rMBP or MBA?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by mhuntoon, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. mhuntoon macrumors member

    Jun 23, 2009
    Obviously, everyone's usage determines which product is best for them, but seeing I'm not an expert on the hardware, I figured I'd ask here.

    I'll be using my laptop for Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, and Powerpoint), Skype, and Adobe Acrobat Pro XI. I don't use Photoshop and will do very little video/photo editing (family stuff) considering I still have an iMac for those things.

    I want to get as much bang for my buck and I'm eligible for an educational discount. My questions are these based on the above:

    1. Do I need to go to 8GB (16GB???) of RAM or will 4GB suit my needs with those programs running simultaneously? It seems upgrading is out of the question now.

    2. Dual core or Quad core - does it really matter with what I'll be doing? I'm sure they'll both seem fast compared to my mid-2010 iMac anyhow.

    3. I definitely want a 256GB SSD as a minimum. Is there any reason to think that won't be enough? It seems that I could even get by with 128GB, so I think I'm good to go with 256GB.

    4. rMBP - will the retina display really make that much of a difference? The nearest Apple Store isn't convenient for me to see them hands on, so I'm wondering if the retina (although making text sharper) is really geared more for photo and video editing.

    5. Portability - I'll travel with this roughly 6-8 times per year (3-7 days each time). The rest of the time, it'll be used on my desk. Therefore, the extra .5 lb for the rMBP and the extra hours of battery use with the MBA might not weigh as heavily for me as for some. Not really a question, just to give more background on how this will be used.

    In the end, I guess, do I go for the full Mac-daddy MBA or a mid-range rMBP? Or, will an even base MBA suit my needs?

  2. jondunford macrumors 6502


    Oct 22, 2013
    Going for a poo Moderator
    for your uses the spec difference does not really matter so its just a question of whether you would be willing to carry an extra ~400 grams and lose a few hours of battery life for the retina display

    you could probably get away with 4GB RAM but i would go for 8

    i'd stick with the i5 processor in the 13" if you go for it, the specs in the 15" are overkill so only consider that if its for the screen size
  3. TofSanity macrumors 6502a


    Oct 29, 2010
    Take a look at your retina iPad and mini iPad. The difference can be seen. We have a 15" rMBP and a 13" MacBook Air. The retina does look better. Personally I always go with the most RAM available. It's always best to have too much. Yet, Macs do use memory properly across apps, especially using Mavericks.

    You just have decide how long you'll have the laptop.
  4. neteng101 macrumors 65816

    Jan 7, 2009
    Coming from one that upgraded from MBA to rMBP - the difference with retina is just HUGE. Once you get used to it, you'll feel like non-retina is just bad looking. If you didn't use a retina previously then you wouldn't know better - once you do, there's no switching back.

    Unless you're too lazy to carry/plug in an adapter when you expect to be using it for extended periods of time, I don't see a reason to get the MBA anymore unless you want even more portability with the 11", but that's just too small for day-to-day usage IMO to be practical.

    2.4/8/256 13" rMBP seems like it would be a perfect fit for you.
  5. mangotears macrumors member

    Jun 29, 2012
    1) 4gb will suite you just fine. Honestly.. I do large software development projects & rely heavily on photoshop/illustrator with 4gb. The only times it's not enough is when I'm video compositing in After Effects (premiere pro runs buttery smooth though)
    2) Dual core uses less power and is just as fast for non-threaded applications. The quad is only available on the 15" model.
    3) Yup, get the 256gb and make sure you're backing up on a external drive.
    If you ever start running out of space on the macbook, you can move the unimportant stuff to the external or your imac.
    4) It makes a large difference when you start getting accustomed to it and have to look at a non-retina screen. You can consider it a upgrade for your macbook, or a downgrade for every other screen you own. The macbook air screen is pretty fantastic in itself though, with larger real estate, less glare, and no IR problems.
    5) The rMBP won't be any smoother or faster for the work you do (in fact, the rMBP gets more complaints about choppiness/lag than the MBA). So it really comes down to the form factor, battery life, and screen quality. It's a toss-up.. I would personally go with the MBA. The rMBP is great too but I feel it still needs another year to completely work out the little quirks.

    My recommendation is a base model MBA or rMBP with the 256gb ssd.
  6. KUguardgrl13 macrumors 68020


    May 16, 2013
    Kansas, USA
    I've had the rMBP 13" 8gb ram 256gb SSD for a week and a half, and it's pretty awesome. I don't need all 8gb either, but since ram can't be upgraded it's probably better to get the average amount now rather than the minimum. 256gb is also a really good size of SSD. I don't fully trust the cloud yet, so I still have everything stored locally.

