Why I bought a high-end MacBook Air instead of the Retina MBP

After the WWDC keynote, I was convinced I would buy a new MacBook Air. I was looking forward to any announcements about new hardware during the event, as my 13″ 2010 MacBook Pro (Henceforth abbreviated as MBP) was becoming increasingly slow and dated. Also, I wanted to gift my MBP to my mother, who is currently using a horrible tiny Windows XP Netbook and every time I see her struggling to work on it, my insides hurt. All tweets about my shopping plans, or, later, about my new toy (I bought it yesterday) were met with surprise and bewilderment: I was repeatedly bombarded with questions asking why I’m not getting a Retina MacBook Pro, over and over again. The fact that I paid about $2200 + tax for it (it’s the best 13″ Air you can currently get) made it even more weird: If you could afford that, why wouldn’t you possibly get the Retina MBP at the exact same price?

At first, I tried to reply with individual tweets to everyone that asked. Then I got tired of that and started replying with links to the first tweets, then I decided to write a blog post. So, here are my reasons:

Portability

I travel a lot. For me, it’s very important to be able to use my laptop in a cramped airplane seat, or while standing in a line. You can’t really do that with a 15″ MacBook Pro, even with the new slimmer design. I wanted to be able to quickly pull it out of my tote bag with one hand, hold it with said hand and quickly look up something with the other hand. Usage scenarios of that sort are just unthinkable for big laptops. Of course, portability is not the only thing that matters, as I only use one laptop as my main work machine. Having two machines, one for portability and one for “real work”, always seemed to me like more hassle than it’s worth. So, a 11″ MacBook Air was also out of the question. Which brings us to the middle ground of a 13″ laptop. All my laptops had always been around 13″. It’s a perfect trade-off between power and portability and I don’t wish to change that any time soon. It was quite simple: The 13″ Air is more portable than my MBP. The 15″ Retina MBP was less portable. I needed more portability than I had, not less.

I saw the Retina MBP and wasn’t too impressed

When I first went to the Apple Store to buy the MacBook Air, I saw the new Retina display. I even managed to use it a bit, despite the swarm of fellow geeks nerdgasming uncontrollably around it. I won’t lie: I was tempted at first. The display is very crisp indeed, although the difference between icons that were not updated for the Retina is quite obvious, especially next to their accompanying text (which is always crisp, since text is vector-based). I started being unsure about my decision, as Nicole Sullivan can attest (she was with me). And then it dawned on me: Hey, I should see the MacBook I was planning to buy in person too. Maybe its screen is also quite crisp. Maybe the difference won’t even be that noticeable. I was right: My simple, untrained eyes could not really tell the difference. MacBook Airs have a decently crisp screen. Of course, if you put them next to each other, I’d imagine the difference would be fairly obvious. But who does that?

However, my impression still wasn’t sufficient to make a decision. I’ve learned not to trust my unreliable human senses too much. I needed numbers. Calculating the actual DPI of a monitor is actually fairly simple: All you need is the Pythagorean theorem you learned in school, to calculate the hypotenuse of the screen in pixels, and then divide that number by the length of the diagonal in inches. The result will be the number of pixels per inch, commonly (and slightly incorrectly) referred to as DPI (PPI is more correct). If you know basic JavaScript, you don’t even need a calculator, just your ol’ trusty console.

I even wrote a handy function that does it for me:

function dpi(w,h,inches) { return Math.round(Math.sqrt(w*w + h*h)/inches) }

For the 13″ MacBook Air, the DPI is:

> dpi(1440, 900, 13.3)
128

For the Retina MBP, it’s:

 > dpi(2880, 1800, 15.4)
 221

220 DPI is certainly higher than 130, but it’s not the kind of eyegasm-inducing difference I experienced when I moved from an iPhone 3G to an iPhone 4 (the difference there was 163 DPI vs 326 DPI).

I don’t want to distance myself too much from the average web user

It happens more than we like to admit: We get cool new hardware, and eventually we’re carried away and think most web users are close to our level. We start designing for bigger and bigger resolutions, because it’s hard to imagine that some people are still on 1024×768. We code to better CPUs, because it’s hard to imagine how crappy computers many of our target users have. We don’t care about bandwidth and battery, because they aren’t a concern for most of us. Some of us will realize before launching, during a very painful testing session, some others will only realize after the complaints start pouring in. It’s the same reason a website always looks and works better in the browser its developers use, even though almost always it gets tested in many others.

We like to think we’re better than that, that we always test, that we never get carried away, but in most cases we are lying to ourselves. So, even though I recognize that I probably have much better hardware than most web users, I consciously try to avoid huge resolutions as I know I’ll get carried away. I try to keep myself as close to the average user as I can tolerate. Using IE9 on a 1024×768 resolution would be over that threshold, but not using a Retina display is easily tolerable.

That’s all folks

Hope this makes sense. Hopefully, it might help others trying to decide between the two. I sure am very happy so far with my new Air :)

  • http://twitter.com/davebarrett David Barrett

    I’m planning on getting the same model, mostly for the last reason you mention, though with 256GB and not 512GB of storage. I can’t justify the extra $500 for the extra SSD space. Can I ask what made you decide to do so, rather than use a USB 3 external drive for virtual machines and the like?

