Which MacBook model is right for me (your typical suburban middle-aged dude)?
July 3, 2012 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Should I (a regular old computer user) get the Retina MacBook Pro? Or will the regular old MBP be sufficiently futureproof?

My family has a four year old iMac that we are ready to replace, and we are going to get a MacBook Pro. We use the computer for average everyday type stuff, like Office applications, internet browsing, Quicken, etc. Our media editing/storage is through iPhoto and iMovie. We stream movies and music from iTunes to our Apple TV. Pretty basic stuff - no Photoshop, or hardcore gaming, or true video editing (outside of a piano recital or two).

We are deciding between the Retina model and the regular model. I don't like to unnecessarily spend money but assume that the budget is not important. In favor of the Retina model: (a) I want this computer to last me at least four years if possible, so the more advanced the better, (b) I am already going to drop over $2K on the thing so what's another few hundred bucks, (c) it is more lightweight I think the HD is more reliable, and (d) all reviews say that it is really really great. In favor of not: (a) the new MBP is sufficiently sophisticated that it should get me through four years no trouble, (b) the Retina display is supposedly gorgeous but I don't do enough high-resolution stuff on the computer to justify the premium, (c) an optical drive is a nice thing to have, particularly for ripping the kids' DVDs for easy travel/streaming, and (d) a few hundred bucks is a lot of money.

Some part of me feels like I'd be stupid to buy anything but the most advanced option if I am not coming back for several years. But some other part of me feels like I'd be stupid to buy the Retina (and give up the DVD drive) if the only real benefit is that it looks prettier. Your advice is much appreciated.
posted by AgentRocket to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would really, really wait until next year. Apple will have rolled out Retina displays along all (or at least most) of their line, and you won't have to deal with annoying little first-generation quirks and bugs.
posted by Oktober at 11:20 AM on July 3, 2012

I think a regular old MacBook Pro will do you fine. As far as the Retina MBP, I'd wait a couple of months. The early reports indicate that it may be pushing the technology envelope a bit too far too fast.
Some Retina MacBook Pro Users Experiencing Display Ghosting.

Retina MacBook Pro Pushes the Limits of its Graphics Capabilities.
This isn't the machine I'd be an early adopter on.
posted by alms at 11:26 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rule of thumb as a longtime Mac user is never buy first-generation Apple anything.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:09 PM on July 3, 2012

Computers are so advanced nowadays, there is no reason to buy the top of the line model if all you want to do is normal day to day stuff. I mean, most of what people do on their computer can be done on an ipad, and that certainly is not nearly as powerful as a top of the line laptop.

The trend these days seems to be software optimized to use on tablets, which means your average everyday software is going to be written for slower processors. I wouldn't worry about spending more just for the possibility that someday something might come around which could use a little extra juice. The difference between the high end computers and the middle of the road is really not significant unless you are really going to be pushing the boundaries.
posted by markblasco at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2012

The Retina display model is theoretically "more advanced" but it's also significantly less upgradable. If using this laptop for a long time is a priority, I would absolutely go with the non-Retina version. As for the more reliable HD, you can get an SSD (solid state) drive in either model, and in the non-Retina one you can replace/upgrade it later if needed.
posted by duien at 12:39 PM on July 3, 2012

You are going to be staring at the screen for the next four years. If I were going to invest now, I would want a Retina Display. Now if that means you wait a few months before buying one, I would wait.

FYI, I have been an earlier adopter on almost all Apple products over the last 10 years and I have never been bitten. Anecdotal evidence, but I have never seen actual statistics that prove "not to be an Apple early adopter." That is no offense to alms either, that isn't the first time I have heard people say it, it just isn't my experience.
posted by Silvertree at 12:42 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'd suggest non-retina. Here are a few reasons I haven't seen mentioned yet:

- Since it's replacing an iMac, it sounds like you'll be using this computer a lot at home, where the weight savings is not as important
- Although text looks great and you'll have more screen real estate, if you're mainly using it for browsing to image-heavy sites, you'll find that images do not look great on retina displays unless the site has optimized for them. (go to an Apple store and try this out)
- You can always get a nice external monitor with the money saved, probably a retina display once all of Apple's displays go that way
- Any repair will be less costly on a non-retina. The MBP can be upgraded easily, over time. Also, given that laptops take a lot more abuse than desktops, consider AppleCare after a year of ownership.
posted by sub-culture at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2012

Don't worry about retina. It's not needed for anything.
posted by rhizome at 1:16 PM on July 3, 2012

According to my second link, above, the Retina MBP has significantly lower frame rates for graphics. So if you want to be playing games, you don't want this machine.
posted by alms at 1:23 PM on July 3, 2012

I just went through a similar thought process to replace my 2008 MacBook Pro. Is there a particular reason you're not considering the 13" Air? Unless you think the HD is too small (and there's ways around that, the cheapest of which is using an external drive for your photo/media storage), you should find it more than sufficient for your stated needs.

Personally, I felt the non-retina MBP would be the worst of both worlds, so my choice was between the 15" retina MBP or the 13" Air. The 13" Air has the same resolution as my current MBP, and I don't need a ton of processing grunt, so I ended up going with that. It's also about $1100 AUD cheaper.

Whichever you buy, allow me to add two recommendations: max out the ram and purchase AppleCare. You'll be glad for both.
posted by Georgina at 1:14 AM on July 4, 2012

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