    Honestly the price of the rMBP 2.4/8/256 on the edu discount is really hard to beat. It's really one of the best laptops you can get for the price. And I wouldn't worry about battery life. There are times I get better than the advertised 9 hours. It's also incredibly light and compact for a high end laptop. The length and width are actually smaller than the MBA if I understand correctly. It's just slightly thicker and minutely heavier. Coming from a 2009 13" MBP it's incredibly light.

    I would wait a little bit until they send out a fix for the trackpad freezing. It seems to hit the midrange rMBP more than others.
  7. Badrottie Suspended


    May 8, 2011
    Los Angeles
  8. mhuntoon thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 23, 2009
    Thank you all for the great suggestions/reviews.

    I upgraded my mid-2010 iMac to 12GB RAM from the 4GB because it was really lagging when I had both Office and Adobe Acrobat Pro XI open at the same time. Copying and pasting would take forever, for example.

    Since I upgraded to 12GB, I haven't had a single issue. That's why I'm planning to go with at least 8GB - especially because, unlike the iMac, I can't just unscrew the door and slide in a couple of RAM sticks.
  9. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I would say get the 13" MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM.
  10. Shubbeh macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2013
    As you said, with the rMBP or the MBA, you can't just add RAM when you feel like it. However, given your type of usage, I think 16 GB of RAM would be more or less akin to throwing those $200 in the trash. 8 GB ought to be quite sufficient for you for years to come.
  11. BlackbookGuy macrumors regular

    Feb 21, 2012
    I would say get the retina MacBook if you can, but you will not be disappointed with the air.

    For me the retina screen is all about crisp text and UI elements. Pics and vids, especially online, range from blurry to crisp. I just love the screen.
  12. TigerMe macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2011
    It all comes down to the screen. If you want the retina then the premium is worth it. I will tell you that a retina macbook is UNREAL! It's amazing. It's a black/white decision on that front. You either want it or you can live without it. I caution you to spend a lot of time looking at the retina because once you do, you will buy it.

    On RAM - I work in the software industry and I can tell you that for longevity purposes, you want 16GB. You may not need it all now but apps are getting bigger, not smaller. They are using more and more memory as they leverage new features of the OS. The 16GB is the secret performance boost. It's completely worth it and I am willing to go toe to toe with anyone who disagrees.

    Good luck! Both the air and pro are great machines so you can't really go wrong.
  13. i-think macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2013
    Not sure...

    I really don't know what to do. Just replaced my MBA (model before the newest one) for a rMBP. My trackpad and keyboard frozen while I was editing a very Important document and I lost a large amount of time (which made feel like my old days using PC). Called apple care to see what would be the best thing to do (wait for update or replace in store). Surprisingly the guy told me that this is likely a hardware issue that will be solved by a firmware. I was even more in shock when the best solution that he offered me was to go back to the store and get a MacBook Air. I went to the store to replace the machine for another rMBP and I was talking to the lady about my experience with my old MBA (my bets laptop ever) and guess what. She told me that she would also go with an air (and she was not aware about what the other guy said). Again I brought home a new rMB but could not open it from the box. I love the concept of the air and it's hard for me to give up portability and the great battery life. Not that I need all that, but I think it make life so much easier. I am willing to compromise that for the great display, but with all the issues around the rMBP I don't know what to do.

    I just wanted to share the story with you guys and see if anybody has any thoughts.
  14. neteng101 macrumors 65816

    Jan 7, 2009
    All you needed to do was close the display, wait a minute, and things would have been ok with that document. Inconvenient but not catastrophic. Pretty bad if you were giving a live presentation though, but it should be fixed.


    But yes - some people might want to wait a bit before getting the 13" rMBP, still its a huge bunch better than any MBA unless you truly need and will use it on battery a lot.
  15. ohsnapimaninja macrumors newbie

    Oct 27, 2013
    So my wife uses the new Haswell MBA (13/1.7/8/256) and she absolutely loves it...she likes the screen...it's super quick (she mostly uses it for powerpoint/excel/visio/some photoshop)...and the battery life is what blows it out of the water..it's exceptional in every shape and form.

    I on the other hand am more of a power user, and I just got the Haswell rMBP (13/2.8/16/512) and I have to say that for anyone who uses their computer a lot the rMBP is a no brainer...the screen is just phenomenal (and once you start using it, the MBA does look like crap)

    With respect to RAM, I think 8 should suffice for you but I have heard people complain of a lag (when running at 1680x1050). I know for a fact that with my configuration I get no lag with that resolution.

    Hope that helps!

