Having trouble picking a model

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by tru002, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. tru002 macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2010
    Sorry in advance for adding to the myriad threads like this, but I've done my searches and am now looking for some more personalized advice.

    I have a 2011 MBP 13" (2.3 i5, 4GB RAM, 320GB HD), and it's not really meeting my needs. I'm taking online classes in programming, and I'm about to move on to multimedia/graphic design for the Web, and hopefully beyond that into more tech-heavy courses. I also just started work as a Web producer, so I spend a lot of time online, which eats up all my RAM no matter what browser I use. (Safari has been the worst, followed by Firefox, then Chrome, which I've settled on for now.) This makes it difficult to use other programs simultaneously -- Photoshop, InDesign, etc. Now that I'll have to start working with Flash, I'm really getting concerned. The computer is fairly slow and laggy when I have a lot of tabs open and/or am running a few programs.

    I plan to upgrade my RAM on this MBP eventually anyway, but after many visits to the Genius Bar, we seem to have settled on my problems (slow/lagging, inability to run multiple programs smoothly, etc.) relating to not having a dedicated graphics card. Plus, with my online classes, I find that I miss having the screen real estate of my old 15" MBP. I could get an external monitor, or even a desktop, but portability is extremely important to me. I'd also like extra power, and I'd like to get something that will last me a while (and still have some resale value down the road).

    Because I plan to continue becoming a more advanced user, the folks at Apple recommended a 15" retina MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM, base model on everything else. I'd probably upgrade to the 2.6 processor and keep the lower-end SSD, supplementing that with an external HD.

    Is this the wrong way to go? I know that the rMBP isn't upgradeable once I have it, and that's kind of a downer. But the weight and, frankly, the beauty of rMBP have me lusting after it. The retina isn't even the biggest driver for me, but since I do so much work online, I really appreciate how crisp everything is on the retina screen.

    I'm looking to make this purchase within the next week (18-month financing FTW). Is springing for the rMBP overkill? Or is it the way to go if I plan to keep it for a while -- as long as possible, really -- given that Apple is moving that way anyway?

    Help me stop torturing myself over this decision.
  2. takeshi74 macrumors 601

    Feb 9, 2011
    As is typical with threads like this: prioritize your needs/wants. Otherwise you'll have this sort of trouble deciding. Determine what your must haves are. Determine what's nice to have but not critical.
  3. tru002 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2010
    I think that's where I'm getting hung up: When I got the MBP I have, I was told it would be more than sufficient for what I was doing, but I've had problems with it from the very start and have had to take it in at least five times. Apple even replaced the RAM and the logic board, but it turns out not having a dedicated graphics card was the problem all along. (Or so they say.)

    I don't want to make the same mistake again, where I think something will be fine and it isn't. I'm not totally computer illiterate, but I don't know enough about what specs will fit my needs best, especially since I'll be using the new MBP for things I've never done before.

    The rMBP is beautiful, and it would make me feel like I'm really upgrading to something new -- but the truth is even a non-retina MBP with better specs would be an upgrade. I want to make sure my priorities aren't in the wrong order, that I'm not making a decision based on just feelings/looks, and that I choose something that will handle what I want to do and then some.
  4. supersalo macrumors 6502


    May 14, 2010
    If you don't need the Retina display, save your $$$ and get the 13" Air with 8GB of RAM instead. It will still give you a big speed increase because you'll have 8GB of memory AND the SSD drive. And if you don't like it, you have 14 days to bring it back and get the Retina MBP.

    If you do go Retina, don't bother upgrading the processor. You'd only notice the difference if you were putting the computer under heavy load (ie, exporting an HD video from Final Cut would take a bit less on the 2.6 vs 2.3GHz processor).

    Definitely get the 16GB of RAM. Don't worry about Safari, et all "eating all memory". The thing you want to look for is if you're Paging Out (to disk).

    In Activity Monitor, click on the System Memory segment (at the bottom). Look at your 'Page Outs'. Ideally, you want it to be zero (or as close as you can get). If it's really high (like over a Gigabyte and climbing pretty regularly, then you could use more RAM).

    As for the slow-downs, Activity Monitor can also show you what process is hogging the CPU.
  5. tru002, Dec 10, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012

    tru002 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2010
    Thanks, supersalo. I want (need?) the real estate of a 15" screen, so that leaves me with one of the MBP models. I just don't know if it's worth getting the retina one, which I do want but am worried is hard to justify/doesn't best fit my needs.

