Upgrade to a 13" rMBP from a 2011 MBA?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Bill Killer, Feb 16, 2013.

  1. Bill Killer macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    Given the recent price drop of the 13" Retina MacBook Pro, and the $1,250ish price for a refurbished base model, I'm half considering upgrading to that model.

    I currently have a MBA from 2011. Specs include:

    1.7 GHz Intel Core i5
    4 GM RAM
    Intel HD Graphics 3000 384 MB
    1440 x 900 resolution

    It's a very good computer, and likely the best I've ever owned. That said, I may be looking to upgrade to the rMBP. My brother is in the market for a new computer, and I said that I may be selling the Air if he wants it. Base price would be about $600, or $584 from Gazelle.

    There isn't a necessity for a new computer, but I'm a sucker for high resolution, and I almost made the plunge when the original price for the rMBP was near $2,000 (glad I didn't now).

    My usage:

    -Extensive use of Microsoft Office products (usually multiple applications at once)
    -Standard internet, email, web browsing
    -Some Xcode (not a dealbreaker, more or less a side hobby)
    -Some light games (RCT3, solitaire...)
    -Netflix, HBO Go, Hulu...
    -Occasional video conversion

    Basically, it'd be a work + school (graduate level) computer. My biggest gripe with the MBA is that if I have multiple applications open, it's hard to fit all the necessary info on the same screen without excessive window overlap. The prospect of a Retina display to aid with this is very, very enticing to me.

    Is the upgrade, for those with experience with both models, worth it? More specifically:

    -Is the battery life good?
    -Is the fan quiet?
    -Screen lag at retina settings?
    -Future proof?
    -Comfortable to use (namely, around the wrist area below the touchpad)?

    Thanks for the help in advance!
  2. Bill Killer thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    I will add that hard drive space is not a concern. On my MBA, I only use 75GB, with the bulk of my data stored on an iMac and external drive.
  3. KPOM macrumors G5

    Oct 23, 2010
    I switched (somewhat unintentionally) from a 2012 Core i7 MacBook Air to a Core i7 13" rMBP in December (I lost my MacBook Air while traveling). Here are my thoughts:

    Battery Life - Good. It is certainly better than my 11.6" MacBook Air ever was. It might not be quite as good as a 13" MacBook Air, but it's close.

    Fan - I hardly ever hear it. Contrast that with the MBA, in which the fans would frequently go to maximum speed at the drop of a hat.

    Screen lag - I haven't noticed it. It seems overblown to me.

    Future Proof - The i5 rMBP is about as fast as the 2012 i7 MBA. Neither is "future proof," but both should perform well enough over the next few years.

    Comfort - I've easily adapted to the non-tapered case. I have noticed that the keyboard feels subtly different. Without a keyboard cover it is less noticeable, but I usually use a keyboard cover, and have noticed the difference more (though that could also be the cover itself).

    Overall, I'm very happy with the move. Although the native resolution is the HiDPI equivalent of 1280x800, you can switch to the HiDPI equivalents of 1440x900 or 1650x1080 if you need extra real estate.
  4. Bill Killer thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    As long as it can get me through a 3.5 hour class on a single charge, great.

    When I'm running any game, Handbrake, or working on multiple Office documents and sheets at once, the fan speeds up very quickly. Not a huge issue, but somewhat annoying. Anything better than this is greatly beneficial.

    Good to hear, since this is a dealbreaker for me.

    When I mean future proof, I mean anywhere from 2 - 4 years, so good to hear it won't become obsolete early.

    I guess since I never use a keyboard cover, this really doesn't apply for me.

    Great. Thanks for the help!
  5. gmikesell macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2009
    I was in the same boat as you, with my 2011 MBA feeling a little long in the tooth. Not that it was EVER lacking in performance for my purposes but I really wanted the Retina display. I'm an aspiring book writer and really appreciated the razor sharp text display. When the price drop was announced last week, I took advantage of a great deal Best Buy had going. I'm LOVING my new 13" MBr! Of course I would have loved to have a 15" MBr but I just couldn't justify the cost since I don't do anything that would have even come close to taking advantage of half of the increased performance. I guess I just ran up against that law of "diminishing return on investment". In response to your questions, I'll take a stab at 'em...

    -Is the battery life good?

    My daily use is a few YouTube videos, Facebook, and extensive web browsing and internet research coupled with a couple hours or so of MS Word per day, give or take, I find the battery life pretty much on par with the battery life I experienced with the MBA.

    -Is the fan quiet?

