on November 22, 2012
I agonized over this purchase, and even considered a few ultrabook options, but in the end, there just is no substitute. As a photographer, my primary consideration was screen quality. On the Mac side, that pretty much ruled out everything but the 15" rMBP. On the PC side, there are a rapidly growing number of relatively inexpensive Ultrabooks with really nice displays. The Asus Zenbook Prime in fact has a really nice IPS matte screen and was the main PC option I considered. The biggest issue there though (setting aside OS preference) is the 4GB of ram and the fact that it uses the slightly lower performance, low voltage intel processors (just as the Macbook Airs do). The screen also has light bleed issues around the bezel, something which I know would eventually drive me nuts. In contrast, the screen on the rMBP's are about as uniform and perfect for still images as it gets (beyond a wider gamut desktop display).
So, in comparison to the 15" rMBP, the 13" rMBP would seem to not provide quite the value proposition as it's bigger brother as mentioned in other reviews (lack of discrete graphics, dual core vs quad core processor, base configuration with 128GB SSD vs the 256 SSD of the 15" rMBP AND the seemingly dramatic price premium to the 13" MBA with similar performance). Most, if not all of these negatives really boils down to price/ value with where the 13" rMBP sits in the line. At retail, Apple really sticks it to the person wanting the better display on a smaller, lighter Macbook...but knock say ten percent or so off of that price (which is what I paid and seems to be where the price is headed here and few other places) and magically, the 13" rMBP all of a sudden starts making a lot of sense. At that price, the terrific display and better keyboard can be seen as a very reasonable premium over the 8GB ram MBA and significantly cheaper than the base 15" rMBP. Advantages of the 13" rMBP over it's bigger brother? Well, weight and size of course (the 15" rMBP is about a pound heavier with larger dimensions making it not so portable). In fact, the 13" rMBP weighs only about half a pound more than the Air and actually has a smaller footprint. For me, it's really about the perfect size. Performance wise, it's not a desktop replacement for heavy duty use imo (which a high end configured 15" rMBP could be) but for portable use and light editing, it's perfect. Like most heavy user/ professionals, I'm not going to be doing major editing on a laptop anyway as I have a main workstation for that. Also, keep in mind that the 15" rMBP does not even use the discreet graphics unless a program specifically calls for it (that is, without the use of a separate utility) and, when that chip is used, forget about decent battery life (maybe 2 hours?) So, for most tasks, it's not used at all! Another possible future advantage of the 13" over the 15" is the huge space where the existing SSD is located below the trackpad (a different location to that of the 15" rMBP, which can be seen at iFixit). This likely means it's going to be very easy at some point to replace the smallish SSD with a larger capacity, off the shelf SSD with a proper connection adapter (the space below the trackpad allows for a commonly available, 7mm height SSD with regard to fit, though the connection is different). With the 13" rMBP, there is also something about it that goes beyond specs and the sum of it's parts. This laptop just feels right! It feels speedy and responsive in use, the build quality is impeccable, the screen is amazing and the keyboard is about the best typing experience one will have on a laptop. Sure, in a year or so when intels next gen, low power Haswell processors are used, the performance of the 13" rMBP will be at the level of it's bigger brother but even now, this is very close to perfect.
Update...This is probably minor for most folks but after using my shiny new Macbook Pro Retina for a week or so, I noticed that the screen bezel, when closed, did not perfectly match up with the bottom on one side. This creates a slight overhang on one side, the left side in my case. I thought this was really odd given the typical Apple build quality I have come to expect over the past decade or so. After all, the design and build quality represents a LOT of the premium one pays for an Apple product and Apple even advertise - and pride themselves- on how every single millimeter is perfect in their promotional videos and such. Anyway, just out of curiosity, I looked at the same Macbook Pro 13" Retina display model at various Best Buys and, of course, every single one was PERFECT! No overhang anywhere and perfectly smooth mating all around when the laptop is closed. I guess I somehow got the one unit with such a manufacturing defect.