on November 10, 2013
A little about myself:
I am a college senior and a very techie geek. I've went through ALOT of laptops and other electronics. I've used this guy for about a week now. It's been a very positive experience.
1. Battery life. I took this guy to my 8 hour workplace, and after the entire day of light use, it STILL had around 40% left. The previous MacBooks usually would be around 5%.
2. Screen. Absolutely stunning. Less glare, more pixels. The stuff on the screen looks painted on. You may have experience the Retina display on an iPhone, but it's a different experience on a bigger screen.
3. Speed. i5 + SSD is no joke. It'll zip through everyday tasks like a champ.
4. Build quality. One of the best built laptops ever made, and I expect no less from Apple. I prefer this retina's build quality over the older macbook pros and airs because it doesn't make ANY sound. The other older models seems to have a slight creak, this one doesn't. They also made it slimmer and lighter than the 2012 retina. Also love the thinner bezels.
5. GPU. The integrated Iris 5100 graphics card is surprisingly powerful. It has a whole 1GB of VRAM. Still can't run the latest games with respectable FPS and texture settings, but it can handle more than an integrated graphics card should.
6. Trackpad. This is the #1 reason I prefer any Macbook made after 2009 over Windows laptops. The trackpad is just absolutely amazing. Even after all these years, I have not had one Windows laptop that can match the Mac's trackpad.
1. Speakers. I wish Apple would improve the speakers on the 13" MacBooks, but then it might get even more expensive. Speakers just don't sound nice at all, but then again it is a very thin 13" laptop.
2. I feel like they should've added more USB ports instead of having 2 Thunderbolt ports.
With the price drop, it's much more competitive. The price was the reason I didn't get the 2012 models, simply way overpriced. The new prices made me bite. If you are looking for a secondary computer to your main desktop, BUY THIS ONE. I prefer this macbook retina over the Air any day. With only a couple hundred more, you get a better screen, faster processor, better GPU, and better build quality (Thinner bezels). The Air does have more battery life but who really needs 13 hours of battery life?
I decided to sell mine because this is my ONLY computer. In the end, I overestimated how much I could store in the 128gb SSD. In this day and age, 128gb SSD is just too small if you're planning on using it as your main machine. So like I said, buy this if it's your SECONDARY machine. If it's your primary machine I would say go with a bigger hard drive.
All in all, I loved my time with it, but had to let it go because of the limited storage. I ended up getting an older model Macbook Pro with the traditional HDD, and immediately I disliked the screen that I once loved. Once you go Retina you do not go back! The best laptop I've ever had the pleasure of using.
Another con I found for Macs in general: External mouse in Mac OS feels weird. I'm used to gaming on Windows, and gaming on Mac just feels terrible, mostly because Macs uses a higher mouse acceleration setting...Probably the same reason why the trackpad feels so nice. Installing Windows in bootcamp is a must for gamers.
on December 12, 2013
A quick note about myself...I am an engineer, and I have a lot of appreciation for product design, including haptic, ease of use, and aesthetics. I was on the line for a long time, always yearning for a macbook from apple. Always sitting in coffee shops, dreaming of typing on my own. Well, I got this on Black Friday for $1099, so it was a no brainer.
This is a very fast laptop, of course with the SSD. They also have finally added USB 3.0, and a full sized HMDI connector. These two features make this even more worthwhile. Typing and using the trackpad is in my experience second to none. I love the long battery life, which I don't think can be compared to by a windows machine with these specs. What I LOVE the most however, is the retina screen. It is even way better than I expected. Just try it.
I use this laptop for surfing, and editing photos, and it works great for that. A 128 gb SSD is really too small, but I plan to replace the original with a 512 in a year or so, when the prices come down. Then I will have no complaint at all.
All in all, a beautiful machine, and I am glad I waited for this one. It blows the normal macbook pros and airs out of the water for my needs. Looking at the screen and bulkiness of the normal macbooks confirms this for me every time.
This review has been a long time coming. I've had a succession of premium Windows laptops dating back to Windows 95. The most recent was an HP Spectre 13t Ultrabook with Windows 8.1. I had it for a week alongside this MacBook. I no longer have it. I do not expect to purchase another Windows machine in the indefinite future.
EDIT: I've added some notes on multi-monitor usage below.
I bought this system to edit in Photoshop on the road. My version is 2.4 | 16 GB | 256 GB. Screen quality, size, weight, and build were high priorities. After four months with this system, I believe it is the best mobile laptop available, second only to the Air for folks who don't need the Retina screen or 16GB of RAM.
