MacBook Pro Retina useful as desktop?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by attis, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. attis macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2012
    I'm thinking that no one else is having the same issues with Apples current lineup as I am?

    I have, and need two computers, one for the road and one for my office. I'm a travelling (not travel-) photographer, so I mainly use Lightroom, Photoshop, other Adobeapps, and some FCX. Along with the normal suite of day-to-day-work. The laptop has to be MBA, so thats already taken care of (even though I'm not happy with the latest iteration, 2012 vs my old 2011).

    I upgraded my Mac Pro 1,1 to a Mac Mini 2011, mid-model, with the SSD-treatment, and that has worked for a while. I waited eagerly for the new 2012 Mini, but I'm not happy with the lack of GPU, since the HD4000 in my i7 MBA is buggy and unreliable, even compared to the HD3000 of the 2011 MBA I had before. The Mini obviously has problems with the HD4000 or the HDMI-hardware, and I need to use two monitors.

    And the Mac Pro, albeit still is quite good, it feels wrong investing in 2-3 year old hardware that both lacks a lot of modern features and relative performance over the latest gen Intelchips. It will also probably be replaced soon or dropped completely, wich makes for an even worse deal in buying one at it's current value.

    The iMac is a no-go, i would have to sell my two 24" Eizo monitors for a 27" model to go with the 27" iMac. Seems like a hassle. And the new version apparently isn't upgradeable, and I don't like to pay the Apple premium for their SSD/Fusiondrive. And most of all I don't like the display.

    Then we end up with the MacBooks. The MBP Classic would have been good enough probably, but it only natively supports one external monitor. The 15" Retina appears to be the closest match to what I'm looking for - latest gen Intel CPU, discrete graphics good enough to drive my two monitors and the HDMI/TB-connections to use them, no reported graphics bugs, USB3 and some other goodies. The only issue is that my planned desktop, is a laptop...

    Have I missed something in Apples lineup or is the MBPR what suits me best?

    Is anyone using the Retina strictly as a desktop. Any issues?
  2. lukester macrumors 6502

    Dec 2, 2009
    I too am a pro photographer and I decided a few years ago to just go with a laptop as my desktop PC instead of keeping to computers synced and upgraded. What a hassle that would be for me.
    So I have been running a mid 2010 17" I7 AG and when I am in the mood to get real fussy I use my 30" apple cinema off it. Between the 2 screens I have all kinds of real-estate for editing pictures.
    I was thinking about the rMBP 15" but for now I changed my mind and I am putting in a SSD in it which should make it run like a banshie.

    I really like the AG screen, and even the Retina display is incredible I think it will be hard to photo editing in the right environment to keep the glare down
  3. attis thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2012
    I too like the AntiGlare display of the Classic MBPs. Even the semiglossy screen on the MBA is better than the one on the MBPR in my opinion, but since Apple has decided to go with looks over usability, there really is no choice.

    Just to make clear - my workflow is at its best when I use my side-by-side 24" Eizo monitors, and I would like to keep it that way. With the old MBP you cant use two monitors properly, otherwise I would probably have gone with that. So

    I would not be using the monitor of the MBPR. Quite ironic actually, that the biggest sellingpoint of the new notebook is whats of least interest to me. In my opinion its just in the way of what otherwise is an awesome Mac Mini.

    The world (or atleast me) just isn't "Retina-ready". I like to know what my pixels look like, since they are what make up my images, and on a retina screen I have no idea.
  4. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    The wife and I are photographers. We use rMBPs as our only machines. We maxed them out and got Apple Care so we are good to go for 3 years. The SSD space gives us plenty of room for photo collection on a multiple week trip. We use the retina screens for initial culling and editing. When we get home we finish the editing on large calibrated monitors and move the completed files to the main LR libraries on Lacie 6TB thunderbolt drives (running RAID 1). Backup goes to other drives. We have zero problems running LR 4, PS 6, Nik plugins...etc.
  5. lukester macrumors 6502

    Dec 2, 2009

    What kind of Photography?
    I have been in business for over 8 years and the last 3 have been tough.
    What is your price range? I find that I am/was in the middle of the road, too expensive for most, and not good enough/expensive for those with money, no object.
    Tough business
  6. attis thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2012
    The only thing that concerns me about the Retina as laptop is the monitor, I really wish they would have released a version with a lower res screen, like the old 1680x1050, which has about the same ppi as the MacBook Air. I think that is the sweet spot - small, but still distinguishable pixels. The whole idea about seeing the pixels in a photo is so that you can be sure that you are manipulating the right ones. But sure, technology has to move forward, so i guess everything will be Retina in the future. Right now it seems more like a good idea for those who "work" with iPhoto and stuff like that. Maybe for reading aswell. I like the ability to make the 15" in to a 1920x1200 though, but the GPU apparently isn't powerful enough for this in the way Apples makes its software-magic. And it still isn't 1-1 or 1-4 pixel-perfection.

