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The personal site of Jamie Knight, an autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

13" Retina MacBook Pro Review

A few weeks ago i started testing the 13” retina MacBook Pro. My goal was to see if the rMBP was a viable replacement for my aging iMac and MacBook Air combo.

Can i consolidate to the rMBP? Does the screen justify the high price? Will i miss the 11” form factor? Is it ready for primetime?

Consolidating to one Mac.

While i was self employed i had a dedicated Mac for work. It mostly lived under lock and key to keep client data secure. At home i had a Mac Mini for media and the Air for studying and personal stuff. When i left self employment i sold the Mini and my work Mac to fund an iMac.

Since getting Sky TV i have been using my media machine less and less. I don’t do much client work either so the iMac is really getting to be overkill for my needs. The iMac also carried a maintence overhead. Ensuring that it remains backed up and up to date.

So, i wanted to know if i could combine the iMac and the Air into one MacBook. The rMBP performed well here, it’s plenty fast enough to handle all my media and development needs and the screen is frankly beautiful.

However, the rMBP has a big flaw. Storage. Even after slimming my media library down to only my favourites it was still way to large to fit on the 128gb drive the rMBP comes with. Given the cost of the rMBP this is disappointing, i would happily spend a little more for a larger drive but a 550 premuim for a 512gb drive is way to much.

So, my conclusion is that right now i could not consolidate to the rMBP for a resonable cost. Damn.

Does the screen justify the price?

Much has been written about the retina screen in the rMBP. It is very impressive. Taken on its own it’s a marvel, easilly the best screen i have ever used. For some users the screen will justify the premuim. If i did more freelance work then i could justify the screen but for my personal needs it’s not so clear cut.

Apart from the financial cost the retina screen currently carries a performance and form factor cost. The general UI performance is noticeably degraded. The most noticable issue is scrolling complex pages. Even using the webkit nightly build scrolling is choppy on most pages and almost non functional once you page zoom.

The form factor costs relates to choice. A retina screen is only avaliable on the 13” and 15” models. Drat.

Form Factor

After two years using an 11” MacBook air i am very fond of the small portable form factor. While the 13” pro is only a little larger (a couple of CM in each direction) the added weight is really noticable. I cannot easily manipulate the rMBP when moving it around. Compared to the 13” pro it replaces it is a wonder, but compared to my 11” Air it’s a slab of a machine.

Final Words

The rMBP feels a little ahead of its time, the enginnering is superb and its easy to see the potential. However, on the current generation of chips the performance is lagging behind the promise. For me, it does not provide a clear enough win to justify the price premuim over sticking with my iMac and Air setup.

Looking forward i am very optimisitic. Time will resolve all of my complaints going forward. The price of the screen and storage will drop and hopefully Apple will see it fit to add an 11” Stablemate.

Published: 27 January 2013 | Categories: , Permalink


  1. Alex · Feb 22, 09:06 pm ·

    I agree with you on the performance lag. I am waiting anxiously for the July refresh and hoping Haswell chips make it into the rMBP which could potentially fix some of these UI issues.

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