Air 13 vs Pro 13 vs Pro 15 Retina - Programming / Some Windows

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by kwarnertx, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. kwarnertx macrumors newbie

    Oct 19, 2012
    The reason I am writing this from my new MBP Retina is that I have a mild case of buyer's remorse, not because I do not thoroughly like this laptop, but because the price was pretty high. So, I am reaching out to seasoned Mac users for some advice. Luckily, I can return this IF I decide to within 14 days, so I better figure this out!

    My goal is to determine if I should stick with the MacBook Pro 15" Retina, or return it and go with a 13" MacBook Air or 13" MacBook Pro with an external display. I think with the savings I would get by swapping the 15" for a 13" I could afford a nice external monitor.

    I am a developer who spends most of my time in Windows 7 using tools like Visual Studio, SQL Server, Chrome, Fireworks, and other Windows tools. I spend a lot of time coding, compiling, working with GIT, etc. I picked up a new ThinkPad a few weeks ago, but was disappointed with the feel and build quality and with the bloatware loaded on it. Also, I have started doing more development that I could do in OSX, such as Rails, NodeJS, etc. I have always liked Macs, but have not had a modern Mac laptop. So, I thought I would get a MacBook on which I could use both OSX and Windows 7.

    So, I bought the 15" Retina. Working great, but I have had some issues with the resolution and Windows 7. Followed all advice, but still a bit off. Booting to Windows or OSX has been a breeze. Performance seems great in either environment. The resolution while in OSX is remarkable. Love the SSD. Quiet.

    But, I am thinking that maybe I could have gone with a 13" MacBook and been just as satisfied. For long work periods, I would want to hook into an external display. Here is what I am looking at...

    - MacBook Air 13"
    - 2.0GHz Intel Dual-Core Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz
    - 8GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
    - 256GB Flash Storage
    - 1440 x 900

    - MacBook Pro 13"
    - 2.9GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
    - 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM — 2x4GB
    - 750GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
    - SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
    - ADD: Third party SSD and use 750 GB drive as external drive for backups.
    - 1280 x 800

    What I want to do...

    - Run OSX and Windows (through Bootcamp)

    - In Windows...
    - Programming / development using Visual Studio, SQL Server, etc.
    - Some minor web graphics work using Fireworks (no heavy Photoshop work.)
    - Lots of browser use (Chrome).
    - Connect to my office through a VPN.
    - Use some office apps (Outlook, Word, Excel)
    - Stream radio / music while I work.

    - In OSX...
    - Programming / development in the Rails world.
    - Javascript programming (Node.js and client javascript.)
    - HTML/CSS using TextEdit or Sublime.
    - Some minor web graphics work using Fireworks (no heavy Photoshop work.)
    - Lots of browser use (Chrome).
    - Stream radio / music while I work.
    - Skype
    - Stream video through Netflix.

    What I will NOT be doing...

    - Gaming. (I am not a big gamer, and what gaming I do is on the XBox.)
    - Heavy Photoshop work.
    - Video editing.

    So, other than which way to go, I have some specific questions...

    - Are these machines powerful enough to run Windows 7 and do the things I want to do? The specs for these are much better than my current ThinkPad, so I would guess that it will be at least as good as I have now.
    - Can both of these hook up to a large external display so I can have more real estate for programming?
    - Is the integrated graphics going to be good enough for what I want to do? Programming, browsing, some streaming, etc?
    - Is 8GB enough RAM? With the Pro, I could expand to 16GB later. Would more RAM have a big impact on running Windows through Bootcamp?
    - The weight and higher resolution of the Air are appealing, but is it enough machine for what I want to do?
    - Am I crazy and should I be thrown into the loony bin for wanting to possibly take back the 15" Retina?

    HELP! Sorry for the length of this post!

  2. Titanium81 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 23, 2011
    If you are lucky enough to have acquired a 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, I would personally keep it! I however use the machine in my signature to do a very similar work flow as you described and it works flawlessly. One exception is that I run Windows 7 in VMWare Fusion 5, so if you run Windows in bootcamp, it should even run better (all resources would be dedicated to Windows).
  3. fhellwig Guest

    I currently use a MacBook Pro 13 inch with almost the exact same workflow. I upgraded the drive to 1TB and have it split equally between OS X (ML) and Windows 7 (Boot Camp).

    I also use VMware Fusion 5, which has a nice feature in that a Boot Camp partition can be run as a VM while using OS X. This way, if I need to run Windows for a non-intensive task, I can just run it as a VM. Then, when I need all system resources (i.e., Visual Studio 2012), I just boot into Windows directly.

    I personally would keep the 15 inch retina display - especially if you are doing development as side-by-side viewing on the 13 inch is a bit cramped.

    Best of luck!

  4. ka-spot, Oct 26, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2012

    ka-spot macrumors 6502a

    May 23, 2012
    Sofia, Bulgaria
    i currently using base old model macbook air 13 (with 4GB ram, HD3000 and 128SSD) for what you described except that i'm a php+sql and .net (learning) developer. it's more then enough.

    my hobby is photography, so i'm using it for some heavy photoshop edits. its just noisy and get hot, but does the job... :)

    i miss only 512GB hdd :) my next mac definetely will be with 512GB SSD.

    what's bothers me is the lifespan of the 512GB SSD for transferring large files (25MB RAW images) all the time.. but it's still not that much. maybe 20GB twice a week..

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