Top positive review
40 people found this helpful
Great laptop if you really need it
on September 20, 2012
I bought a Macbook because I needed a new laptop. I'm a PC power user and I also work in the IT field. I've never hitched my wagon to one horse. I use Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. I normally purchase Windows PCs but in all honesty, I wasn't very impressed with the Windows 8 preview and until I see how this radically new Windows version pans out, I'm afraid to invest in a new Windows machine. I've already gotten burned (badly) when I was an early adopter to both Windows ME and Vista. I'm not eager to go through the same headaches yet again after dishing out four figures for a new PC. Besides, I needed to replace an aging iMac and I like to have at least one up-to-date Mac in the house, so instead of another Mac desktop, I chose a Macbook as my new laptop. Two birds, one stone. And if I want, I can run Win 7 virtually on my new Mac.
It's not perfect and it's not the world's most fantastic and ridiculously powerful laptop as some would have you believe but it's a pretty decent laptop in its own right. It's powerful enough to handle pretty much anything you can throw at it, be it video encoding, photo editing, gaming, whatever. The screen is absolutely gorgeous, despite all the stories you've heard about everything from image retention to fuzzy graphics. Don't get me wrong, the machine is not without it's issues (more on that later) but it's still a great machine and I have absolutely no buyer's remorse.
I put the word "MY" before my pros and cons because these are features important to me. Other features such as USB 3, HDMI, and Thunderbolt aren't really pros to me because on a laptop costing this much, it had BETTER have at least USB 3 and an HDMI out port...
Guts - The CPU, SSD and GeForce combo in the base model is very powerful and more than sufficient for most of my computing needs. Quad-core Ivy bridge CPU mated with fast SSD drive means ultra-fast boot times. I boot in 15 seconds or less. It also means faster responsiveness from some apps. Everything flows so smoothly and I rarely see the spinning beach ball. I don't normally do a ton of multitasking. I prefer to open windows as I need them instead of having a million windows open at once all over the place in a cluttered and confusing array. Therefore, the 8GB of standard RAM is more than sufficient for me. I mostly dabble on the programming side, so I don't need this for any beefy work-related projects. I mainly use it for video editing, photo editing, household management and other personal tasks. I occasionally play a game or two as well.
Size - Size is very portable. Although it's a little heavy (more on that below), the thin size still makes it easily transportable.
Cooling - The design of the laptop makes it run cooler than traditional Macbooks. This is something you can see/feel for yourself. Go to the nearest brick and mortar store with both the retina and non-retina 2012 Macbooks on display and feel them. The non-retinas feel much warmer. This thing runs cool even when encoding video. I have yet to hear my fan kick in during an intensive task.
Power Supply - I know a lot of former Macbook owners are angry with the new power adapter but it's my first Macbook, so I'm speaking from that perspective. It magnetically attaches and detaches to the Mac. Now, I've seen the old Apple ads where laptops got accidentally pulled off of tables etc due to tripping over cords. I've tripped and snagged my fair share of PC cords and most popped right out of the port instead of ripping the laptop off the table, so this isn't so much a necessary safety measure as it is a cool feature. The Magsafe adapter itself is huge. I wish it were a little smaller but compared to the typical power brick of as PC, I still love it. It resembles an over-sized iPad power adapter.
Body - I won't lie. The aluminum body is a thing of beauty. I like looking at it almost as much as I like using it. I will admit, the sleek aluminum Macs are a welcome relief to the usual drab slate grey metallic bodies of the business laptops I work with daily at work and the cheap-looking plastic covered consumer grade laptops around my home.
Display - I saved the screen for last because you've already heard enough about it. It has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. I realize it's scaled-down to a lower resolution (depending if you select the default resolution setting best for retina") but whatever Apple is doing makes the image razor sharp, which I'm sure aging eyes like mine likely appreciates a lot more than most younger eyes.
Completely and totally non-upgradeable. I see what Apple is doing, fusing the iPad and Mac to eventually become one, but it doesn't mean I like it. I had to really think long and hard about getting a rMBP. The reasons that led to me deciding on it are explained below. Just realize, whatever you buy initially is what you will be stuck with for the life of the computer. I use multiple computers and this is primarily for personal home use, but if you are buying one for commercial or really intensive power usage, think long and hard about what you need before ordering (If you even decide a rMBP is even still right for you).
Lack of Ethernet port. Sure... WiFi suffices for most needs, but what about bandwidth intense needs, like content-heavy VPN or Citrix sessions? WiFi is not a catch-all solution for everything. Judging by the body dimensions, I'm hard-pressed to figure out why they omitted it. It begins to diminish the portability factor, which I'm assuming was the primary reason they omitted so many standard ports in the first place, if I have to walk around with adapters for everything (firewire, ethernet, etc).
