Mini-review: 13" MacBook Pro Retina

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 30, 2014, 10:55 PM | comments: 0

I finally pulled the trigger and bought a new laptop, even though my MacBook Air is under two years old. Diana will get that one, which is a serious upgrade over her 4-year-old+ 13" MBP with a crusty mechanical hard drive. I opted for the 13" MBP with retina display ("late 2013"), specifically the most equipped stock model (2.6 GHz i5, 8 gigs of RAM, 512 gig SSD). My hand was slightly forced on this, because I was out of room, and couldn't really delete anything else on the Air, which had half of the SSD space. Kind of interesting footnote, this config costs the same thing as the Air in 2012. I suppose Apple could introduce something new next week, or mostly likely in the fall to match Intel's CPU roadmap, but I doubt I would see a real difference.

The wins are pretty much what you would expect. The high resolution screen is completely awesome. It hurt to give up on the original 15" MBPr model I bought in 2012 with the screen problem. Windows 8.1 (in Parallels) works incredibly well with most apps, though most importantly, with Visual Studio. When you look at a lot of code, it's nice to have really sharp text. The typography in Windows 8 in general looks much better on a high-res screen, as you likely know if you've used a Surface 2.

Another win is that the just slightly larger machine lends itself to better cooling. This was the most annoying thing about the Air, in that pushing the CPU (with games, periodic Windows scanning or intensive code builds) would always ramp up the fan, and that was annoying. In testing the intensive scenarios, I haven't been able to get the fan to a loud place. It's also interesting that it cools very quickly when you give it a rest. That makes sense if only for the fact that there's a lot more aluminum to dissipate heat. I'm confident that I can use this computer for video editing, easily.

Things generally feel a little snappier, which makes sense between the faster CPU and the PCIe storage (which the Air didn't have at the time). I can run the Windows VM quite comfortably in 4 gigs of RAM, and will continue to do so. It's incredibly responsive, and I could probably give it more room since I typically don't have more than a browser open on the OS X side.

Most importantly though, I've got room to do stuff. That's what was killing me. I was at the point where I could no longer fit a copy of the archived CoasterBuzz database and then restore it because I was so stuck on room.

Overall, this isn't a remarkable upgrade, but the timing was appropriate. I've been thinking about it since the fall, but between the house and having to pay for my own insurance, I didn't feel comfortable. With all of the new development tools, and that constant evolution, it's helpful to have room for multiple VM's so you can learn and experiment without trashing your production dev environment.


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