Considering rMBP 15" to replace desktop PC as new workstation

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by TimothyB, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. TimothyB, Oct 28, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013

    TimothyB macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    Looking to switch back to Mac after switching to PC around the end of the Power Computing days. It will be for general use, minimal gaming, but more of for freelance 3D work.

    I'm going to go over all my thoughts, which may end up as a wall of text, but I expect just writing it down will help me decide things.

    Such deciding how to justify replacing a decent 2009 PC desktop (i7-920 cpu, upgraded to 16gb of ram, SSD drive, Radeon HD7770) with a Retina Macbook Pro. While it's a well built machine, offers mobility, OS X, it's not exactly going to leave my old machine in its dust. Unless anyone knows more than I do when comparing an old i7-920 to the latest or previous rMBP?

    I mostly grew up around Apple computers. School, home, family. As a kid, any computer, PC or Mac was intriguing and fun, so I had nothing against either and didn't like the whole Mac vs PC thing. But since I was heavily into graphics and drawing, surround by Macs, and not so much into tweaking and gaming, I gravitated to Mac. Plus, I was lucky my dad had access to graphic software since he used Macs at work for graphic design, such as Photoshop and Illustrator. My first computer was a Mac Performa 575, 4mb or ram. With only 4mb or ram, and a small upgrade being atlas $600, I had to make due by disabling extensions and limit what I could run at any moment. Then later we upgraded to a Power Computing machine, I think with a 150mhz 604e cpu. After a while, I ended up switching to PC, not because I wanted to, but most the cost was now on my shoulders as I got older. So switching to PC saved 60% back in those days.

    After switching to PC, I eventually kept things interesting by building them. t was surprising how easy it was, and I must of had plenty of time to waste to research the optimal combo of components for overclocking and best bang for your buck. I was also getting into gaming, less into graphics, as that was more my day job. I usually time new builds with the release of a new cpu that made leaps and bound, which usually included a low end model that was still highly overclockable. Though, soon I found it wasn't worth the trouble for large overclocks when I started caring about noise, stability, heat, and things were just fast enough to not care anymore. Those extra frames in games, or seconds shaved off a filter in Photoshop, wasn't worth the hassle of the system freaking out.

    As time went on, I grew out of games, just didn't have the time anymore, plus the 360 or PS3 were filling what need I had. My computer use started to focus on graphic design once more, as a hobby, but to improve skills and learn 3D modeling for future work.

    Around 2009, I stopped building PCs when it was finally cheaper to buy from a Dell Outlet sale. I only paid $628 for small silent tower with an i7 920, 640gb HDD, 4gb ram, Radeon HD 4850 512mb, etc. Even roughly 3-4 years later, that i7 920 is still holding strong, There hasn't been any huge leaps and bounds to justify replacing the system without spending over twice what I originally spent. So I've just slowly upgraded the system, such as adding more ram, an Radeon HD 7770, SSD drive, etc. So, this system can easily last another 2 years.

    For the last 2.5 years, my current job has had me working on a Mac Pro. My first heavy use of a Mac since OS 8 days. The Mac Pro I'm on is the first intel models from 2006, quad-core. It holds up surprisingly well considering I don't do anything too intense, a SSD has helped. It's also connected to an Apple 30" Cinema. At first I was frustrated with the OS. Working with Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, Win XP on Parallels at once was difficult. Everything was mixing together, windows from Illustrator we between Photoshop windows, etc. Then i discovered Spaces. I set up 9 spaces to quickly fly around using ctr + arrows. Expose has also been great. So now I enjoy working on the Mac more than the PC. While I'm on an 30" Cinema on the Mac, I haven't missed multiple displays thanks to the res and spaces. We may be upgrade soon, as it has been at least 5 years since they purchased these and due for an upgrade no matter what's in the budget, just in time for the new Mac Pros.


    As mentioned earlier, I'm using computers for graphics, plus minor games on Steam. So mostly Adobe software for illustration, some web design, 3D software for modeling with some animation. So roughly Adobe Creative Cloud Software, ZBrush, Modo. It also helps making a switch between platforms now that most software, such as Modo and Adobe, let you now install Mac or PC. ZBrush is another story sadly.

