Macbook Pro Retina vs. Macbook Air

robotics5000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 22, 2014
12
0
Hi all,

I am having a huge time deciding between these two models:

1) Macbook Air - 13"; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD; i5; 1.4GHz; $1300

or

2) Macbook Pro Retina - 13"; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD; i5; 2.4GHz; $1500

I am an avid programmer and use a lot of CPU intensive applications to code.
I am a student, and use the web for heavy, heavy research and need battery life. I also use Microsoft Office very frequently.
Which one do I pick? I want a laptop that has good battery life and has the ability to run CPU intensive processes, while not sacrificing speed.

Thanks all!
 

Sifinity

macrumors 6502
Jun 11, 2014
322
1
Texas
Hi all,

I am having a huge time deciding between these two models:

1) Macbook Air - 13"; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD; i5; 1.4GHz; $1300

or

2) Macbook Pro Retina - 13"; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD; i5; 2.4GHz; $1500

I am an avid programmer and use a lot of CPU intensive applications to code.
I am a student, and use the web for heavy, heavy research and need battery life. I also use Microsoft Office very frequently.
Which one do I pick? I want a laptop that has good battery life and has the ability to run CPU intensive processes, while not sacrificing speed.

Thanks all!
get the retina ; the screen is phenomenal to look at for typing/coding , you may need an external display as for most coders 13 inches doesn't cut it , but thats up to you , also upgrade the ram to 16gbs as you may need it for vmware and it will be future proof .
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
63,851
30,368
Boston
Pick the rMBP
For the small increase in price, you get a better display by far. A faster CPU and a better GPU.

I think the only reason to select the MBA is for the battery. If you need extra long battery life, then get the MBA.
 

robotics5000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 22, 2014
12
0
thanks for your timely responses!
the thing is - i really don't care about screen quality when it comes to coding
the real question between the models is this:
Is 2.4GHz that far better than 1.4GHz (found in the MBA) and is a $200 price difference for that worth it? please remember that I am a student and cannot afford to buy 1.5 grand laptops that often....

thank you!
 

capathy21

macrumors 65816
Jun 16, 2014
1,365
534
Houston, Texas
Hi all,

I am having a huge time deciding between these two models:

1) Macbook Air - 13"; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD; i5; 1.4GHz; $1300

or

2) Macbook Pro Retina - 13"; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD; i5; 2.4GHz; $1500

I am an avid programmer and use a lot of CPU intensive applications to code.
I am a student, and use the web for heavy, heavy research and need battery life. I also use Microsoft Office very frequently.
Which one do I pick? I want a laptop that has good battery life and has the ability to run CPU intensive processes, while not sacrificing speed.

Thanks all!
I would go with the 13 rMBP but I would get it from the refurb store for 1269. It would come out cheaper than the Air, and give you the same exact warranty. While the Air does get 3 hours better battery life, its display is just not good especially compared to the retina on the rMBP. The rMBP still gets 9 hours which is very good.

----------

thanks for your timely responses!
the thing is - i really don't care about screen quality when it comes to coding
the real question between the models is this:
Is 2.4GHz that far better than 1.4GHz (found in the MBA) and is a $200 price difference for that worth it? please remember that I am a student and cannot afford to buy 1.5 grand laptops that often....

thank you!
IMO, you will not see a real performance difference between the two in most tasks. I would still consider the rMBP for the display alone. I know you say it doesn't matter but believe me it does. As much as I love the Air(my wife has one), working on it strains my eyes to the max. The retina makes all the difference in the world and to me, is what would be worth the additional 200. As I mentioned, check out the refurb store.
 

robotics5000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 22, 2014
12
0
thanks for your input!

do any of you think the model lineup will change (in terms of prices) in the next couple of years? if the SSD price decreases, then I will definitely want to wait...
 

Fiendishone

macrumors member
Jul 20, 2014
58
0
Bucks, UK
Hi, I am a newbie to Apple (why did it take me so long?) But I have the rMBP and the screen is amazing!!!

