Would a 13 inch Macbook Pro with retina display (512 GB) be powerful enough to serve as my main comp

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by SnowLeopard OSX, Aug 12, 2015.

  1. SnowLeopard OSX macrumors 6502a

    SnowLeopard OSX

    Dec 5, 2012
    In the case of someone who spends a lot of time at home with their computer, but also wants to be able to bring it around the house and to other places (friends, work, school, traveling). Would you recommend this computer?

    I also plan on buying a Thunderbolt display to dock the laptop onto when I'm in my room and feel like using it as a desktop.

    I just have a couple of questions. Would this be powerful enough to serve as my "main computer" for the next 4, 5, 6 years? Assuming I would dock it to a Thunderbolt display when not using it for portability, could it replace a desktop or even an iMac?

    Is the screen big enough for practical use when not docked on a display? Although I'll be spending maybe a good 50 percent of my time using it with the TB display, I'm iffy about the size. I'm downgrading from a 17.5 inch screen notebook (doesn't work anymore however) and I'm scared it'll be difficult to adjust. There's a good chance I'll be watching a lot of YouTube movies, however, real movies, I usually watch on my television.

    Right now, because of Apple brilliantly chooses price points for their notebooks, I've been trying to decide for nearly 24 hours straight on which set up I should go with:

    Option 1: Get a 13 inch Macbook pro with 512 GB, dock it to a Thunderbolt display, and hang on to my 500 GB external hard drive or...

    Option 2: Get a 15 inch Macbook pro with 256 GB, dock it to a Thunderbolt display, and buy a 1TB external hard drive to keep plugged into the notebook whenever it's docked as a desktop.
    What do you guys think?
  2. newellj macrumors 603

    Oct 15, 2014
    Boston, MA, US
    You're going to have to tell us more about what you use a computer for to try to answer the question.
  3. bradl macrumors 68040


    Jun 16, 2008
    Okay.. in looking at the specs in your sig, it all depends on how much drive space your current iMac has. Without knowing that, we can't really say. However, I'll give you my story.

    20 year Linux sysadmin. Not only do it for work, but had it running personally at home. Tons of separate software, but mainly the source code for it, so I'd generally compile it on my own, or it came from my linux distribution. I want to say that at the time, I had a box with a 500GB drive, a 2TB drive, and a 1.5TB drive in it. 16GB of memory, and a decent video card (did most of my gaming (read: flightsimming, and maybe a classic game of Doom or Duke Nukem 3D) on my windows box.

    I got tired of maintaining it, which was taking time away from family. So I took that 4TB, which I was using less than 1/4th of it total, backed up my personal files and music, and ported it all over to a 13" MBA (mid-2011, 4GB memory, 256GB). After pulling it over and installing 3 programs I would have mainly used in Linux, I checked disk usage, to see that I was only using 90GB total - less than 40% of the space on my MBA.

    Securely wiped the drives (35-pass DoD secure wipe), and donated the machine to a local elementary school.

    Haven't looked back to a desktop since, and don't plan to.

    So if you think you can get your daily activities paired down to less than 50% of your normal disk space without the external drive, you could do it. But see what you absolutely need with you to be portable. then judge what you think you may need for growth over 4 - 5 years, as a new MBP would last you that long, if not longer.

  4. SnowLeopard OSX thread starter macrumors 6502a

    SnowLeopard OSX

    Dec 5, 2012
    That's a really good question. Computer use would mainly be limited to:

    Web browsing
    Emails, documents, spreadsheets
    Video editing
    Digital photo editing
    Movies, music, media
    Social media, skyping, vid chatting
    Light gaming
    Schoolwork, research

    Very basic stuff. No hardcore gaming, no coding, nothing like that.
  5. adamchris123 macrumors member


    May 25, 2015
    I upgraded to the 15 inch from the 13 inch rmbp. I loved my 13 inch and the screen size is definitely pretty good also it handled everything I needed it to do, but now that I have the 15 inch, I love it even more. One of my main reasons for upgrading was just for the screen size. If this is going to be you're main computer for the next 5 years the 15 inch could be better. the 13 inch is definitely a good computer though. It also depends on how much power you need (dual vs. quad core). The 15 inch comes with 16gb standard although the 13 inch is configurable to 16gb as well. The 13 inch is definitely more portable, but the 15 inch is also pretty portable too. The 15 inch retina weighs just as much as the 13 inch non retina. They are both very good computers and will serve you well over the years.
  6. SnowLeopard OSX thread starter macrumors 6502a

    SnowLeopard OSX

    Dec 5, 2012
    See. That's another thing. Since I will be getting a Thunderbolt Display, I'm not too worried about screen size. If I need space I'll dock to the display.

