Please Help Me Choose the Right MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by SueEsponte, Jan 25, 2015.

  1. SueEsponte macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2015
    Hi Everyone,

    I'm in the market for a new MacBook for personal use -- photo and video editing (family and hobby), surfing the web, word processing, games (casual stuff; none of us are big time gamer) -- and I'm having trouble picking the right model. I've read all of the articles telling me why I should get a Retina display MacBook for "just $200 more" but I find the logic behind that quick summary fails. It's not $200 more. In my case, I think it's about $1,100 more."

    Here's what I'm thinking...

    1. Do I really need a SuperDrive? Probably not. While it's not an overwhelming factor in my decision it is nice to have it built in. I know I can purchase an external SuperDrive to use for the Retina display models but, for me, that just creates an inconvenience. Either I carry it around prophylactically or I have to plan ahead. The way I see it, it's a +1 for the standard screen model.

    2. Storage. The standard model offers the greatest flexibility. I can't imagine buying a new computer with 128GB of storage. I have back-up drives for our other computers and iPads but I don't want to live connected to one. I know the Retina display models have solid state storage in lieu of the traditional SATA 1TB drive in the standard display model. I also understand the benefits of solid state storage but SATA drives have come a long way over the years. They're stable and generally reliable for extended periods of time.

    3. So, the question really starts to come down to value.

    I can buy a MacBook Pro 13" w/std screen
    - 2.9GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz (Upgrade)
    - 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM — 2x4GB (Upgrade)
    - 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm (Upgrade)
    Total: $1,399

    For $1,299 you can get a MacBook Pro 13" w/Retina display but it only has a 128GB. It may come standard with 8MB of RAM but its base processor is a 2.6GHz Core i5. Another $300 gets you a 3.0GHz Core i7 ($1,599) which is marginally faster than the upgraded MacBook Pro above. But, at the end of the day, while the extra $200 (or $500 w/upgraded processor) nets a much better screen the computer still lacks a SuperDrive (built-in) and its HD is only 128GB -- twice the size of my iPad (which is already out of space with photos).

    For $1,499, I can get a MacBook Pro w/Retina display with a 256GB. I'd have add another $300 to that to get the Core i7 processor ($1,799).

    And, if I really insist on a 1TB HD, I have to start with the $1,799 (512GB) version, add $200 for the faster processor ($1,999) and another $500 ($2,499) to get what I would consider to be a comparable computer.

    I don't mind spending more for more and I'm not questioning that the Retina screen is better than the standard screen but the standard screen isn't awful either. Even if I can get my arms around a 512GB hard drive, the price difference is $600 (with the better processor). It nets a better screen and a solid state drive but I'm just not sure I see $600 in value.

    I know the standard screen model dates back to 2012. I typically prefer to be at the front end of technology and this model is anything but bleeding edge but, you know, I'm just not sure it matters based on my needs. So, now that you see what's going through my mind (sort of), what am I missing?

  2. yjchua95 macrumors 604

    Apr 23, 2011
    GVA, KUL, MEL (current), ZQN
    The 2.6GHz i5 in the rMBP is only slightly less powerful than the 2.9GHz i7 in the non-retina cMBP.

    The retina display is totally worth it.

    The rMBP will boot up within 11 seconds, while the cMBP may take over 45 seconds to boot. This is because of the lack of an SSD in the cMBP.

    Overall the rMBP will feel several magnitudes faster because of the presence of the SSD. The GPU in the rMBP is also significantly more powerful.
  3. thekev macrumors 604


    Aug 5, 2010
    I wouldn't bother to factor in cpu differences across 13" models. It's unlikely to be your bottleneck, and if it really is you would want to go up to a 15" model to alleviate that. $200 is not worth the difference in cpus. I think the non retina also uses an older generation of them, so your comparison may not even be valid.

    Apple has basically phased out Superdrives. You can get one today, but you won't have that option much longer. If you plan to stick with Macs it would be a bad idea to plan on the use of dvds over the long term. Don't make headaches for yourself down the line. If you need to do something like a windows installation, use a thumb drive.
  4. Cloudsurfer macrumors 65816


    Apr 12, 2007
    Why do you want an i7? They are only marginally faster than the base 2,6 models. I see you're doing hobby video editing. The difference between the i5 and i7 chip will be several seconds at most while transcoding. Believe me when I say the stock i5 is good enough for video editing.