MAC VS. WINDOWS:
It's hard to evaluate the Mac in isolation, so I'll make a few comparisons to the HP and Windows 8 in general. The Spectre is not the best Windows system available, but a good one similar in focus and class to the rMBP.
* Build. Very stiff, very sleek, and as thin as anything with this solidity. Aesthetically perfect to me. Light (3.5 lbs) unless you're comparing it to recent 2-2.5lb machines. It could be thinner. The narrow bezel could be even more minimalist. That's about it for improvements. The keyboard has good travel and pleasing backlighting. I don't miss keystrokes.
It's not a tank though. I distinguish between build quality (impeccable) and durability (lackluster). The aluminum case scratches and dents easily, especially the sharp edges. I have mine vinyl-wrapped. If you drop it, you may have to replace the entire case. I've seen one person physically bend a MacBook by wedging it offset into their luggage. No system in this size class would do any better, but I do miss the overbuilt chassis and easy parts replacement of my older Latitude. I'm more keenly aware of dangers to this MacBook.
* Screen. Better than anything not in an HP or Dell Precision-class laptop. 1600p, 16:10 aspect, full sRGB gamut, IPS, fairly high brightness, very low dE after after calibration, and low glare. The Spectre had a 16:9, 1440p screen with more glare, less brightness, a slight tint, and somewhat lower gamut. For serious color work, this MacBook is the class of the field.
But that's just the spec. The real advantage is how OS X deals with scaling. Windows HiDPI support is inconsistent outside of the 'Modern' interface. It has somewhat better font rendering relative to the Mac at non-optimal scaling settings, but problems all over the place with UI elements. Some large, some small, most blurry. On the Mac, unoptimized apps just have blocky text. The UI doesn't get smaller. It's so easy for programmers to optimize for Retina that all of my apps have updates available.
Font scaling at non-optimal settings is ever-so-slightly less clear, but I barely notice. The people lamenting that the stock interface approximates a 1280x800 machine do not, to me, have a valid complaint.
This scaling advantage is huge. It's one of the biggest reasons I moved over. I wanted a high-res screen, and Windows 8.1 (and the rest of the Windows app community) just isn't ready. Many Adobe apps are difficult to use at 1440p on a 13" screen and have yet to be updated.
* OS. Another huge element for three reasons: gestures, multiple desktops, and search and organization.
Gestures (particularly with third-party additions like BetterTouchTool) are miles ahead of Windows. They just work and the variety is tremendous. I rapidly got used to sliding between desktops and shuffling windows around. I almost never click the touchpad unless I'm dragging a slider in Photoshop. Instead, I tap and swipe at warp speed. There is no Windows machine from anyone in this ballpark. Windows doesn't do multiple desktops (in the 'classic' interface) natively.
That advantage doesn't matter at home when I've got three large screens and an external mouse and keyboard. But on the road without any of the attachments, and without an external mouse, I'm probably twice as productive on the Mac. Maybe more. I spend far less time with window management. Little things also enable this, like an Alt-Tab function that automatically cycles between two in-use windows, and two-finger scroll that doesn't require a window to be selected.
The other big change is that I spend less time organizing files. On Windows, I spend a lot of time creating folders within subfolders, keeping the hierarchy in my head. Inevitably I fall behind and clutter the Desktop. I spend this time because Windows Search has been terrible since XP. It's never indexed properly for me, so I miss files; it's not universal, in the sense that what you find in a Start Menu search is not what comes up in a Windows Explorer search; and it has a palpable delay before the results appear.
Spotlight has none of these problems. It's so instant that pulling it up with CMD-Space, navigating to a result, and opening it are all part of the same stream of keystrokes. It indexes the entire drive on every log-in. You miss nothing. It's so fast and comprehensive to find documents and change apps that I've turned off the dock entirely. I could duplicate some of this functionality with Everything Search on Windows, but it doesn't integrate as well as Spotlight. This is a definite Mac win.
Also of note: instant resume and multi-user support. No waiting for standby or resume. No sensitivity to when you close the lid. And when you want to change accounts, the switch is immediate after entering a password. No logging out, no loading screens.
* Apps. There's a whole lot of cruft on the Windows side. Not long ago, I was looking for one that would record a video feed from a USB device. Four apps and two wasted hours later, I hadn't gotten anywhere. That functionality is built into OS X. In general, there's less available for OS X, but what is available tends to look and perform better than what's on the Windows side. Gamers may take exception.
* Battery. If I'm just looking at webpages in Safari (Chrome uses more energy) and they're not all flash video, I see 10-13 hours of battery life consistently with middle screen brightness. If I'm cranking away in Photoshop on max bright and Bridge is generating thumbnails in the background, that drops to 4-5 hours.
