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Coveting the Apple, but Wary of the Price
June 29, 2012 8:16 AM   Subscribe

I'n seriously thinking of upgrading my 7-yr old Sony Vaio Notebook for the new MacBook Pro with retina display. Unless you think it's a really bad idea? Details of my computer usage and a question or three within.

I currently hate my home computer to the degree that it goes unused. It's slow and the display is horrible. The programs I use everyday are the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, the others to a lesser degree) and Vectorworks (CAD). I'm not a PC gamer. I have been drawn to the Macs for years, but I've avoided the switch because of software compatibility issues and general unfamiliarity with the OS. But now all of my software is on service plans where compatibility is a non-issue. I wouldn't mind spending some time to learn the Mac, and I already have an iPhone and iPad. (One additional detail: I use Google products extensively -Picasa, Drive, Gmail)

My questions: Have you successfully switched to a Mac from being a long term PC user? Is Lion easy, intuitive? And, can I settle for the 2.3 GHz/256 GB version or do I need the 2.6GHz/512GB one for my graphics-intensive work? Thanks for your help!
posted by Kronur to Computers & Internet (22 answers total)
 
Could you clarify whether you actually need it to be a laptop? For that usage - I'd prioritize getting a couple of large high-quality displays. 15" wouldn't seem ideal - no matter how high the resolution. On the other hand, the retina MBP would be a pretty great machine for working on these things on the go.
posted by kickingtheground at 8:30 AM on June 29, 2012


I am a long-time PC user, but I used a Mac at work for 5 years and loved it. If it weren't for the money, I would have a Mac as my personal computer in a heartbeat.

Adobe Photoshop works beautifully on a Mac. No substantial differences from the Windows version, other than you have to get used to using the "command" key instead of "Ctrl" for keyboard shortcuts. I haven't used the other CS programs, but I'd imagine they're equally well done.

Vectorworks is so, so much better on a Mac. Well, I last used version 12, five years ago, but at that point the Mac version was superior and I can't imagine that it's less than equal to the Windows version now. It was much faster (on machines that should have had comparable specs) and more stable. And somehow, it just had a better visual appearance, even on a Mac hooked up to a non-Apple monitor.

Google is entirely Mac compatible.

You will love the retina display with all your graphic work, and you'll pick up the OS in no time, especially since you are used to the Apple interface. You won't love buying new copies of all your software... but you probably would even if you got a new PC, since I'll bet you're not running Windows 7 now?

Also, if you have beloved Windows programs that you just can't give up, you could set up a Windows partition to run them (although anything graphics intensive would likely suffer). I don't think it's worth it, but it is an option.
posted by Kriesa at 8:33 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I switched a few years ago. I love my MBP. Lion is easy and intuitive -- but it will take some getting used to. For your 256/512 question -- you're talking about the size of the built-in flash storage, right? Well, how large are your graphic files? Do you have a lot of movies or other large media you'd want to store? If so, 256 isn't going to be enough. You'd either want to go with the larger option and/or get an external hard drive.
posted by shivohum at 8:33 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


My questions: Have you successfully switched to a Mac from being a long term PC user? Is Lion easy, intuitive?

I can't specifically answer your questions about hardware, but I can say that I was a LONG time Windows user (with a bit of Linux on the side) and I switched to OSX. I won't ever go back to Windows if I don't have to. The OS is intuitive and runs nicely. Once you get over the whole "I closed that window, but the program is still running"-thing, you'll be fine.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 8:33 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a long-time PC user until about 3 years ago, when I got my first Mac laptop. However, unlike you, my switch was motivated by the fact that much of the software I use runs better on a Mac. I mostly now split my time between MacOS and Linux, with a little Windows thrown in.

There are some notable differences between Mac and Windows, although not so much that it should be a barrier to switching. It will take you some time to learn how things work and you probably will run into a few things that will confuse you eventually, but you shouldn't let that concern you to much. Overall, I find OSX very intuitive.

However, unless you have a very strong reason for getting a Macbook Pro with the Retina display, I'd consider getting a different machine. Not because there's anything necessarily wrong with the new MBP(r), but just because it's so expensive. Unless you really want/need the power of the MBP and the portability of the Air, I'd consider either the standard MBP (i.e. without the retina display) or an Air. For you, I would think the standard MBP would be best, since it seems like you do some graphics-intensive work.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:34 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I switched this week. I had barely touched a mac before, but know more about Windows than basically anyone I know (I've been developing Windows software since 1995 when my boss handed me a copy of "Undocumented Windows" and said "See if you can make our program do this thing it's not supposed to be able to do") So far I'm quite happy. Things seem reasonably clear, and the hardware is gorgeous. I've used some medium-high-end windows laptops owned by my employer in the last few years, and this feels much much nicer in terms of weight, battery life, display, and build quality.

I haven't done any graphics intensive work yet (well I've processed a couple 23 megapixels raw photos to jpegs in iPhoto, but that doesn't really count), but the OS switch hasn't felt difficult at all. I am reasonably familiar with the unix command-line though, which for a power-user is important. The CPU speed isn't that different between the two though - and it will be so much faster than your 7 year old computer you'll be doing great. Is that enough disk space for you?

I do recommend getting the RAM upgrade - since it's soldered to the logic board you can't upgrade it later.

I believe that right now, Adobe CS doesn't support the retina display, (so it looks low res still) but I'm sure it won't be long until it does.
posted by aubilenon at 8:37 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was exclusively a PC user until late last year when I replaced my trusty Dell with a MacBook Pro. I had stopped using Windows regularly for a while in favour of various flavours of Linux. If you've used Linux, you'll appreciate OS X's UNIX underpinnings. The windowing interface took a little getting used to, but not more than a couple of days. Moving back to Windows computers now takes a moment of re-orientation.

