MBPr15"+TBdisplay vs. MBa13"+iMac27" in terms of useability for Architecture students

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by WouterV, Dec 14, 2013.

  1. WouterV, Dec 14, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013

    WouterV macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012

    Considering this is my first post here, it might be worth mentioning I have been 'active' on these forums for quite a while now, even before my registration.

    Firstly, me. I am a student at an architecture university in Belgium, currently in my 3rd bachelor. I have been using a basic 2010 MBP15 (4GB 1067 MHz RAM, 2,4GHz i5, NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M 256 MB) for 4 years now. I think it is time for an upgrade.

    Now, my plan is to spoil myself with a new 'workstation' next year. I have saved up enough money to buy myself either a 15MBPr (2,6GHz i7, 16GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M 2GB) plus a Thunderbolt display, or a MBa (1,7GHz i7, 8GB RAM) plus a 27iMac (3,4GHz i7, 16GB RAM, 1TBFusion, GEFORCE GTX 775M 2GB).

    The argument for these combinations is that I need a portable device capable of doing some basic 3D and 2D work, since I will be doing a lot of work at school too. But on the other hand, I would like to have a(n even) more capable machine with a bigger screen at home.
    Beside basic text and entertainment stuff, I will be using the following programs : Adobe Indesign, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Vectorworks, Revit, Archicad, Sketchup ( and its render plugins ) and Rhindo3D.
    Some of these programs will also be used on a bootcamp partition.

    So in summary, my question is :
    Which option do you guys think I should choose, and why? Do you have any other suggestions in mind perhaps?

    PS : I looked at non-apple alternatives too. The thing is, even though some alternatives come at a better price, I keep getting drawn back to Apple product due to some reasons listed below.
    1. I am (too) used to the workflow of the OS, and I happen to like it a lot.
    2. I like the way it looks. Aesthetics and feel is just something I hold value to, might be something that comes with the studies :)rolleyes:).
    3. Having a lot of other Apple products at home, buying a non-Apple device would actually 'disrupt the chain'.
    4. My personal history with apple computers is very good, never once did they fail on me. This might be less relevant to others, but this actually draws me the most towards Apple.

    PPS : Sorry for eventual spelling or syntax mistakes, my English is not 100%.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. dsquarius90 macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2013
    I've just recently graduated from college myself and faced this same question four years ago. In this situation, you should probably buy the most expensive laptop you possibly can and use it with a monitor (you may be able to get a 4K monitor for less than the Thunderbolt Display). That way you can have a computer that can go with you to class, the library, coffee shop, and still have (effectively) a desktop at home. That's what I did, 13" MacBook Air and a 27" Dell monitor (for a desktop like experience at home).

    Although, I cannot stress enough that you should buy AppleCare, so budget for that. These MacBooks are not easily repairable and the repairs are expensive if you need them.

    I paid something like $250 for AppleCare when I bought my Air, but had one repair to replace my Logic Board which cost something like $600 taken care of without any further cost to me. You may have no issues, but if you're gonna buy a $2500 computer, it may be worth it to pay the extra $350 upfront.

    Overall, it's just less complicated to have only one machine. Then there is only one machine that you need to worry about buying software licenses for, only one machine to worry about having technical issues with, and only one machine to have all of your files stored on (though with services like Dropbox this isn't too much of an issue).

    I hope this input was helpful.
  3. Vanillian macrumors member

    Jul 27, 2011
    New York
    I'm a second year graduate Architecture student in the US. I just bought the maxed out 15 retina MBP. It handles all of those programs exceedingly well. I would go with the retina pro and the thunderbolt display. It becomes a pain in the butt to transfer files back and forth.
  4. WouterV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    Your reply was indeed helpful, dsquarius90.

    You're right about the monitor, there are better monitors out there. Although I like the idea of the thunderbolt display being a thunderbolt hub for my macbook. It would just work more easily to be able to just 'plug and play'. The question I have to ask myself here is whether the difference in quality outweighs the difference in user-friendlyness ( not sure about the spelling ).