* Quirks. I don't like the startup sound (you can't permanently disable it, though it'll track the system volume level). I don't like that new windows tend to spawn on top of existing ones rather than in a new desktop. Many animations (e.g., desktop switching, fullscreen) are impossible to disable without third-party software. For my power-user workflow, I rely on at least three apps to improve the experience: BetterTouchTool (gestures), BetterSnapTool (window management), and TotalSpaces (disabling animations better multi-monitor consistency). Some Apple apps prioritize form over function (e.g., Time Machine). A few of the inbuilt office-style apps (e.g., Mail) seem like relics from the mid-2000s.
That's about it.
On the hardware side, every Windows machine seems to have some random thing wrong with it. The HP had high-pitched and frequent fan noise, excessive CPU throttling, and wouldn't let me turn off all the keyboard lights. Other systems have weak keyboards. Still others have no battery life. All of them have, at best, workmanlike touchpads (thanks to Windows and half-baked drivers).
The point of this isn't to rant about Windows, I still use it on every other system I have. But in a mobile machine, it's harder, sometimes impossible, to work around the areas where it falls short.
So what do I miss about Windows?
The Windows 8 task and resource managers are more intuitive and convey more information at a glance. In general, I think the Windows system tools are superior.
The Windows 8.1 'modern' interface (the side you'd see on a Windows phone or a tablet) is superb in a touch environment, and I'd love to have a MacBook/iPad amalgam with similar functionality once the hardware is thin and light enough to make that feasible. (As it is, I don't miss touch at all on this MacBook; touchpad gestures are faster and more capable.)
Office on Windows is a better program. I don't care for the Mac equivalent. The Windows version is sluggish, but acceptable for most uses in Parallels.
Windows runs faster on similar hardware. Animated transitions and scrolling on the rMBP can lag and stutter sometimes with content-heavy pages and programs.
Windows doesn't have a title bar on top. I like my apps to maximize to the top of the screen. Minor point.
That's it. Windows still feels like an old shoe to me, so there's comfort in the familiarity, but really: I don't miss it.
I recently begun to pair my Mac with two 27" 2560x1440 displays. Both are Asus IPS, which cost about half as much as Apple's equivalent. They use DisplayPort; coupled with a cheap adapter, they plug directly into the two Thunderbolt ports.
My initial plan was to use a docking station and a single Thunderbolt port for both, but this is not possible except with an Apple display and a second Apple display daisy-chained to it. Third-party displays each require their own port; no Thunderbolt docking station supports more than one third-party screen at one time.
Connected directly, the internal Iris chip drives both screens *and* the MacBook's own display. Each can have multiple desktops. The animations get a little choppier, but this is still impressive. It's over 11MP of screen. Scaling is perfect and each screen has its own background and color profile. Settings and app locations are, for the most part, maintained between sessions.
The only caveat is that I see inconsistent performance with my Windows 8.1 VM in Parallels. I wanted to run Visio 2013, but ultimately had to revert back to a Windows XP VM with Visio 2010. That one blazes; the 2013 version was occasionally unusable if I was running a lot of other programs. Quad-core MacBooks with a dedicated nVidia graphics chip will fare better.
MAC VS. MAC:
* rMBP 13 vs. Air:
Easy choice. The rMBP has a better screen and supports 16GB of RAM. If you don't need either, buy the Air.
For those advantages, you end up with a thicker chassis that's a half-pound heavier (3 lbs vs 3.5 lbs). You can edit photos and video with the Air, but the gamut isn't wide enough for professional work, and comparatively poor viewing angles make it harder to show your work to others. Speed is otherwise similar, even favoring the Air because it has fewer pixels to push. Still, at any scaling setting, text and graphics look considerably better on the Retina screen.
If you need 16 GB, you know it already. Mavericks does impressive RAM compression, so 8 GB here is more like 11-12 GB on the Windows side. Be aware that while the internal SSD is fast (700 MB/s), it's still miles slower than the RAM, and the system will tank if it has to page the swap file.
* rMBP 13 vs. MBP 13:
Choose the MBP 13 if you want to add cheap 3rd-party RAM and SSD storage. You lose the Retina screen, the thin chassis, and the stellar Haswell idle battery life. If you don't need expandable storage or the Retina screen (or if you're planning to configure the MBP solely from the Apple page), there's almost no reason to prefer it to the Air. And if you're not budget-constrained, there's no reason at all to choose it over the rMBP.
