The 15” professional notebook has been the focal point of Apple’s mobile strategy for decades now, going back well into the PowerBook days. So naturally, the MBP 15 (at least the low end SKU) is very well settled in the Apple notebook lineup. 

The 13” Pro though, has been a little bit questionable ever since the SNB MacBook Airs launched last year. And this year, with the price drop of the 13” MacBook Air to match the 13” Pro at $1199, that line has gotten even more questionable. The Core 2-based MacBook Airs were all too slow to be viable machines, but the SNB Air from last year brought it a lot closer to the Pro. This time around, with a 1.8GHz ULV Ivy Bridge and an SSD underhood, the MBA 13” is fast enough to be equal or better to the 13” MBP in normal daily use case scenarios. If the extra computing horsepower matters a lot (and let’s face it, it’s not all that much faster - the extra 700MHz doesn’t make as big a difference as you’d expect because of Turbo, and the Air’s SSD goes a long way towards making the system more responsive and covers up for any CPU shortfall) you’re probably better off either stepping up to a 15” MBP or picking up a discounted 2011 MBP 15”. 

The Air 13” is fast enough for day-to-day use, and the higher screen resolution and significant edge in terms of portability make it pretty compelling versus the Pro’s comparatively portly body and disappointingly low-res 1280x800 display. Which isn’t to say that the MBP 13 doesn’t have its advantages - it’s significantly more upgradable (the Air has soldered in, non-upgradable memory, as well as a non-standard form factor SSD, while the Pro has a bog-standard SATA port), as well as an LCD with a wider colour gamut. Plus, if you rely on physical media, it’s the only one with a DVD drive. 

To me, and I suspect to many consumers, the form factor and screen resolution are enough to sway me towards the Air. As someone who owned and loved a 13" MacBook Pro for a long time (a base 2011 model with a Vertex 3 MAX IOPS), I just don't see the allure in the current one. The custom SSD form factor seems like an overblown issue, because Apple is now shipping SSDs with controllers good enough that I don't think they need to be replaced, and a number of SSD manufacturers make upgrade kits for the Air anyways. With that said, I absolutely don't like what Apple is doing about non-upgradable memory, because it means that if you're not willing to pay Apple sometimes absurd memory upgrade pricing, you're stuck with a system that'll be RAM starved after a couple of years. If you switch laptops frequently, that's not as big an issue, but otherwise, it's definitely something to consider. But to me, the Air just feels more modern than the Pro, and if you're buying a system in the next month or two, I think the base 13" Air is the better one to get.

Now with that said, there are also rumors of Apple launching a 13-inch version of the rMBP before the end of the year. Take rumors with a grain of salt but the possibility is something you'll have to be prepared for. 

The non-Retinized Display: Still Good Concluding Thoughts
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  • snajk138 - Saturday, July 21, 2012 - link

    The GPU only matters for games though, and neither machine is really ment for that.

    Less storage depends on how you order it, the thinkpad can have an SSD in the m-SATA port, an SSD or HDD in the HDD-bay and an optical unit, SSD or HDD in the optical bay. So, more options.

    The trackpad is better on a mac but it doesn't offer a trackpoint (nub, nipple, clit or whatever you want to call it) that many prefer to any trackpad and Thinkpads have arguably the best keyboards of any laptops. Magsafe is mostly a gimmick, a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. OSX isn't more optimized for laptops than Windows.
  • cyabud - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    It is a shame that Apple hardware is so expensive and it's the primary reason that thousands of geeks out there are experimenting with hackintoshes.

    I run Windows and OS X on my machines (Windows for games, OS X for everything else) partly because I prefer OS X and partly because I use software (namely Logic and Final Cut) that only exist for OS X.

    I've been through my fair share of MBPs over the years but in 2009 I decided to build a desktop and go the hackintosh route. It is virtually identical to an Early 2009 Mac Pro (single CPU model) and I saved about €1000 in the process.

    When it comes to notebooks though, I will still cough up the extra cash for a Macbook because I know it'll run both OS X and Windows without a hitch. Getting OS X running on a PC is considerably harder when you don't get to pick and choose each individual component in the system.

    Although there are things I admire about Apple (tight integration between product lines, pushing high res displays into the consumer market and a lot of the very high quality software that comes bundled with Macs) it is a real shame that ultimately choice of hardware is so limited and you're pretty much obliged to pay a premium for it if you want OS X (and you're not a geek who's willing to get his hands dirty).

