on November 2, 2013
Update: I thought since it's been a couple months, I'd give a quick update. Although there isn't much to add. I still love this machine. Of course any computer you buy now should be the best computer you've owned, but this one feels especially refined. Still very happy I upgraded from the Air to the Pro.
I was operating on a 3 year old Macbook Air last year when I saw the MacBook Pro Retina. The 13" was tempting, in large part because it wasn't much heavier than my Air. But I decided to hold off and see if a Retina Air developed. The answer, as you probably know, was no. So when Apple refreshed the Pro line, I went for it.
I'm on day 2 getting my new machine up and running, and it's amazing. First off, that lag when you lift your lid and wait for the login screen...gone. This thing turns on like an iPad. You lift the lid and you're staring at the login.
Second, the Retina is stunning. Of course when you play movies, or games, you see the big difference, but for me it's the the text. Emails, websites, documents, everything is so much cleaner and easier to read. Much less fatigue.
Third, this thing is fast. Issues that I once blamed Internet speed, or poorly coded Websites, are now mostly gone. I would not have guessed it was the speed of my machine slowing things down. Safari and Chrome run like Ferrari and Lamborghini, respectively, on this new machine. Pages load up very fast.
The new OS X, Mavericks, is a nice upgrade and everything is just a little tighter. I was surprised that I still have to install iWork, but it's free and takes only a couple minutes.
If you're looking at this machine, you're either new to Mac, in which case buy this and don't look back. Or, you're looking at upgrading. If you had an Air, you're not likely to notice the weight difference, and the size itself is actually a little more compact feeling. If you're a MacBook Pro user, this seems like a great update if you weren't already on the Retina machines.
When you factor in size, power and battery life (which is about twice that of my old Air), this is the perfect laptop.
on November 6, 2013
I looked into purchasing this computer from the Apple Store, from Best Buy, or from Amazon. Ultimately, I chose Amazon because of the fact that I did not have to pay sales taxes (depends on which state you live in). Also, Amazon made it easy to get the appropriate Square Trade warranty with it, which is cheaper than the Apple Care, but based on my readings from other customers, is just as good.
This particular model (256GB SSD, 8GB RAM) is the sweet spot in terms of pricing and features, particularly for the 13" model. The 256 SSD is a bit faster than the 128GB SSD in terms of write speeds, and I believe that if you have an external drive for large files that you do not use frequently (e.g., Time Capsule), then 256GB would be plenty of data for most people.
If you can get Education Pricing from Apple, I would personally recommend that you consider going to the Apple website to purchase the model with 256GB SSD and an upgraded 16GB of RAM, which would cost 1579 plus tax (with the education discount). I could not find a 16GB model on Amazon as of early November 2013. I have found that 8GB of RAM will probably be fine for me, but I am having to be more mindful of how many programs I have open than I would like to be. Plus, who knows what programs will come out in the future that might benefit from more RAM. I am hoping that this computer lasts me at least a few years, and I can never upgrade the RAM. However, I do want to reiterate that 8GB of RAM is working fine for me right now.
I briefly owned a Macbook Air when they came out with the new version in June 2013; however, I returned it because I wanted to purchase a computer with a Retina display. I am very happy that I waited until this computer came out. It is only a half of a pound heavier than the Air, it is significantly more powerful, and it has the awesome display. I personally appreciate reading text more on this computer than on non-Retina displays.
I am a first-time Mac owner (except for brief stint with the Air earlier this year), and I am enjoying the transition. For me, the trackpad is my favorite part. Once you get used to the many gestures, it is easy to transition between applications, launch new ones, manipulate text, zoom in and out, swipe back to your previous page, etc. After a week of heavy use, I can definitely see myself sticking with Mac. I will update the review if I change my mind for some reason.
So far, so good. Enjoy your purchase :)
Update 11.9.13: Apple has released an update to fix the trackpad problem that some of the other reviews mentioned.
I continue to use the laptop heavily, and I am definitely impressed by the battery. The actual battery life totally depends on how many programs you've got running. I have found that with several tabs in Safari and maybe one other program (e.g., iTunes), I can get the 9-10 hours that Apple claims. When I've got Safari and Chrome with several tabs, Garageband, iTunes, KeyNote, Pocket, the App Store going, I'm getting closer to 7 hours, which is still pretty good.
As far as the heat goes, I have not actually measured the temperature, but it has not caused me any problems. I personally try to position laptops carefully on my lap (as all guys should per men's health research), but other than that, I have not found myself worrying about it.
The sound quality is pretty good, better than the 13" Air. It's easy to adjust the volume even at night because of the awesome backlit keyboard. The volume buttons are easily accessible. I suggest that you disable the annoying sound feedback that indicates you have changed the volume (it is especially annoying when wearing headphones).