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      You are absolutely correct. I was planning on getting the 256GB one too. However, that’s not in stock in the Apple Stores, so I would’ve had to wait until June 22nd. Given that I’m flying to Greece tomorrow, it would mean I’d have to wait until they come to Greece or until the next time I’m in the States. Paying $500 for 256GB AND getting it at least a month earlier didn’t seem that unreasonable. But if you’re not in a rush like I was, yeah, totally agree.

      • http://twitter.com/davebarrett David Barrett

        They had them in store customized like that? NICE. I thought they only stocked the standard models.

        • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

          I thought the same. Apparently, they stock two kinds of models: The most standard one and the most high-end one.

    • Bastian

      Thank you for all your postings. Glad to know I am not the only one coming to the same conclusion on this buy. I am currently concerned with the same 256 vs 512 GB SSD for the MBA question. My reasoning as a frequent traveller in developing countries with slow internet accessibility, but cheap DVDs is: I want to watch movies without an external drive dangling from my laptop, so I’ll encode them from DVDs and store them on my HD, which adds up to a lot of data very quickly. So I feel the need to make up for the lost ability to access my physical DVD library conveniently by being able to store a good part of it on my HD. I also consider that as software and operating systems develop they tend to require more and more harddrive-space (unless you work on linux of course). Since there is no way to upgrade the glued-in harddrive at a later stage (which I did with my 2007 Macbook until now about 3 times), I feel, I would regret not having spent those additional 500$ in, let’s say 1-2 years time. Considering, i would use the machine for the next 4 years (which is usually my cycle), it costs me 125$ per year. That’s just a little more than what I spent on harddrive upgrades on my old Macbook over the past 5 years (120 GB to 250 GB to 500 GB).

  • Anonymous

    So, what about the wow-ing part. What’s so much better compared to snow leopard? :)

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      Launchpad, Mission control, Full screen, the new gestures, the UI changes (form controls, scrollbars, progress bars etc)

  • http://twitter.com/niksosf Nik So

    I agree with that the weight being very important. 8 years ago, under a tight budget, I settled for the heavier but more powerful Dell over another Dell model, thinking that (for one, being a guy, weight shouldn’t come into my decision). How wrong was I, that thing tainted every thought of my bringing it around, like, for example, my office or a coffeeshop. Then I was setting up this half the weight computer for a colleague, I found myself having a hard time to part with it. I remember picking it up from the starbucks table and putting it in my backpack, readying to leave for the first time, it was like I woke up from a coma. It’s like getting the 120 Honda fit vs the Leaf’s 90 miles, it may not sound much, but suddenly, you dare to hope: what can I do with this extra convenience. And you WILL find something to do with it.

    then I went through one more model of Dell before settling with last year’s highest end Macbook air. Same exact argument you are making here. Having no extra anything dangling around, too. Like external hdd or even a usb thumbdrive. I do have a mifi but that’s it. the ONE-NESS shows you what the work environment can be without all the loosely integrateable parts.

    I think you made the right call

  • http://horia.me/ Horia Dragomir

    I’ve been working AND travelling on a 13′ MBA exclusively for almost a year now and I am more than happy!

    You have definitely made the right decision, Lea!

    • Grunt_at_the_Point

      You mean, he made the right decision for him.

      • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

        Hey, I just bought a new laptop, I didn’t change my gender :)

      • http://horia.me/ Horia Dragomir

        I’m sorry, I was talking to her — so yes ;-)

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  • coffeeyesplease

    Thanks, good read.
    I’ve been a Windows user (programmer) my whole professional life and I just bought my first Apple. In my case an iMac since I don’t travel and I really wanted more processing power. I was expecting an update in WWDC, which didn’t happen. So I was torn if I should get the new macbook pro or not. After reading this post I’m almost certain that was the best decision…

  • ausi

    I needed a new Laptop because my old MBP is now 5 Years old…
    So I ordered the Retina MBP, because portability ist not so important for me and the Retina MBP is cheaper than the classic MBP with similar configuration (256GB SSD and 8GB Ram).
    For me your last point is very important (I didn’t thought of it while buying the Retina MBP). There are many designers and developers out there who do not think of this.

  • http://joelglovier.com Joel Andrew Glovier

    I came to the exact conclusion you did. I had been working on a 16GB, 8 core Mac Pro tower in tandem with a 15″ Macbook with an SSD and 8GB ram. I decided earlier this year I wanted to move to just ONE machine, and to be able to be completely portable.

    A friend suggested that with the SSD I could forgo the power of the Mac Pro, and indeed when I added the SSD to my 15″ Macbook Pro it was all set, and consequently sold the tower a couple months ago.

    But it was time to get a brand new Macbook, and I did a ton of research over the last few weeks between the 13″ Air and a 13″ or 15″ Macbook Pro. The big holdup for me was only 4GB of RAM, and limited size of SSD (although I knew you can get an aftermarket SSD of up to 480GB from OWC, but at the cost of >$1000).

    So as soon as they announced the 13″ Macbook with 8 GB, & 500GB of storage, I knew that was the one I wanted. I bought it about 5 minutes after they brought the Apple store back online that day and got it last Friday.

    I def made the right choice.

  • http://twitter.com/TriRy Ryan

    I am a gamer – and that is one of the only reasons I still choose a 15″ MBP over a 13″ MBA – games.

    I agree the portability of the MBA is amazing, but so is the iPad. And with a bluetooth keyboard, the iPad is almost a more portable computer than the MBA. If you don’t play games or do extreme image editing, why not get an iPad as your portable computer?