    Screen aside, how is the Retina as a workstation when you close the lid, hide it away and pretend you're using a Mac Pro?
  7. MCAsan macrumors 601


    Jul 9, 2012
    That is how I use mine. It goes into clamshell mode in a Bookarc at home and works just fine with wired keyboard and mouse.

    You should be able to compare the relative performance of an rMBP and the many Mac Pro configurations at one of the many sites that have benching software.

    For me two big advantages of rMBP over Mac Pro as desktop....USB 3 and Thunderbolt.
  8. mawyatt macrumors member

    Aug 27, 2012
    Same here. I have the MBPr with the 27" Thunderbolt Display, this acts as a docking station. Have a LaCie RAID 0 Thunderbolt HD connected to the display as my main storage. Backup is with Time Machine with a USB drive (will replace with another Thunderbolt drive when LaCie has another good deal on refurb drives). Have a couple portable USB3 buss powered drives that I take with the MBPr.

    This setup with MBPr works OK for me as a laptop and desktop.
  9. attis thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2012
    Thanks for the input.

    I'm sure the performance of the MBPR exceeds that of most Mac Pros when used like I intend to. PS and LR really benefits from the higher speed ram, and better TurboBoost in the IvyBridge chips. I don't really export massive AfterEffects projects, that may have benefited from a 12-core monster.

    I'm thinking more about the health of the laptop-become-desktop; I usually just leave my Mac Mini on and let it go to sleep by itself when I go home for the day, and smash the spacebar until it wakes up the following morning. It equals not cleaning your physical desk I think, you can just leave your desk(top) anyway you want and pick it all up in the morning. As a sidenote, I usually clean my actual desk and desktop at the same time, when the clutter becomes too much... Anywho;

    Will the MBPR suffer from being constantly on/sleeping when in clamshell mode, tucked under my desk with basically all of the ports used? Is the heat an issue when the lid is closed? Does the oh-so-advanced Retinadisplay hurt from being so close to the hot, main part of the computer?

    Another sidenote - None of you see the Thunderbolt Display as an issue for photography? I really don't like the way it exaggerates the blacks and overall contrast. I can't edit photos/video without my trusty matte Eizo-monitors...
  10. smirking macrumors 68000


    Aug 31, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    I just got a 15" 2.6Ghz i7 MBP to replace an early 2008 MacPro. Even though the specs on my MBP beat my early 2008 hands down in almost every category, there are some things that it just isn't quite up to par in when compared even to a five year old tower.

    It's not an apples to apples comparison I'm doing here. My tower had 12Gb of memory and my MBP currently only 8Gb. I'm upgrading the memory really soon. My MacPro also ran Lion and had a 2Tb 7200 RPM drive as the main drive whereas my MBP is on Mountain Lion and has a 1Tb 5400 RPM drive as its only drive.

    I suspect that the hard drive is where some or perhaps all of my performance issues are coming from. The areas where my issues come from all involve file access actions. I'm a Web developer so I have a lot of files and a lot of small files. My drives never stop spinning so drive speed is important but getting an SSD is not realistic because I just can't do with less than 1Tb of storage and even if I could crimp my space needs down, a 768Gb SSD is just too much for too little.

    I'm still assembling my setup and at some point I'm going to get a Thunderbolt external drive or two. I suspect that'll help with my file access issues straining my MBP's poor lone 1Tb 5400 drive. I'm a bit disappointed right now, but I can live with the downside as a tradeoff for the upside of more mobility and better performance in most other areas. I'm going to give it a good try, but I'm going to have to think really hard about whether I want to sell off my MBP and go back to a MacPro when the new models come out next year.

    You asked about heat and I find that the way I use my MBP, the fan is going pretty hard a lot of the time. The fan really hates Time Machine (lots of file access again). Then again, the MacPro's fans were probably just as active, but less noticeable because they're always on and they move air better.

    I had good reasons to go to a laptop. I wasn't doing it just because I thought I might be able to match my MacPro in a newer sleeker body. If that's why you want to do it, I'd consider holding off for new models. I wouldn't buy the current MacPro line-up on the basis of the lack of Thunderbolt and USB3 alone.

