rMBP vs MBP vs MBA for graphic designer

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Hexoic, Aug 29, 2013.

  1. Hexoic, Aug 29, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2013

    Hexoic macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2013
    Hello everyone,

    I'd love to get your advice on upgrading my laptop.

    Currently I have a mid 2010 13" MBP 2.4 GHz with a 500GB drive and 8GB of RAM.

    It's a great machine and I haven't felt the upgrade itch till now. The CPU is starting to have trouble keeping up, things are not snappy, and sometimes when I close the lid, I discover the next morning that it wasn't in sleep at all. Stuff like that is sorta cropping up here and there.

    Trouble is, I'm a graphic designer, and I make a lot of graphics for the web. I've heard the retina screen is a nightmare if you want to design for non-retina screens, so, I guess my options are as follows:

    - Stick an SSD in my current device to give it a speed boost and use it for another year or so. Only, will the good old Intel Core 2 Duo be up to it?

    - Get a rMBP but also an external monitor (I don't like this because designing on the road or just on the sofa is going to be out :( )

    - Get a rMBP because actually you can set the resolution so that you can simulate a non-retina screen pretty well (I'm told that this isn't possible and that it just isn't up to what a designer needs, but maybe I've just been reading in the wrong places)

    - Get a MBA. I've always discounted this option because I assumed that the MBA was a neat little machine for writers or maybe someone who just wants to read email, browse and look at a few photos, nothing more. But now that it comes with 512GB SSD and 8GB RAM and intel corei5 or even corei7 (I think?).. is this still the case? how would it perform compared to my current machine?

    - Get a non retina MBP... only, I don't know why but this just seems like such a waste, especially since the MBP's are supposed to be updated soon.. and the non-retina might not be around after the update, or so the rumours say. Plus, I was sooo looking forward to having a lighter machine and getting rid of the CD drive that I never use.

    What's my usage? Well, Adobe CS, obviously. Photoshop and Illustrator often running at the same time. Occasionally eating up all 8GB of my RAM, making everything suuuper slow if it goes over that amount (though this might not be so noticeable with an SSD?)
    This is also going to be my only mac, so I also want to do other things, like have my millions of browser tabs open... Or editing the occasional home movie. I don't design for print that often, but I do need it to be able to handle the higher resolutions involved in that too.

    Any input highly appreciated! :D
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    So you have a 13" MBP now but you feel you need to buy an external monitor if you go the rMBP route? Why?

    Personally, I love the 15" rMBP and would recommend this. The screen is gorgeous and more expansive then your 13" MBP.

    I see not reason to buy a monitor for the retina MBP when you're not going to do that for the cMBP or the MBA or am I misunderstanding your post?
  3. Hexoic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2013

    the reason is the increased resolution makes designing for non-retina web.. tricky. Basically you can't preview your work the way most internet users would see it, which means if you want to design for non-retina on a retina screen, it seems that you are a bit screwed.

  4. sofianito macrumors 65816


    Jan 14, 2011
    For website design, I think it only affect images... If for instance you design an 100x100 image for normal web, then for retina web you would design a 200x200 image too...
  5. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Feb 6, 2009
  6. Hexoic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2013
    right, but.. a 100x100 image will look smaller on a retina screen than on a regular screen, no? I like to get the anti aliasing and details exactly right.. wouldn't that make a retina screen painful to work on?

    thanks for the link. But this rather confirms my suspicion. I don't want to have to save my graphics and open them in a browser to preview them.. I want to see the correct preview in photoshop, while i'm working on it. :/
  7. tbolt11 macrumors member

    Jun 20, 2013
    I have been doing what you do on a 2011 13" macbook air and its smooth, no issues.

    Having said that, I am looking to upgrade (mostly because I want more than a 128gb ssd, but also because I like having new stuff =p ) and the choice between a MBA and rMBP isn't an easy one...

    Personally, I am waiting to see the rMBP refreshes. Unless they have some crazy new stuff and/or come in black. I will likely pick up a new MBA 13" Ultimate
  8. Hexoic, Aug 29, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2013

    Hexoic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2013
    greetings, fellow designer. I also like new stuff :D I've heard the MBA has a slight screen gradient issue, do you find this noticeable or troublesome when designing? As for the colour gamut, I've heard it's not perfect.. but I imagine you'd only notice that when doing design for print. Really all laptop screens aren't 100% perfect for that kind of work I guess..