For other first-time Mac users, I suggest that you find websites that give keyboard shortcuts, and that you dedicate time making these shortcuts as well as the trackpad gestures second-nature. The earlier you can get those movements in your muscle memory, the faster you will feel that the laptop obeys your wishes :)
on November 7, 2013
My choice to get this new Macbook Pro instead of a Windows 8.1 laptop is great!!!
I would like to write this review in detail, hope it will help!
Apple does provide excellent user experience! The turn on/off time is with in 30 seconds! And the fan is so quiet. The body isn't very hot compared with my previous SONY laptop. And it's really fast, also easy to use, you can forget about the mouse! Also, the wake up from sleep is in a second!!!
2. Retina Display
Best screen ever!!! When I watch HD stream video, I can feel the huge difference between Retina Macbook and PC. I can't go bak to the old PC monitor anymore. The words, pictures, videos, are smooth and much more clear. Also small logo or fonts are still clear and easy to recognize. Office 2011 supports retina now, but Adobe PDF reader doesn't, yet.
Wow, this is magic, 9 hours usage time!!! And it is so smart, that this laptop can tell whether you are next to it, so it can shut down the screen to save power. My tips to help you protect your battery's health.
TIPS: When you at home, charge it, and when the battery is 100% full, keep the plug on. Because after fully charged, macbook will separate your battery from use, then use the electricity from adapter directly. But whenever you need to leave home, just unplug, it has long standby time. And remember to use the battery only from 100% to 0% (when macbook automatically shut down) once a month, to keep the battery active!
Beyond your imagination. Really useful, even free apps. And they can make you feel you are using your PC again.
5. Weight and size
Really light. And the thickness is about a ball-point pen! Buy this one instead Macbook Air!!!
===========I give it 10 stars, if possible==========
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 January 22, 2014
Mostly, I am a PC user, but a couple years ago I decided to make the switch to Mac by getting the Macbook Air. While I thoroughly enjoyed using it, I got the 11 inch version with 64gb hard drive and it was a little difficult for me to use. It was a little slower than I was used to, and I was having issues playing youtube videos. The screen also was not as crisp and I decided to purchase a samsung laptop with windows 8. Let me just say right now that it was complete trash. The keyboard had issues, the O.S was glitchy, the trackpad worked at its own whim and the wifi disconnected on a regular basis. I immediately sold that hunk of junk and went to purchase this one. I did not buy it at amazon because they do not offer the education discount and have begun charging tax in my state of Massachusetts. I got it tax-free which was nice. When I went on the sales floor at the store that I was going to purchase it at, I did not have my mind set on any specific laptop. I checked out a couple of them, and it was between the Vaio Pro, the Ativ Book 9 Plus and this Macbook Pro Retina ME865LL/A. While the Vaio was a great laptop and the lightest 13-incher I have ever held, it was a little flimsy for my liking. With an asking price of 1249.99, I do not want to see flex on the keyboard, so that was immediately out of the question. It therefore came down to the Macbook or the Ativ 9 Plus.
As some might already know, Samsung is nipping at Apple's heels, and while I used to have a terrible Samsung laptop, I felt that the Ativ 9+ is definitely more premium than the one that I had and maybe I would give it a try. I immediately began playing with the floor model and was met with some stuttering, and a touchpad that wasn't quite as responsive as I would have liked. It didn't even work at times. Yes, the screen was stunning, and yes the look of it is absolutely incredible, but when looking at purchasing a laptop a lot of people believe that MacBooks are overpriced. In comparison with the Ativ 9 Plus, I would have to respectfully disagree. The most enticing features of the Samsung are the insanely high-resolution screen, which does not work that well with Windows 8 and often times must be scaled (which is the reason that the 2014 model will have standard 1080p screen) and the next greatest thing about that machine is the premium feel and unibody build. I purchased this Macbook for 1399.99, the exact same price as the Samsung. Now while that is certainly impressive, Apple also has a beautiful retina display on their machine, and also has a very premium feeling and well-built machine. I never thought I would say this, but the Macbook is actually a better deal. They both have Haswell processors, but apples is a bit better and comes with the Intel Iris 5100 graphics as opposed to the HD4400, which is lagging behind (no pun intended.) This machine comes with 8 gigs of ram, as opposed to 4 on the Samsung, and a 256gb solid state drive as opposed to the 128gb on the Samsung. It breezes through any tasks that you might have as a student or a business professional with ease. And the touchpad is still the best you will find on a laptop. Get this laptop, and you won't feel bad that you did. The resale value is also very spectacular on apple products, so if you are the type of user like me that is constantly upgrading and switching, it might be a good idea to take that into consideration.
