple store. It is surprisingly light and that is one the main reason I did not go with an MBA upgrade.

    The Retina MBP is the way to go. See one at an Apple store before you decide.

    BTW... the standard MBP is very heavy and if its a choice of that or an MBA get the MBA.

    I have a 2010 for sale....:)

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