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      Because, like I wrote, I can’t have two computers, one for portability and one for work. I want my work with me at all times (not just the files, but also the tools). I’ve coded stuff on airports, during flights, at conference talks etc. I wouldn’t be able to do that efficiently on an iPad. If I want ultra portability, I have an iPhone. The iPad always looked nice to me, but absolutely redundant for my workflow.

    • Bastian

      I tried that for about 2 months, when I got unexpectedly stranded without my macbook. As much as I love my ipad for what it is great for, I would seriously reconsider going with this option, unless you can install a fully operational operating system on your ipad. Ever since I keep googling for “linux on ipad” in regular intervals, hoping that one day the setup you propose would in fact be a valuable option…

  • Evan

    “My 13″ 2010 MacBook Pro was becoming increasingly slow and dated”

    1) “Slow” comes from having a full HD and not doing regular filesystem maintenance. It doesn’t mean you have to consume another product, it means you need to take care of your machine.

    2) What does “dated” mean? The 2012 MBA improves little on the 2010 MBP (physical size and resolution aside, which aren’t enough to make the latter “dated”). If you mean that it looks “dated” then, well, there you have it. Keeping up with the Verous.

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      I would reply seriously to this, but the trolling tone put me off it. Not worth the time. Feel free to think whatever you want. Cheers :)

      • Gerald

        I do not want to be a troll (I hope…) but I really would like to know if a 2-year old MBP could be consider as “slow” and “dated”.

        For now, I do not have any Mac… but I think about buying a MBP or a MBA. For that, thanks for your post ! It brings me a good piece of help and advices !!
        But, knowing the prices of MacBook, I will not appreciate to have a “slow” and “dated” laptop in 2 years… 4 years would be more reasonable…

        Maybe you’re just really demanding with your IT equipment, or you want to make a real nice present to your mother, but please re-assure the future Mac buyers…

        Thanks !

        • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

          Don’t worry, you don’t come off as a troll at all. You didn’t try to personally insult me, like the other guy. :)

          I guess it’s both, I didn’t want to use my old laptop until it’s completely useless, since then it would be pointless to gift it to my mom. Also, no matter how much you take care of your hardware, your disk always gets slower as time goes by and your battery always ends up lasting less. My computer is my main work tool, and I think it’s a reasonable investment to try to have a good one at all times. If I were a plumber, I’d focus on having good tools as well, but I’m a web developer and that’s the tool I use.

          Nevertheless, I’d strongly advise you to get a Mac. Superficial as it may sound, I switched from Windows 2 years ago, because everybody seemed so excited with their Macs, so I figured, if nobody is disappointed, I most likely won’t be either. Turns out they were right: 2 years later and I can’t imagine myself using anything else. Although it was a bit hard to get used to for the first month or so. After that, it’s as smooth as having used Macs all your life.

        • Michał Gołębiowski

          I wonder if switching from Ubuntu (which I’ve used for the last 5 years after switching from Windows XP) to OS X will be as much easy… I’m getting my first MacBook in a few months, pretty excited about that. :) BTW, I can’t imagine getting any non-ASP.NET web development on Windows, many tools I need are UNIX-friendly and Windows-hostile (at least a little…), how did you manage it? :) Web devs in my firm are almost exclusively working on Linux or OS X.

          I decided to get a Pro, but not the Retina variant, a little too expensive for my needs and I’m concerned about “replaceabilty” of a glued battery. I’m planning to get rid of the optical drive and have an SSD+HDD setup, should be fast enough.

          It was nice reading your thoughts, anyway. Especially that I envy you your skills a little. ;)

        • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

          Since OSX is Unix based, I’d expect it’s easier for people switching from Linux compared to people switching from Windows.

        • http://datalaforge.wordpress.com/ DataLaForge

          I had a similar experience when I switched to OSX. I’m currently on my 2.26Core 2 Duo 13″MBP w/SSD. I do audio production on this and it’s still pretty good. I think that I want to move into a MBA of similar spec to yours and give this computer to my wife. One thing that really irks me is when people say that the new MBAs are only good for web browsing and creating documents. My Mac is half as powerful and still overpowered for those tasks? Do the MBA’s have the asymmetrical fans? The most important thing for me right now is having a quiet room for my microphones. ~Sorry for all of the lingo and abbrev.

  • Anonymous

    Weight and portability are *so* important if you do any travelling – the maxim “Only carry what you need” is true with regard to laptops.

    I’ve just bought a top-spec MacBook Air too, for the portability and also because it will triple boot with Linux & Windows (using rEFIt). Very useful for a front end dev freelancer working in different development environments (loath though I am to sully a mac with a Virtual Studio ;)

  • PeterNL

    Best of luck with your excellent choice and taste!

  • http://www.facebook.com/michaeljcalkins Michael Calkins

    Well thank you for flipping my thoughts on the retina display, I’m always happy to have my views challenged xP

  • Mana

    I almost jealous now, your comment regarding your ‘old’ and ‘dated’ MBP makes my Late 2010 MBA ancient. :-)
    That aside – I’ve been using my MBA for over a year now.
    I have to say that I absolutely love the MBA.
    It was a gamble to go for something that has no DVD drive and network connections. I realised that I hardly use them. Like you I didn’t want two computers – I hated the idea of sharing data between even if I used an external SVN account or something like that.I wanted opportunities to tinker away at code or read an eBook without having to worry how much I’m carrying. I just love the fact I can carry it practically anywhere.