    If OS X isn't your cup of tea or vital to your workflow, there are very few reasons to justify buying a Mac.
  • ABR - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    When will we stop getting these tired old posts comparing specs? Yes, you can buy a Chevy Impala with the same horsepower, gas mileage, etc. as a BMW 3 Series. It'll probably last decently and be easier/cheaper for you to fix if something goes wrong. Does that mean you're willing to pay the same price as for the BMW? Folks, the whole is not the sum of the parts.

    Even if you somehow conclude that Windows with all of its need to manage anti-virus and anti-spyware spyware, hunt down media management/creation programs OS X gives you out of the box, deal with DOS legacy clunk, etc. is on parity with OS X, you are still missing the little things and the intangibles that bring the whole experience up to a different level. I could list these and you could laugh at them, just as you can laugh at BMW owners for wasting their money when half their cash would have gotten them equally well from point A to point B. But that's not going to stop people from buying them. A "lifestyle choice"? Heck yes!
  • cyabud - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Although I understand and agree with much of what you're saying about the intangibles of OS X; you're still assuming that OS X is "better" than Windows. Arguing over which system is better is pointless as it's completely subjective.

    In my opinion Windows is better for games and broad software compatibility. There are also some great features in Win 7 like window snapping which require the purchase of a cheap app if you want the same functionality in OS X.

    On the other hand, I find I work more efficiently in OS X and everything feels more fluid and fast. I run both systems off solid state storage, while all my media resides on hard drives, and I still find that OS X boots/sleeps/shuts down faster and generally feels more responsive overall.

    Have you ever tried sitting someone in front of a Mac who's never used on before? I think you'll find that most will tell you it's not as intuitive as fanboys like to make out and that Windows is "much easier to use". Ultimately it's all down to what you're used to and your personal preferences/needs when it comes to the software you use.

    If you run both systems you truly get the best of both worlds.
  • ABR - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    I didn't mean just OS X, I meant the hardware also. Things like the feel of the machine, the way it clicks when you close it, the soft, analog pulsing of the sleep light, the battery indicator, the lack of cheesy Intel stickers, etc. etc.. The details of the experience are paid attention to by the engineers and designers, and it makes a difference to the QUALITY of the experience perceived by (some, not all) users.

    I agree with you about one OS or the other seeming "easier to use" based on experience, and in fact would even say 7 has brought Windows pretty close to the Mac in terms of a lot of this "quality" stuff from just the OS perspective. But it's the whole experience that matters, not just software or hardware alone.
  • uiane - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Man, the retina is a beauty!!
    the main issue is, FIREWIRE.
    We audio people are left with no option other than de 15" cheaper version + SSD + 16GB.
    and maybe swap the drive for a second HDD. (lossing the warranty)...
    Everytime I think in trading my Late 2011 15" I think on the retina with 512GB SSD and 16GB ram on, but then, NO FIREWIRE.
    Apple talked about a thunderbolt to firewire adapter in july... well, july is passing.
  • inplainview - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    On August 1st you have a valid gripe... Until then, not so much...
  • Prism - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    In regards to the pricing comparison in this article:

    When I bring the base 15" MBP up to rMBP standards with an additional 4gigs of RAM and swap out the HDD for the 256gig SSD, it ends up being $200 MORE than the rMBP, not $100 less. Just wanted to point that out...
  • Death666Angel - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Let's see:
    We have the base MBP for
    then he adds a Samsung 830 256GB and 4GB RAM which he says cost
    ~$250 + ~~$50 => ~$300
    making the total
    $1799 + $300 = $2099
    Which is $100 less than the rMBP starting point of $2199.
    Then he say that if you are eligible for student discounts, the rMBP is priced not $100 higher but actually the same, since it is discounted more heavily.

    Maybe you are going by Apple upgrade prices?
  • Roland00Address - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Why did they went with the i7 dual core (3520m) with the 13 inch instead of the i7 quad core (3612qm). The tray price of the i7 dual core is $346, the i7 quad is $378 so that is a $32 dollar difference. Both chips are 35 watt tdp (this is a first for intel, some ivybridge i7 quad cores has a 35w tdp while sandybridge did not have such a chip in a laptop.) Only other possible reason besides $32 dollar cost is the dual core supports intel vt-d

    i7 3612qm
    2.1 ghz base speed
    2.8 ghz quad core max turbo
    2.8 ghz tri core max turbo
    3.0 ghz dual core max turbo
    3.1 ghz single core max turbo

    i7 3520m
    2.9 ghz base speed
    3.4 ghz dual core max turbo
    3.6 ghz single core max turbo

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