    I take it an MBA 13" "Ultimate" refers to getting the top-spec one?

    EDIT: question; how much RAM is in your 2011 MBA? Like I said i've got 8, but as soon as the istat widget reports a smidge more than my 8GB of RAM is in use, everything slows significantly. So I was rather hoping to get something with 16 of RAM, but maybe if there's an SSD at work, it doens't matter so much.
  9. jonawas macrumors newbie

    Aug 9, 2013
    I'm in exact same situation you are. I've been trying to get info om how difficult it would be to work on a retina for web.

    Were you able to get any more info about this whole thing?
  10. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Huh? Who said this?

    Photoshop, set zoom level to 200%... and have fun.

    I have worked with Retina and non-Retina graphics for iOS applications for a long while now, and I have never run into such an issue.

    Those who say that you can't work on non-Retina graphics on a Retina MacBook probably have never used or even seen one in person.
  11. Hexoic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2013
    I have briefly seen one in a store, but obviously no photoshop installed. All I have to go on is hearing people say that it is a pain to work with.

    http://avexdesigns.com/designing-with-photoshop-retina-display/ (he also suggest zooming to 200.. but will that really make it look exactly like it does on non-retina screens..?)

    http://designshack.net/articles/gra...screen-my-thoughts-on-the-retina-macbook-pro/ (scroll down to "Photoshop, Design and Screenshots")

    I do understand that new technologies always cause some grumbling, and certainly as a web-designer I want to be using the newest stuff anyway- but I can design for retina on a non-retina screen quite easily, and it is very important to me to be experiencing, creating graphics for and viewing the web exactly as (lets face it) the vast majority of people are seeing it too.

    meanwhile, I'd still love to know;
    how would a top-spec MBA perform, compared to my 3 year old hunk of metal?
    when you have an SSD, is running out of RAM still noticeable?
  12. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    200% in Photoshop looks the same as on a non-Retina screen.

    I think you're just making this out to be a bigger deal than it is in an effort to try and talk yourself out of the benefits of going Retina.
  13. nateo200 macrumors 68030


    Feb 4, 2009
    Northern District NY
    I just got a baseline 15" rMBP and had the exact same everything pretty much as your 13" MBP! I can't reccomend the rMBP enough, just be sure to get the 15"....Quad core is the only way to go IMO...I went over 6GB's of RAM once but never 8GB's and I've done some heavy heavy stuff (like 4K editing in FCP X). I'll probably eat my words as soon as I open After Effects but whatever.
  14. Hexoic, Aug 29, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2013

    Hexoic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2013
    I can see why it might look like that.. seriously though, no. I've been lusting after the retina since it came out. I'd take those 16GB of RAM to heaven and back, I'd ravage the depths of.. wait. :rolleyes: at times I am overcome with the sheer thought that I. must. have. it. It's not just the resolution it's the wide viewing angles and the colors. oh boy. But, "sadly" :p my current MBP was plugging away nicely (damn you apple..) and since I wasn't exactly rolling in it ($$$), I never did upgrade.
    Add to that that I'm a 13" display gal and everyone was saying that one MUST get the 15" rMBP.. plus the things I heard about it being troublesome to design on and the troubles with Adobe being so late in the game.. didn't exactly make me relish the impending choice.
    I thought the whole issue with the retina display was that non-retina graphics look blurry and weird, so I wasn't sure the same wouldn't apply for PS's "low res" mode (which I'm told is basically the same as 200% zoom) If the retina display could show non-retina graphics *totally* the same as they'd appear on a non-retina screen, why would people complain that non-retina graphics in applications (etc) appear blurry, not just by comparison to the new retina wonderland, but even in comparison to a non-retina display.

    but, with an SSD? Pardon my n00bness, but isn't the reason it gets so slow when you run out of RAM because it starts using the disk instead, and that isn't nearly as fast.. especially if you have an ol' spinner.

    We'll see what happens in September, because like I said.. I much prefer the 13" form, but it doth rather sucketh in comparison to the 15" stats. I'll probably just have to go and manhandle them in a store to see if I'm okay with the 15" footprint. I wouldn't mind the quad core and the dedicated graphics one bit, but I'm a bit of a road warrior at times so the lightness, small footprint and battery life of the 13" is also very very appealing. argh, decisions...