    My browsers have always been my problem, and I really feel that in 2012, I ought to be able to have eight or more tabs open without destroying my speed. I asked Apple if I'm just doing it wrong, and they assure me the computers should be able to handle it, which is good, because this really doesn't seem like it's heavy computing.

    Anyway, page outs right now are 3.06GB (0 bytes/sec). Chrome and kernel_task take turns at the top of my CPU. The computer is significantly more functional running Chrome, though; when I was using Safari, which was always the biggest CPU hog, everything slowed to barely a crawl.
  6. supersalo macrumors 6502


    May 14, 2010
    You could definitely use more RAM.

    My suggestion would be to try the 13" Air first (it has the same resolution as the 15" display). If you're unhappy with it, then return it and buy the Retina.

    The Air is in the middle of their current lifecycle (they'll probably be refreshed in June), so it's still a good time to buy now.

  7. tru002 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2010
    Thanks for being so patient with explaining things, Sal. You definitely gave me a lot to think about.

    I went to the Apple store and tried to replicate my usage situation as best as possible on the Air and the rMBP. As much as I'd love to love the Air -- I prefer the price, of course, and portability -- the screen size was really the dealbreaker. I have a 13" MBP now, which I downsized to from a 15", and I just miss having the bigger screen when it comes to work, both for the office and for school.

    I ended up going with the 15" rMBP with 2.6/16/256. I know there's not much difference between the 2.3 and 2.6, but with a work discount and the financing, I figured I might as well go for it, at the very least for some (minimal, I know) extra resale value. I'll supplement the lower storage with an external HD.

    My plan for my early 2011 13" MBP includes a major RAM upgrade and, eventually, an (a?) SSD. I plan to baby the rMBP like nobody's business, so it'll be nice to have this one running smoother so that I don't have to use the new one anywhere even slightly risky. (I was going to sell this one, but then my husband's computer died, and with me in school, I don't want us to be a one-computer house.)

    Now I just need to sort out protection! I have a Wrapsol, a sleeve and a Moshi keyboard protector ordered -- all things I use on my 13" -- but I've been reading that the keyboard protector and palm rest, which the Wrapsol includes, can scratch up the rMBP screen because of tight clearance. Always something to worry about, eh?
  8. uhslax24 macrumors 6502


    Jul 21, 2012
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA
    How is that true? You mean for the standard, cMBP?
  9. duervo, Dec 13, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2012

    duervo macrumors 68020


    Feb 5, 2011
    These would be what I would consider, in order of cost, least to most:

    1. Upgrade the RAM on your current MBP 13", if possible. 4GB is my bare minimum with multiple apps running with OS X. I suspect that is the actual root cause to your multi-apps-opened performance woes. Personally, I scoff at the Genius suggestion that it's the lack of a dedicated graphics adapter.

    2. Failing the ability to upgrade the RAM, I would get rid of the mechanical hard drive, replacing it with an SSD. The SSD provides a cooler laptop (no moving parts = no friction = less heat), longer battery life (moving parts with friction generally require more power to keep running), and faster performance ... especially in situations when you start paging memory to disk (which is what I highly suspect is happening to you when you're experience your performance issues with multiple apps opened.)

    3. If you run a crap-ton of apps at the same time, and you want to guarantee that they run in RAM as much as possible, with least risk of paging with today's options, then get a new or refurbished non-retina MBP 13". and upgrade the RAM to 16GB.

    (Once we start talking about display quality and size, I get the impression that you're not willing to look at a 13" retina MBP, with upgraded RAM, so I've excluded it here on purpose.)

    4. If you really just want to get a bigger screen, go with 15" non-Retina MBP, and bump the RAM to 16GB. (Remember, ordered by cost here, least to most expensive.)

    5. If you're in love with the looks of the retina display, and find it's too much to resist, then get the retina MBP 15" ... and upgrade the RAM to as much as possible.

    Note the emphasis that I put on RAM everywhere ... especially for the retina devices. (These are practically impossible to upgrade after purchase for most, and probably not something you'd want to bother trying to attempt ... I know I wouldn't.) I doubt you will be pinned by CPU so much as you will be by RAM, so I would focus on RAM upgrades before I would consider a bump up in CPU spec.

    Also, I would try my hardest to get a non-retina model that fits my needs and expected growth for the next few years, because they are much easier to upgrade, and that goes a very long way with me when I make my purchasing decisions. The ability to upgrade carries a lot of weight with me, but that's a personal bit, and not necessarily one that you may share.

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