    Secondly, the Apple Care point. I have to admit I have never bought apple care, but as you said, it might be wise to think about the 'investment', since I am spending a lot of money. Good tip!

    Finally, you have a good point about the 'one machine thing'. Such an obvious advantage, yet I couldn't think of that myself.

    Thanks for your input!


    Thanks, Vanillian!

    Great hearing the MBPr handles everything well.
    You're right about the transferring of files. It is indeed going to be a hassle.
    I'm just in doubt because for the the option with the iMac, I get more performance for the same price, even though I have to live with some disadvantages. But my choice is already going towards the MBPr.
  5. Quinoky, Dec 14, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013

    Quinoky macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2011
    Groningen, Netherlands
    Agree wholeheartedly with both comments here, I went with the "double machine" setup and failed horribly at it (iMac + 11" MBA). It's awfully troublesome to come home and have to transfer everything you worked on each and every time.

    The iMac does indeed have more horsepower, but in the end the rMBP will have more than enough for your needs.

    Save yourself the trouble - go with the rMBP.

    Edit: BTW here in the Netherlands we get 2 years of warranty by law on consumer electronics. Makes buying AppleCare kinda pointless. Don't know if Belgium has similar laws, but it might be a good idea to look into this before buying.
  6. WouterV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012
    Thanks for your input, Quinoky!

    Good to hear there's someone with experience concerning two machines. Though it sucks for you of course!

    And for the warranty, the Belgian Law states ' As determined in the Belgian Civil Law, the advantages of the Apple Care Program serve as an addition to the right of the consumer on free repair or replacement by the selling instance of goods, which don't meet the terms of the selling agreement after two years'
    So I assume our warranty also stands for two years.
    But I always thought the Apple Care program made it easier ( for us Belgians, that is ) to actually get free ( or relatively cheap ) repairs. I thought the Apple Care program gave 'more warranty' to the product.
    So the standard warranty is actually the same as Apple Care, or am I misinterpreting something?
  7. JeffiJers macrumors 6502a

    Sep 12, 2012
    15r + tb display checking in.

    Have yet to use the tb display, need a new desk.
  8. twingo macrumors regular

    Jul 3, 2009
    With dropbox you can forget the data-synchronizing problem.
    Everything is always up to date, even on the PC or the smartphone.
  9. dsquarius90 macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2013
    Hey, if you want to get started with Dropbox, look no further than my signature! ;)
  10. NewishMacGuy macrumors 6502a


    Aug 2, 2007
    The wife and I went to the 1 computer/person model 18 months ago and it's far more convenient and easier to manage.

    1. The ATD looks awesome and the integrated functionality is hard to beat. You get 1.5 cable docking for everything, not just TB.

    2. It's nice when you and your significant other can both use your own computers within a full desktop workstation environment at each others places (homes/offices/desks etc)

    Basically though we just replaced the desktops with laptops and the laptops with iPads.

  11. WouterV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012

    If I were in your situation, I would make do with an alternative serving as a desk. Couldn't cope having such an awesome display in my posession, but not using it! But that could just be me, ha!


    Yes, dropbox or a wireless drive could indeed solve some of my problems, but still.. I would have to maintain both computers, make sure everything is up to date and have two licences for several programs.


    I already have dropbox on all of my email addresses, so I think I can't add 500MB to your account or vice versa?


    Good point. I think I can conclude for now that the combination MBPr+TBD is going to be the most useable for my situation.

    Thanks all for your input!
  12. Quinoky macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2011
    Groningen, Netherlands
    Dropbox is great, just for a dual machine setup there are disadvantages:

    1. Space constraints - Dropbox will only give you 2GB. Now there are ways to increase it but that's mostly rather troublesome (unless you didn't miss the "Space Race". Got me 50GB free).

    2. Provided you do get enough space, whenever you are working with large files you'll be limited by your bandwidth. This means waiting for dropbox to finish uploading and downloading your file when you get home or when you're on the go.

