Which MacBook should I buy?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Lobot, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. Lobot macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2012
    Location:
    United States
    #1
    I need a new laptop for college this fall, and I've decided to switch over to mac after years of dealing with slow, crappy, unreliable windows PCs. I am having trouble deciding which MacBook to buy, though. I've never owned one, and there seem to be many advantages and disadvantages to each model.
    After doing some research, I am leaning towards either the standard 15-inch non retina Pro (starting at $1700) or the new Retina base model (starting at $1999). I have heard that the newest Air is also a great computer, but I don't really care about portability or weight, I am used to using a 15" screen, I need the optical drive, and I am concerned that its processing power and storage space won't be enough. With the regular 13 Pro, I've heard that the screen's resolution is too low, and the graphics are insufficient. And I've heard that a new 13" Retina version is coming out, but I don't think I can wait until October. I'd be willing to spend $1500-$2400 on this computer (including AppleCare), so here are some of the models I have looked at:

    15" MacBook Pro: 2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm, SuperDrive 8x, MacBook Pro 15-inch Hi-Res Glossy Widescreen Display, AppleCare Protection Plan for MacBook Pro - Auto-enroll - $2,118, or $2,253.00 with 7200-rpm 750GB HDD.

    15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display: 2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 256GB Flash Storage, Apple USB SuperDrive, AppleCare Protection Plan for MacBook Pro - Auto-enroll - $2,317 (512GB SSD is too expensive)

    13 inch high end Macbook Pro, $1582 with Apple care

    and the high end 13" Air, for $1891 with i7, 8GB Ram, USB superdrive, and apple care, or $2341 with 512GB SSD.

    So I'm not sure which of these I should choose. I want the computer to last for the next 4-5 years or so. Some things to consider:
    -I will be using it for typing papers and assignments, making presentations or projects, and school work
    -I will be watching movies, browsing internet, putting photos and some music on the computer, downloading some apps, etc.
    -I will need to run windows via bootcamp or vmware fusion (The engineering program at my university provides Windows 7 and Vmware free to engineering students who have macs, due to programs that only run on windows), and I've heard that for a larger HDD or SSD is recommended for running windows and for engineering programs
    -I might be doing some gaming if I have time
    -I will be editing photos
    -I probably will need the disc drive, whether it's with the retina/air or a Pro
    -A larger or higher resolution screen would be nice
    -I might need the computer for some lectures, but probably won't carry it with me everywhere or every day due to risk of theft/damage. I can handle the weight.

    So which MacBook do you recommend? And which upgrades?
    Would external monitors or external hard drives be helpful if they were within my budget?
    Should I be ordering AppleCare with my Mac, or later on?
    If it helps, I am majoring in environmental engineering, might change major to chemical engineering.
    If you want to recommend a 13" mac that's fine, I might get one but I'm more used to using a 15" laptop.
     
  2. BoomLive macrumors newbie

    BoomLive

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    #2
    Upgrading

    First off I recommend that you shouldn't get upgrades from Apple (RAM and HD). Other than the Retina MBP, which you have to upgrade with Apple, it is far cheaper and many times better to do it yourself. Many places (Newegg, Other World Computer, TigerDirect) have videos to show you how to upgrade the computer. Of course HD and RAM are very easily upgradable already.
     
  3. InuNacho macrumors 65816

    InuNacho

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Location:
    In that one place
    #3
    Well I went from a measly 13 MB inch screen to a 17 MBP and now I find it near impossible to go back to a smaller screen and it might be the same with you. I'd recommend going to the store and trying them out first before buying.
     
  4. thejoshhoward macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2010
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #4
    For your needs, I'd go with this one…

    "15" MacBook Pro: 2.3GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, 8GB RAM, 500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm, SuperDrive 8x, MacBook Pro 15-inch Hi-Res Glossy Widescreen Display, AppleCare Protection Plan for MacBook Pro - Auto-enroll - $2,118, or $2,253.00 with 7200-rpm 750GB HDD."

    I'd absolutely recommend the 7200-rpm HDD, partially due to capacity, but mostly due to its speed. Editing photos on a slower drive can be maddening.

    This is also a good choice because of its upgradeability. In a few years you could swap out the HDD for something better, upgrade the RAM and remove the disc drive (if you don't need it) and place a second HDD in the Macbook Pro. It's probably your best bet if you want to get 4-5 years out of it.

    The only other thing I'd recommend is an external USB drive to use as a Time Machine backup. You can get a very good, portable, 1TB drive for under $100.

    The final consideration is your media library. If you plan on keeping lots of music and movies around, it may be wise to have an additional external drive for your iTunes library. My iTunes library is around 500GB (including movies) and that's just too damn much to keep on my laptop.