    I would pick the retina just because of the better display and GPU. Iris will help with GPU intensive tasks during video editing (such as quick sync encoding) and with the retina display you can view your full hd footage without scaling.

    Imo the extra money for the rmbp is worth it.
  5. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    If you really need 1TB storage and an obsolete DVD drive on your laptop, then of course the non-retina MBP is a better choice for you. However, you seem to completely ignore the fact that the lack of SSD will make the computer feel extremely slow and that the retina model has a much better screen, better mobility and better battery life. So while the non-retina MBP seems like a fast model on paper, the retina one will outperform it every time in the usage you describe.

    By the way, a refurbished 2013 rMBP with 512Gb SSD costs $1,409.00 on Apple Store. A non-retina with comparable config (slightly faster CPU) will be more expensive. Of course, you can get a 1TB SSD and put it into your non-retina model. That will cost you around $1600-$1800 in total, and would give you good speed an plenty of storage. Of course, you will still be stuck with a heavier machine, subpar display, slower GPU and bad battery life.
  6. SueEsponte thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2015
    Wow, thanks for the quick responses everyone!!

    Okay, based on your collective responses, I don't think anyone necessarily disagreed with the elements that I identified as 'pros' in favor of the standard MBP and, other than battery life (which is significant), I didn't see any 'pros' highlighted in favor of the rMBP that I hadn't considered. Rather, it sounds like you disagree with the weighting that I've applied to the pros and cons. I can accept that and I think it's great feedback.

    - SuperDrive: Let's get this one out of the way. The 'benefit' that I perceive in a built in SuperDrive isn't product installation. Most companies have downloads available today. The benefit is in accessing movies and other media I have in traditional (read: old) storage. I've got little kids who often watch movies when we travel and, before you remind me that I can download movies through iTunes, etc., the cost of that is FAR greater than the $1/day I'd spend in a Redbox rental. Moreover, there is nothing convenient about using a laptop on a flight with an external DVD player. That, it a word, would suck. But, as I said in my original post, do I really need it? Probably not. It isn't an overwhelming factor for me but it is a factor worth considering (to me, at least).

    More importantly...

    - Chip Speeds: Specifically, I hadn't really paid much attention to the fact that the current rMBPs have a newer gen Intel chip in them as compared to the standard MBP. By the way, I upgraded the configuration of my standard MBP to an i7 at the recommendation of an Apple tech who I spoke with about some of my questions when I told her that I wanted to run Aperture. If the i5 in the rMBP is going to provide comparable or even better performance than the older i7 in the standard MBP then I would agree that I probably don't need to upgrade the processor in the rMBP. That eliminate about $300 from the comparison. I'll have to take a closer look at that!

    - Storage Speeds: When it comes to the HD speed, however, "feeling slow" would require me to have a faster computer experience to which I would compare it. Today, I could fly from NY to Chicago in the time it would take me to boot up some of the computers I had when I was little. I wasn't ignoring the speed differences between the SATA and SDD. If I was already operating one computer with an SDD then I'd agree with you wholeheartedly but I'm not -- so I don't/won't have the routine experiential comparison to draw from that you're describing. That doesn't mean I think the SATA is as fast as the SDD (it's not and I don't) and it doesn't mean that that the SDD isn't light years faster. I'm just not sure whether I need something that much faster.

    I'm a car guy so I look at it this way: My daily driver makes about 440hp and will do 0-60 in 3.9sec. Would I recommend it to people looking for something that goes from A to B? No. Would it do the job? In spades -- and it's faster, more comfortable, etc. to boot. Would it be overkill for them? Infinitely.

    - Storage Capacity As for storage capacity, the 128GB and 256GB configurations are absurd to me in today's world and, in my humble opinion, are largely intended to force consumers to invest in iCloud. So, the real question then becomes, do I want to either concede the 1TB SATA to 512GB in the name of speed, a better display and extended battery time or add another $500 to the cost of the $1,799 rMBP (bringing the tally up to $2,299).