By the way, I am not an Apple "fanboy" and do not have an iPhone but rather a Droid. My desktop is self built. The only two Apple products I have are this Macbook Pro Retina and the wireless router (which is also quite excellent.) Sad that I had to make that disclaimer, but unfortunately there is too much "fanboyism" towards this company. I give credit where credit is due.
on March 10, 2014
Whoa is this thing amazing. Been a windows user for the last 15+ years. I will never buy another CPU with Windows OS ever again. It's just a shame I still have to use Windows at work. The screen is out of this world, battery life is around 8 hours, and the thing just flat out works. No more extremely long boot up times, when you click an application it's up and running so fast it's almost unbelievable. I would reccomend to anyone/everyone. If you are worried about the transition...DON'T! Within a few hours you are more than familiar enough to complete all necessary tasks. I am just mad at myself for not buying a MAC earlier. I am not a "Apple fan boy" I carry a DROID phone and will never be convinced to swith to an iPhone. I was just so tired of Microsoft/Windows operating system flaws and viruses. If theres any doubt in your mind BUY THIS NOW!!!
on February 16, 2014
Upgraded laptop this last fall... was determined to stay with Asus but wary of Windows 8... as I shopped I was surprised to see the newest MBP price out significantly LESS expensive than an equivalent zenbook... so I took a look. Ultimately the MBP won me over. 6 months later I am extremely happy with my decision. Is it perfect? No... but it is easily the best 'traveling' laptop I have owned... and the 'bang for the buck is amazing.
Things I 'love' as a PC-to-Mac convert:
- Have had several 'instant-on' claims on laptops... this is the first that actually feels like it. From off-to-on to working where I left off is almost instantaneous... my favorite aspect of this machine... it just 'works'
- Touchpad... I have 'heard' folks rave over the MBP touchpad... need to use it to appreciate it. The accuracy and the gestures are amazing... I have had multi-touch on others but it was always a bit 'off'... size/feel/usage... this one is near perfect!
- Integration with iOS... i have an iPhone and the integration with iCloud is awesome
- Battery life watching video is amazing... 5hr airline flight of near continuous video and still had 40%+ battery remaining!
- Laptop is basically silent when not under big Gfx load (see below)
Things I don't love:
- Battery life under any real graphics workload is pretty abysmal. Gaming with iris is great for non-GPU laptop... but you get around 2 hrs max when it is working hard
- Fan is LOUD when iris is working hard... surprised me (in a bad way) first time I tried gaming... likely tied to battery life issue
- Delete key and power button are a bit close... results in un-expected 'sleep' sometimes when typing fast... fortunately 'wakeup' is so fast it almost doesn't bug me.
- I actually 'like' Windows 7 more than OSX... I HATE Windows 8 and Metro... but not at total OSX convert yet...
Bottom line: Best traveling laptop I have owned... a few 'nits' but overall an amazing buy. Believe the hype... if you are looking for a laptop to use on the road in the $1500 range... this is the one.
on January 5, 2014
This is $200 (30 cents per day over a two year ownership period) more than a similar Macbook Air but with the Retina display and a keyboard with better key travel. The Retina display is much less fatiguing to read Kindle books* and PDF files than non-retina displays.
I use it with Parallels 9 and Office 2013 (Word, OneNote, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook) and it works very well. The one problem using Parallels and Office 2013 is the power consumption (4 to 6 hours) vs. Mac Word 2011, Excel 2011, PowerPoint 2011 (about 10 hours) which I also end up using when I need the extra battery life.
Mac OSX is the best software development environment for open source and the unit works for iPhone/iPad apps as well.
The fact that it is easy to change to higher resolution screens if necessary (eg, for software development) is also helpful.
Two recommended apps are:
I had previously owned the 2011 Macbook Air 13" and also the 2012 Macbook Pro Retina 13" The 2013 Macbook Pro Retina 13" is a significant performance improvement (battery and graphics) over the 2012 version.
* Note the Appstore version of Kindle Reader is out of date. In order to get the "retina" version, you must download the app directly from Amazon.
There is a nice review of the latest Macbook Pro Retina 13" on bgr.com dated 11/18/2013
on December 1, 2013
I purchased a custom version of the ME865LL/A with 16GB of RAM through my university with an education discount for $1,579 + Los Angeles Sales Tax 9% and $3 California Recycling Fee for a grand total of $1,724.11. As a college student, this is not a cheap laptop at all. I previously owned a 2010 13" Macbook Pro with an upgraded 500GB hard drive and 8GB of RAM - but it was stolen when I left it at work. I wanted another Macbook Pro and was on the borderline between the mid-tier 13" Macbook Pro Retina or the high-end 15" Macbook Pro Retina. I really wanted a dedicated graphics, like in my old 2010 Macbook Pro, but my a college student my credit card credit limit is not even large enough for to make a $2,800+ purchase. The low-end 13" Retina version only had 128GB of SSD, which is too small for me. So I got the 256GB version with 16GB of RAM. 256GB is still too small for me, but it is manageable.