    Let us know what you go with! And welcome to the Mac. I hope you enjoy it.
     
  5. chiguy20002 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2012
    Location:
    MI
    #5
    I agree with this recommendation. If I had the extra money, I would have went with the 15" MBP over the 13" MBP, but I could not justify spending the extra $600, even though you get a larger screen, better graphics card, and faster processor.
    I would have gotten the base 15" MBP, then upgraded the RAM and Hard Drive later, as you can do that for less than if you ordered it that way.
     
  6. dacreativeguy macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2007
    #6
    13" is great for carrying around, but just doesn't give enough screen real estate to much more than email and web. If it is your only machine, get a 15".
     
  7. Liquinn Suspended

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2011
    #7
    How does one try a 17" out at a store?
     
  8. InuNacho macrumors 65816

    InuNacho

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    Apr 24, 2008
    Location:
    In that one place
    #8
    Was referring to the current 15 inch models as the 17 no longer exists.
     
  9. natekettles macrumors member

    natekettles

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2010
    Location:
    Cape Town, South Africa
    #9
    The best computer for your needs and also future-proofing will be the MacBook Pro Retina display. Spend the extra money and get the 512GB SSD, you won't regret it.
     
  10. Yebubbleman macrumors 68030

    Yebubbleman

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #10
    Personally, if you need an optical drive and are only going to be doing casual gaming; base model non-Retina 15" MacBook Pro is pretty win; just be sure to buy the 8GB (16GB if you're feeling ballsy) and the larger hard drive or SSD upgrade from a place that's not Apple. The only thing that the higher-end model gets you that you can't add in is the extra 300 MHz (extra 400 MHz and 2MB Cache, if you consider the 2.7GHz upgrade available for that model), and for your purposes, that's not necessary.

    If you can reconcile only having 256 GB of internal storage, a retina MacBook Pro will likely be supported much longer down the road given features already present in Mountain Lion that support it and not the non-retina version, but that's only speculation; take it with a grain of salt. Otherwise, there's very little reason to pick it over the non-retina version.
     
  11. amflemi macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2009
    #11
    I went through the whole Windows/Mac dilemma about 5/6 years ago and have never looked back after moving to Mac. I use a dual boot machine with Windows now as some of the software that I have to use I can only use the Windows variant of [Don't ask!!!]. I have just been through the same dilemma - air/pro/retina pro question... in the end i went for

    15-inch: 2.6 GHz
    2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
    Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
    8GB 1600MHz memory
    750GB 5400-rpm hard drive1
    Intel HD Graphics 4000
    NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory

    I had a 13" blackbook for a number of years which was fantastic but i always felt that there wasn't enough screen real estate when i was using multiple programs at the same time. So that made my decision slightly easier in that I knew the screen size that I wanted. I also paid the extra to have the slightly higher screen resolution and anti glare display. I looked at the rMBP but for the spec that I wanted it was a lot more than the top level pro and I would need to buy an external hard disk and dvd drive which pushed the cost up even further to over £2500 or $3000. The other consideration was that if i went for the rMBP I would have quite a bit of kit to lug about as I am away on a course at the moment and travelling a fair bit.

    So in the end i bought the machine above in the knowledge that when funds allow I can throw more RAM in there and change to a SSD when the price is right. In the end the choice of machine is a personal one and the best advice is to head to an apple store/reseller and try all of the machines to see which of them you like the best. Happy hunting and welcome to Mac, just be warned it is very easy to develop an Apple obsession....
     
  12. Tech198 macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Location:
    Australia, Perth
    #12
    ....

    I think this would answer everything.

    Why do you think people who arn't using Macbook Air as the *only* Mac.. they alawys have a Macbook Pro somewhere at home ....

    Its because not only is the Air lighter to carry round with, most importantly, its because they *can't* do stuff on an Air they need a Pro at home to do this with.

    This is my reasoning why I decided not to go for the Air. Also being SSD, you are need to have to plug in external drives/flash with you, for space, you wouldn't otherwise not have an issue about.

    For me, all in one may be useless now, but who knows what may happen.
     