    I did buy a Samsung USB DVD drive – to install Windows and to watch the odd DVD movie.
    Enjoy your Air.

  • Bastian

    Thanks for sharing your thinking on this. I haven’t read about this perspective anywhere else.

  • http://twitter.com/suchy Mateusz Suchoń

    And how about workingmargin on it with Photoshop three browsers, some editor etc? I hope that three isn’t any słów momentu or something?

  • Eric Dum

    i’ll buy the new Air.

  • Andrew

    Seriously, all you needed to say was “I travel a lot.”

  • Anonymous

    Why didn’t you consider 13″ MBP with SSD in the optibay? It would have been cheaper and powerful.

    But I’m still confused between the above upgrade VS 13″ MBA, the two things that go in favor of MBA is slightly higher dpi( yeah, for reasons unknown) and slimmer form factor.

    What do you think about the MBP upgrade? and do you notice the dpi difference between the new MBA and the previous MBP you had?

    I’m a passionate web developer too, and even I love those tools :)

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      Yes, I most certainly notice the dpi difference.
      The slimmer form factor and smaller weight were quite important too. My old MBP seems super heavy now, as the MBA is much, much lighter and easier to carry. Portability is becomes important when you travel a lot (and even when not travelling, I carry it around almost everywhere).

    • Andrew

      Dude, even the base model 13″ MacBook Pro (non retina-display) costs $2199.99 with the same amount of SSD as hers, and that model would have less RAM, a processor with a slower Turbo Boost, and would be way thicker and heavier. Where are you getting your data?

      • akshayaurora

        I’m talking abt non-Apple SSD. A 1399$ 13″ MBP (non retina) with SSD in optibay is better in perfomance. Since I don’t do much travelling. The weight and thickness is not an issue for me.

  • Anonymous

    Im using a 11″ Air for the same reasons. It’s just as convenient as the iPad and it fits discretely into a small backpack.

  • Beefer

    Distance yourself from the average web user? lol. What a silly section that was.

  • http://twitter.com/lextwit Mellon Collie

    Interesting. I agree with all your reasons, but I have some concerns about the performance of the MBA. I’ve read that the MBA is noisier than other MB because the fans start spinning when used in a more exigent environment, like retouching high-res images, video editing, Adobe Illustrator, etc.

    Have you noticed this?

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      Not really, it’s just as loud as my previous MBP, or less. But I haven’t retouched hi-res images or done video editing. However, I’ve used Illustrator a lot and I’ve crashed browsers with accidental infinite loops. :P

  • Mewtwo

    Crap! This is a good explanation

  • http://twitter.com/iPaintCode Mark Learst

    The 13 MBA (2012) is an extremely nice machine with maxed out features. I had this same debate after WWDC and due to OCD I had to buy the rMBP. Back in 2011 I bought a MBA and ended up giving it to my wife due to her 2010 MBP being to big for her to travel with. Either way the MBA 13 and rMBP are both great machines, and Lea does make some VERY valid points. Doing “web” design / development on a MBA will give you way more power then you’ll ever need, so it’s plenty of juice to get loose, the only drawback is the GPU and from the sounds of it Lea isn’t a hardcore gaming nerd. Far as the noise, my wife MBA with fans full tilt was about half as noisy as her MBP.

    End of the day, looks like Lea found her perfect match, congrats!

  • Soham Chowdhury

    I s’pose it all comes down to personal preference.
    I for one like the rMBP.

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  • Eren

    I agree with your reasoning, I actually bought the Retina MBP first, used it for a couple of days and couldn’t get over how large and heavy it felt compared to my old 13″ 2010 Air. So I took it back and traded it for a fully-loaded 2012 model Air. Apple stores have a 14 day money-back guarantee. Much happier now with the Air. It’s ludicrously fast compared to my old 2010 model.

    I won’t miss the retina screen much because there weren’t many apps which made use of it. I’m going to wait until HiDPI screens trickle down to 13″ models. By that time, there should be a decent smattering of third-party apps which support HiDPI displays out there as well. Right now, there aren’t many, just some first-party Apple apps.

  • Mr. Saturn

    I wouldn’t call a 2010 MBP “dated”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.pyman Ben Pyman

    I had a 11″ MBA and loved it. Super fast even with small CPU, One handed use was awesome, took it all over. Had to get an iPad for testing and sold the MBA as they were a little ‘close’ to justify having both. My home iMac just died, and I’m thinking of moving my work iMac home and going to a MBA 13 for studio work maxed as yours is with external screen and then take it everywhere. I like the idea of 1 work machine with a iMac at home for backup. MBA really are just so usable and portable, people don’t get the huge difference it makes until they’ve lived with one for a while…

  • Norm

    I agree 2010 MBP is dated? I’m writing a response on my 2005 MBP :) It still runs after still after several accidental low drops and banging it around… the battery has failed.. and super drive

    • Will

      I have also been struggling along with my old (2007) macbook pro for a while now. It’s done well (it gets put through hell, beaten and batter.. I drop it all the time and smash it into stuff etc accidentally) but my second battery has recently failed and the superdrive went a year or two ago. I dropped it and the screen bezel cracked the other day too, so I said sod it and ordered a new 11 inch macbook air.
      It’s funny, I’d always thought the air was stupid for not having a superdrive but mine broke a good few years ago and I haven’t missed it. The vast majority of content delivery seems to be online now anyway..or at least it’s going that way.

