Mac Laptop with External Monitor Setup

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Zac Alexander, Jul 31, 2015.

  1. Zac Alexander macrumors newbie

    Zac Alexander

    Jul 31, 2015

    Several months ago, Sir Isaac Newton--my 13" MacBook Pro (may he R.I.P) was stolen at university. I didn't have the money to replace it at the time, so I have been using my work laptop for the summer. That being said, I am looking to purchase a Mac notebook in August, and am debating which one to get.

    I plan on using the laptop when I'm in class, on campus and travelling. I would like to, however, have a ~23" external monitor (most likely a dell monitor) and docking station at home to use. I used the iMacs on campus quite a bit after my laptop was stolen, and fell in love with having that much screen real estate.

    I'm a Biology and Graphic Design student (Major and minor respectively, if you're wondering how that works), so I will be using internet and productivity applications for my biology work, and Photoshop, In-Design and Illustrator for my design work. I have one full year left, and then one semester abroad afterwards. Then, I am not sure what career path I will be pursuing (whether it be health, design, or possibly University student services).

    I'm mainly debating between the Retina Pro and the Air (with 8GB RAM upgrade). I like the power of the Pro, but since I plan on using an external monitor much of the time, I am indifferent towards the Retina display. Do you think it's worth saving ~200$ going for the Air with the extra RAM? Will that give me the power I need to do my work? Do you have any other recommendations?

    While I'm on the topic, what should I be looking for in a monitor? I am also wondering what everyone reccomends for file storage and back-up, considering SSDs are smaller on the entry-level models. Do you store/back-up online or use a certain external drive?

    Thanks in advance for your help! Cheers!
  2. aloshka macrumors 65816

    Aug 30, 2009
    The Air is definitely more portable. I really liked the air. Only issue is that it's screen is now so old and so outdated, I have no idea how apple could even put their logo on it. It's still a TN panel of very crappy quality.

    I had an air and moved on to rMBP. First thing I noticed was how much heavier & bulkier the 13" rMBP. The second thing I noticed is how amazing the screen is, even if I only use it for a few minutes. That being said, the air felt a little snappier because it didn't have to drive such an insane screen. Although after a few OS updates it's pretty smooth as well now.

    Honestly, I'd answer this question with portability. Go look at the screen in an apple store see if you can stand it. Check the weights of both laptops. The AIR is bigger, but thinner and of course lighter. If the screen didn't bother me, I'd go with air 100%.
  3. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    To be honest the air with any sort of upgrades and without a discount is just a bad buy now. Go pro any day of the week, I don't notice much difference between the weight of the 2 myself and the pro is actually smaller.

    I would actually say get the refurb with 256Gb if you can storage space is the thing you'll need most as a student.
  4. Moonjumper macrumors 68000


    Jun 20, 2009
    Lincoln, UK
    As you mentioned a 23" monitor will be fine, make sure you get an IPS screen for the graphical work you mentioned. Most 1080p screens at that size will be OK, but check them out for the anti-glare treatment for what suits you. I find my HP ZR24w quite grainy because of the anti-glare, but it wouldn't bother others. If you want a retina 24" screen (such as the 4K Dell), you will need the rMBP.

    Illustrator can make my 15" rMBP crawl if I use certain effects a lot (such as Feather), but that has always been the way with every machine I have used (Windows and Mac). So the rMBP might be needed for the power. But for portability, the new MacBook would be best. You'd need the adaptor with HDMI for your needs. The MBA has an outdated screen that I wouldn't like to use for graphical work. It feels like an old model hanging around until they can make a cheap enough MB.

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