    However, I'm more concerned with power an durability.

    Is the MacBook Pro 13 inch with 512 GB powerful enough to serve as essentially a desktop replacement? As my main computer to do all of my work on?

    The reason I ask is because 13 inch has i5 core processor and 15 inch has i7. core processor.

    Also the reason I ask is because the 13 inch seems like a computer college students use. But I'm recently graduated. Would it make a difference?

    I feel like if I go with 13 inch I'm going for cheaper price and more space but less power and less screen real estate.

    And if I go with 15 inch I'm going for more power and more screen real estate -- but since I'd only consider 256 gb, I'd be getting less storage space and more expensive.
  7. SnowLeopard OSX thread starter macrumors 6502a

    SnowLeopard OSX

    Dec 5, 2012
    2000 bucks seems so steep for a computer with only 256 GB storage. I guess my question is. For an ordinary computer user, is there a huge difference between i5 and i7 core processors? If I can expect to use my Macbook as a replacement for a desktop, should I be more concerned with the dual core vs the quad core? Or should I be focused on computer space? I mean, my last laptop (now busted) had near 500 GB of onboard storage. I, at any given time, used around half of that towards the end of it's life. So I don't know if 256 will be enough. I could always dock an external hard drive to my display for extra storage... but my main question is, will I survive with an i5 for a main computer for the next 4, 5 years? Or is there a noticable difference in performance?

    Is there a possible way to get a 13 inch macbook pro with retina display that has an i7 core processor? That would be the most ideal scenario for me.
  8. zhenya macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2005
    The 13" model is still an extremely powerful laptop, more powerful than most of the business pc's sold today. And it's available with an i7 processor, not that I think you really need it for the uses you describe. The difference is that the 15" model is available with a quad-core processor with a higher TDP threshold, which means it can perform more tasks simultaneously and for a longer period of time before it reaches its thermal thresholds and has to slow down. It takes fairly specific tasks to benefit from this however. I think that for you the 13" will be fine, and you'd be happier investing money into the SSD over the CPU.
  9. Yebubbleman, Aug 12, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2015

    Yebubbleman macrumors 68030


    May 20, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA
    Get the machine with the bigger internal drive. You can always get bigger external storage later. Internal storage on MacBook Pros is a much harder commodity to come by.

    And yes, unless you need to do serious gaming (not great on a Mac anyway) or video editing software, a 13" Retina is totally fine to have as your main machine.
  10. nStyle macrumors 65816

    Dec 6, 2009
    Since you're going to be tethered to an external display a lot of times, the 13" will be more than fine. I'd only go 15" in your situation if you didn't plan on using an external monitor very often.
  11. petvas macrumors 601


    Jul 20, 2006
    Mannheim, Germany
    I have the 13" Retina MBP and it is a powerful laptop. I am sure that for your usage scenarios you will be ok. However, if you plan to use it for 4-5 years, you have to know that the battery will at some point start getting worse. You can of course go to an Apple Store and let them put a new battery inside, but still this can be an issue for you. It all depends of course how you handle the battery.
    Apart from that, getting a Thunderbolt display is ok, but this won't give you a Retina display quality when connected to the external display. I still prefer to have an iMac for serious work, or for whenever I want to enjoy the big 5K Retina screen. If you don't want to spend so much money though, then the setup you are thinking about is definitely good.
  12. T5BRICK macrumors G3


    Aug 3, 2006
    The biggest difference between the 13" and 15" rMBP, besides the screen size, is the dual core vs quad core CPU. Ignore the i5 and i7. A quad core CPU is basically 2x as fast as the dual core, given they are the same clock speed.

    That being said, for a normal computer user, and knowing what you'd use it for, the 13" rMBP will suit your needs just fine.

    Yes, you can get an i7 in the 13" rMBP. Unfortunately it is a dual core i7, and it's only slightly faster than the dual core i5. It isn't worth the $200 charge for the upgrade.
  13. Chundles macrumors G4


    Jul 4, 2005
    A MacBook Air isn't going to break much of a sweat doing that, let alone any of the RMBPs.
  14. theluggage macrumors 68040

    Jul 29, 2011
    Be aware that the Thunderbolt display is a bit outdated now. The display is nice (not 4k, but 2560x1440 is still quite a decent resolution) - the main downside is that the USB ports it provides are only USB 2, which is fine for mouse, keyboard etc. but if you want to hang a fast disc drive off it you'll have to get a Thunderbolt HD rather than a cheap USB 3 one (it does have Firewire, which would be better than USB 2, but the choice of FW hard drives is getting a bit restricted now).