  • http://twitter.com/ddprrt Stefan Baumgartner

    Excellent choice. My company gave me a 2011 13″ MBA for an interim week waiting for the new MBP, and I miss the MBA ever since. Not only do I like the display a lot more (I prefer the elegance of the colors to the high resolution of the MBPs), also you get hooked to its slim weight.

  • Anonymous

    I was struggling to pick between the two as well! going to wait for macbook air retina on 13inch, best of both worlds!

  • Linda

    I’m so glad I found this article. I’m planning on replacing my 13″ 2008 Alum Unibody soon and I have had the same dilemma. To complicate the decision making process I keep reading about the possibility of a 13″ Retina Macbook pro. I know I’ll have this notebook a long time, so it’s not a choice to make lightly. So, your article put a lot in perspective for me. I’ll be ready to purchase by the end of the year. Good Lord, I wonder what they will come up with by then… a 13″ Macbook Air w/Retina display? Probably not.

    • http://jeremyvaught.com jeremyvaught

      LOL, Probably so. ;)

      • Linda

        Not long after my post I sold my little ’08 Alum Unibody. Knowing that the13″ Retina was coming I still opted for the MBA 2 GHz Intel Core i7 500 GB drive with 8 GB memory. Had it a month now and I’m so satisfied with my purchase. Between the longer life on the battery and the fact that it’s as light as a feather I feel totally liberated.

        I am quite aware that my having made this purchase confirms that a newer, faster, lighter, etc. etc. Air will be released shortly after my refund policy expires… and I can live with that… for a few years anyway.

  • Neil

    WOW! Unbelievable! I just went through the SAME EXACT decision making process last weekend and ended up buying the 13″ fully-loaded Air. A friend of mine just forwarded this blog to me today and I feel so much better about my decision now. My 2009 MacBook Pro had some hard drive problems but also was getting slow.

    I was contemplating exchanging my Air for the 15″ Retina just for the power (primarily the quad core) but I wouldn’t have loved the form factor like I do with my Air. I love, love, love, how gorgeous my Air is … and fast (enough)! Also, with the 15″ Retina, it defaults to 1440×900, just like my Air, so for 2880×1800, you have to change the setting and apparently, it uses a lot more power (i.e. probably the need for quad core). Of course, it’s way more bulky. The only things I somewhat don’t like about the Air is the fan does run more than I would like, the 1440×900 is a bit small (I was used to the 1280×800, which I thought was stretching it enough for a 13″) and I have noticed very minor issues with my Skype video (but that could have been my Internet connection?).

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  • jita

    Oh my GOD… this article has the same questions i have! same choices that i should decide:

    1- New Air MD846LL/A CTO—2 D-C i7 TB 3.2—4MB L3 1600—8GB DDR3L—512GB Flas—13.3” Glossy(1440*900)—512GB DDR3—1.3 Kg—Wifi/USB3/BT/WEB/TB/7H
    2- New Macbook Pro Retina MC975—2.3 QC i7 TB 3.3—6 MB L3—1600—8GB DDR3L—256GB Flash—15.4” Retina (2880*1800)—1GB DDR5 650M—2 Kg—WiFi/TB/USB3/BT/HDMI/Silver/7H

    but here is some things that i think about: Doual Cor Or Qouad Core? Share VGA OR 1GB DDR5? 4MB Cash OR 6MB Cash?1.3K OR 2K? Retina Or Normal Display? Height: 0.11-0.68 inches (0.3-1.7 cm) For Air OR Height: 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) For Macbook?

  • Guest

    Oh my GOD… this article has the same questions i have! same choices that i should decide:

    1- New Air MD846LL/A CTO—2 D-C i7 TB 3.2—4MB L3 1600—8GB DDR3L—512GB Flas—13.3” Glossy(1440*900)—512GB DDR3—1.3 Kg—Wifi/USB3/BT/WEB/TB/7H
    2- New Macbook Pro Retina MC975—2.3 QC i7 TB 3.3—6 MB L3—1600—8GB DDR3L—256GB Flash—15.4” Retina (2880*1800)—1GB DDR5 650M—2 Kg—WiFi/TB/USB3/BT/HDMI/Silver/7H

    but here is some things that i think about: Doual Cor Or Qouad Core? Share VGA OR 1GB DDR5? 4MB Cash OR 6MB Cash?1.3K OR 2K? Retina Or Normal Display? Height: 0.11-0.68 inches (0.3-1.7 cm) For Air OR Height: 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) For Macbook?

  • jita

    Oh my GOD… this article has the same questions i have! same choices that i should decide:

    1- New Air MD846LL/A CTO—2 D-C i7 TB 3.2—4MB L3 1600—8GB DDR3L—512GB Flas—13.3” Glossy(1440*900)—512GB DDR3—1.3 Kg—Wifi/USB3/BT/WEB/TB/7H
    2- New Macbook Pro Retina MC975—2.3 QC i7 TB 3.3—6 MB L3—1600—8GB DDR3L—256GB Flash—15.4” Retina (2880*1800)—1GB DDR5 650M—2 Kg—WiFi/TB/USB3/BT/HDMI/Silver/7H

    but here is some things that i think about: Doual Cor Or Qouad Core? Share VGA OR 1GB DDR5? 4MB Cash OR 6MB Cash?1.3K OR 2K? Retina Or Normal Display? Height: 0.11-0.68 inches (0.3-1.7 cm) For Air OR Height: 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) For Macbook?

