Disappointed with Retina Macbook 13 need a compromise

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by awesome12, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. awesome12, Jan 8, 2013
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2013

    awesome12 macrumors newbie

    Jan 7, 2013
    i need to replace my x series lenovo badly and have been eyeing a mac for quite some time. like many of you, i was disappointed with the retina 13's offerings but i cannot wait for haswell.

    so i'm up between the macbook air 13 and the macbook retina 15. i heavily multitask and do a lot of web dev, photoshop, youtube, and other media consumption like streaming movies/live sports etc.

    the retina is intriguing because of the extra screen estate. i was planning on using quickres or similar applications to unlock more screen real estate for the retina display. this is a plus imo but i understand there is a performance hit when forcing the rmbp to display unsupported resolutions

    though portability is a factor (i'm coming from a 12 inch ultraportable) i find that i hardly walk around with my laptop compared when i was a student walking around campus because i now go from car -> coffee shop or car -> library. is the footprint for the 15 rmbp too much? (like for instance if i were to travel by plane would it fit on the tray?)

    i don't expect to game on the laptop so the discrete gpu may be a waste but are there other benefits of having a discrete gpu other than driving the retina display?

    what irks me is seeing battery benchmarks of the retina 15 (when forced to integrated) matching or even surpassing the macbook air 13.

    what draws me to the macbook air 13 is the footprint and possibly thinking that the processor and ram would be sufficient for my needs. i have a desktop at home so this would not be my main computer but i'd like to be mobile as much as possible and not have to rely on my main computer for work.


    TL;DR i want a macbook with 13 inch size but with the internals of the 15
  2. luffytubby macrumors 6502a


    Jan 22, 2008
    My thoughts as follows;

    It sounds to me like you have two things you want. Power and portability.

    One thing is for sure though,
    doing work like photoshop and so on is not very fun on a 13' inch machine. And if color accuracy and nice pictures are important to you, then the Air won't cut it. Don't get me wrong, the Air has a fine screen, it's suitable for watching movies and all that, but. As a get-serious-work-done? I don't believe it's the right tool for advanced photoshop.

    As for watching web / youtube. If you've been on a integrated GPU laptop you know how taxing Flash is. Most of us hate how it fires up the fans, kills the battery life, and is responsible for 90% on all crashes. But while we wait for HTML we can only hope that Hashwell will save us.

    The footprint is not as vast as you think. The bezel on the air is actually quite large. If you are a big guy, with broad shoulders and/or big hands, you might appreciate not having to cramp yourself down in front of a smaller machine.

    For me, the problem with 15-inchers was always sucky battery life(windows), weight and the form factor.
    rMBP is an amazing computer because it crosses the realm of a MBP15 and an Air, but it does it without the tapered design. Meaning it feels even more durable. rMBP packs a very very fast quad-core processor, it has wonderful speakers,(for a laptop) that are so good that it beats quite a few dedicated 2.1 speakers you can buy in stores.
    And then the screen.
    The thing is that rMBP is the whole package, and its a pound lighter than the previous generation. This is very significant. It weighs the same as many subnotebooks (not ultrabooks!) but packs desktop replacement power, and its very thin. When typing on it, the footprint is actually appreciated. Its so thin and light that it feels like two pieces of thick aluminium glass. Foot print is not an issue anymore when the bezel is so small and the weight is so low, you can effortlessly carry it open with one hand. So its valid to use in bed. Most 15 inchers.. they are usually to heavy for your hand.

    As for performance hit. Its a question mostly of optimization. When Adobe is going to release their Retina aware programs, it's going to change a lot of stuff. Resolution independent. You can view a picture in 4K resolution, even though the UI looks perfect and normal sized. This means that the tools (UI, cursor, buttons etc) are in a different resolution, than the pictures you are working with.

    But you also write that you have a dedicated system at home. Which is weird because, what exactly are you going to be doing of productivity when you are away from your desktop? are you really going to do photo manipulation when not working on your main computer with its own screen at home?

    rMBP is most def a desktop replacement. essentially, your paying for a powerful computer that was made to be your only computer if needed be.
    Air is a supplementary computer.

    its also irresponsible (IMO) to get such an expensive product like rMBP if you are not really going to use all it can. photoshop can run decently on integrated GPUs from last generation as well, and even though the MBA 11 and 13 will be hot, HD4000 can do HD Youtube and Hulu videos no problem.
    But then again.. you also say that you dont even carry it around all that much. just from work to your car?? so do you really need something that is so incomprehensible light and gives tradeoffs because of it? The thing about Air and other ultrabooks is that you are paying for something that is possible to carry around your bag +10 hours a day.