    MacPros are still beasts even if they're aging beasts. Even five years out, I was really happy with the peformance of my MacPro and compare it favorably to my brand new higher end MBP.
  11. GekkePrutser macrumors 6502a


    Aug 18, 2005
    If you're not going to use the retina screen, I think the Mac mini might be a better choice for a desktop. I have no screen problems with mine (although I have the 2011 model). It supports 2 screens just fine, I have a cheap BenQ 23" LED screen as primary, to have lots of workspace and an older Eizo L768 17" 4:3 to do more colour sensitive stuff.

    An iMac could also be an option (+ 1 external screen) but not if glossy is no option for you, of course. It wasn't for me, I hate glossy so I got the mini. It's super for travelling as well (provided you have a screen/kb/mouse at your destination), lighter than an 11" air and way more powerful. Also easy to add memory and it can take 2 drives with some extra parts.
  12. smirking macrumors 68000


    Aug 31, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    BTW, on a side note about external monitors and MacBooks and Minis... Be aware that the standard mini-display or Thunderbolt display port to DVI adapters will not do the job if you have a 30" Apple Cinema Display. I believe the same goes if you have a 27" display too. You'll need a dual link DVI adapter, which will cost you around $100. Take that into consideration too when factoring in costs.
  13. Stetrain, Dec 4, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012

    Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
    Any particular reason why you absolutely need both a road computer and a desk computer?

    If you're spending all the money on the 15" Retina, which is a great portable machine as well, why not just plug it into your monitors/keyboard/mouse when at your desk and take it with you when you leave? The 15" Retina is pretty light, it's actually a bit lighter even than the non-retina 13" MBP.

    Another option to possibly consider would be a 21.5" iMac. The high end 21.5" model has the same GT650M as the RMBP. It should be a better physical match for your existing displays, and it has the new lower-glare display. There's also two Thunderbolt ports so you can easily hook up your existing displays.

    You can get a 2012 21.5" iMac with the i7 CPU upgrade, 16GB RAM, and the Fusion drive for slightly less than the base price of the 15" RMBP.

    With the i7 option, the iMac should have better CPU performance than even the most upgraded 15" RMBP. It should have better cooling as well since it's not squeezed into such a small package.

    Even if you turn it around so you never see the display it's still a better deal than using the 15" RMBP as a permanent desktop computer.
  14. attis thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 18, 2012
    Sounds like you got the MBPClassic? I would have too, if it weren't for the lack of dual monitor support. I get your whole storage problem, and I have a similar one but have always worked around it - I actually managed with my first MBAs 128GB because I just stored the 10-50GBs of pictures I worked with locally and then moved them off to external drives when they weren't as relevant anymore. I still use this system, work with the most recent things stored on my actual system drive, and then move it to my daisy chained FW800-7200rpm-drives where I actually can access and work with them, at acceptable speeds without moving them back to the computer.

    I'm sure everyone has different needs, but I can't really see what you would need +1TB for at the same time - do you really work with all of that data simultaneously? I feel like you too could benefit from getting a 256-512GB SSD as a work drive and have some sort of fast drive as active/online/external storage..? Or have you tried that without good results? Also, if you don't need your superdrive you could get 2x512GB SSDs! A lot cheaper than Apples 768GB upgrade for the Retinas.

    Thanks for your input though, I appreciate it. To give some potential help back I would really recommend the SSD upgrade, or at least get one of those HybridDrives, they come in sizes up to 1TB if I remember correctly. Think that would help.

    I actually bought a new Mac Mini, the 2.6GHz i7, thinking it will be free to return since its defective with the screen-flicker-issue. I could probably get used to it, but I think I will return it and get one if it still is the best option, when they have solved the issue. Who knows, it could take a year or so..

    Anywho, the Mini actually works quite well other than that. I put in a 256GB Samsung 830 together with the 1TB drive, and haven't noticed any speed issues. The 512MB HD4000 also works alright with two 24" 1920x1200 monitors, better than the 6630M actually, but then I don't do anything 3D-heavy. Just move a lot of 2D-pixels.

    So, if they come up with a fix this year I think I'll keep it and buy 16 gigs of ram. Otherwise I'll use the holiday return policy and send it back before 7 january. If they moan about the SSD i had in it, I'll just shout about the HDMI-issues until they give me my money back…

    Actually, yes. Both actual needs and a bit of convenience. It's really just nice to be able to leave whatever I was working on when I go home from the office. I don't need to save anything, its all there when I come back the next day and it all gets TimeMachined with set intervals. That's the lazy reason.