    EDIT: oh, extra question if I may (thank you guys for putting up with me..).. do the GHz make a noticeable difference? I've been told that it virtually does not matter if you take the 2.4 or 2.7GHz versions. Thoughts?
  15. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Aug 31, 2009
    England, UK
    I think there's a few misconceptions in this thread (correct me if I'm wrong...);

    1. Adding an SSD will not vastly improve your performance when working in Photoshop. You're using the same old processor, the same old memory speeds, and the same old graphics card. It'll open quicker, but run almost identically. I have first-hand experience of this.

    2. I've just moved myself out of freelance web design; designing for retina simply means making the initial canvas 2x larger and going from there. Some others have rightly mentioned this. That way, it's equal on your screen to what it is on a lower PPI screen. That said, Photoshop iconography/buttons/etc. are dead - you should be looking to use SVG for the most part.

    3. A 15" screen is not enough for a 'graphic designer'. It's tiny. You're going to need an external monitor for serious work. I work for a design agency, you don't see anyone working from their 15" rMBP - they plug into 27"+ Apple/Samsung monitors, and the lucky ones get NEC displays.

    4. A MBA is not enough for a serious graphics designer - again, you're focussing on the SSD, which does nothing for you after a quick boot (how often do you shut down? Yeah, me either!). A MBA, whilst a relatively good notebook, is not a professional machine. A 1.7 dual-core is too feeble for your long term needs, regardless of hyper-threading. Hell, my girlfriend's 2012 MBA was on full fans uploading 120 photos to Facebook.

    Having said the above, you'd be pushing the current 13" rMBP to its limit - an onboard HD4000 graphics card isn't exactly going to offer much in the way of performance, and the dual-core processors are very twee. It'll handle what most people do when they say they "use Photoshop", but it may struggle for any serious work.

    With the new MacBooks only a few weeks away, just hold on tight for a while and see what's up next. If you really need one now, any of the 15" rMBP models should suffice. But get a monitor.
  16. AXs macrumors 6502a


    Sep 7, 2009
    what kind of serious graphic designing work doesn't require a graphics card?

    Our designers at one of our sister companies all have 15" Macbook Pros and 27" iMacs. The top designers have both... or a 15" MBP - Thunderbolt DP combo.

    If it is necessary to get a Mac, definitely get one with dedicated graphics.

    But honestly, from what OP has posted in this thread - it makes it look really like he just wanted to bash/discredit retina models. I mean he's asking for advice and people are giving their honest opinions and he's shooting them down and telling them why it is wrong if they say go Retina. What?:eek:
  17. bill-p macrumors 68000

    Jul 23, 2011
    Well, that's what I meant, though.

    Basically, you already have a nice laptop. You want the Retina machine very badly, but you know the upgrade will be expensive, and it won't exactly benefit you much anywhere else except for the screen.

    So even though your heart is set, your mind tells you you must be loyal and stay with your old machine. "Don't cheat on your old machine with a new one yet! Even though the new one is... slimmer, more handsome, shinier, and... blah...", right?

    I'm not a gal, but I went over the same thing. I had a perfectly working 15" from 2011, and under no circumstance did I "need" the Retina, so I kept mentioning to myself that the screen would only be good for texts and that aside from that, I wouldn't see much benefits elsewhere.

    But resistance was futile as you can see. :(

    And rest assured, the whole Adobe situation is now under control. Most Adobe applications already support the Retina resolution, and they do so magnificently.

    As for non-Retina apps being "blurry", the reason is because on the Retina display, the gap between each pixel is very very narrow. It almost disappears. And it also doesn't help that if you're displaying something at non-Retina resolution, then 1 pixel is mapped to 4 individual pixels. Close-by pixels look almost like they are blended together even without any interpolation.

    In comparison, on a non-Retina screen, each pixel is... just a pixel on its own, and the gap between each pixel is also much farther. So your eyes see more contrast between pixels and the gaps in between them. That's why people say the same graphic looks "blurrier" on the Retina screen. In the grand scheme of things, though, there shouldn't be that much of a difference unless your eyes are super close to the screen, and then those gaps become obvious.