On my old laptop I was getting a lot of headaches, and that, I thought, had a good screen. Since the changeover, not one single headache. If you are going to use it for any length of time, it WILL make a difference!!!! Battery time is very good and the recharge seems to take almost no time at all. This Mac is way better than anything I have ever used!!
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
63,851
30,368
Boston
thanks for your timely responses!
the thing is - i really don't care about screen quality when it comes to coding
the real question between the models is this:
Is 2.4GHz that far better than 1.4GHz (found in the MBA) and is a $200 price difference for that worth it? please remember that I am a student and cannot afford to buy 1.5 grand laptops that often....

thank you!
Of course the 2.4 is better then the 1.4GHz. Pure speed wise and overall performance. The MBA's CPU is the ULV variant which is less powerful then what's in the MBPs.

I'd also not be so quick to discount the screen. The screen is gorgeous and will mean less eye fatigue. The retina screen is a big plus if you'll be staring at code for hours
 

Meister

Suspended
Oct 10, 2013
5,455
4,265
If you are a college student and $$$ is an issue get the 1.4 / 4gb ram / 128gb ssd. I wouldnt think twice.

This model will cost you half what the rmbp 2.4/8/256 would cost you!

Unless you are a photographer the retina is overrated.
 

Sifinity

macrumors 6502
Jun 11, 2014
322
1
Texas

MacRazySwe

macrumors 6502a
Aug 7, 2007
814
501
I just switched from the MBA to the rMBP recently. As others have said, the display is night and day! The MBA display causes eye-strains after long periods of time. I don't know why, but it does. The Retina however is a joy to use and I've never experienced the same problem since switching. However, the MBA did feel a bit snappier from time to time, while scrolling, et.c.
 

robotics5000

macrumors newbie
Original poster
Jun 22, 2014
12
0
in fact - i am already have a computer that is relatively fast and cheap
for $500, i got an ASUS with i5 processor, 500GB HDD, 1.7GHz, touch screen, and 4GB RAM

however, I want a rMBP for college, because i am pursuing a comp sci degree

do u all think the lineups and prices will change in 2-3 years?
 

Sifinity

macrumors 6502
Jun 11, 2014
322
1
Texas
in fact - i am already have a computer that is relatively fast and cheap
for $500, i got an ASUS with i5 processor, 500GB HDD, 1.7GHz, touch screen, and 4GB RAM

however, I want a rMBP for college, because i am pursuing a comp sci degree

do u all think the lineups and prices will change in 2-3 years?
pricing - probably not or maybe when the cMB goes off the market then the base rMB will be $1099 , but until then the only thing that may change with the years are the chips and possibly the size and ram available with each model ; in like a year or two i can see the base model with 8 gbs of ram ; price chance not really. Also believe me the $200 is worth the investment over the air
 

Atomic Walrus

macrumors 6502a
Sep 24, 2012
878
425
I just switched from the MBA to the rMBP recently. As others have said, the display is night and day! The MBA display causes eye-strains after long periods of time. I don't know why, but it does. The Retina however is a joy to use and I've never experienced the same problem since switching. However, the MBA did feel a bit snappier from time to time, while scrolling, et.c.
The issue with the MBA screen isn't even the resolution, it's the panel quality. Low quality TN panels are just really annoying to look at for long periods of time. They do pretty serious gamma shifts when you change angles and have poor contrast and saturation. I've also seen a wide range of bad out of the box white temp calibrations on MBA screens (from blue to yellow). A good quality IPS panel at that same resolution would be a huge improvement without the performance hit of going to retina/HiDPI, but that won't ever happen.

I couldn't ever recommend the MBA just because of the panel quality, especially to a programmer who's going to be staring at text for hours on end. In fact in that case a "retina" screen is excellent simply because of how well it renders text.

With the rMBP you can (using a 3rd party utility) decrease the resolution to half(non-HiDPI) if you want, which will cancel any performance loss from retina scaling. It's kind of blurry (uses bilinear rescaling even though you'd think it could do pixel doubling), but honestly I still think half res on retina looks better than native on a TN panel.
 

kelon111

macrumors 6502
Mar 16, 2013
303
4
The issue with the MBA screen isn't even the resolution, it's the panel quality. Low quality TN panels are just really annoying to look at for long periods of time. They do pretty serious gamma shifts when you change angles and have poor contrast and saturation. I've also seen a wide range of bad out of the box white temp calibrations on MBA screens (from blue to yellow). A good quality IPS panel at that same resolution would be a huge improvement without the performance hit of going to retina/HiDPI, but that won't ever happen.

