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Customer Review

568 of 589 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Choosing between the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro Retina, December 26, 2012
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This review is from: Apple MacBook Pro MD212LL/A 13-Inch Laptop with Retina Display (OLD VERSION) (Personal Computers)
First, some context. I'm 64, with a 64-year-old man's eyesight. I live on my computer -- Internet and word processing. I am a retired professor (Rutgers). I'm a born again blogger, I write books, and I run a minuscule publishing house.

I like writing in all rooms of my home. My study, at the kitchen table, sitting up in bed, on a counter in the basement. I prefer a laptop to a desktop. In my study, I have two computers going at once. One is a Windows (XP) desktop with an excellent 21" screen. The other is an Apple laptop. (Yes, I use both Windows & Apple simultaneously, on two separate computers. Both have virtues.)

For the past year, my laptop has been a Macbook Air (MBA) 13.3", bought new, here at Amazon. I have loved it. Those of you who own an MBA know what I'm talking about -- and this review is aimed chiefly at MBA users. Last spring, I tried the Macbook Pro 15" Retina, and returned it. Too large, too heavy, too expensive, and not enough programs and sites were Retina-ready. I never regretted returning it. My MBA was the ideal laptop for me. I had found the "perfect" laptop.

Till a month ago, when I began reading reviews of the Macbook Pro 13.3" Retina (rMBP 13.3). "Hmm," I thought, "this baby might be worth trying. It's smaller than the 15", lighter, and I'm getting hints from reviewers that the display is perhaps better than the 15"." I ordered it, got it set up, and was soon in love -- except it had a (slight) flaw. (Trackpad was janky; it rattled when tapped.) I sent it back.

No, I did not immediately order a replacement. I wanted to ponder whether the rMBP 13.3 was truly a significant improvement -- for me -- over the MBA. Days went by. I read articles online about the narcotic effect of owning Apple computers. ("Yes, Virginia, there is something called Apple Syndrome. Apples are just so darn good, in every respect, that Homo sapiens is neuro-physiologically incapable of resisting them. Like the fabled apple in the Adam & Eve story. You bite into the Apple "apple" and you experience, in person, in the flesh, the Fall of Mankind into an unimagined world of computer perfection. Yes, it is a full-blown seduction, and, yes, it's worth it.") "Have I become an Apple addict," I asked myself? (It didn't make things easier when my wife, a psychiatrist, assured me I was indeed an Apple addict.)

By the end of the week, I knew the answer. No, I was not an Apple addict; I have demonstrated the strength of character to resist Apple's "apple" in the past, and, by golly, I could do it again. Furthermore, upon considerable reflection (I'm a PhD; we reflect a lot) I concluded that the rMBP 13.3 was worth the money. I knocked on my wife's study door, sat down, and made my case. Brilliantly, I add. She came around.

The rMBP 13.3 arrived the next day. I made the right choice. This is a vast improvement over the MBA -- and that's the real purpose of this review. Retina is fabulous. Retina is a quantum leap over everything else. Now, lots of programs and sites are Retina-configured. All my voluminous research notes have been converted to PDF's, and I spend hours reading them. Now, reading PDF's using the onboard Preview utility is a dream. Even scanned PDF's read extremely well. I can read for hours & hours and my eyes don't get tired. It's like reading a book.

There's more. The text is larger on the screen in the rMBP than the MBA. This had become a major drawback, for me, with my MBA: screen text (that is, non-adjustable text) was just too small. This is not the case with the rMBP; it is a delight to read with my aging eyes.

I said, above, that I have two computers going at the same time -- a big desktop PC and my Apple laptop. The screen on the rMBP seems as large as my 21" monitor, for some reason. I'll leave it to others to explain why this is so -- but it is.

The weight of the rMBP is comparable to the MBA. Only slightly heavier. The size is nearly the same. (I believe the rMBP is slightly smaller in footprint than the MBA.) The battery-charge lasts longer on the rMBP than the MBP -- easily over 7 hours, for me. Like the MBA, the rMBP recharges rapidly, and it turns on and off rapidly. Speakers are excellent (remember, it's a laptop). Trackpad, fabulous. (Nobody makes a trackpad like Apple.) Keyboard touch, excellent. The rMBP has a dictation utility which is really cool. Yes, it works well. You don't have to train it to your voice. I have used Dragon Naturally Speaking for years. Dragon is the "gold standard" for voice recognition and dictation. Apple's dictation utility is about as accurate as Dragon, in my experience. It's not as stable as Dragon (meaning, it loses its connection rather easily), but that's not a big deal; you simply tap the "fn" key twice and continue talking. No need for an attached microphone; the onboard mic works as well as a plug-in mic (I tried it).

Think of it this way. Pretend there was no MBA. Pretend Apple introduced the 13.3" MBA and the 13.3" rMBP simultaneously -- on the same day. You are standing in front of a new 13.3" MBA and 13.3" rMBP, and you are going to buy one or the other. There is no question but that you should buy the 13.3" rMBP. Yes, it's about $500 more than the MBA. Yes, it's vastly superior.

I write this review for democratic purposes. I consider Amazon's review feature to be the finest expression of "commercial" democracy in existence. By this I mean, I am one of the millions of people who benefit enormously from Amazon customer reviews. Whenever I buy on Amazon (which is a lot), I study all the reviews. Hence, I consider it my duty to write my own -- to benefit someone else.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 4, 2013 10:35:07 PM PST
Lionvista says:
I admire your recognition of the commercial democracy in the Amazon reviews. My point of view is the same. I use online reviews to perhaps a point of detriment; sometimes I use them to help persuade my wife. I don't post a review of every purchase, but most.