    3. You cannot cut the cord. Every time you go out somewhere you'll need to plan whether or not you're going to have internet access. If not, you'll need to let dropbox download your files on your MBA at home before leaving. Again, with large files this is cumbersome to say the least.

    OP has made his decision for the rMBP, but just sharing my experience for anyone who is considering otherwise. :)
  13. empireofpassion macrumors newbie

    Nov 13, 2013
    Well, I am a Belgian living in the Netherlands and considering to buy a 15" rMBP, hence I have studied both sales conditions and respective laws, to see whether I would buy it in Belgium or in the Netherlands.

    In both cases, you get 1 year warranty from Apple.

    Then the Belgian law specifies that the seller must provide for 2 years of warranty:

    "Zoals vastgelegd in het Belgisch Burgerlijk Wetboek vormen de voordelen van het AppleCare Protection Plan een aanvulling op het recht van de consument op gratis reparatie of vervanging door de verkopende partij van goederen die tot twee jaar na levering niet voldoen aan de koopovereenkomst."

    i.e. if you buy at a shop, after the first year it is up to the seller to provide the warranty. Choose wisely the seller! If you buy online, Apple must provide the warranty. Hence Apple Care is only an insurance for an extra 1 year (and phone assistance of an additional 2 years and 275 days). More details here.

    In the Netherlands it is more tricky. As explained here, the Dutch law specifies that warranty of the seller has no time limit, but the burden of proof shifts gradually from the seller to the buyer ("Dekking voor gebreken afhankelijk van redelijke verwachtingen van consument" is very vague, it is further specified that "Op grond van artikel 7:17 e.v. BW dient een verkoper een product af te leveren dat “aan de overeenkomst beantwoordt” (conformiteit). Een product beantwoordt niet aan de overeenkomst (non-conformiteit) indien het gezien de aard van het product en de mededelingen van de verkoper niet de eigenschappen bezit die de koper op grond van de overeenkomst redelijkerwijs mocht verwachten. Een product dient op het moment van levering aan de overeenkomst te beantwoorden. Het feit dat een defect pas na levering ontstaat wil niet zeggen dat het product op het moment van levering aan de overeenkomst beantwoordde. In principe gaat de plicht om aan te tonen dat het gebrek bij levering reeds bestond na afloop van een periode van 6 maanden na levering over op de consument. Let op: een consument dient een gebrek binnen bekwame tijd aan de verkoper laten weten. Als een consument binnen 2 maanden na ontdekking van het gebrek heeft geklaagd, is hij volgens de wet op tijd. Consumenten kunnen onder meer aanspraak maken op kosteloze reparatie of vervanging indien een product niet aan de overeenkomst beantwoordt."). After 6 months you must be able to prove that the product did not correspond to what you could expect (flawless) at the time of buying. This is very hard.

    IMHO consumers are much less protected in NL than in BE (and in any other EU country, NL seems to be an exception and has not adapted in national law the EU directive that 2 years warranty should be provided).

    In NL Apple Care makes much more sense since you don't need to prove anything. I am considering buying the laptop online in Belgium and have it delivered there, I am only afraid of the hassle dealing with Apple NL after-sale if I have a problem after 1 year... Don't want to have to bring it back to Belgium if there is any problem, and knowing the issues with yellow tint there is a high risk that problems will occur.
  14. MacRazySwe, Dec 15, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2013

    MacRazySwe macrumors 6502a

    Aug 7, 2007
    I have the MBA 13" + iMac 21.5" Combo. Honestly, I love it. For me, it's the best of both worlds.

    I used to have a 15" MBP before my MBA. I was long thinking of getting the 15" rMBP together with a Thunderbolt Display. However, there were two major reasons for not doing so.