Adobe products function pretty much the same as their PC counterparts barring slightly different keyboard shortcuts (imagine using the Windows key as a modifier, this is what it is like on the Mac, with the Command key). I would expect Vectorworks to be the same, but have no experience of it.

If there's any software for Windows you must use, Parallels or Fusion with the unity functionality (shows Windows windows directly within OS X without the desktop) works very well, with near-native speed. I have an iPad, and will probably make an iPhone my main handset over my current Android, as the integration is excellent as you'd expect. If you have both of these already, then the MacBook is great for where you're running software you want to sync on all platforms, say calendaring or to-do lists.

One point I would make is that you may want to re-think the Retina model over the more straight-forward Pro - it is much more difficult to upgrade, and my opinion of the standard MacBook display is that it is absolutely fine for what you'll be wanting to do, I certainly have no complaints. I say this as you mention you kept your old notebook for seven years. If you want to upgrade memory, disk or swap out the battery, the Pro is much easier to work on than the Retina.
posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 8:38 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, I strongly disagree with Betelgeuse. You're going to be looking at this display the whole time you use this computer, and it's worth the extra dollars. I'm sure that the retina display will trickle into the rest of the mac line, and I so would not want to buy one of the last macs to have a crummy old low-res screen.
posted by aubilenon at 8:39 AM on June 29, 2012


Given the location of my desk in our home, I can't (won't) use large monitors (or a stand-up display of any kind b/c it's in the middle of our den). But my husband has two huge displays in his home office, and I could always use the dock he has for his Macbook Air if I had something at home to do that required that kind of room. I do use two large displays at work too.

I hate the screen real estate on my Vaio, but in grad school I had a top of the line Dell notebook that I did all my graphics on. I didn't mind the size, bc the display was so good.
posted by Kronur at 8:40 AM on June 29, 2012


I don't think that you should look at the MacBook Air, because with the applications you're using, you will want the dedicated graphics card offered in the Pro. Also, screen size.
posted by Kriesa at 8:45 AM on June 29, 2012


We got a retina MBP at work for testing, and the screen has caused somewhat of a love-hate relationship.

Basically, for apps and websites that are prepared for Retina screens*, it's a jaw-droppingly beautiful experience. For everything else though, it's a little like watching regular-def TV on an HDTV. YMMV, and you get used to it, but it's still a little odd...

That said, it's a slim, gorgeous machine.

*apple.com, for instance, has two sets of images on the site, for regular and retina screens, and asks the screen res of the computer via JavaScript. There's a way to do this in CSS as well, but it seems that its a fairly slow rollout internet-wide.
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 9:08 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Definitely, definitely, definitely upgrade the RAM as much as possible. Remember you can't do this after purchase. OSX loves RAM and it'll really pay off in the long run.
posted by Magnakai at 9:32 AM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I replaced a PC laptop (running Windows) last year with a MacBook (non-Pro. Amateur, I guess). I will NEVER go back to PCs. On the Mac, there's no updating, no Windows pop-ups interrupting me to ask if I want to do something I don't care about, no crashing Java, NO viruses, etc. etc. etc. I have the zeal of the convert, yes, so I recommend switching, yes.
posted by scratch at 9:48 AM on June 29, 2012


I switched and like OSX well enough but it's not true that "there's no updating, no Windows pop-ups interrupting me to ask if I want to do something I don't care about, no crashing Java, NO viruses, etc. etc. etc".

There's all of that on the Mac side, although in some cases to a lesser extent.
posted by The Lamplighter at 10:06 AM on June 29, 2012


Definitely, definitely, definitely upgrade the RAM as much as possible. Remember you can't do this after purchase. OSX loves RAM and it'll really pay off in the long run.


Actually, RAM is one thing that you can upgrade after the fact (and it's not even hard). However, the $100 that it costs to go from 4GB to 8GB is probably worth the price, and it is a better deal than you're likely to get if you decided to go 4GB and upgrade later.
posted by Kriesa at 10:44 AM on June 29, 2012


Actually, RAM is one thing that you can upgrade after the fact (and it's not even hard).

That's for the regular MBP. The new Retina model's got the RAM soldered in.
posted by roosterboy at 11:05 AM on June 29, 2012


That's for the regular MBP. The new Retina model's got the RAM soldered in.
Yes, but the retina model is maximized automatically. It only comes with 8GB of RAM, there is no 4GB option.
posted by Kriesa at 11:10 AM on June 29, 2012


Retina can be optioned out with 16gb
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 11:11 AM on June 29, 2012


And should be!
posted by weaponsgradecarp at 11:11 AM on June 29, 2012


The Retina model's RAM CANNOT be upgraded after purcase as it's soldered. What you buy it with, is what it will have to its dying day.
posted by flif at 11:26 AM on June 29, 2012


And, can I settle for the 2.3 GHz/256 GB version or do I need the 2.6GHz/512GB one for my graphics-intensive work

If you're currently using a seven-year-old machine, either of these will be a tremendous improvement.

On the Mac, there's no updating.

Uh, you really should be installing your updates. That little dialog box that pops up every couple of weeks or so saying "Software updates for your computer are ready to be installed. Do you want to install them now?".... You should click on the "Install and Restart" button at least every once in a while.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:15 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since you are doing graphics work, I would stay away from any Retina display for now. Software that isn't coded to work with the new screen resolutions will not look exactly right until they are updated. For any graphics work this is a big issue. Any plugins you use will probably also need to be updated.

Having said that, I loved my switch over from PC to Mac for photography work. The learning curve for a Mac isn't that bad, and I love the lack of headaches in keeping the system up and running.
posted by volition at 8:06 PM on June 29, 2012


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