    I've also just started to freelance 3D modeling, so if I'm going to be tied to a computer more, I'd like to quickly go mobile using the same machine docked at home. I know a laptop is not very ergonomic for serious work unless you have to, but I'd like having the option so I don't have to worry where I'll be when something is due. It will be hard to leave my desktop now that I have a 30" Dell, with one secondary monitor. The Apple 30" Cinema at work spoiled me.


    To support ZBrush, Modo, and Adobe, I'd need at least 16GB of ram, SSD drive, quad core, so it comes down to a 15" rMBP. As for the CPU, the old 2.7ghz or the new 2.3ghz Haswell are not exactly leaps and bounds over my 2.66ghz i7 920 desktop, hopefully 30%. That should still ensure a minimum of 3 years of use. Possibly more, as Mac OS X will make that time more bearable over sticking with Win 7.

    I have to ask myself, will replacing my 2009 $628 desktop PC with a laptop costing $2k+ be worth it if it's not an expected 3 times faster? Despite the price, it's still enticing to make the switch. What helps now is the freelancing. For jobs, having a single well built machine for both mobile and desktop use, featuring Mac OS X, hopefully 30% faster, and not having to worry where I am during a job, is a big a help. It should handle anything I throw at it for at least a few years.

    The biggest concern is heat/noise with minor to heavy extended use. ZBrush and Modo can probably tax the system. Hopefully actions that heat it up are used sparingly, but I'm worried general use of 3D software, plus Adobe, will make the thing start to overhea, making it uncomfortable and/or noisy, possible shutdown. I've read reports of this on the old retina model, so now I'm waiting for reviews or experience with the new Haswell, hoping the heat issues have been tamed. If I ever had to do an overnight 3D render, I think I'd rather pay a few dollars for an online render farm to do it in a minute.

    So far, the new 750M GPU hasn't been showing much of an increase over the old 650M. Many are seeing just a 5% difference. So now I'm tempted to save money by getting a refurb 15" rMBP, something with 2.7ghz, 16GB ram, 512GB SSD, then update to Mavericks. That should be on par with the the new 2.3ghz 750m Haswell model. Unless it's worth paying more now for better resale value when upgrading, spared heat issues. Then again, all the bugs have probably been worked out of the old models, and new ones will show up for the latest model.

    I'm hoping there will be a noticeable worth while increase in performance. Though, computers are so fast these days, a filter taking 12 seconds versus 20 seconds isn't the end of the world, but overall snappiness of the OS, performance of brushes in Photoshop, ZBrush, and rotating 3D viewport, is. I figure, it's just going to be a pleasant change from Windows 7 to Mac OS X to begin with.

    If anyone read this far down, sorry if I was rambling. And yikes, that is a wall of text, hoped the sub-heads helped.

    I'll say one last thing. Besides any form of performance increase and mobility, I most excited by the fact I'd be using a Mac OS again.
  2. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    I noticed a Best Buy near me has an Open Box at for $2,069. It's Excellent Condition, 2.7gh i7, 16gb, 512gb SSD. About $100 less than Apple's refurbished price. Seems like a good deal depending on when the original warranty started.

    Is that a good price for being an Open Box? Any chance I could negotiate with BB to bring it down, especially as they are just starting to clearance these models, or throw in some items free?

    I hope to also trade in my old Galaxy Note there for $100 to put towards it.

    If I do do this today, any good procedures I should run on it? Such as opening it before leaving the store, powering it on, checking specs, then at home the LCD display manufacturer.
  3. js09 macrumors member

    Sep 17, 2010
    I am in an almost exact situation as you, probably requiring more power, and I wen't with the highest 15" w/ cpu upgade. And this is coming from a home built PC that i'm estimating will still be 10% faster. For me, portability was key so I had no choice unfortunately.
  4. TimothyB thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jun 20, 2008
    I ended up with the open box mentioned earlier. Though, when I got to the store it wasn't excellent condition. A few small marks on the lid, a ton of scratches on the bottom, no box. They lowered it down to $1669, so I couldn't refuse at that point. It's hard to believe the power these things have in such a slim well built package, and the thought of how much it can free you with portability.

    Now it's time to find a docking solution. There's this Henge dock for preorder, but it seems to be delayed with no real updates besides that they are working hard on it: . Guess I'll have to see what boxes are available.

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