    Honestly, I haven't pushed my MBr 13" hard enough to engage the fans to really ever notice when they are on. I find it hard to believe they've never come on during some of my daily use, particularly when running iTunes. I just haven't noticed when they are on. I would say that I notice my MBr fans significantly less than my 2011 MBA, which was always quite obvious when those kicked on.

    -Screen lag at retina settings?

    I've noticed the reported jitters from time to time but not to the point of distraction at all. While it may not be buttery smooth on heavy web pages, it's also not jarring to me and seems to be noticeable mainly if you are looking for it. I'm guessing some people are more sensitive to it than I. I've tried out the latest version of webkit that is reported to completely fix the scrolling complaint but I've had more trouble with it crashing than anything so I've reverted back to Safari and it works perfectly fine in my opinion. I think pretty much most of the complaints are way overblown. As far as image or text rendering in apps, I've never noticed any lag but then again, I'm not running photoshop or anything like that. Just the typical MS Word, Excel, etc. along with iTunes. Everything has run and displayed very smoothly for me.

    -Future proof?

    I'm kind of skeptical about how "future proof" anything is. That's pretty subjective to opinion but I expect I'll be happy with this laptop and don't intend to replace it for the next few years at least, or at until Apple puts out another machine that makes me feel the upgrades are worth emptying my pockets again.

    -Comfortable to use (namely, around the wrist area below the touchpad)?

    I haven't had any problem or issues with ergonomics. In fact, I find everything from trackpad access (and avoidance) to typing to be pleasantly fluid and comfortable. Having said that, I do use an external trackball mouse (Logitec) and the blue tooth Apple keyboard to do my hours-long writing sessions with. However, I don't carry those around with me. When I'm mobile, I use nothing more than the trackpad and keyboard on the Macbook. They suit me fine and quite frankly, I love pretty much everything about this machine! ...A LOT! I expect I would feel differently if I rested my palms on the edge but the way my hands fit this keyboard, my palms land in a position that doesn't have me leaning my wrists or anything on the cutting edge (please forgive my play on words. lol).

    Is it worth the upgrade? I, for one, would say yes with no hesitation! For your uses you mentioned, I think you would be very happy with it. Of course, that's an assumption based on my experiences... and you know what they say about assumptions. lol
  6. Bill Killer thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    Great to hear you're thrilled with your choice! I just have two more questions:

    1) How is the weight difference between the two?
    2) Which model rMBP did you get?
  7. will0407 macrumors 6502a

    May 20, 2006
    I've just gone from a 2012 i7 8gb 13" air to a 13" rMBP. I've been wanting to far a ages after I got my girlfriend a 128GB rMBP as they feel a lot more solid to me, and they keyboard feels slightly different, but in a good way. I couldn't afford the 256GB i wanted, so never got one. After the price drop news was announced, I ordered one right away and couldn't be happier.

    I run it at 1650x1080 as I prefer the screen space, it occasionally lags when swiping between spaces but that doesn't bother me in the slightest.
  8. eljimberino macrumors member

    Feb 13, 2013
    Great post. Thank you. Are you using a external dvd drive? Also for your needs do have an external hard drive or using the cloud?

    Do you use word mainly for your writing? Have you tried scrivener/pages?

    I dislike word greatly. Would like to find a alternative, but one that will let me export/import as docx.
  9. gmikesell macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2009
    No prob. Glad I could submit a post that's actually useful! lol

    I have used a DVD for burning CD's in iTunes. No problem. Honestly, I haven't needed to use the external DVD drive hardly at all so I haven't missed it. I am currently using an external USB HDD drive for time machine backups but that's about it. I have the 256gb SSD model on my MBr and used about 50gb so far. I use Dropbox for file sharing and haven't had any issues. My iTunes is about 100gb large and I have that stored physically on a PC laptop that has a 1tb capacity and also have iTunes match so I just download what I actually want without taking up much space on my local SSD. I LOVE iTunes match for functionality. However, I wouldn't want to be placed in a situation where I forgot to renew my annual $20 account. That seems like it could be head ache. Luckily, I haven't had to find out.

    As for writing, I've looked at scrivener and wasn't that impressed. I did use Pages and found it plenty adequate. I might even say that I liked it. However, MS Office is what I'm using for work and all my files and document creations on the other PCs here at the house and just found it more simplified to keep with. When I used Pages, as well as Numbers, I found that I would occasionally have formatting issues when opening in Word on a different PC. No big deal for me but that's why I just use Word. In your case, sounds like you would appreciate Pages so I would try that if I was you. Myself, it's a toss up between which I like better.
  10. Bill Killer thread starter macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2011
    I think you all have convinced me that a jump up would be worthwhile. For the more tech savvy, if I were to get the low end model, other that SSD size, will the machine's performance drop be substantial or very noticeable?

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