Battery is sealed, glued, and otherwise stuck in there forever. Wish it were replaceable or at least capable of being disconnected for maintenance. I guess the fact that you can't do any maintenance makes that a moot issue anyhow... But at least Ibattery life seems on par with my other laptops. I don't throw battery times out there because everyone uses their laptop differently. My usage may yield only 3 hrs whereas yours might give you twice that. I average at least 3-4 hrs of moderate usage on battery. If I use it lightly (email, web browsing and nothing more power-hungry than office programs), I can get a couple hours per day for about three or four days before needing to recharge.
Weight - As thinner and smaller as the rMBP is when compared to the non-retina, once you pick it up, that advantage quickly dissipates. Imagine dating a super-model with a super-model body and when you go to lift her in your arms, you discover she somehow manages to weigh 200 lbs under seemingly skin and bones. It's sleek, lean, mean and heavy. It's not super heavy like some mobile workstations, but as my super-model analogy shows, the form factor is slightly deceiving. Don't expect it to be light as, well... Air
No K-slot. What good is a transportable friendly laptop if they give you no way to lock it down temporarily while on the go? When I was away, I'd loop my lock cable around an immovable object like a piece of furniture or something that would require much more work than a casual thief would be willing to invest. If they wanted my laptop, they'd have to cut the cable with bolt cutters or disassemble whatever I had the laptop attached to. Now they can freely walk in and either grab the laptop or locked case I store it in because Apple has given us no other way to secure it.
Display - Yes, the infamous retina display makes both the pro and con list. The reason it makes the con list is because I have already returned one rMBP due to a yellowish hued screen. The second screen was much better. Although I haven't experienced any image-retention issues, I'm still a little paranoid because I have an LG panel. Everyone says "try to get a Samsung panel" but you'll be hard-pressed to find a rMBP without an LG panel. And I'm not obsessive nor petty enough to go through five or so Macbooks trying to get a Samsung panel. If I experience any IR issues down the road, I'll handle it. Otherwise, life goes on. As for other issues, yes, some web sites, apps, and other content do occasionally appear fuzzy or blocky. It's not anywhere near as bad as some are making it out to be and it really a non-issue for me, especially considering that the overwhelming majority of items that render badly are usually those spammy ads alongside the web page.
Intangibles - like most first gen Apple products, there are the bugs. The display issues are widely known but some lesser known issues exist as well, like WiFi and Bluetooth. Whenever I tried to boot with both enabled, my WiFi would not connect. So, I disabled Bluetooth. I've had a few other weird anomalies but nothing that has tempted me to pack everything up and make a beeline for the Apple store. One thing I'd like to mention is the feud between Apple and Adobe appears to have mad its way to the laptops as well. There is no Flash installed out the box. So, unless you want to see a lot of error messages, I suggest either going straight to Adobe for Flash or downloading Chrome which has a much safer and more stable sandbox Flash.
So, why did I ultimately decide on the rMBP? Well, Apple almost forces your hand to buy the rMBP. Here's why
1) The standard resolution of the non-retina Macbook Pro is too low to justify the price. 1,440 X 900 is so... 2008. Sadly, Apple's own retina Macbook does a wonderful job of showing just how choppy and ugly that resolution is. Even after paying a $100 premium to upgrade to the Apple high-res screen option (matte or glossy), the 1680 X 1050 resolution still pales compared to the 1920 X 1080 resolution of most comparable Windows laptops. Even though the "optimal for retina" display is scaled lower, the screen still looks incredibly sharp when next to a non-retina Macbook, which looks grainy by comparison.
2) The size of the new retina Macbook makes it almost more comparable to a Macbook Air than a traditional Macbook but for those thinking "I'll just get the Air", you could, but it would be less capable machine. I was ready to return my rMBP and exchange it for an Air but by the time I configured an Air I was happy with, it was the same price as the baseline rMBP. Although it had the same amount of RAM and a 512GB SSD, I lost the screen, extra ports, extra two inches of screen size, discrete graphics and quad-core CPU. Although the air is lighter and more portable, I prefer the power of the rMBP over the extra 256GB of SSD and slightly better portability of the maxed-out Air. If I weren't buying this as a desktop replacement for an iMac, I might have gone with the Air.
So there you have it. Should you buy it? Well, if you're in the market for a desktop replacement or high-end Macbook and can live with the tradeoffs (non-upgradable, limited storage, first-gen issues), then go for it. You can't go wrong. If you already have a capable Mac with discreet graphics that can handle your power needs and are considering buying this as a mobile companion PC, then go for the Air. You really can't justify the price of this thing if you aren't a power user or already have a capable Mac. If you have a 2011 Macbook, I strongly advise just upgrading to Mountain Lion and awaiting the second generation rMBP. I think you'll ultimately be very happy you did. Just take this one fact away: Apple designed these things to be disposable, like tablets.