    So, based on the above, that means the real world cost difference between my configuration of the standard MBP and the rMBP 512 is $400 (assuming I disregard the external SuperDrive). If an extra $400 would get me comparable processing power with all of the benefits described above at the cost of an internal SuperDrive and 1/2 TB of storage...I just might see the value in the rMBP 512. I've got to think about it. :)

    Now, what about RAM? If I do go with the rMBP 512, am I crazy if I stick with the std 8GB based on my needs? I hate the fact that you can't add some of this stuff later as they used to allow. It's all planned obsolescence...but I digress.

  7. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I would add mobility to that list ;)

    I think the appropriate comparison would be more like a horse cart to a executive-class car. Its not just about SSDs being faster than HDDs. Its that HDDs are just very slow by modern standards. The only area where they hold advantage is the amount of things they can fit (just like a horse cart). But other then that, SSD makes things much more convenient. Most interaction with computer is almost instantaneous, you can start/quit large applications, open/close files, switch dozens of open app windows — without slowdowns or noteworthy delays.

    If you have never experienced an SSD before, you should try it. However, if you are seriously considering staying with an HDD as your main drive, then don't try it — there is a good chance that you start hating HDDs ;) At any rate, SSD is the single most significant upgrade for a modern computer that will improve the perception of smooth interaction.

    That is a quite curious opinion in my eyes. I have had my retina MBP since 2012. It has 256GB storage and I have been using it as my only work and private laptop. I use it for writing, criss-platform programming, database testing, entertainment and playing games. I have my photos, videos and music on it. I have a bunch of linux virtual machines running different database and web server instances. I have two Windows virtual machines (XP and 8). I also have a bunch of full HD shows, dozens of episodes (each episode takes over 1GB of storage). With all that, I still have 50GB free. Of course, I also have a wireless backup disk at home which also hosts some of the larger and less frequently accessed components of my media collection.

    I do see the need for large storage if you have a very big media collection. I can get by with a smaller disk because I don't need access to my entire collection at any time. For some people, this might be different. Still, I believe that big media collections belong on external storage. Or even better, as multiple mirrored copies — especially if its data that is important. 4TB drives are cheap nowadays.
  8. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    I think you are looking at it wrong...

    The cMBP is coming up three years old tech. You would be spending a lot of money on something that is by todays standards old tech, No AC wifi, no HDMI, only thunderbolt one, at leat you get USB 3!!!

    The Screen is worth it, this is the big thing and it's not just film and photos (photos especially look amazing) the thing that got me is text, it is so sharp it looks printed and this is great if you read a lot of text on your laptop it's even brilliant just browsing the net. Brilliant viewing angles and much less glare also make this a far more comfortable screen to use day to day.

    An external superdrive is just $20-30 use it to add any films etc for the kids and then leave it at home.

    As for SSD's processors and graphics. If you want it in Car terms this is the difference between paying a few hundred more dollars for a newer, faster, more comfortable, more modern car over an old beater got to be worth it....

    Definitely look at refurbished and go for the 512gb drive, that is enough for to keep almost anyone happy for day to day stuff, they are less storage due to expense no other reason good flash storage chips are still quite expensive...

    A last thought if you buy old tech it will be almost worthless in 2 years time you will spend money upgrading to SSD's and extra ram which could have been spent on a laptop that will last you a good 4 to 5 years with no issues...
  9. SueEsponte thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2015
    That's because you haven't had to tote my work PC around. It weighs in at close to 6.5lbs.

    HDD may be slow as compared to SDD but I don't think SDD is the least for the average personal consumer use. If you look outside the Apple world, I think you'll find that most average consumer (not pro-sumer) laptops offer SATA drives as standard. Apple has always taken the lead in this way and there's no doubt that HDDs will eventually go the way of the Dodo (in the short term) but I don't think we're quite there yet. Just my opinion.

    It also sounds like your average needs far exceed mine when it comes to the type of demand I'd be placing on the processor in my computer. In some ways, the MacBook Pro itself is probably overkill for me over the Air. I'm just not a big fan of the Air -- I want something with a little more staying power and processing power. And, of course, there's the storage wall.

