Can't decide - MacBook Air 12" Retina or MacBook Pro 13" Retina? [need HELP]

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by vasucek, Feb 5, 2015.

  1. vasucek macrumors newbie

    Dec 20, 2014
    Hello, I would like to hear someone else's opinion who has more experience.

    I have been happily using my Macbook Air 13" (Late 2010) but in the last year (especially after installing Yosemite) it has dramatically slowed down (which is expected for a computer of this age with only 2GB RAM, I guess). I have been patient but the "speed" is so slow that I can run only a few tabs in Safari and when I open more apps like Skype, Mailbox and Evernote at the same time, it is almost unusable as I have to wait for couple of seconds to even switch between apps sometimes. Not to mention heavier usage which really makes mu furious sometime. The main problem I have noticed is a lack of RAM so I decided to shop around for a replacement.

    As it is my main workstation and I spend more than 8 hours a day on it, I do not mind paying more for quality which will last longer. I have a budget about 1800 USD ready.

    I love the Air for its portability and even after using it for 5 years, it has been a pleasure to open such a beautiful piece of hardware every day.

    So my question is - Should I buy a Retina MacBook Pro 13" or should I wait for Retina MacBook Air 12"?

    To be honest, laptop is laying on my table most of the time in the office so Pro would not be a problem in that case. But I travel from time to time and I carry only light and small backpack with me so Air is beautifuly thin and light for that matter and I also prefer the low front lip for long typing stints.

    Pro is just heavier and bulkier machine with less battery life (at least in my opinion after using Air daily for years). I know there is a beautiful Retina in Pro which is a significant advantage but since there is going to be an Air Retina soon (hopefully), this would be my ideal Macbook. Yet, I still can not decided. Why?

    Because of PERFORMANCE.

    As I know that low RAM could be a real limitation to everyday us, I would go with the maximum RAM possible and I would purchase Pro with 16GB. I don't do anything graphically demanding whatsoever but I remember doing some photo and video editing couple of years ago when my Air was able to handle it. And I am pretty sure once I have solid hardware I might do some Lightroom and iMovie stuff again. Simply said I would go with 16GB RAM because I do not want to experience any lag for at least next few years in anything I do.

    When I have been on my brothers iMac a few times I had a chance to check ActivityMonitor RAM usage. I am running some big gDocs and idealy a lot of other small apps for fast multitasking and I am not sure if 8GB will be enough. See the print screen below.


    I need to run simultaneously:

    • Mailbox
    • Mail App
    • Safari or Chrome (10+ tabs) including various web apps, large gDocs and Facebook etc.
    • Evernote
    • Wunderlist
    • Skype
    • iMessage
    • Spotify
    • Calendar
    • Excel
    • + small apps in menu bar such as CloudApp, F.lux, Monospan, Caffeinne, Dropbox etc.
    • ++ I use VPS almost every day and I would need to virtualize some Win apps soon

    Do you please think that new Air would be able to handle all this smoothly for next 2 or 3 years? I am pretty sure if they lunch Retina Air, it will be with max 8GB RAM. And if there would be an option to purchase Retina Air with 16GB RAM I would have no doubts we have a winner here. Because less ports and CPU is not an issue in my case.

    There is also another thing - its a real pain to use my 2010 Air everyday so I would ideally purchase something tomorrow but do not want to make a mistake when buying a Pro soon and seeing next MBA Retina coming in a month.

    If I decide to wait till spring WWDC and they lunch Air Retina with just 8GB RAM it would be the best to wait for the next Pro generation, which is likely coming this summer (has not changed much from 2013 so buying Pro now in 2015 is like buying almost a two years old model, right?). Which would mean having a new Macbook in summer/autumn and suffering with 2010 Air for another half year.

    I dont know how to decide so please let me know your input on the situation.

    Thank you!
  2. ann713 macrumors 65816

    Nov 30, 2008
    "Yet, I still can not decided. Why?" Because you're speculating on an unreleased product, so your guess is as good as anyone here. Wait a month to see what the new 12" has to offer, you really have nothing to lose. Side note, I run most of the apps you mentioned just fine on my 4GB MBA (albeit VPS and Monospan) so I'm pretty sure 8GB would be suitable.
  3. NorCalLights macrumors 6502a

    Apr 24, 2006
    If you need a computer today because your old one is too slow to meet your needs and you must have a Retina display, buy a 13" MBP. There are no other options on the market.

    If you don't need a computer today, you should wait. There are always more options tomorrow.
  4. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2013
    Hey vasucek,

    Just right off the bat, if at all possible, just wait until the new MBA comes out. No one knows pricing, specs, or anything about this computer right now, so unless you absolutely cannot wait, just hold on for a month or two. You will be able to make a much more informed decision once you actually know the price/specs.

    I see you have put a lot of thought and effort into this purchase. It seems that your main concern is RAM. In reference to your brother's activity monitor, the reason it seems to eat up so much RAM is because of an update to Mountain Lion in 2012, where the system caches essentially all available RAM, even if it isn't being used. If the system had 16GB, it would show over 15GB being used for basic tasks, so take activity monitor stats with a grain of salt.

    I personally own a 2014 MBA with 4GB of RAM, and it runs well. Honestly, 8GB is the sweet spot for running multiple apps, webpages, and any photography work, but 4GB is fine for most tasks.

    Again, my advice is to hold out until the new MBA comes out.

  5. loybond macrumors 6502

    Aug 1, 2010
    The True North, Strong and Free
    Hey OP! I'm curious to see what this new laptop will be like, but what I can tell you is that even when you see ram looking like it's all used up like your brothers imac, it doesn't mean it is. OS X caches as much as it can, sometimes all of the available ram, kinda keeping it ready to go for when it's needed.

    For what you've described, at the moment 8gb is more than enough, but depending on how long you want to keep it, how deep of a jump into photo/video you're planning, and availability, you could consider it.

    Everything except photo and video editing will be fine with 8 or even 4gb at the moment.

    Another thing to consider is that these things have ultra low voltage CPUs. I'd be more concerned about CPU power and GPU power for video editing. If you want to get into this seriously even a bit, you will need the additional power of the pro, ideally the 15.

    I saw a good deal on the 13" retina less than a year ago, bought it, and found it entirely unusable for video editing. Returned the next day.
  6. vasucek thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 20, 2014
    Hello Matt, thank you very much for your nice and comprehensive response! Highly appreciate it :) I have decided to wait until the new MBA comes out so I hope it will be released within 2 months. It will be almost impossible to survive with current MBA longer than that as its already a real pain even now.

    So thanks again.

    Its is great to learn about that RAM usage thing, honestly I had no idea so thank you for explaining it.

    8 GB might be more than enough for most of my tasks at the moment but I do want to make sure it will not lag in any case for next two years. And I am just afraid that 8 GB will be ok for lets say 90% of my usage, but there might be situations from time to time, and especially in the future, where I might appreciate having more.

    Hope new Retina Air will have 16 GB (which is unlikely but hope dies last, right?).

    Also kind of new info for me that 13" Retina was entirely unusable for your video editing. Could you please specify more? What configuration did you have and what exactly did you do that it was not enough? Because it seems to me 16GB RAM 13" Pro with decent CPU should be able to handle nonprofessional work without any problems.

    Thats right, there is no other option on the market right now, but might be in next month which could be worth to wait.

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