    Edit: With respect to weight, the weight difference between a MBA and a rMBP is marginal, and almost non noticeable.
  16. ohbrilliance macrumors 6502a


    May 15, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    Based on your usage, it sounds to me like the 13" rMBP with 2.4GHz processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD would be a perfect fit.
  17. mangotears macrumors member

    Jun 29, 2012

    This should give you an idea of how 4gb of ram on a 2013 mba should perform.
    It's your decision in the end, but you ought to know a gig of ram on a 2010 imac isn't equivalent to a gig of ram on a 2013 mba. Paging is probably 1 or 2 orders of magnitude faster, the ram itself is significantly faster, kernel itself has made vast improvements, as did most of the software since then.
  18. mhuntoon thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 23, 2009
    I watched your video, very impressive. Can you please explain the bolded to me, though? Are you saying that the RAM in the 2013 MBA is more powerful than the RAM in the mid-2010 iMac, therefore 4GB of the former is able to do more than 4GB of the latter?
  19. mangotears macrumors member

    Jun 29, 2012
    There are a few factors that go into it. Yes, the MBA RAM is faster, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. The biggest difference mainly comes from the faster SSD's and improvements in how the os manages memory.

    This chart is from 2011. the latest pcie ssd's in the macs are reported to have figures around 20-40k

    When your imac needs to page something, it will most likely slow down where a mba will keep chugging along like nothing happened.

    Even though mavericks memory-compression technique is the first thing they really advertised to the public, it definitely isn't the first improvement they've made. They've no doubt learned from their work with iOS (ipad mini runs buttery smooth with just 512mb of ram) and it shows... in mountain lion, they changed the dock indicator lights to discourage users from obsessively closing the apps they're not using (like you're used to leaving apps open on phones or tablets)

    Software developers and compilers have become smarter too... The kernel is constantly predicting which chunk of memory you are most likely to need (regardless of if you have 2gb or 32gb of ram) but now they can do it smarter. Instead of heavily prioritizing the current active application, they have the luxury of giving each app the minimum amount to load up instantly because it only takes a extra few milliseconds to fetch paged memory.

    I don't know the full details of course, but I'm betting the engineers at Apple don't spend all their time making things smaller and flattening the UI
  20. KUguardgrl13 macrumors 68020


    May 16, 2013
    Kansas, USA
    So is it actually better to leave apps running? I tend to close out of them if I'm not coming back to them for a while (like overnight) but keep them open if it's just for a little while.

    My phone is a different story. I thought that you're supposed to close out of apps because otherwise they'll use data in the background.

    Sorry if I seem ignorant. I've only been using iOS since January, and I made the jump to Mavericks from Snow Leopard.
  21. mangotears macrumors member

    Jun 29, 2012
    Closing apps is a good habit, but not when you're doing it obsessively. A lot of time, it's a lot more energy wasted closing/opening apps than simply keeping it open. I close apps when my dock gets too cluttered but I don't close things every time I'm done using a program.

    I've done iOS development, and apple puts a very tight grip on the type of things apps can do in the background. Most of the things are abstracted away into apple's own 'black box' mechanisms.. if an app wants to do xyz in the background, it has to tell the OS what it wants to do, and the OS will perform the task the most efficient manner possible. For example, it might wait until it's connected to wi-fi, plugged into a power source, or actively being used. It will also "group" activities into one task. For example, if multiple apps need to know your location, they won't all be trying to access your GPS/wifi. Instead, the OS keeps track of all that information using their own algorithms, and the apps simply ask the OS for the information it already has.
    The exception are push-notifications, which you need to acquire a certificate for.

    Long story short - the OS pretty much ensures that background apps aren't doing anything crazy(it favors end-user experience over developer-flexibility).
    My advice is that you go through your multitasking bar once every couple days and close things you don't use on a regular basis. Don't close things if you're just going to open it back up the next day.
  22. orangezorki macrumors 6502a

    Aug 30, 2006
    I possibly have a different outlook than many on this forum, but for me the two best MacBooks at the moment are the 11" Air and the 15" Pro. One has excellent portability, the other a fantastic, decent size screen and ultimate power.

    I have a maxed out 11" MBA from 2012, and I am constantly amazed what it can do - including editing 1080P video in FCPX without skipping a beat. For all the bashing of netbooks that Apple has done in the past, this is the ultimate netbook. The screen, while not retina or IPS, is still very good, and pretty high DPI for a 'normal' display. Also drives a 27" monitor without any problems. You may well also be able to use your iMac as an external display, as long as nobody else wants to use it at the same time!

    The 15" MBP on the other hand is as powerful as a new desktop computer, has a superb display, fast IO and is still pretty portable. The downside, of course, is the price. Everything else seems to me to be a bit of an in-between.

Share This Page