Do I need a 15 MBP - currently have a Mini & MBA combo....

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Smeaton1724, May 18, 2014.

  1. Smeaton1724, May 18, 2014
    Last edited: May 18, 2014

    Smeaton1724 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 14, 2011
    Leeds, UK
    At the start of the year I had a 13" retina launch model, 8GB Ram with 128GB SSD. As a primary machine it was "average", some screen tearing at 1680 resolution, so I had it at 1440x900 all the time. The lack of SSD space killed me as a primary machine, so I sold it for £800 UK (Great price!) and picked up a latest spec Mac Mini 2.3 Ghz Quad Core, 1TB HDD and threw in 16GB RAM, all for £530 (which I feel is an awesome price for the UK market). Paired it up to a 32" Samsung UEf5000 Monitor at only 1080p but the real estate is excellent. Geekbench score around 12,000 and always have Windows 7 open in Parallels. Performance is perfect. My intention was to sell the Mini in early 2015 with the new Macbooks for Intels real spec bump.

    I use Revit all the time, sketchup, CAD, code, game development using UE3 (would like to use UE4 but not rocked the boat and tested my Mini as I presume performance will be awful), create ibooks and technical manuals, with 1080p videos and help create training plans, etc. so work is varied.

    Now the bad part.....complete lack of portability! As I have changed jobs I want/need to be portable for work, now, not in 2015! However it is only portable for Home to various offices, no working in coffee shops (!) - so I suppose I could transport the Mini? To get the same set-up I have with a rMBP 15 I'd be looking at around £1500 for the base, with the 1TB SSD storage nearly £2100!

    Now I picked up a refurbished MBA 2013 base model, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD for £679. Originally for my partner to have, she doesn't need it for a few weeks so I partitioned the machine, 64GB to windows through bootcamp and 64GB for Mac OS. Tried Revit and it flies up to a 'simple' model of around 150mb, battery life in bootcamp 5-7 hours, in Mac OS around 10 hours. Everything plugged in via external so I have all my files on the go. It's awesome, weight wise it's fantastic, battery amazing, screen glare is minimal and I prefer the bezel to the rMBP 13. I do not want to give it back!! Overall I wish we were 5 years ahead in time and it had the complete level of performance I need now!

    Now here's the question - have I stumbled into the perfect solution, 'beefy' desktop and 'base' portable, or should I throw my eggs into the one basket, sell the Mini, Screen plus peripherals and just go the 15 retina route?! I feel that a £1500 laptop I'd watch like a hawk and be precious, where as a £679 MBA is almost consumable (to some extent), plus I would still need external storage as I have around 700GB of files.

    The other option is to find a good priced 2012 classic 15 and tool it up to the Mac Mini's spec?!

    Mac Mini 16GB 1TB £530 (already own) + MBA 4GB 128GB £679 (refurb) = £1109
    rMBP 15 16GB 512GB = £1783
    2012 cMBP 15 on ebay = £750-900

    I'm fully aware the mac route isn't the best for the Revit work but I do prefer Macs.
  2. johngwheeler macrumors 6502

    Dec 30, 2010
    I come from a land down-under...
    I have the same set-up...also thinking of 15" rMBP

    I also use a combination of quad-core Mini (with 16GB & 2xSSDs), and a 2013 i7 MBA.

    I generally leave the Mini at home as a development machine running VMs, or doing more intensive media processing (Handbrake, audio processing etc.). However, it is quite portable and I do sometimes use it as a headless "server" for my MBA, connected directly via Ethernet cable to the MBA. I use screen sharing so I can run the Mini without display or keyboard.

    The MBA+Mini actually weighs less than many larger laptops, and are easily carried as airline carry-on baggage.

    The MBA is great when I'm on the road and don't need the extra power of the Mini. The downside is having to think about what I will be doing each day, and whether I'll need to use the Mini. There's also the hassle of unplugging it from screen that I use when at home. Sometimes I find the MBA by itself a little underpowered, particularly when running VMs (it only has 8GB RAM).

    I, like you, have wondered whether just getting a 16GB quad-core rMBP would be an easier option. It's not as light as the MBA, but considerably lighter than the Mini+MBA combo, and probably more powerful than the Mini.

    I've decided to wait until the Broadwell rMBPs are released (probably early 2015), and I'll see whether the improvements warrant replacing the MBA+Mini.
  3. JoelTheSuperior macrumors 6502


    Feb 10, 2014
    London, UK
    Personally I'd go for the 15" MacBook Pro since it's almost certainly going to outperform both of those machines by a fair margin, but really it's up to you. The MacBook Air is a fair bit lighter than the Pro (but perhaps not as much with the newer retina MacBooks) so if you value portability you may prefer the air, but equally to me it seems silly to have a Mac Mini plus a MacBook Air, seeing as how the Mac Mini is hardly known for being a high performance machine.
  4. Smeaton1724 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Sep 14, 2011
    Leeds, UK
    It seems we are both in the same boat! I've decided to wait until WWDC, I've pencilled in an base MBA as my summer our base, unless they shave £100 off the base retina 13.

    Long term 15 is the way I feel.


    I agree and also disagree - the mini I have is the 2.3ghz quad core - the base retina 15 only has the 2.0 ghz quad core. In terms of CPU processing they are virtually identical in performance. Look at geekbench, the quad mini is up there just on CPU power.

    What hurts the mini is the graphics - poor versus the Iris Pro and Nvidia, however my working processes largely involve CPU.

    By the time I get around to migrating to laptop only maybe there will be a quad in the 13, even then I think I'd like the screen to be 15 if it was a primary machine.

  5. dblissmn macrumors 6502

    Apr 30, 2002
    I think you've got a good combination as it is; I'd certainly feel vulnerable to technical failure without two computers these days. However, I will note that the current 15 Retina is much improved on previous models for thermal performance and just seems to handle desktop use better than any laptop I've had in the past.

    As far as portability, each pound that comes off is a big deal. The 15 Retina seems fantastic to me, but bear in mind all my previous laptops have weighed 5 1/2 to seven pounds. The 13 seems TINY by comparison even to the 15; I'm not sure how I'd feel about going up from the 13 Air to a 15 Retina.


    And with hotels increasingly providing HDMI 1080-capable TV sets, a Mini, a keyboard-and-mouse, and an HDMI cable may be a workable travel solution.
  6. Smeaton1724 thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Sep 14, 2011
    Leeds, UK
    I do like the flexibility. For small projects requiring little effort I can still be with family with the MBA, larger, more complex and fee earning projects I can go in my own space, use the power of the mini and that shortens my workflow.

    People say the mini isn't powerful haven't used one to do any work, last week I had a 500mb revit model rendering in parallels - multiple views, with iTunes streaming Django unchained at 1080p. By the time the movie had finished so had the renders - whilst that was going on I was composing emails on the MBA - perfect!!


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