  • jita

    Oh my GOD… this article has the same questions i have! same choices that i should decide:

    1- New Air MD846LL/A CTO—2 D-C i7 TB 3.2—4MB L3 1600—8GB DDR3L—512GB Flas—13.3” Glossy(1440*900)—512GB DDR3—1.3 Kg—Wifi/USB3/BT/WEB/TB/7H
    2- New Macbook Pro Retina MC975—2.3 QC i7 TB 3.3—6 MB L3—1600—8GB DDR3L—256GB Flash—15.4” Retina (2880*1800)—1GB DDR5 650M—2 Kg—WiFi/TB/USB3/BT/HDMI/Silver/7H

    but here is some things that i think about: Doual Cor Or Qouad Core? Share VGA OR 1GB DDR5? 4MB Cash OR 6MB Cash?1.3K OR 2K? Retina Or Normal Display? Height: 0.11-0.68 inches (0.3-1.7 cm) For Air OR Height: 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) For Macbook?

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3998275/Screen%20Shot%202012-10-29%20at%205.01.07%20PM.png

    • Starman_Andromeda

      Can the poster, mods, or writer delete one of these multiple, duplicate posts? The ones that begin “Oh, my GOD…”

      They’re distracting (not to mention taking the Lord’s name in vain– and I’m not particularly religious! :-) )! Thanks!

  • Jing

    How about the new 13′ MBPR? I also bought a MBA given the fact that MBPR is 15′ and it is so pricy. But now I am attempted to upgrade it to 13′ MBPR:(

  • jrasero

    You must have been bummed with the new 13″ RMBP. I have the 13″ i7, 256GB, 8GB MBA and got it refurbished for $1450. I know You can get the full decked out MBA refurbished from Apple for $1870. Personally I would have got a refurbished one or waited for the Retina MBP. The 13″ MBA is a great computer but not for $2200!

  • Starman_Andromeda

    Great review, very helpful. Appreciate your reflections and analysis as many of us are/were in the same boat.

    Had to chuckle over this, however, as a reason for picking the MacBook Air!

    “I wanted to be able to quickly pull it out of my tote bag with one hand, hold it with said hand and quickly look up something with the other hand.”

    LOL! What you’re really describing and needing for that is called an iPhone, or iPad. I really can’t imagine someone holding an MBA in one hand and typing a search term in with the other. Hope you have good warranty coverage for accidental drops!

    “Danger, Will Robinson!”

  • http://twitter.com/aaronkato Aaron Kato

    The title of this article looks so wonderful on my retina display MBP :) I can’t stop looking at it, so impressive :)

  • Dan

    Thanks for the insights! I wrestled with precisely the same issue as you and as others who have offered comments to this blog. As another reply said, you had my at “I travel a lot.” Me, too. Size, weight and battery life matter. I don’t do gaming – just Office, Curio, Omni-apps, Dragon Dictate and I run Parallels with Windows 7 and Office 2010 for “corporate stuff” when necessary. Though I am no longer a software developer this is definitely a “professional” machine for me.

    Because this is my “work” machine I looked real hard at the MBPR 15″. It was time for met to upgrade so I was going to purchase one or the other. Tech specs can sometimes create false or misleading perceptions so, fortunately, I had an Apple store nearby. This is where I chuckled at your comment, “Of course, if you put them next to each other, I’d imagine the difference would be fairly obvious. But who does that?” I did! I borrowed a friends 2011 MBA, took it to the Apple Store and put it right beside the MBPR. To be honest, I was underwhelmed by the Retina display. The deeper blacks made the display almost “feel” too dark for me. The 15″ vs 13″ didn’t “seem” to give me as much more real estate as I had thought it would – at least not in “best for Retina” resolution. And though the colors were a bit richer when I do photography I mostly use a separate display. Also, when putting them side by side the size and weight became obvious. I obsess over these things so I even brought in a slim, leather portfolio and other options for carrying and, again, the portability of the MBA stood out by a mile. (Yes, I have used the MBA in one-handed mode when waiting to board a plane.) So to me, the clear choice was the MBA.

    Notice my use of the words “feel” and “seem”. Sometimes I think we would be better off if we ignored the specs! The “emotional” bias I had to get over was the “perception” that the MBA was “not professional”, that it was “consumer”. How could so much power be in such a small, light package? It didn’t “look” powerful. It didn’t “feel” heavy (wrongly equating weight with power.) It was too simple. It didn’t have lots of ports to plug in a vast array of peripherals. But the truth is in the using.

    I love it. I have significantly downsized my backpack for travel. I very rarely need both USB3 ports at the same time (except when I am charging both my iPad and iPhone overnight in hotel rooms – which means I don’t need to carry chargers for either of those.) I really like the display. (I would need reading glasses to truly notice the difference in PPI.) And, finally, because this is my main machine I am likely to go to a cellular-enabled mini-iPad instead of my full size iPad. That will give me an even smaller, lighter total package with less overlap in “use case” while still having a relatively inexpensive personal wifi for my MBA.

    What about the possibility of a Retina MBA? IF (and that is a big if) they can get keep the battery life equal or better AND the graphics processor can handle the much higher pixel count with at least as good performance AND the size and weight are at or below today’s model AND WHEN more software and web pages exploit that higher resolution then that will be interesting.