    The "gap" issue is also the reason why CRT and LCD screens have different font-smoothing algorithms.
  18. Hexoic thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 29, 2013
    cool, thanks for that info. I would point out that opening and saving files is one of the main points of slowness in my PS experience, but I get what you mean.

    there's something I'm missing here- when you have the canvas 2x the size, you can't fine tune the anti-aliasing for the 1x size, I would imagine. This is sort of important. As for SVG, yes, that would be lovely but we are simply not there yet.

    How about you let me decide which screen size is okay for the stuff I've been studying and working at for 8 years, eh? A big screen is nice comfy thing to have- and a properly calibrated one is a must for serious print work, but for what I do, 13" is enough, especially when you consider the portability that comes with it.


    KimHansenDK says: "I use the 13" 2.0GHz/8GB/256GB as my main machine and I work as a full time Art Director / Digital Designer. It handles Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign just fine - also large files. I have it hooked up to a 27" Thunderbolt display when doing serious work."

    that makes sense to me. The MBA can drive a proper display for office work, and be portable on the road too.
    He also says:

    "I had the rMBP but found it to be a pain to work on, because that 99% of the time you will be designing for non-retina displays (72 dpi). So unless you are hooked up to an external display all the time, the rMBP would not be my choice, as you end up with either a blurry image at 200% or a tiny image at 100% when working in Photoshop. The (r)MBP is definitely a better choice if you are to make 3D, heavy video editing or motion design due to the discrete graphics card.

    I chose the MBA over the MBP because of the portability and the fact that it handles everything I throw at it just fine."

    So what is it? I'm told that zooming in to 200% will look "exactly" like a non-retina. But he says it'll look blurry. Who is right and who is wrong? I'm not trying to be pedantic or to "talk myself" out or into something, for crying out loud, I just want to know what exactly the experience is before I buy the thing.

    Yeah.. you're right. But you know what's even worse for design? only being able to see your work in blurry while editing it. Thats mucho worse.

    Oh, no I'm definitely going to wait and see what happens. Thanks for writing so much, Andy, I really do appreciate it :)

    to answer your "question", read KimHansenDK's quotes above, or simply google for "graphic design" and "Macbook air".. afaik, they don't have dedicated graphics, right? Sure, not all designers need that much portability and that sacrifice only makes sense if you gain something valuable from it so it's a subjective and highly debatable choice. My point is it's not clear-cut and just because you've heard of some designers using this or that, it doesn't mean that's the only way. However, I do tend to think you're right- the MBA doesn't quite have the power, and the color gamut of the screen is also troubling.

    *gasp* I am shocked, SHOCKED I say.. doth femininity not seep through every word? Or is it because my username isn't something like "macgirl"?
    I don't know why you'd get the impression that I was shooting anyone down. Not my intention at all :(

    Ah, it's not just the screen.. it's the lightness too. My model seems downright chubby in comparison, heck it weighs the same as the 15" rMBP. Don't look at me like that, MBP, I still love you, but I have NEEDS...

    So my heart is set but my mind is telling me to be loyal? wouldn't it be the other way around, with the mind being set and the heart wanting to be loyal?.. I kid you. I'd totally make sure my MBP gets a good new home...

    oh sweet, thanks so much, that's exactly the info I needed, because I figured, mapping 1 pixel as 4 should be straightforward, why do I hear designers complaining about this and saying that they took their new rMBP's back to the store. Can my MBP drive (hijack, so to speak) the display of a friends rMBP? because then I could test exactly what this looks like on my own work. That'd be very helpful. Maybe this perceived "blurryness" is riddiculously noticeable to trained eyes, or maybe some designers were just being over-dramatic about it.
  19. webworks415 macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2008
    I just purchased a 15" rMBP myself and use it for a lot of graphic design work. I need my external monitor for screen real estate though. I replaced my old HP TN panel with an ASUS IPS 23". The retina screen makes this great display seem outdated lol. But it's still good.

    The jump to a retina display is not as bad as people make it out to be. I thought things would look pixelated and blurred, but they don't. I designed a party flier on PS and the only difference is that the graphic looks smaller at actual size. Just zoom in like others said and you're good. Don't deprive yourself and get the retina MBP!
  20. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Aug 31, 2009
    England, UK
    Remember, 'blurry' is a relative term. Things zoomed @2x are 'blurry' in that they look like what you're looking at this very moment. The text you're reading literally this second is 'blurred' in retina terms, but currently 'sharp' in your books.

