Yet another 'which should I get, Pro vs. Air' thread?

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Justin.ave, Oct 30, 2013.

  1. Justin.ave macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2013
    Hi there,

    I hate to add to the ever growing list of 'should I get this vs. that' threads. But after reading through many threads and searching high and low for information, I think it's best to just flat out ask for some opinions.

    Backstory: So here it is. I'm coming off of a Intel core duo 15" MacBook Pro/1.83ghz/80gbHD/2gb ram-upgraded to 4 after a few years. This computer has been my baby. It was my first mac and has stood the test of time. Apple Care has served it well, and outside of having to purchase more batteries then I care to admit, I've never had serious issues with it outside of its warranty. For the past year I've had to limit my work on it as it's started to slow down. Unfortunately, after all this time, the screen has finally gone out on it. The computer and everything else still works. But at this point it's become little more then a media player/light browsing use when plugged into the tv. So it's time to move on/forward.

    Needs: I'm a heavy iWork/Office user. Mainly, Word/Pages, Keynote/PowerPoint, not a lot of excel/numbers. I have roughly 500gb+ of photos all stored on external hard drives. I work with Aperture primarily, and lightly use Photoshop and Illustrator. Outside of that, the norm is web browsing and other basic usage. I like to play with iMovie, however I don't use it heavily, or regularly. Outside of whatever technical issues can arise, I'd like to have a machine that will last and perform solidly for 4+ years. I've had my current mac(dead screen) for over 6 years now. And it still boots, runs and operates with little issues.(although, I've given up using aperture/photoshop etc on it). Battery life isn't a big deal to me. It blows my mind that the airs can currently get 12 hours +. But coming from what I've been using, anything more then 3 is solid in my opinion.

    Looking at: 13" MacBook Pro Retina or the 11"/13"MacBook Air. I have yet to make it to the apple store to test out the new Retina Pro's. However the previous model didn't impress me as much as I was hoping it would. The air is where I've been leaning. However, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in me are fighting over which will be the better fit. I feel longevity wise, the pro is the way to go. However I've been reading the airs have been getting better and better over the years. I can't argue with the weight. The air wins and as a avid photographer, nature/wildlife/explorer type, having as little weight on my back is a huge plus.

    Price: it is a small concern. But I look at these machines as a investment (hence my wish for it to last 4+ years). So I'm willing to spend a little more to protect my investment. I will be purchasing Apple Care. With all that in mind. I'm hopeful to keep the cost below or around $1600.

    So this is where I'm at. I would like to purchase sometime before Christmas if I can swing it. Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated!
  2. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    I would recommend you the 13" Pro (the $1499 model). Reasoning: the retina display is amazing for working with text, the battery life is not that much worse compared to the Air, and the weight is also quite similar. Also, its almost the same price than an equivalent Air with the 8GB upgrade (which is a good idea to get most of the laptop in the coming years, IMO).
  3. TigerMe macrumors member

    Feb 26, 2011

    You want the Macbook Pro Retina for sure. For the things that you work on and the longevity you are looking for, the investment in the pro is likely the right machine for you.

    If you can swing upgrading to 16GB of memory, I strongly suggest you do it. That's the primary thing that will help longevity.

    Hope this helps.
  4. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    I would have said the Air until the retina MBP started closing the weight gap. Now with the better screen and still not losing ultimate portability, I would go with the 13" MBP. If you need ultra portable and size matters, then the smaller Air will be fine.
  5. AlecMyrddyn macrumors 6502

    Dec 5, 2008
    Southern Maine
    If you can, go and play with the 13" Air and 13" rMBP side-by-side in a Best Buy/Apple Store/etc. for a while. For a lot of people, the screen sells the rMBP, and once they get used to the clarity of the Retina display, they can't consider any other screen. Others don't care. It's a personal preference issue.

    The biggest difference between the two (other than the obvious form-factor & 1/2 pound of weight) is the screen: the MBA with a resolution of 1440x900 vs. the rMBP's 2560x1600.

    In terms of longevity, especially considering your photo work using Photoshop, Aperture & Illustrator, keep in mind that the MBA is limited to 8GB of RAM, and the rMBP 16 GB. Both are BTO options, and you need to decide now as they can't be changed later on.

    In your position, given your budget, I'd consider the following two options:

    13" MBA, BTO: 1.7 GHz i7/8 GB RAM/256 GB SSD @ $1479 (EDU Store Pricing) + AppleCare @ B&H Photo Apple Care for $176 = $1655.