    First of all, the MBA offers all all the performance I need. I use it daily at Uni (however, I study Business and Economics rather than Architecture, so our needs may differ, although I do use plenty of Google SketchUp). The MBA really, is no slouch. Secondly, the MBA weighs like a feather compared to my old 15" MBP, and the 15" rMBP is not that much lighter than the old one. It's not that the MBP was heavy, it was just that after you added all textbooks, the charger, as well as the occasional training-clothes for going to the gym after school - it really helps to have a computer which weighs nearly half of an MBP, or rMBP + Charger (a charger which you probably wouldn't need with the new Airs). Thirdly - I got my MBA for half of what the 15" rMBP would've cost me, if not less. As a side note, which wasn't that much of a deal when choosing computers - the battery life of the MBA is AMAZING. Several times have I forgotten to charge my computer during the night/morning (we don't have outlets in the lecture halls), and the 30 % of remaining battery life has been enough to last for the full lecture. So that's why I didn't get the MBP.

    Now for the Thunderbolt Display - I was able to get a brand new iMac 21.5", with a wireless Apple Keyboard and Magic Mouse - all for the same price of a single display - and I get a freaking computer as well! Now why would I pick the TBD, other than the fact that it's a bit larger? The iMac still gives me the option of connecting the MBA and using the iMac-screen through Target Display Mode.

    I use my HDD equipped iMac for storing files, such as music, videos, photos, and other media. It also doubles as a bedroom TV, and is used as a hub for syncing iPhones, iPads, and cameras. You could say that the iMac is my main hub, whereas the MBA only deals with my schoolwork (which is also synced through DropBox to the iMac btw).

    Now, the base 21.5" iMac may not provide enough power for the type of work you do (although I highly doubt that), in that case get the rMBP 15", but if I were you I would get another screen, or at least try to find a used one - the TBD is seriously overpriced. The money saved could be put towards external storage for backups, and a decent set of speakers. :)

    Edit: Sure, I get that it might be a bit easier to manage one computer rather than one, but honestly I don't see it as being much of a problem thanks to DropBox and such utilities. I don't really need all my vacation photos on my MBA, or my videos, or my SketchUp drawings. The only things I need are available in my 50GB Dropbox.
  15. Ryan1524 macrumors 68000


    Apr 9, 2003
    Canada GTA
  16. dsquarius90 macrumors newbie

    Dec 12, 2013
  17. WouterV thread starter macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2012

    Thank you for the thorough explanation! I've already heard about the Netherlands and its sales law. I guess I'm better off buying AppleCare after 2 years then?


    Thanks for telling your story about your experiences with the 'other' combination. Although a moderate spec'd MBa would perhaps suffice for general 3D work, I'm afraid I'm going to need more computing power. As for the iMac21", given the relatively small price difference to a 27", it would seem wise ( to me that is ) to spend that little more, to get more in the long run.
    I do find it great to hear you're not really experiencing too much trouble, owning two machines.
    There is always going to be a compromis, whether it is at home or at school. When choosing for the MBPr, I get a lot of computing power (and a dGPU) at school. At home however, I would be better of having an iMac, since it has ( for my configuration ) even more computing power. I think that choosing for the MBPr, I'd be getting the 'best' compromis.
    A 'logical' solution would be to combine an iMac and a MBPr, but that's just way more than I can, and want to, spend on computers.

    Good point though on battery life and weight, that is going to be a noticeable advantage over the MBPr, considering I need my laptop everyday, as well as my -way too heavy- textbooks. Also, I agree on the TBD. It is (slightly) overpriced, even taking into notice that is is practically a TB hub (though it is a shame that it only had USB 2.0). I was already searching for cheaper alternatives, as well as some secondhand options.


    As a matter of fact, I did. The hardware is comparable ( only the dGPU is better on the Dell, though I don't think the Dell has Iris or PCi-e flash), but the price is better of course. I really thought about that option, until I saw it in person. I know for some people it sounds pretty superficial to also judge a computer by its appearance, but I just do. When I'm spending that amount of money on a laptop, I want it to (make me) feel special. Also, I like the OS better on mac, this is probable the main reason I'm more compelled to mac. As an addition to that, some classmates own a Dell, and they aren't too happy about their purchase. I must admit though, some of them are.
    Still, thank you for your input.

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