Without going on and on in detail, I will just tell you that this review was more helpful to me than you can begin to imagine. I have been sticking my toe in the Apple/Mac water for a few weeks since my motherboard died. Unfortunately the Air and the Retina and the 21.5 iMac and Win8....all had me batty. Paralization by over-analyzation. Your wife probably knows the term but it is new to me and fits me to a tee here with picking out my next computer. I dearly enjoy some of the Windows tinkering, but only to a point.

Well I am starting to "go on and on in detail." Your review is very very helpful and I am ordering mine tomorrow.

One worry is that I type at a desktop with a conventional keyboard 40 hours a week. I hope I can train my fingers for this one. I type pretty fast. I'm sure practice will make going back and forth no biggie.

Regards,
Michael

Posted on Jan 5, 2013 5:57:46 PM PST
M5Rahul says:
Glad you like your 13" rMBP. I bought the 15" version with 16GB RAM and it's simply awesome! It took me a while to switch from Windows to the Mac OS, but after about 3 months, I am well settled with it! The best part is, I can still run Windows 7 [ hate 8, but I digress ] via Bootcamp and/or Virtual Machine like Parallels so I'm not really losing out on anything!

The screen is gorgeous and unique, the speakers are excellent for a laptop, and all flash storage [ SSD ] makes the rMBP a very zippy computer! I encourage you to join [ if you haven't already ] MacRumors to benefit/learn the most out of OS X.

A few applications I would suggest:

1) BOOM [ Equalizer for Mac ~ $7 ] makes a world of difference in sound!
2) Caffeine [ free ] If you'd like your rMBP to stay awake.
3) No Sleep [ free ] If you'd like your rMBP to stay awake with the lid closed [ Caffeine does not enable this ] so you can continue to download or listen to music, just like in clamshell mode
4) Coconut Battery : To monitor the battery health and charge cycles.
5) iStat [ free ; iStat Pro is a paid app ] To monitor system resources being used including temps and such.
6) Parallels 8 [ normally $79.99 but watch for deals ]: To be able to run other OS'es like Windows, Linux, Chrome, etc ...
7) Alfred [ free ] : Much better than spotlight!
8) GeekTool [ free ] : If you like tinkering with scripts and create your own Geeklets like weather ; system info ; current song playing in iTunes etc on the desktop! Very powerful, interesting, fun and easy to work with !!
9) VLC Player [ free ] : To play most, if not all, video and audio formats!
10) ClamXAV [ free ] : To monitor for malware. Sure, there aren't any known virus threats to OS X at this time, but it never hurts to have an app quietly running in the background, using trivial system resources, watching what comes in via the net!

Those should keep ya busy for a while ;)

Also, I completely concur with your statement ' I consider Amazon's review feature to be the finest expression of "commercial" democracy in existence. By this I mean, I am one of the millions of people who benefit enormously from Amazon customer reviews. '

Finally, Go RU :) [ RU Alumni - Newark, NJ ] and enjoy your new toy!!!

Rahul

Posted on Jan 26, 2013 10:57:14 AM PST
Dr. Martin,

Great review, great story telling, great attention to details and great sense of humor. Best review I ever enjoyed. Still lacks some technical review aspects, but fun and great to read.

Especially the part:

upon considerable reflection (I'm a PhD; we reflect a lot).........Great line!

and

I knocked on my wife's study door, sat down, and made my case. Brilliantly, I add. She came around........

I wish my wife would be that flexible, especially both of us are Ph.D.s!!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 29, 2013 10:57:02 AM PST
:)

Posted on Feb 24, 2013 5:52:12 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 24, 2013 5:54:11 AM PST
Great review, although I have to wonder if the reviewer's obvious commitment to a Protestant work ethic has jeopardized his objectivity in any way ;-) In any case, I'm now going to buy a 13" rMBP rather than an 11" MBA.

Posted on Mar 21, 2013 7:45:45 PM PDT
Ryan says:
I really like your writing style. Any chance I could get you to tell me the name of your blog?
Ryan Scholl

Posted on Jun 3, 2013 11:56:52 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Aug 30, 2014 3:05:04 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2013 5:49:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 6, 2013 5:50:42 PM PDT
W. Grant says:
In case you don't know it you can press on the control key on a PC and scroll you're mouse wheel and it will enlarge or make the print smaller on the screen. So if you can't see, I wear trifocals, you got a problem, not the computer.

Posted on Jun 25, 2013 7:10:16 PM PDT
ginny p says:
Thanks for the thoughtful review, at 68, I have been Mac since 1883 and never have I regretted my choices. I have an older MacBook Pro 17 on my desk as I type on my retina iPad and I am waiting for my new 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro your review was just wonderful and thanks for the note about the dictation tool.ginny

Posted on Jul 28, 2013 6:44:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 8, 2013 11:19:54 PM PDT
Thank you for the best Amazon review I have ever seen. Any review that can get this hard-core, PC fanboy, cheapskate to buy a MacBook Pro, is a great review indeed.

Ordered today...looking forward to receiving it. Thanks again, Doc.

UPDATE: I have had it for a week now and absolutely love it. Although I remain a hopeless PC fanboy, I have to admit that this is a quality machine. Plus, it is a hell of a lot of fun to use.

My only regret is that you cannot run ProTools 9 on OSX. It (ProTools 9) also won't work with Parallels. It is compatible with ProTools 11, but the upgrade cost is pretty steep. So, I will use Logic Pro X on the MBP and ProTools 9 on my 11" PC laptop. Anyone who wants to use the MBP as a DAW should take note of this. ProTools, Logic, ProSonus, and Ableton will do nicely for professional DAWs. There are a few others that will run on the MBP, so check them out before making your choice. BTW, Cakewalk is PC only.

BTW, another PhD here. :-)
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