    TL;DR - You need to gauge what is more important to you.
    If you need a bigger screen, and fast computer that can handle many apps at the same time. if you want a computer with great color accuracy, great speakers, and basically the entire package but for a very steep price, go with Retina.
    If you dont really need that much power, and it just needs to do web, flash and photoshop. get a much cheaper Air.

    Also, you said you cant wait for hashwell. But consider for a moment the benefits promised. much less power, theoretically twice the GPU performance, the possibility that MBA might have Retina, and one of my favorites - That all 2013 Macs might be decked out with the new wi-fi standard 802.11ac that in theory should make wifi signals 3 times as strong, if router its getting signals from, also have this new standard.

    IvyBridge is fast. combined with Kepler(rMBP15) its amazing. its peanut butter with jellly on top.

    How future proof do you need to be? how much SSD is important to you?

    I suggest you go to an apple store. Try holding a rMBP15 for yourself and see if you find it heavy or light. Personally I think they took the best footprint possible, and made it portable. But I also think that hashwells performance upgrades, and software upgrades, and perhaps lower price(?) might just be what could make the machine near perfect.
  3. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    A brilliant, detailed and well argued post. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to post it.
  4. Rufuss Sewell macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2010
    Austin, TX
    My Retina 15" feels very tiny and light to me. You would have to be um... quite frail to have issues carrying it.
  5. scarred macrumors 6502a

    Jul 24, 2011
    What exactly are you "disappointed" about again? The battery life?

    There are a lot of valid criticisms of the rmbp 13", but sorry, the battery life isn't one of them.

    You are all over the map with your thoughts. If you want an ultra portable to match your current 12" pc, the 13" rmbp is 'close' to that. Not quite as portable as the Air, but the extra bit of heft is a decent trade for the retina display. But then you are considering the 15" because you "don't walk around much"... ???

    The 13" rmbp is great if you want retina in a small enclosure and don't need the quad core, 16 GB ram or larger display of the 15". The discrete video of the 15" is arguably useless for a lot of us and shouldn't be something you worry about if you aren't doing video or image processing. Neither rmbp is good enough for real gaming.
  6. awesome12 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 7, 2013
    great response. thanks for the feedback. so the macbook air would have trouble pushing out streaming flash video because the lack of an integrated gpu? if so, i think that's a dealbreaker in my eyes. i always thought flash was dependent on processor power.

    i think my big issue is thinking that the mba 13 might just be enough for my uses and that an rmbp is a little overkill.


    seeing that benchmarks on the mba 13 and rmbp 13 are pretty close in performance. for portability i was explaining before how i used to walk around campus requiring a thin and light laptop but because now i drive everywhere that the size of the laptop doesn't matter quite as much.

    my biggest issue i think is trying to justify that a 13 mba is sufficient for my needs and that a rmbp 15 is overkill. if i am pushing the 13 mba to its limits, then i think the rmbp 15 would better suit my needs.

    apologies for the rambling op. :)
  7. r0k macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    Is Retina really necessary? Go with the 15 in MBP. Flash? I'll be glad when flash becomes fully extinct. I notice my fans run when I watch HTML 5 video. My fans run when I transcode video. I don't really understand why, but my fans run when I enable flash in my browser before it even does anything!

    I can understand if you need it for some good (to you) reason, then by all means go for the machine that will handle it better. I should add that my 15 in HIRES (late 2011) MBP fans come on the instant I enable flash in my browser but I've never noticed any performance issue when watching videos whether SD or HD on youtube. And yes a lot of them still demand flash. I run click to play in Chrome so I can avoid having 50 to 70 instances of flash open at the same time on my 50+ browser tabs.

    Another thing to consider is an external monitor. I have a $99 1080p monitor hooked up to the thunderbolt/displayport** on my MBP and I have all the screen real estate I could possibly want. I went from a 13 in Macbook (with external monitor) to my MBP. This setup has been my desktop replacement for close to 5 years now.

    (** using an Apple displayport to VGA adapter cable - the monoprice cable was too big)
  8. Rob.G macrumors 6502


    Jan 17, 2010
    What about a refurbed 17"? You get CPU power and better screen resolution without having to force it into a non-native mode.

    Even the 17" will fit on an airline tray. I've done it. It's tight, but doable, even with the doofus ahead of you reclines his seat.


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