* rMBP 13 vs. rMBP 15:
If you're editing video or doing a lot of time-sensitive processing, choose the 15. It has a quad-core chip that's 50-100% faster than the 13. Same 16 GB RAM cap, and it's a significantly larger and heavier chassis.
The 15 is also smoother in OS X by some margin. It doesn't really gain in multitasking; you can slot windows side-by-side easily with the 13 and multiple desktops make up for the ones you can't.
The 15 is really about speed in processor-limited workflows. With 22MP raw files, ACR adjustments on my 13 are adequately fast. Conversions are a little sluggish, as are some Photoshop functions like Content-aware Fill. I don't object, but it's not lickity-split quick like my home quad-core Windows machine and, to a lesser extent, the rMBP 15.
* Fast CPU vs. Slow CPU:
Slow. The major divide is dual-core vs. quad-core (i.e., rMBP 13 vs. 15). The fastest dual-core is maybe 20% quicker than the slowest. Likewise for the quad chips, but the gulf between dual and quad will be more like 75% for some workloads. Better a slow quad than a fast dual, particularly as Intel's Turbo function makes the quads nearly as good for 1-2 core workloads.
* More SSD vs. Less SSD:
More. 256 GB, 512 GB if possible.
Macs don't (appear to) use a shared DLL folder like Windows machines, so every program packages all of its files with it. This makes uninstalls dead-simple and eradicates file-version conflicts, but also increases the size of every program. A 10 MB Windows program may well be 40 MB on the Mac. I rely a lot on cloud storage, so I haven't felt limited by my 256 GB drive.
SD cards and flash drives can provide more space for content that doesn't need to be immediately accessible. But be aware: only SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 flash drives (and no SD cards) use a proper SSD-style storage controller. Other USB drives may be speedy for sequential transfers, but will tank on small files and random writes.
I would not choose the 128 GB drive unless you're only using the system as an internet and writing terminal. Any large files will rapidly exhaust your free space. Same comment about 4GB of RAM with more sophisticated programs. You can't expand the RAM or (easily) expand the SSD on these Retina-class Macs.
I'd rather not have spent as much as I did on this system. It was $500 more than the HP for similar specifications and another 8GB of RAM. But having used it for two months, I don't regret the extra money at all. It is a fully-baked product that doesn't exist on the Windows side. If you're a road warrior and you edit graphics, this is your machine.
on December 9, 2014
First off, I wanted to note that there is now a more recent version available with a faster processor available. I got this in the summer and just now sat down to write a review.
I have been through probably 5 laptops in my lifetime. Some had battery issues, some had screen issues and all had fan noise issues. This is the first laptop I have owned without any of these. It is also my first macbook - all my other laptops have been windows based.
The battery life on this laptop is amazing. I can watch three movies before the battery dies. When it needs charging once a week it takes about an hour to fully charge. This laptop is absolutely silent. Unless you are running a game, the fan isn't even on. My only complaints are OS based. Some of which are fixed in the newest update. I haven't updated because I hate the new look. I bought a laptop, not a tablet or a phone. I expect it to look clean and can sacrifice some CPU/APU processes to make it look nice. I don't understand why windows 8.1 and OSX are trying to make the interface look like a tablet.
At the time of purchase, this was honestly the best value. Awesome battery life, high resolution screen, the fastest SSDs on the market and instantaneous boots are what you can expect from the latest MacBook Pros. If I were to rethink my purchase, I would have went with the 256GB version due to faster SSD and more storage. The OS doesn't take up much space, so for me the storage isn't too bad considering I have most of my large files on network storage. I didn't realize that the 128GB version had a slower SSD until after I purchased.
Upgrades are nonexistent. Ram is hard-soldered. SSD form factor is proprietary (not interface, just pinout). That being said, this thing will run HD video perfectly and I don't see a need to upgrade until a few years down the road. Apps/Programs start almost immediately. The laptop wakes from sleep quicker than you can open the screen. The battery life is compromised in sleep mode, however - It will go from 100% to 30% in about 6 days of no use in sleep mode. The network card is amazing and is faster than any other wireless device on my network.
If you are a current Windows user, don't be put off by OSX and this machine. It really is inexpensive for what it has to offer and the OS is very easy to use. I was amazed the first time I downloaded a zip file and it was already extracted. I got a virus on it once. I made a dumb mistake and tried to use some software that was somewhat subject. 10 mins later, I was able to get rid of it and never saw an issue since. You don't need costly or ad-prone antivirus software. It is difficult to find any laptop with this resolution, let alone battery life, in this price point, Windows or OSX based.