    I did check out the 13″ MBPR at the Apple Store. Still “feels” too clunky for me now that I am accustomed to the svelte feel of the MBA. (BTW, with both of the MBPR systems as with the non-Retina MBP’s I don’t care for the “sharp” ridge along the front of the case where I sometimes rest my palms. Because of its lower profile, the MBA does not have that issue.)

    Enjoy your MBA!

  • http://stores.ebazr.com/Laptops-and-Netbooks_@122.aspx Best buy netbooks

    I hope one ad for the new hardware during the event, and my 13 “2010 was a MacBook Pro (hereafter abbreviated as MBP) become increasingly slow and outdated. It is not power, but it’s a cheap and functional netbook.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jurajkosco Juraj Kosco

    i had a 2.8ghz i7 750gb 4gb ram upgraded to 10gb ram. and it ran hotter than my current latest model air. air is snappy fast and so portable i love it. i will buy only MBA from now on. i have the 1.8 i5 4gb ram and 256ssd. i love it, i got it used on ebay for $1180 which is super cheap comparing it to 1499+tax so it would of cost me 1600. i had issues, but after a completely clean wipe it runs super fast, running lion because its faster than mountain lion. i have mountain lion on my MBP. another thing i haven’t even had the fans come on as to where same usage the MBP did come on up to 6000 rpm. i don’t think the air even crossed 2500rpm.i really think the complete erase did magic. going to do it to my MBP next.

  • Victornpb

    I got a MBP 13″ 2012 non-retina, because because it is the most affordable (power/price) choice.

    Size: I choose 13 because 11 is too small for productivity besides surfing the web and 15 is too big to carry around.

    Pro vs Air: power vs thickness, since i’m a developer a few “horsepowers” is more important than 1cm thinner.

    Resolution: I would love to have a high-res retina display, but I also like to have the option to upgrade, and the retina version for almost the double price of the standard one (in my country), the retina not affordable. (and 4 times more resolution with the same crapier graphics card IG4000, why apple)

    I thought that I’ve made a right decision for my needs.

  • Andrew M.

    Another big win for the 2010 13″ MacBook Pro (i5 CPU) – it’s one of the only laptops I can find whose fan doesn’t constantly run. It kicks in during some graphics-intensive work and some compiles. I considered the 15″ until I tried my wife’s i7 one and was reminded that its fan runs constantly (though at a low speed and volume). Also agree with you on great blend of size/performance. Do you find the MBP 13″ Air’s fan running constantly?

  • md

    what’s the name of font of your title ?

    • Shabir Gilkar

      Raleway, font-size:32px, line-height:38px;, color:#ff0066

  • http://www.zulhfreelancer.com/ Zulh

    I agreed with you. As a designer and coder, we should know our community who are using our apps / websites. Not all people are using big screen with high end DPI + CPUs. Great post btw. Simply said, MB Air is very suitable for backpackers. Right?

  • Mike

    You are obviously blink if you can’t see the differences between the retina and not retina display. If I was you I will invest in some good pair of glasses first…

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      I never said I couldn’t see them, I said they weren’t as significant as the marketing had led me to believe.

      • Nude

        The major differences are in media and media editing, I believe. The ability to see 1080p video in the bottom left quarter of your screen is a huge bonus while editing video.

  • Dhananjeyan Natarajan

    mac book pro is much better

  • http://www.facebook.com/Genieius Gene Xie

    Why don’t you get a Vaio Z? 2.5 pounds, quad core i7, 1080p display, 7 hour battery life, and most importantly, it can survive a 4 foot drop (the Air can’t)

  • JohhnyL

    Got the new 13″ retina yesterday. Oh my how beautiful the display, and oh my how very laggy the UI in apps, safari, chrome and all around choppy. Going to return it, its shite.

  • Ricardo

    I bought this laptop from a company name : AL-MEEN PLAZA LTD – A good deal – and fast shipping

    Purchased at the price of $ 750 – This is the link for this company :

    https://www.facebook.com/ALMEENMOBILESTORE

  • http://twitter.com/bsidjak brad sidjak

    i am thinking of a macbook air, basically to access internet when i travel, social media, and to manage my photos, and videos.. i am concernced the memory space to hold alot of photos is insufficient, any advice

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002684393800 Marc-André Voyer

    Using at 15 inch rMBP and very happy of my purchase (was the right choice for ME). I’m studying in 3D animation and I wanted a computer that I can bring to class and have enough screen estate to work on. The high resolution of the display helps me to do just that :) (Using Autodesk Maya 2013, Adobe Photoshop CS6). Also, I needed the Nvidia graphics and the quad-core i7 processor

    But I agree for others the Air would be a better choice. It is indeed a very sleek machine aswell.

  • http://twitter.com/samsworld Samir

    DAmn, this is an old post but so useful haha. I feel stupid commenting almost a year later, hehe.

    Lea, you’re my idol! I’m at the EXACTLY same point, but I have a 2010-MBP-15, the best features you could get at the time, and I’m having the same doubts. 15-retina or AIr-13.

    I must say you made up my mind. I’m gonna give both a try one last time when I go to San Francisco in April (I’m brazilian), but you truly won me over. I’m at that point. Power or portability.

    But I have to defend you, ahha. My 15-2010-MBP is sure slow and kinda-dated, unfortunately. People get mad, but we have to face it. I’m having a lot of issues with my system, and having to make tons of software maintance is a bummer! I just want to turn on my computer and use it, not have to “patch it” every 3 months to make it last more. (and here in brazil I can still sell it for a thousand dollars!)