    More importantly I really need everything to be plugged in and working when I come rushing in from a photoshoot and need to manage/edit and send pictures quickly. No time for stowing computers and dealing with a mess of cables, aswell as waiting for access to all of the FW-drives and NAS. In addition to that, sometimes I set a queue of tasks for it to do over night, so that I have a bunch of exported jpgs when I get back in the morning, for instance. Back in 2010 when I first got my old 1,1 Mac Pro and sold my 2008 MBP for a brand new MacBook Air, my workflow really improved. So I think I will stick with the desktop/laptop-setup! =)

    I agree with you on the performance of the new iMacs, but since i need my two monitors I really feel it would be weird to buy one and put i on the floor, where it would be with it's screen glowing away… Also, the new iMacs aren't upgradeable. I can accept the MBPR not being possible to have user-replaceable parts in, but the iMacs I don't feel as ok with not being accessible. I mean, they actually use a socketed cpu unlike the previous iMacs, but you have to ruin the backside of the monitor and expose it to a heat gun to get in to it. Not ok.

    And the MBPR I actually -could- take with me if I was going on a month long photo journey. Otherwise the 13" MBA works perfectly as photo-download-and-managing-station when traveling. And weight is really an issue in my Think Tank rolling camera bag, since I want it as hand luggage, with all my cameras and such.

    So, I'm still not sure. The 2.6GHz cpu in the 2012 Mac Mini seems to work for me, so the same one or the 2.3 in the MBPR would be enough, and i think the GT650 would make for an overall nicer experience. Especially with the HD4000-HDMI-problem not being fixed yet.

    I have my eyes on a used 2010 MP. About $1300 converted to USD i think. A 2.8-er that I guess I could upgrade to a 3.33 6-core? It already has a 5870-card and I have my 256GB SSD to put in, and a few spare 3.5-inch drives. 2x8GB ram for it is expensive, but not more than $100. Acceptable.

    So what do you all think?
    Cheap and cheerful - Keep the Mini and hope for a fix from Intel?
    Over-engineered solution - Get a MBPR?
    Old school - Screw it all and go back to Mac Pro?
  15. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I might hope for the fix from intel, although I'm not sure how you're hooking up two Eizos to that one given the single thunderbolt (mini displayport) port. The only real problem with integrated graphics seems to be bugs rather than raw power. FCPX might benefit from from the stronger gpu. I can't remember if LR has OpenCL. With PS the 2012 mini is fast enough to do without it. You can pretty much disable all gpu acceleration, and you should almost never notice a slowdown. It speeds up a couple things, but it's either not implemented that well or the current OpenCL standard is still quite limiting. The functions that are specifically tied to OpenCL are not the kinds of things you likely depend on constantly. They run slower on the cpu, but ivy bridge quad core cpus should chew through the calculations quite fast. I find ram to be the biggest limiter. With free ram so many things in that program operate in real time.

    Mac Pro is always a solid choice, but above all, max ram on any of these damn things. If it still hits scratch disks, use an ssd. Disable spotlight indexing on the directory that houses your scratch disk/data. If you do that, it should be really smooth.
  16. smirking, Dec 9, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012

    smirking macrumors 68000


    Aug 31, 2003
    Silicon Valley
    Yup, I got the MBP Classic. The Retina was tempting, but besides the high cost of the SSD only storage, the pixel density was actually a drawback. Most of my work is programming and the MBP Classic's matte widescreen gives me more real screen space to work with for coding.

    I didn't even think about the problem with dual monitor support for the MBP line. I have a 30" Apple Cinema display and man do I love this monitor. I had a dual screen setup before in the past, but for the kind of work I do, vertical space really matters a lot and extra horizontal space has diminishing returns after a certain point. Dual monitors also gave me a sore neck.

    I also have an old MBP that is used by my wife now that I would use for when I needed portability. It was the exercise that led me to the conclusion that trying to manage limited storage space on a "sometimes" machine was a huge pain and difficult to do for my needs. Occasion after occasion, I would run out of time trying to copy over the files I wanted to have with me and have to leave with a partial set or something would go wrong and I'd end up realizing later that I left a bunch of files at home.

    Portability is greatly crimped when you have to plan at least a day in advance to go somewhere with your laptop.

    Yeah, that 2x512Gb SSD upgrade is something that I've got my eye on for the future. That's another reason why I got the MBP Classic. I knew that if I could not live with a 1TB main drive, for either speed or space reasons, I had the option of either upgrading for speed, for storage, or for a mixture of both.

    So the reason why I need that 1TB is because I'm kinda your digital equivalent of a handyman. I'm an all around Web developer. I'm primarily a coder, but I do a bit of everything so I have millions of small files for the sites I work on, a stash of photography to manage, a bit of video that I edit, and lots of general documents.

