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macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 1, 2007
So for the upcoming year I will be writing an economics thesis and that will entail web browsing, reading PDFs, reading stuff and typing with multiple windows open (normally in full screen mode). So what do you think would be better?

MBA 13 is cheaper than rMBP.
MBA 13 seems to have better battery in real world usage.
MBA 13 is lighter so easier to carry on campus.
MBA 13 has a higher resolution in effective terms (rMBP is 1280x800 equivalent)
BUT when I tried my friends MBA 13 the text seemed smaller and I had to get close to read or squint.
MBA 11 would be unnoticeable in my bag which would be a convenience.
BUT MBA 11 probably is too small and the battery might be too little.
BUT if I end up carrying my charger to school for the other MacBooks then the MBA 11's battery disadvantage would be immaterial.
rMBP sounds more future proof, good for watching movies.
rMBP is heavier and less battery than MBA 13.

So what should I get? If the MBA 13 is unnoticeable in your bag pack then I think I will go for that but certainly it does have a noticeable weight and the MBA 11 seems noticeably lighter.

Weight is one of the major factors for me since I do not take my current MBP 13 to school because of its weight of 2.02kg.


macrumors member
Feb 4, 2012
The rMBP is nearly a pound lighter than the previous generation MacBook Pro and only about half of a pound heavier than the 13" MacBook Air. By the sounds of things you will be doing a lot of reading and it is lovely on a retina display. The best thing to do is give them a try side by side at the apple store. Hope this helped and good luck with your choice.


macrumors regular
Oct 30, 2009
I am also wondering about this. Haven't had the chance to try them out side by side yet and would be interested to hear from those who have. Shouldn't she slightly smaller form factor of rMBP outweigh the half a pound of added weight when compared to the 13" Air?


macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 1, 2007
The MBA 13 looks the best overall except the small text size concerns me. Also the other two laptops have 'gimmicks' that make them very attractive. Unnoticeable weight, tiny size, low price for the MBA 11 and retina display, smaller size for rMBP.


macrumors newbie
Mar 21, 2009
I decided to change from the current generation MBA 13" to a rMBP 13". I am using it for mainly writing papers at my university. I really like the retina screen, compared to the MBP is is much brighter, colorful and ofcourse its much sharper.

But the performance of the machine is not that good as I expected. I would definately wait till the next generation of rMPB, with the new processor generation of Intel and an updated version of the graphic card. On the recommented resolution, 1280 x 800 its working fine, but I prefer to work with 1440 x 900 and then you really see that is is having problems with performance.

And you will notice that it is a bit heavier, but for me that was not a problem. The screen difference is big and the laptop itself has a better finishing. Don't forget btw that the charger that comes with the rMBP is bigger and more heavy then the charger of the MBA.

So to answer your question, I would prefer to buy the rMBP with the updated version of the processors (probably at WWDC 13' Apple will announce it)


macrumors P6
Oct 14, 2008
For paper writing, the rMBP (no matter whether 13" or 15") is the best laptop on the market, simply because the font quality is unparalleled. And 13" rMBP offers more real screen estate than the MBA.


macrumors regular
Dec 29, 2005
I am a researcher and i am reading and writing a lot of papers on my 11" first gen mbair and i am really satisfied with it. I could use a bit more ram and power but i guess this is addressed in the newer generations.
I think i would go for the Mbair 13" if i was in the market for a laptop. I find more advantages to it than the rmbp 13".


macrumors 65816
May 1, 2009
The 13" rMBP is only .5 lb heaver than the MBA and has a smaller footprint, as others have pointed out. However the 13" MBA, in my opinion, is a better deal in terms of what you get for your money.

The 13" rMBP doesn't have a dedicated GPU and the Retina is "first gen tech" which I personally don't like to buy. the rMBP is also going to be more expensive to repair so that "future-proofing" is going to come at a cost. also, if Retina really is here to stay (or not), as that future comes and goes, you're not going to like shelling out the big bucks for out of warranty repairs on something that's either ho-hum standard or even worse, has been replaced by something better.

No doubt the 13" rMBP is a "better" computer but I don't need that kind of screen for my work and it doesn't sound to me like you don't either.
but if you want to suffer through that thesis in high def then by all means :p

there is no alternative to going to the fruitstand and trying them out. i walked in sure i wanted a 13" mba and walked out with the 11"
the 13" MBA is incredible, but it didn't feel as portable as the 11" and there was a surprising lack of difference between it and the 13" rMBP

to me the real choice came down to the 11" MBA or the 15" rMBP
portability, or power... i went with portability.

you've got to try them all - and i'd bring your current computer with you if you can.


macrumors member
Mar 26, 2009
I'm involved in medical research and write academic journal manuscripts. I own the most recent 13MBA and this is what I do most of research and writing on. While I sometimes want to slam my MBA against a wall, 95% of the time it is just fine. For the other times, typically when I'm going through multiple PDFs, the solution would be having an external monitor set up. I don't think I would trade the portability of my MBA for a larger screen for the 5% of the time I get irritated. Again, if I had an external set up in my office (which I currently don't, but will), then I'd be totally happy.
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