  13. Lobot thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2012
    Location:
    United States
    #13
    Thanks for the advice. I think I've narrowed it down to the 15-inch non-retina Pro, as it seems like it's the best value for my money. I will consider the retina, but only because it is supposedly more "future proof" and I've heard that certain features of the new OSX Mountain Lion only work with the retinas or airs. The non-Retina seems better, anyway.
    If I decided to get the retina, I would probably do my own upgrades because the SSD is not big enough. So it really isn't worth paying Apple for the 8GB RAM upgrade, though?
    I'm going to the store next week to look at the different sizes before I buy it.
    If I get the 15 inch, I will probably upgrade to an SSD eventually (when the higher capacity SSDs come down in price). Is an external drive necessary, even with 500-750 gigs of internal storage?
    This will be my only computer (at least for now), and it would probably take me a while to get used to a 13 inch screen, seeing as I've always had 15 or bigger.
    I'll think about the retina... I just can't justify paying another $500 to get the 512 SSD. I'd much rather buy it for cheaper 3rd party, or get an external HDD. Another thing, I'm worried about the screen. If there are programs that I nee to use for school, it might take a while for the retina-optimized versions to be released. It seems like this will be resolved sometime, so maybe I'll get a retina later on when the 13 inch is out.
    How much would a 3rd-party RAM upgrade cost? I can afford to buy it from apple, anyway.
    I'm going to the store this week... And it does seem like the amount of gear you carry around with the non-retina vs the retina is about the same... If you buy the non-retina, it's just the laptop and the charger, whereas the retina I would probably have to carry around the laptop, optical drive, external hard drive, etc.

    I just have one more question: If I were to buy the 15 inch non retina pro, should I get the Anti-Glare or the Glossy High Res display? I have experience with both types of screens, I just want some opinions of which is better.
     
  14. Tech198 macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2011
    Location:
    Australia, Perth
    #14
    ..

    3rd Party Ram only about $50 for 8 Gig.

    I've never bought memory from Apple as they charge about $100-$200 for the same amount.

    However, if you are going for the retina, you'd be locked in to upgrade at purchase, as the SSD and memory are both solderd on the board. While the non-ratina, you can upgrade yourself, so keep this in mind in the future.

    Never really bought the High Res display, as 1440x900 is good enough for me.
     
  15. chiguy20002 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2012
    Location:
    MI
    #15
    This one or the base model 15-inch would have been what I would have gotten if I had the extra money for it. I did not, so I went with the 13-inch, which is working for me fine for now.

    Also, I don't remember, but is the retina MBP non-upgradeable? I thought the MBA and the retina MBP were not upgradeable for RAM and hard drive?
     
  16. BoomLive macrumors newbie

    BoomLive

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2011
    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    #16
    You are exactly right. The RAM you must upgrade with Apple bc it is soldered to the motherboard. The HD on the other hand is very difficult but not impossible. Even though the retina is cool, I think the 15" MBP is the best bc Apple has had the same design for so long and it's easy to upgrade it yourself as time goes on.
     
  17. SteppingStone macrumors member

    SteppingStone

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2012
    #17
    Retina Macbook seems to carry the early-adopter price penalty right now.

    Low-end 15" with 3rd-party upgrades will be the best value. I never understand the idea of "future-proofing" a computer -- they're obsolete so quickly no matter what you do. Macs carry ridiculous resale value on Ebay anyway. I'm continually shocked what people are willing to pay for older Apple hardware, but I suppose I don't complain when I'm driving to UPS to ship them off.
     
  18. SpyderBite macrumors 65816

    SpyderBite

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2011
    Location:
    Xanadu
    #18
    This ^^

    Buying a computer and expecting a productive 4-5 years of use from a notebook computer is very unrealistic these days unless you are a very minimalist user. Plan on a 24 month happy experience with your new computer and then just resell to compensate for majority of your next purchase.

    Taking care of your computer cosmetically is very important in this scenario. A well kept 2-3 year old Mac can retain its resale value if it is sold in "like new" condition.. No scratches, dents, and is clean. :)
     
  19. hafr macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2011
    #19
    Based on what you're saying here, and having read the thread, I would want to recommend a new alternative: an Air and an iMac.

    You get the portability (you say you can take the weight, but I guess the reason you're not putting bricks in your bag just for fun is that you don't like carrying heavier things than you have to) and even the 11" is big and strong enough to be useful for you when out and about. But you also get the large screen and power to handle your other needs. You can even plug in the MBA to the iMac and use it as an external screen, should you want to do that.

    And you won't go over your budget. Win-win. Any upgrade is, as others have already said, better to do with third party hardware.
     
  20. SteppingStone macrumors member

    SteppingStone

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2012
    #20
    11" Air and iMac is a good suggestion too.

    I had an 11" Air for a while and loved it for travel.
     
  21. Liquinn Suspended

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2011
    #21
    Tell me about it, I bought a Powermac G5 off ebay, 175 quid. That's including delivery anyway; which is good. :p
     
  22. Uffish Thought macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2011
    #22
    15" MBP, upgrade the RAM, HDD yourself.

    I love the Hi Res Matte screen, but people that do a lot of photo editing like the glossy display. Gotta look at them both side-by-side in the store and pay close attention to the reflected light.

    ChemE all the way; very markable degree and well respected. You will have many different career options available. Environmental Engineering is a small sub set of Civil Engineering, not nearly as many jobs available. Go CE if you're thinking of EnvE.
     

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