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Date First Available
March 9, 2015
Warranty & Support
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I've used my early 2015 13" Retina MBP pretty intensively every day. I'm evaluating it relative to my 11" recent-year fully loaded MB Air and the most recent non-retina MB Pro, which I used for a year at work.
Here are my impressions of the 2015 rMBP so far, relative to these other Macbooks:
This is the main reason I bought the rMBP and I'm absolutely thrilled with it. It blows away every other Macbook's display except of course the 15" retina MB Pro. (The 15" Pro is too big and heavy for my needs, and is overdue for a refresh.) For years, I've been running my MB Airs with an external monitor, a pretty decent 25" 1080p IPS display, and I was happy with this setup. No more! The external monitor and obviously the MB Air's display are a major step down from the rMBP's display. I'm spoiled - it would be really hard for me to go back now that I'm used to the MBP's gorgeous high-res display.
The 13" rMBP weighs 3.5 pounds. Whether that feels like a burden or a breeze will depend on what you're comparing it to.
I'm coming from a 2.4 pound 11" Macbook Air, which I brought with me almost everywhere, including to work every day. The extra pound of the 13" Pro is very noticeable. The weight of the pro was the only reason I hesitated choosing it over a 2015 MB Air.
If you're comparing the Pro to the 13" MB Air, the Pro is only 1/2 pound heavier. If you're comparing the Pro to similarly configured Windows laptops, many of which weigh 3 to 4 pounds, it's in the same ballpark in terms of size and weight. If you're comparing the Pro to the 13" non-Retina Macbook Pro (yes they still sell these), the non-Retina Pro weighs a full pound more than the 13" rMBP.
For me, the Pro's extra weight relative to the MB Air is a compromise I'm willing to make in order to have a much more powerful machine with a much better display. Plus, I no longer need to bring my laptop with me everywhere now; sometimes it's fine to just bring my iPad mini 2 and external keyboard. (It helps that MS Office is available on iPad now, and IMHO it's pretty good.)
* Force track pad
The "force" part -- pressing the track pad harder to activate different features -- is not supported in most applications now, but more and more applications will support it in the coming year. Until that happens, it works great as a regular trackpad - better than the (already excellent) trackpad on previous MB Pros and Airs. I like using the new trackpad pretty well. But it's not a killer feature, and in the future when more apps take advantage of it it will probably be like having a third mouse button--handy, but hardly essential.
* Speed & Performance
The 2015 rMBP has a newer generation of processor and graphics. Everything feels very fast, including bootup times, app startup, running apps, ripping music CDs, etc. That said, the 2014 model feels very fast, too, and I don't think most people will notice any speed improvements with the 2015 model over the 2014 model in normal everyday usage.
Apple claims the 2015 model's flash SSD is twice as fast as the SSD in the 2014 model. Independent testing from professional review sites have verified this. However, in normal usage, I don't notice much difference - the SSD in last year's model is pretty dang fast.
* Battery life
Apple claims 10 hours to a charge, compared with 9 hours on last year's model. Independent tests by professional reviewers largely support Apple's claim: Laptopmag.com reports 12 hours 4 minutes; PCMag.com gets 11 hours 10 minutes; CNET gets a whopping 15 hours 42 minutes.
These figures are stellar, but the testing conditions are not realistic. In real-world usage, there are so many things that affect battery life.
During my first 10 days with this machine, I never got more than 8 hours and usually more like 7. After much research & diagnostics, including a visit to the Genius Bar, I tried what all of you reading this must think is the obvious thing to try: I turned down the screen brightness. It turns out that you get a couple extra hours of battery life on 50% brightness compared to 80% brightness. I can now get close to 10 hours, maybe a bit more. I *prefer* having the screen brightness at 80%, and often leave it there while running on battery as long as I know I won't be away from an outlet for more than 6 hours. But for those rare times when I do need maximum battery life, I know I can get it by dialing back screen brightness to 40-50%.
* Summary: should you buy one?
Buy a retina MB Pro instead of an Air if you want a MUCH better display, more connectivity, a more powerful system, and don't mind an extra 1/2 pound relative to the 13" MB Air (or full pound relative to the 11" Air).
