MB12 vs. MBA 13 vs. rMBP 13?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by iHuy, Aug 24, 2015.

  1. iHuy macrumors newbie

    Aug 24, 2015
    I need a new notebook for work (mostly browsing the internet and LaTeX) and studying, no gaming. My priorities are portability and battery life. The perfect solution would be the MB12, but I'm a bit scared it won't satisfy me performance-wise. I always thought the rMBP 13'' was a lot heavier than the MBA 13'', but only recently found out the newest rMBP 13'' is also really light. However, it does have worse battery life.

    These are the three models (including AppleCare Protection Plan) I have in mind:
    • MBA 13'': 2.2 GHz i7, 8 GB RAM, 256 SSD, roughly $1600
    • rMBP 13'': 2.7 GHz i5, 8 GB RAM, 256 SSD, roughly $1650
    • MB 12'': 1.3 GHz M, 8 GB RAM, 256 SSD, roughly $1700
    The biggest disadvantage of the MBA is that it has no retina display. Also, it has no force touch but I don't know how much of a difference it actually makes.

    How do these three models compare performance-wise? Is the rMBP still better than the MBA? If so, what kind of applications can I expect to not run smoothly or at all on the MBA but perfectly fine on the rMBP? Also, I've read a lot of reviews on the MB12 but since I'm no Mac user yet (only iPhone/iPad), I don't really know exactly how bad it is performance-wise. Could someone maybe compare it to the two above listed models as well? In numbers (1.3 GHz) it looks really really bad, however it's also around the same price range for me and obviously would be perfect for me if it wasn't for the performance drop. What common applications can't I run on the MB12 or don't run smoothly? I always read that I can't do proper video/photo editing, but those are things I'm not particularly interested in. What about e.g. Logic? Will LaTeX compile easily while I have several tabs open in Safari or will it start to become slower already?
  2. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    Well as you are using LaTex I am assuming you want the best screen and the most real estate to work on for typesetting, that will rule out the air on screen alone. As they are all the same price it will be choice of portability over battery life between the rMBP and rMB.

    The rMB is fine for your stated use case it doesn't sound like there is anything you run that the core M can't handle with ease, no sustained high level CPU use or heavy graphics apps. The rMBP just gives you many more options especially with connectivity (HDMI Thunderbolt 2 and USB 3) a slightly bigger screen for more real estate that can also be scaled and better battery life at the expense of being quite a bit bigger and 2x as heavy.

    No one can decide for you but if you are buying off apple then you can try for 14 days and then return for the other one if it doesn't suit you.
  3. jmikhail490 macrumors regular


    Jul 7, 2015
    Northern NJ
    I had the same exact dilemma and did exactly what Samuelsan2001 just said and I got the rMB first but then ended up exchanging it for the rMBP (same specs as you described) because I just did not think the rMB would be good for the future at all. Although it handled mostly everything i there at it with ease I started using Xcode and many tabs and it slowed down a little and wasn't as smooth as the rMBP when i tried that one out at the store.

    So really it is completely on you and if you want something that is beautiful and can probably handle what you want pretty sufficiently but battery isn't as great especially when using many things at once, orrrrrrr if you want something much more future proof and faster and smoother. It was extremely hard for me to exchange the rMB in for the rMBP because of how amazing of a machine it is but I just needed something way more future proof for at least 2-3 years. I just couldn't see the rMB being as snappy as it was in the beginning after a year even. I really do wish the rMB was a little quicker because i fell in love with everything about it besides the fact that I couldn't say for sure that it would handle everything even a year down the line, and at that price point you best believe I need something that will last at least 2-3 years at the very least.

    In the end you should just try them and make a decision. Get the one that your gut told you to get first. If you don't like it go exchange it. you must be happy with a purchase at that price you don't want to regret it.

  4. brookter1 macrumors member

    Aug 5, 2015
    The rMB doesn't have 'bad' performance for normal work, depending on your definition of normal, of course. in my case, I use Safari, Office 365, Devonthink Pro Office, Tinderbox, iTunes and in the two weeks I've had my 1.2Ghz version, it's never felt in the slightest bit underpowered at all. I've never edited a video in my life and don't intend to start now and I don't play games on it, so it's been fine -- better than fine, it's been a delight to use.

    Of course, the other computers might run the same software slightly faster and would be better for some other uses, but the weight, screen, keyboard and trackpad are very big benefits to put against that.

    How big are your latex documents? I'm just downloading MacTex now and can try compiling a suitable source if that would help you?
  5. blesscheese macrumors 6502a


    Apr 3, 2010
    Central CA
    I have two misc. thoughts:
    1) To me, the rMB12 felt flimsy when I picked it up. Also, right now, I'm not ready to go to just one USB port that needs a special dongle all the time, just to hook up a flash drive...

    2) the i7 upgrade on the MBA13 seems to be just not the most effective upgrade. It is just a dual core i7; I don't see all that much performance gain, but it may eat into battery life.

    Would you be happier/better off with a MBA i5 with 500GB SSD? I don't think it would cost that much more (about $100), but would definitely give you more disk space.

    Full disclosure - when my 2009 MBA dies, I'm getting the MBA13 i5, 500GB SSD.
  6. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    For that sweet spot of portability and battery life, (and pretty decent power) the MBA - especially those from 2013 on - is by far the best designed computer Apple have ever made.

    As of now, the rMB is a work in progress, and will take a few more generations before it will offer serious competition to the MBA.

    If you travel, or commute, a lot, nothing touches the MBA for that combination of power, portability and excellent battery life. I have head a MBA since 2010, and my current 13" is the 2013 model, which comes with 8 GB RAM, 512 SD and a core i7. It is easily the best computer I have and in jy life,a dn has - quite literally - travelled the world with me.
  7. iHuy thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 24, 2015
    Thanks for all the replies so far, they help me a lot. It seems like the rMB would theoretically satisfy my needs for now but might not in the future - and that would be a shame for a brandnew device for over $1500. I see that point and I will definitely go to the Apple Store this week to check it out myself, see what the performance is like and also try out the keyboard that apparently many people either hate or love.

    The only thing about the MBA I don't like really is the screen. I know it's far from a terrible screen but it just feels a bit outdated for Apple. I might just go with it anyways, I haven't settled for one yet. If I'm going with the MBA13, should I just go with the 1.6 GHz i5 or with the 2.2 GHz i7? How much of less battery life are we talking about? I don't really need 512 GB SSD, because I have a powerful Windows PC at home for gaming that also has a lot of internal and external storage attached to it. That's why I was going for the 256 GB SSD models so far.

    And again I'm asking: How much more powerful would the 2.7 GHz i5 MBP be? What would be some scenarios where I would definitely see the difference?
  8. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    Well, in your OP, you wrote that your 'priorities are portability and battery life.' The computer that best fits those specific needs - and does it superbly, none better - is the MBA.

    Had you written that your priority was an excellent screen, then, obviously, my recommendation would have been different.

    All of the MBAs from 2013 onwards have excellent battery life. Granted, the screen could be better, but a superb screen is not my priority when buying a computer, instead, portability, power and battery life are.

    Re the Core i5 and i7, I simply got the i7 because I could; my computer is a CTO (custom built to order) and, of the specifications (RAM and memory) the Core was least important, as the other two variables mattered far more to me. However, it was an extra that I could add, and so I decided to do so. Anyway, with the 13" MBA, it has been possible to get a full day's battery from it; in my previous job, I would have that computer out for most of the working day, and the battery lasted for the entire day without any problem.
  9. iceman42 macrumors regular

    Nov 12, 2012
    i would by a the new 13 inch rmbp over the new macbook 12 inch.better specs and less money

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