    Also, people saying “get a Vaio” have noclue, so it’s not even worth. I mean that if you like the Mac advantages over PCs that microsoft will never be able to be better at. If u like customization and independence, keep up with your windows :) Everyone is entitled to their tastes :)

    The previous Air model was sad, rs. Not professional. Way too small HD and lousy ram, but the last update was awesome, I’m pretty sure the next one will make the MBA become a much easier choice.

    I see A LOT of complaints about 15-retina. It is the most powerful bitch out there (in Apple world), but I see a lot of unsatisfied costumers, whereas with the MBA I never see people complaining. Once they go MBA, they go MBA for life, hahaaha.

    About the price, I want to give you guys a little of the Brazillian perspective. 2.2k for a high-end MBA is not expensive at all. You should see how much those babies cost in Brazil. We have one of the the most expensive prices in Apple products in the world!

    A MBA like yours Lea, costs almost 4.000 dollars in Brazil! (7.549,00 reais, we do not pay taxes at the store, it is discounted in our paychecks). Even more absurd it goes when when compare with the retina-15. The lowest model is costing 6.500 dollars! Can u believe that? It’s outrageous, isn’t it? The price of the MBA its not even questionable for me, rs. Getting a high-end MBA-13 for me at 2.2k is soooo cheap, haha.

    Thanks for this post, I’m getting the MBA, and if it sucks I’ll come back to haunt you hahahahahaha. ;)

  • SteveCodes

    The Air is nowhere near as good a computer. The weight difference is minor. But the pro is a way more rugged machine, way more power, and once you use the screen you can’t look at the fuzzy air display. I had an air and it couldn’t handle being in my bag. It had two screens replaced with just normal bag transport. The genius told me they are forbidden to stack the airs because they are too fragile.

  • Guum

    I know this article is old, but I laugh at anyone who calls themselves a geek and all they know about is Web Development and how to push some commands in an iTerm. Please stop using the label on yourself. Needlessly bloated article too.

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      I presume you don’t really know web development, otherwise you would be aware of the complexities of the open web platform today. I usually hear this sort of argument from CS students or young professionals trying to assert their “geek status” by undermining that of others. More knowledgeable folks don’t have that kind of insecurity and usually respect other disciplines, especially if they don’t know them well.
      Btw, many web developers have CompSci degrees, including me, so assuming that’s all we know because that’s what we happen to like most is a kinda big logical leap. I don’t know how you can be a geek without the capability of rational thought, but oh well, maybe that’s just me. :)

      • Dave J.

        Haha, very well stated and true, Lea. Nice blog, BTW and I just made the transition from my beloved “mid-2009″ 2.53 GHz C2D MBP to a maxed-out 13″ Haswell MBA. Primarily used for…”drum roll”… web dev. And morons (like Guum) who scoff at web dev, truly have no clue.

  • http://geekyogi.tumblr.com/ Om Shankar

    MB Air always seemed to me as an iPad with a Key Board! – with OSX :)

  • Kran Byskov

    Okay if you dont use photo programs ore movie editing ore anything that needs a fast strong computer you buy a air.. its really that easy.. you don’t buy a Macbook Pro to surf the internet and go on Facebook.. its really that simple.

  • asfasd

    IS Retina MBP not portable?

    • http://lea.verou.me/ Lea Verou

      Of course it is, just less portable, i.e. it’s bigger, heavier etc.

  • http://www.hotelurbano.com.br/ Rickeytard

    Thank

  • Baluba

    I got my 2013 MBA 11″ a couple of weeks ago. It has the i7 1,7Ghz, 8GB RAM and a 512GB Flash drive. My iPad Retina started to collect dust as soon as the MBA was out of the box. And is now in the hands of a happier wife. My brother has an older macbook, my biggest issue when he was living with me was the fan, incredibly loud. The new MBA only makes noise so far when I play CIV V with close to full settings. And even then it´s more of a noise equivalent to a Nissan Leaf in traffic, schwooooshhhhh. I got the 11″ over the 13″ because this has true widescreen and the same hardware. It´s incredibly light and the battery is incredible. I did get CleanMyMac and what I don´t understand is how after just one day of use it found half a gig to clean. Oh, and streaming via apple TV, I had to get BEAMER, cause the videos kept skipping with normal airplay.

  • Narada

    Great post but an entire website in italics with the rest in bold really made my head hurt – please reconsider your typography. Anyway, I’m facing the same decision and I’ll probably go with 13″ MBP Retina Haswell as being a programmer resolution is the most important thing for me the second being portability. As much as I love the air I can only consider it if they bump the res. I have a very old 11″ air and the res is painfully low to work with and the 13″ air does not offer any significant improvement leaving me only the 13″ MBP Retina as a real option.

  • Annie

    If you think the 2010 Mac Pro is dated, you aren’t taking proper care of it.

  • 麦特佐罗

    i from china.your blog is good!

  • http://getfbfansandlikes.com/ hron023

    For Udacity, in contrast, working with companies to train existing and future employees is now the heart of its business model. It has tie-ups with several firms, including Google. It recently formed a partnership with AT&T, along with Georgia Tech

    For Udacity, in contrast, working with companies to train existing and future employees is now the heart of its business model. It has tie-ups with several firms, including Google. It recently formed a partnership with AT&T, along with Georgia Tech