    The primary reason I like a 1TB drive is because I take a lot of photographs as a hobby. I also take a lot of photos and video of my family. Do I need 1TB? Hmmm...probably no...but 128 feels like 2007 and a 256 feels like 2011-ish to me. Apple's standard HD sizes have always been smaller than in the PC market but I believe this deviation has been exacerbated most recently by their move to SDD (which is far more expensive than HDD).

    My 7yr old Dell office laptop has a 128GB HDD.

    All that said, I'm seriously reconsidering everything and I think I'm okay with a 512GB SDD. Even at that level, I shouldn't have to worry about capacity for a long time and I won't feel like I'm stepping back in time when it comes to storage.

    Duly noted -- I think you're right on all accounts. :)


    P.S. Any thoughts on 8GB vs. 16GB of RAM? Is 8GB enough?
  10. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    for your use case 8GB will be enough for many years to come, a lot of osx users get confused with RAM usage on their activity monitor as it shows the RAM being always used, this is a good thing it keeps your computer fast. However much that is loaded to it is just to keep things ready for instant use and when this RAM is needed it is freed up instantly for new apps web pages etc.

    As for SSD as standard it isn't you are right but many modern laptops especially ultra books have a small cache of flash storage to make it seem a lot faster than it is. Don't be fooled though any windows laptop in the price range of the macbook pro will have ssd as an option at the very least. If you buy a macbook you are just not buying standard simple as that.

    As a photographer I'll have to say you'll hate yourself for not going with the retina screen, good photos look fantastic...
  11. Qaanol macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
  12. b0fh666 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 12, 2012
    if storage is important to you, i'd say a used 9.1 with upgraded display :cool:
  13. thundersteele macrumors 68030

    Oct 19, 2011
    1. CPU upgrades are rarely worth it. If CPU speed is a serious bottleneck for you, then you should consider a quad core (i.e. 15''). If it is not, then the base model will be good enough.

    2. Storage speed makes a dramatic difference in my opinion. Yes maybe boot times are irrelevant, but I consider faster application launches and shorter loading times valuable. Much more importantly, it makes the system more snappy: A lot of applications regularly write and read from storage, e.g. web browsers might store some caches or access cookies. With a HDD this can sometimes slow down the system. Furthermore the most recent versions of OSX are optimised for use with SSDs - the system will deliberately use swap space, etc. On HDD equipped systems this will give many beach balls.

    3. Yes storage capacity is a bit of an issue. Yet I consider the advantages of fast SSD storage much more valuable than having more on-board storage. With USB 3.0 and TB 2 you have a variety of options for external storage from cheap to super high performance.

    Then there is the Superdrive issue. I don't have any answer to that - if you are still using DVDs with your computer on a regular basis, maybe the cMBP is still for you. Of course then you have to ask yourself if you want to pay the price of a new machine for:
    - a display with a resolution lower than that of most cellphones today
    - a 2012 CPU/GPU
    - 4 GB base RAM that you will have to upgrade
    - slow outdated HDD technology
    - lower (but still decent) battery life
  14. SueEsponte thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2015
    I'm not using a DVD regularly which is why I noted in my initial post that it's not really something I need as much as I perceive having it to be a convenience (and I still do). As for everything else, no argument. I think I'm sold.

    I think I'm just struggling with Apple's pricing. It's not an affordability question; it's a value question that's bigger than two MacBooks. While I'm a Mac guy through and through my better half isn't and I just bought her a brand new PC notebook for about $650 with 12GB RAM, 1TB HDD, Dual-Core i5, graphics and audio upgrades...FAR more than she needs (she uses it for email, surfing the web, post to Facebook, storing photos aaaand...that's about it). I tried to get her to come over from the dark side -- offered her any MacBook Air/Pro she wanted -- but it came down to two things: 1. No flash (yep, "I can't play my favorite Yahoo! game without flash") and 2. cost. I know the HDD is slower than an SDD and I know that even the Core i5 her notebook is slower than the processor standard in even the basic MBP...but, I face the hurdle of trying to explain why my computer needs to cost three times as much as hers. Forget logic here. It's the classic PC vs. Mac discussion -- and while I'm decidedly Mac I'm caught in the middle. No coaching needed here.