    The other downside of the TB display is that it lacks any other input than TB, so you can't plug in your old laptop, vintage Mac, games console, Raspberry Pi, Blu-ray player etc. whereas most 3rd party displays give you a range of inputs that you can switch between.

    I'd say it was overpriced, but since nothing else will give you laptop power, USB, Ethernet, Firewire, TB through, half-decent sound, webcam, and microphone with only 2 wires to the laptop and 1 mains plug, that begs the question "compared to what?". Closest are a couple of the LG Ultrawide displays that do have Thunderbolt and give you USB3 ports and TB through (but no Ethernet, webcam, microphone... or laptop power).

    Real alternative is to get a third-party display and a TB dock like the Caldigit (...and a multi-way power strip with room for all the wall-warts!)

    As for the Mac: the 13" rMBP should be more than enough for any non-specialist job, and OK for quite a few specialist ones. If your eyesight is OK, you can run the display in scaled mode and get a lot of 'real estate'.
  15. nStyle macrumors 65816

    Dec 6, 2009
    I still have my TBD although I've been debating getting rid of it. You're right, there really aren't any comparative monitors out there with the design and 1 plug. Display quality is amazing though. I much prefer glossy screens and I'm glad that Apple does too. I don't think I've ever seen a screen with such vivid colors. Plus it can go really bright if you need it to. That said, I did end up having to buy another monitor (a cheap 22") since I want to be able to game. I think owning two monitors is going to feel redundant even if the TBD is way superior in quality. So I'll probably end up ditching it. Just a thought for OP - needs will change and the limiting input capabilities can be a major drawback.
  16. tdhurst macrumors 68040


    Dec 27, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ
    I've been using a laptop as my only computer for a decade now.

    I don't play high-end games nor do I do more than a few hours a month worth of graphics work, but Apple laptops have always worked great for me.

    Hell, my 13" MBP rivals most recent iMacs.
  17. adamchris123 macrumors member


    May 25, 2015
    The 13 inch rmbp does come with an i7 but it is only dual core. If you buy a 13 inch save your money and stick with the i5. Use that money for more storage or 16 gb of ram. The 13 inch is still pretty powerful and can fly through most tasks. The 13" is not considered a desktop replacement laptop but the 15" inch is. The 13" can still easily replace a desktop depending on what you are doing. Where the 15" inch has the huge advantage is in multi threaded applications because of the quad core i7. Also it has much more powerful graphics coming with iris pro as standard (iris pro is about 50% faster than the 6100). If you plan on running a 4k monitor having a better graphics card will definitely help. (The Amd graphics in the 15" model can support up to 5k) The 13" is also a solid option. It all depends what is more important to you, storage or power. You can get a 512 15" but that will cost you quite a bit. I had a 13" and I loved it a lot. If you go the 13" route make sure you get 16gb of ram if you are a chrome tab fiend.
  18. adamchris123 macrumors member


    May 25, 2015
    There is not really difference between a dual core i5 and quad core i7 for single threaded applications. You only see the difference with multi threaded applications.
  19. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    There is a massive difference if your apps are multicore and multithread aware, that is a ridiculous statement, but as the 13 inch only has dual core i7's where the only difference is a couple of hundred MHz and 1MB of L3 cache it is irrelevant to the discussion.
  20. DesertSurfer macrumors 6502a


    Jun 15, 2014
    Between the Sonoran Desert and the Pacific Ocean
    I've been using my early 2011 13" Macbook Pro since - early 2011. It was fine for work (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, SPSS for data analysis, web browsing, light gaming including X-plane flight simulator on low settings) as a desktop, and it is still fine. I almost always have it plugged into an external monitor at home and at work. When I do use it as a laptop on it's own, I wish it had a bigger screen, but I have lousy eyesight. If your vision is fine, the 13" will be too.

    I did upgrade from 4 to 8 gb of memory, and I'm thinking about putting in a solid state drive. I want a new computer (damn you Apple!), but I don't need one. I have a Windows machine for gaming now. I would say go with the 13" but do get 16 gb memory as you can no longer do that yourself.
  21. adamchris123 macrumors member


    May 25, 2015
    That's what I said. I said there is a difference when the apps you are using can support multiple threads.

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