If you choose the 13" retina MBP, I'd encourage you to shop around for good deals on last year's model. It has the same excellent screen, keyboard, design, and same exact weight and dimensions. The 2014 model doesn't have the new force trackpad, but I think most people can easily live without this. The new 2015 model is slightly faster, but I think most people won't notice the differences in every day usage--I wouldn't. If you can save $300 by getting last year's model, that seems like a no-brainer to me. I didn't do it because I'm a teacher, and with my education discount at the Apple online store I got a 2015 model for about the same price as the best deal I could find on last year's model.
Bought this immediately after seeing the unveiling of the late 2016 model. Losing the function keys for a toucher was a deal breaker. I use those for too often to have them be virtualized, moving around or even unavailable. The new one, while touted to be up to x faster, the numbers are based on the slowest 2015 and fastest 2016. The base model went up in price $400, which excludes any performance benefits. As a matter of fact, video is actually slower than this model, without the upgrade. The only real upgrade for the new one, before adding on options is faster memory.
I run windows and linux VMs fairly regularly and while I could run them on a comparable Windows system, adding windows systems to an already portly windows system has never worked out well for me, so while disappointed in the new upgrades, this 2015 model still rocks VMs and does all I need it too for far less $$$. While USB-C is cool, a bag full of dongles is not. I prefer ports, especially the SD slot, which I do use regularly. With real function keys, I don't worry about one vendor or another not upgrading fast enough and losing virtual function keys, so this model is golden. Hope Apple puts back the function keys and keeps the touch strip too. I could see it being useful for some things, but not a replacement for real function keys.
Anyway, if you are contemplating buying one of these and they are still available, do it. They are great machines, even if the crowd loves to follow the blinky light!
Just a background about myself: I owned the early 2008 15" MacBook Pro, and late 2011 15" MacBook Pro. I am a former engineer and now a finance manager. I play videogames, used for programming (C++, Matlab, R, SQlL, etc.) and did normal productivity tasks. I also record music with Fender/Gibson guitars.
The changes from the 2011 15" MacBook Pro:
Pros - New ports that were not in the 2011 model: HDMI port, extra Thunderbolt video port (now it has two instead of one) - New Radeon graphics card (FINALLY!). I had the chance to test the new Radeon graphics card and it's really good. - Retina display is actually sharper. I thought that it wouldn't make any difference, but it DOES on games - The computer is 1 pound (approx. 500g) lighter. This is a huge plus! - Drives are now Solid State Drive. That is awesome. Super fast boot. - (update!) When the computer is working hard, it doesn't burn my lap anymore (although I do feel some hot air flowing through my fingertips, when I am typing, but I am okay with that).
Cons - (update!) The new magsafe 2 power adapter is worse than the previous generation. The plug keeps unplugging. I think Magsafe 1 had an optimal grip: if you stepped on the cord, and pulled with enough power to drag the computer, the plug would disconnect. However, for gentle pulls, it didn't disconnect. With Magsafe 2, even the gentlest pull makes the plug to disconnect, which is very annoying for me. - New built-in speakers. They look the same compared to the 2011 model, but they are slightly worse. The drums in rock songs look very artificial. - Memory is not easily upgradable anymore. WHY THIS, APPLE? SERIOUSLY? - SSD (Solid State Drive) is not easily upgradable. See my comment above - No ethernet connection and firewire 800 port. Honestly, I think nobody uses these ports anyway. - No AUDIO IN port. Now audio in and out are combined in just one port... I don't like this. - No DVD drive. A separate device from apple is $70. It's very expensive for such a simple device. There are similar models from $20 to $40. - The screen is harder to clean. Maybe that's a consequence of how the retina display is built, but yeah, it's harder to keep the screen clean.
Neutral: - Keyboard keys have a shorter touch. I'm okay with that given that the body is thinner. - Touch feedback trackpad. In the beginning I felt a little weird about this trackpad. I couldn't drag-and-drop items in it, but after I changed the behavior in settings, everything went well from there. I honestly didn't think it changed much from my regular trackpad on the 2011 model.