    I've read article after article saying exactly what you're suggesting...that refurb is the hidden treasure that's too often overlooked by consumers when shopping for a new Mac. I'll even go so far as to admit that it's probably crazy that I'm reticent to do so...but I am. I know the benefits but I just don't like buying used technology...even if it has been cleaned and tested thoroughly by Apple. Call it illogical -- I won't argue it. I'd rather hold off until I'm mentally ready to buy the machine I want (new).

    lol re: hating myself...but point taken. Thanks for all of the great advice. I've done a lot of research and between the very helpful comments from everyone here and everything I've found, I think I've seen enough to convince me that the best route for me is probably a 13" rMBP 512 SDD with an 8BG memory upgrade. Now, the hard part...

  15. MJedi macrumors 6502a


    Dec 16, 2010
    I don't know where you got your information, but you can install Flash on a Mac. You might be thinking of an iPad.

    Good luck with your purchase!
  16. SueEsponte thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2015
    Yes, you're right although I've spoken to other Mac owners and have read tons of posts on forums about people having issues running updated Flash on their computers. Apple's position on Flash is very clear and I don't doubt that developers haven't gone out of their to accommodate Flash updates. I could be completely wrong -- I'm not talking about first hand experience -- it just didn't surprise me.

  17. MJedi macrumors 6502a


    Dec 16, 2010
    Well, Adobe is still updating Flash for OS X, so it's still supported. I think the disdain for Flash comes from the fact that it's a resource hog on ANY platform (OS X or Windows.) Unfortunately, it's still needed to run those browser-based casual games, or to watch online videos.
  18. SueEsponte thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2015
    No disagreement. ##

    I think I'm there...probably place the order tomorrow: rMBP 512.

    I really appreciate everyone's feedback in this thread! I debated whether to even post the question in the first place since I was pretty sure of my decision but I had a nagging feeling that it might not be the right one.

    Thanks again!
  19. Qaanol macrumors 6502a

    Jun 21, 2010
    Good choice.

    Re: Flash, I just use Google Chrome when I need to run Flash content. Actually I use Chrome all the time, but I may switch to Safari soon due to how much smoother it renders/scrolls/zooms webpages.

    As for refurbs…I understand the psychological value of “buying new”. However, as you say, Apple is really really good about refurbs: they are indistinguishable from new machines. Literally the only difference is the box it comes in. That said, I bought my rMBP new, because I waited for the fall 2013 refresh and purchased immediately.

    So decide for yourself whether the price difference is worth the cachet. Just know that the performance will be identical (tiny CPU bumps are totally negligible for everything outside benchmark tests).
  20. SkimMilk168 macrumors regular

    Mar 19, 2014
    CPU --> newer generation uses less power. Has better computing capabilities so the i5 is good enough.

    Ram --> 8GB is enough, since you are only editing photos.

    Super drive --> an external usb DVD player will be good enough. I'd suggest to digitize your current DVD collection just in case those discs start to fail.

    Storage --> 512 SSD if you don't mind the price. (it's SSd, not sDD btw.:p)
    Do consider an external hdd too to archive your old photos and videos. I'm a hobbyist photographer too so I know your concerns on this aspect.
  21. radioking macrumors regular

    Nov 5, 2012
    Amazon and B&H have the 512gb on sale right now for $1599.
  22. Skylitfly macrumors 6502a

    May 3, 2014
    Just get the rMBP.

    You'll regret if you don't. I guarantee it.
  23. SueEsponte thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2015
    Doh!! lol In my defense, at least I know it stands for solid state drive. I didn't even realize I was typing SDD! lol

  24. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009

    Don't overthink this.

    Just find one you like and buy it.
    If storage needs are important, get one with a larger drive.

    If cost is a consideration, check out the Apple refurbished models at

    If RAM is a consideration, you MUST pay the extra $$$ at buy-in time with the retina models. There is no "alternative path" on these models.
  25. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    The disdain for Flash comes from the fact that its essentially its own virtual OS that does not properly interact with the rest of the system. There is very little justification for Flash nowadays, where JavaScript can do essentially the same things. Flash will be gone soon enough.

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