    13" rMBP, base middle option: 2.4 GHz i5/8 GB RAM/256 GB SSD @ $1399 (EDU Store Pricing) + AppleCare @ B&H Photo Apple Care for $176 = $1575.

    Comparing those two, the MBA actually has about 7% better single-core processor benchmarks, multi-core benchmarks are pretty much the same between both processors. The 1.3 GHz i5 on the MBA is something I would recommend avoiding, as it's up to 25% slower than the 1.7 i7 or 2.4 i5 listed above.

    The big question for the longevity of the machine is if 8 GB of RAM is enough to last you 4+ years. Answering that question requires a crystal ball that we just don't have. You can upgrade the rMBP to 16 GB of RAM for another $180, but that blows your budget up. The MBA maxes out at 8 GB.

    Reasons not to upgrade to 16 GB:
    1. The 2.4/8/256 is an in-stock configuration. Upgrading to 16 is BTO, meaning you can't walk out with a brand new replacement from an Apple Store using AppleCare, you'd have to order and wait for a replacement.
    2. $180
    3. Mavericks is very good at RAM management, and can compress unused memory to make room.
    4. SSDs an order of magnitude faster than hard drives, so if your system does swap, it's less noticeable.
    5. Your photo editing is one program, one image at a time. You don't multitask with several large images open at the same time while also running the Office Suite in the background.

    Reasons to upgrade to 16 GB now:
    1. You are a heavy multitasking user, or work with huge RAW image files, or may get into more HD video editing or running VMs for Windows applications.
    2. RAM is not upgradable in the future, if you don't do it now, your only option in the future is to change how you work (stop multitasking, Quit applications you aren't using, etc.), or sell and replace the computer.
    3. It's worth $180 of your money now to possibly extend the useful life of this machine another year or two.

    If possible, load up the most demanding set of tasks on your current system and look at RAM usage to get an idea of how much is currently being used.

    Hope that's helpful...
  6. Justin.ave thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 30, 2013
    This is all really great information, thank you so much!

    I don't think I do a lot of multitasking.. At most I would probably have Aperture/Pages/Safari/itunes going at one time. Generally I will limit it to two or three programs at a time though.. The fact that I am questioning 16gb of ram leads me to think I probably don't need it.. Although, we can't really predict the future and I know I've had to upgrade my ram in the past. If it can't be upgraded in the future I'd have to be sure whatever I go with will be enough now and 4 years from now.

    I'm still quite on the fence between the air/retinapro. It would probably be best for me to go to the store to compare in person.
  7. PDFierro macrumors 68040

    Sep 8, 2009
    Definitely go into the store and check them out. You will probably end up loving the screen of the Pro and that will be the deal-breaker.
  8. Dekard macrumors 6502


    Sep 7, 2011
    Dallas, Texas
    Go with the 13 pro.. I got the 11 air and now I want more speed/better screen..trying to code on the 11 inch air screen is horrendous.. :(
  9. Shubbeh macrumors member

    Nov 2, 2013
    Wouldn't you have the same problem with the 13" rMBP? You're only getting 1280x800 worth of desktop real estate (compare to the 11" MBA's 1366x768), although you have the option of using a scaled resolution, but then you lose part of the benefit of the Retina display.
    That's personally what's keeping me on the fence between the 13" rMBP and the 13" MBA. I currently have an 11" MBA and I know I want a bigger screen because I find myself hunching over the laptop a little too much.
    Anyway, don't let me derail the topic.
  10. mthos macrumors member

    Oct 23, 2013
    I went from a 13" Macbook Air I was using to a Macbook Pro 15" and turned the resolution all the way up and the amount of real estate compared to the 13" Air is night and day when it comes to coding especially. I love it.

    I've never owned a 13" rMBP but I held one in the store and played around on it, and it is barely noticeable in weight to the 13" Air, the screen is much better (a lot more real estate as well if you turn up resolution), you're getting a much better processor, better graphics processing at the expense of some battery life.

    I would recommend going with the 8GB RAM unit (middle unit of 13" Pro) over 4GB RAM base unit. I'm a little shocked Apple isn't going with a baseline of 8GB in their Pro unit in 2013.

    I would go play with them in the store, Apple and Best Buy never have a problem with you sitting there for a while and testing out the units to see which you prefer.

    As for trying to keep the cost under $1600 with AppleCare will be tough with an 8GB RAM unit. You can always buy the AppleCare within the 12 month window of initial purchase, so you can budget for it over the next 12 months and not get it right away as it comes with 12 months by default and Apple lets you buy AppleCare before the 12 months expires.

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