First off, the ME865LL/A is fast. The computer can start up in about 9 seconds (with all my stuff/application installed). This is probably thanks to the PCI-E SSD. My 2010 Macbook would take about 1 minute to start up. Everything on this 13" Retina opens fast. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CS5 loads up in about 3 seconds. As for the Intel i5, I believe it is powerful enough for most people. But I have had times where I used up ~400% of the CPU processing very large Photoshop files, videos, and very tedious Excel Macros with thousands of cells. But these task were finished in a reasonable amount of time.
The display is very nice and it is nice to know that it is able to reproduce 100% of the sRGB. But mentally comparing it to my old 2010 Macbook, it is not that much different - but I have 20/100 (left) and 20/25 (right) vision. The text looks prettier and it definitely helps with Asian characters, but it I do not think it is necessary to have this type of resolution. I'm running mine in "Best for display" which is about the same as my old Macbook. BUT if you are ever using a non-retina optimized application, the program just looks horrible. Programs like Adobe CS5 just looks terribly blocky/pixelated. When I asked my roommate, who uses a HP laptop, he did not notice the pixelated-ness - so maybe you wont either. I believe Adobe CS6 and CC are retina compatible but I don't have money to upgrade to that. Microsoft Office 2011 looks alright when updated, but there are still some parts that they clearly forgot to update to make it retina friendly.
I tend to have tons of stuff open; 16 tabs in Chrome with Flash running, 2 tabs in Safari, 1 tab in Firefox, a few Word and Excel documents, Skype, iTunes, Calendar, Photoshop, terminal, and Xcode. I never obtained Apple's battery life claims. My old 2010 13" Macbook had a 12 hour battery life claim but the longest I got from that was 6 hours (3.5 hours is more realistic at ~1600mAh). As for this 13" Macbook Retina, obtaining 6 hours is more easily possible. I can use the computer a whole school day with out charging it (averages around ~700mAh). When the computer is really taxed (e.g. video chatting on Skype) I can get about 3-4 hours (~1500mAh). Apple's claim of 10 hours means that the computer is using ~650mAh, which is pretty tough to achieve in my usage.
I choose 16GB of RAM because I can use up all 8GB of RAM on my old Mac and swap will begin to occur. But with 16GB of RAM I often see 3-4 GB of free memory remaining. Mac OS X memory management is rather odd. After memory is used and the program is still opened, it gets marked as "inactive" rather than "free." But if you close the program all the inactive memory becomes free. I never quite understood how Mac OS X manages memory. But even if swap was to occur, the SSD is only ~2.7 times slower than the memory (instead of 50 times if it is a hard drive).
This 13" Retina Macbook creates a lot less heat than my previous 2010 13" Macbook. It is often cool to light warm to the touch. The internal enclosure sensors reports ~30C where my old 2010 13” Macbook reports temperature around 43C. The i5 CPU temp on regular-low load is about 55C compared to my 2010 13” Macbook Pro at 53C. Fan speeds hover around 1300rpm vs 4500rpm for my 2010 Macbook. But do keep in mind that as time goes on and applications demand more, the temperature will rise and fan speed will probably increase as well.
This is a very nice laptop. You should be able to play some hardcore games at okay resolution with little to no anti-alias. The stock specifications should be good for most people and should last them for the next 2.5-4 years. After that, you may feel that is computer is a bit slow. Defiantly be aware of the lack of a CD/DVD drive. Remote Disc is slow even over gigabit ethernet. The built in HDMI is very nice. I believe Apple’s idea is to support 4K video out with HDMI. USB 3.0 is great. The Thunderbolt connection opens up many possibilities. I do miss the IR port because I used to use the Apple remote to give presentations with my old Macbook Pro. Overall if you have the money/budget of $1,700, the desire for a Mac with more power than the Macbook Air, the mid-tier 13” Macbook Pro Retina is a great computer. If I had the money I would have went with the high-end 15” Macbook Pro.
Also the lack of a Kensington slot is sort of a bummer. I learned my lesson with my last laptop and I purchased laptop insurance for this machine.
on October 31, 2013
I upgraded from a MacBook Air 11 to this one and could not be happier. 11 inch screen was way too small, narrow (or low?), and its overall quality was just not good enough. This one is just as good as my iPad retina screen, only bigger. The size of this laptop is great too. I would not mind paying extra for a 15 inch version, but after spending about 30 minutes playing with 13 and 15 inch versions next to each other at the store I confirmed my feeling that the 13 inch had it all and adding more bulk to get a bigger screen was not worth it. I do have an older 15 inch MacBook that my work gave me, and when traveling I would quite often take it with me instead of my 11 inch laptop just because I felt that the 11 inch screen was too limiting for serious work. This model seems to hit the right spot between the 11 and 15 inch models: its size and weight do not make it too bulky and its screen is not too small either. Seems like a perfect balance to me: I am enjoying every minute that I am working on it.