    I apologise for my sweeping statement about needing a monitor, but that quote you posted supported what I said - serious work requires a bigger monitor. You need screen real estate.
  21. Lolito macrumors 6502


    Mar 20, 2013
    get an external monitor and an ssd. you r current laptop will fly.

    retina mbp is not there yet. it's just not worth it, but, anyone who owns it will refuse it.

    mba is good for girls, not for graphic designer, sorry.
  22. andy9l macrumors 68000

    Aug 31, 2009
    England, UK
    If you read any of the posts in the thread, and understood the benefits of an SSD, you'd realise that her laptop won't "fly" by adding an SSD. The reason your laptop is now "flying" is because you're measuring performance solely on boot/app open speeds. You don't do any serious work on your MBP. I know that because I've got a 2009 2.8GHz C2D MBP with an SSD sitting right here (the model above yours) - sure, it boots and runs simple apps incredibly fast, but compared to my beastly iMac, it's terribly sluggish when doing any real work. It's a completely fresh install of OS X too.

    The retina MBPs are "there". They're hugely successful products. The 13-inch is very feeble in my opinion, and I agree with you that it's probably on the limit of "there". The HD4000 graphics card is just an embarrassing proposition for a "pro" machine. The 15-inch models, however, are extremely powerful - even today.

    What about female graphic designers (the OP)? Or are they not allowed Macs? Honestly, did you read your post before submitting it?

    A MBA is not "for girls", it's for those who can afford a premium netbook/notebook and want the quality/assurance/ecosystem that Apple provides. It shouldn't be used as a professional workstation, and it's not marketed for that. It's purely an everyday laptop for Joe Bloggs to visit Facebook, write some Word documents, watch YouTube, perhaps do some very basic photo/video editing, and send some emails.
  23. magbarn macrumors 68000

    Oct 25, 2008
    Agree with the rMBP 13 statement. For my family, the rMBP 13 is being used almost exclusively by my wife as a glorified facebook machine. IMHO, the lack of quad core makes it too slow and barely above an 2012/2013 i7 equipped MBA in processing speed. Apple cheaped out on not providing a quad-core option despite Intel having the applicable same 35 watt TDP quad core Ivy Bridge available. My 2013 MBA loads apps quicker than my rMBP 15 courtesy of the PCIE SSD, but when number crunching starts, my rMBP 15 blows the i7 MBA out of the water.

    If money is an issue, look at refurb rMBP 15, their prices are even going to drop even more when the Haswell versions come out. The Haswell rMBP 15 will not be much faster (if at all) cpu wise, and the GPU may even be a downgrade. The battery life will be the big upgrade only this year.
  24. Lolito macrumors 6502


    Mar 20, 2013
    My god...

    1.- my mbp13" is the top one of 2009. Yours is either a 15", or is not from 2009.

    2.- I won't argue how fast an ssd is in this machine, BUT, I´m so sure you will agree that it must be A few galaxies faster that the OP current mechanical HDD, right?

    3.- Retinas not there yet, same as first air models weren't there back them; such resolution needs lot of power, not available just yet. And don't forge the non upgradable ram. I would upgrade that macbook, and then get a mac mini, or an imac, or an air an a mini, before buying a retina. But hey, that's just me...

  25. magbarn macrumors 68000

    Oct 25, 2008
    rMBP vs MBP vs MBA for graphic designer

    The rMBP is nowhere near as bad as the MBA from 2008. For starters, the 1st gen MBA was much slower than other laptops that were available in that era due to heat and power constraints, they also had many teething issues with build quality. Otoh, the rMBP is one of the fastest and most powerful laptops when it was released. Yes, there's gaming laptops with 680MX, but they weigh 2-3x as much. A 512gb/16gb rMBP purchased last year is still very viable today. As Haswell is more of a 'sidegrade' in processing power and only a battery life upgrade, late 2013 haswell rMBP is not going to obsolete the ivy bridge models...

    I also don't understand your 'needs more power' comment. Where is the rMBP 15 underpowered? Have you even used one lately? The only time it's been 'underpowered' is trying to game at native resolution. Other than that its the best MacBook I've ever had and other for weight and battery life, it destroys my 2013 MBA for everything else.

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