I couldn't ever recommend the MBA just because of the panel quality, especially to a programmer who's going to be staring at text for hours on end. In fact in that case a "retina" screen is excellent simply because of how well it renders text.

With the rMBP you can (using a 3rd party utility) decrease the resolution to half(non-HiDPI) if you want, which will cancel any performance loss from retina scaling. It's kind of blurry (uses bilinear rescaling even though you'd think it could do pixel doubling), but honestly I still think half res on retina looks better than native on a TN panel.
The MacBook Air actually doesn't use a low end TN panel based on the benchmarks that I've seen but it's still natively a 6 bit panel so it has to use dithering to create many colors.

Apple kept the chassis spec unchanged in order to do just that. As a result, the displays too, remained unchanged. We’re talking about TN panels (admittedly higher quality than most) and traditional pixel densities. Compared to the Retina Displays deployed across the rest of Apple’s product lines, these panels just aren’t as good. Compared to what you typically find elsewhere, they’re still among the best.
 
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Atomic Walrus

macrumors 6502a
Sep 24, 2012
878
425
The MacBook Air actually doesn't use a low end TN panel based on the benchmarks that I've seen but it's still natively a 6 bit panel so it has to use dithering to create many colors.
I can't really presume to argue with Anandtech, I'm just going by what I've seen. It's possible that I've just run into some particularly bad examples, but I have a TN desktop monitor that make the Air screens I've seen look very bad, especially in terms of contrast and saturation. The TN panel in my 2010 17" MBP also makes the Air screens look terrible by comparison, but I suppose at the time that was a "premium" quality display so it might not be fair.
 

TechZeke

macrumors 68020
Jul 29, 2012
2,362
1,971
San Antonio, TX
The MacBook Air actually doesn't use a low end TN panel based on the benchmarks that I've seen but it's still natively a 6 bit panel so it has to use dithering to create many colors.
I agree, if you want to see a poor quality TN panel, look at the Gen 1 Razer Blade.

As I said in another thread a while ago, while the retina panels are amazing, don't discredit the TN panels, because Apple uses high quality TN panels that still look better than most laptops.
 

Badrottie

Suspended
May 8, 2011
4,317
332
Los Angeles
Hello robotics5000
Do you go out a lot with laptop? If so, get a MBA because it is light to carry and have a long battery life no need to worry about bring a charger.

If you use Microsoft Office a lot I think rMBP better because retina screen give you some crystal clear fonts on the screen for reading.

Price is important to you? You'll love MBA.

You care about powerful workhorse laptop? You will have no problem with rMBP.

Good luck :apple:
 

suprakc

macrumors regular
Jun 15, 2013
110
3
Utah
The retina 13 mid spec is amazing. I had the same dilemma. I am a photographer and the retina display really does show you so much more in an image- almost to a 3D effect. And Yosemite should improve retina performance across the board.

Keep in mind, you will notice the biggest difference after you own a retina macbook, not before. The air seems.. Less after using a pro, although it is still a great computer and bang for the buck. The pro just beats it.
 

Desertf0x9

macrumors newbie
Jun 1, 2014
10
0
I am a medical student who was faced with the same dilemma between a macbook pro retina vs. macbook air. I had similar requirements, portability and battery life. In the end I went with the mbpr because it does not sacrifice much in terms of portability and battery life is still quite amazing. In my opinion unless you need the extra small form factor of the 11 inch mba, you are better off going with the 13 mbpr vs. 13 mba. You gain way more than your losing, Retina display makes everything else look terrible. I have no regrets, I'm actually thinking about sizing up now to a 15.
 

nightlong

macrumors 6502a
Jun 16, 2012
821
141
Australia
I bought a 13" Air in 2012 ... loved everything about it except the screen. I'm a writer and I just couldn't do long hauls with text on it .. I used it less and less, and my ipad4 with its retina screen more and more . Sold the Air and got the 13" MBPr ... the screen is amazing for text (and colours, angles and everything else). The only thing better on the Air, apart from battery time, is the tapered front of the keyboard ... more comfortable. But that's a minor benefit compared with the MBPr's screen.