    The video part is actually the killer. I'm sure a lot of people here know how much space that eats up and if I get called on to do some urgent video editing, I'll be in a world of hurt if I only have 50GB of storage left to use as storage and scratch space and I'm not able to scramble back to my office.

    All of this adds together into a mess that is hard to design a reliable workflow around so it's just easier to have enough space to store everything there's a chance of me needing so I don't have to spend time thinking about what I need now and what I need tomorrow.

    I've quite appreciated hearing about how other people have their equipment setup too. It helps me think through potential issues that I could run into if I tried certain setups.

    Hybrid drives come in sizes of 1TB for a laptop? Hmmmm... I'll have to check that out. That's tempting. I wouldn't rip out my SuperDrive until after my warranty expires, but if I could swap out a 1TB HDD for a 1TB hybrid, I might.

    I've since upgraded my RAM to 16GB and that's helped a bit, but some issues remain and I'm realizing that Mountain Lion is to likely blame for those problems and not the MBP itself. I trust that will get worked out eventually. Everyone who hates Mountain Lion and Lion seems to love Snow Leopard, but Snow Leopard initially made me feel like I had moved to the Bahamas with all the beach balls it presented me with. I'm not surprised that I'm repeating the ordeal in my move to Mountain Lion. I won't say that I'm a fan of Mountain Lion, but the stalls I'm getting are a lot shorter and less frequent than the stalls I initially got with Snow Leopard.

    I had said that I suspected that my real performance bottleneck was in having a single 1TB 5400 RPM drive instead of a main 2TB 7200 RPM drive and multiple secondary drives and after spending some time with my setup, I'm pretty sure that's the case. The MBP itself is doing fine. If you're not suffering with the single HDD in the Mac Mini, then you might not find any fault with performance bottlenecking as the result of storage on a MBP if you have a HDD in it.

    In my case, the MBP Classic is probably a better option than the rMBP even if I could have gotten both at exactly the same price point. I really hope that Apple isn't too quick to retire their old MBP line or move away entirely from laptops that aren't primarily motivated by the desire for the combo of speed and sleekness until there are more viable options for storage hogs like me.
  17. w00tini macrumors 6502a

    Feb 28, 2008
    I just sold my late 2010 Hex core Mac Pro and replaced it with an i5 13" rMBP. I'm running two 27" Cinema displays and could not be happier. For my usage patterns, I notice no performance dips compared to the desktop.
  18. AndersBrohus macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2012
    I use mine Retina as desktop :)

    It's just great! It runs all my apps as i would have them to, and it runs Windows 8 perfect in the school for SQL and VS, because i study Web-development with .NET :)

    So i would say go for it! :)
  19. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    I am using a 15" 2.6/16GB RAM/256GB SSD rmbp as a desktop replacement.

    I only have three gripes about it:

    1. I cannot get the machine to wake with the lid still closed. This has never been a problem with macs before.
    2. I wish it had a docking port. Issue one (plus the fact there are ports on both sides) makes something like a hengedock far less interesting to me.
    3. I cannot believe I am saying this, but for the sake of symmetry, I wish it could run three 30"s. When I got it was using it with a 30" flanked by two portrait 20" displays at work and at home. I decided why not go for it, and I switched to two 30"s and one 20". That said, my setups now extend much farther to the left than to the right, and in the future it would be nice to just have three 30"s. The fact that it can run two is wonderful. As of now, I run a little bit more than 10 million desktop pixels from a portable machine. Amazing.

    Everything else is a non-issue. Plenty of power, no heat problems so far, it still works as a laptop, and I no longer have to rely on the cloud for everything. I have had zero issues using the machine as a front end for by work systems. I imagine that my non-workstation desktop days are over. I am sure as long as I am still in the number-crunching world I will have some bigger boxes stuffed full of GPUs, but these laptops are not satisfying all of my general computing requirements.

    I do a lot of math processing and data analysis, zero gaming. I am happy with the performance so far.

    I am considering getting a Surface Pro or similar device for travel, just for convenience, not because this setup is lacking in any way.
  20. RealEyes macrumors regular

    Jun 23, 2012
    Plug your external keyboard into the laptop, use the spacebar to wake it.

    Belkin is coming out with an awesome dock... Soon.
  21. gotzero, Dec 9, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012

    gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    For some reason, the space bar does not work for me. Oh well. I use Das Keyboards at home and at work, I don't think that would make a difference.

    My understanding was the Thunderbolt dock would not work for multiple displays, is that not the case?

    The dock coming out has two ports, but you have to use one to connect the dock to the computer. This would only save my from plugging in one USB port, I would still have to plug in the second mdp display and the hdmi display.

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