Should You Buy a MacBook Pro With Retina Display? Here is Why I Did

June 11, 2012 – 6:49 pm

Along with thousands of other people, I tuned in for the latest announcements from Apple as part of the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference.

Sure, Apple announced a bunch of items around mobile and iOS 6, but my focus was on the new laptop models. As soon as the announcement was over and the online store was back up and running with the new items, I placed an order for the latest model from Apple – a MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Why did I pay $2,199 for the latest innovation from Apple when I could have picked up a basic laptop for $500 at my local computer store? Oh, and don’t forget all the new accessories that you need, such as a new secondary power supply (or in my case a $10 adapter for the extra one I already have) and assorted cables and connectors. If you travel and give presentations, an ethernet adapter, DVI adapter and VGA display adapters are all necessary evils and are $30 each.

For every point about why I bought the computer from Apple, someone will throw out a counterpoint in regards to a better product by someone else. That’s fine – I get it. Getting into a technical specifications comparison debate is not the point of this post. Nor is it about PC vs. Mac – that’s a different discussion. I utilize both Mac and PC platforms, although my main computer has mostly been made by Apple over the last 20 years.

As a business owner with an eye on cash flow, I need to justify where every dollar is spent.

What is the most important asset? People.

And what is the most limited resource? Time.

What does this new computer get me? Time back that I can use for getting work done. Time otherwise spent on waiting for a computer to boot. For a program to load. Or the hassle of being constrained by the number of simultaneous programs I can run or other computer performance hiccups that come along with an older computer.

I’m not easy on laptops. And while my iPad & iPhone (yeah, I’m that guy) have been helpful in being able to step away from my computer more often or manage other tasks, like listening to music while I work, there are still many tasks that are best suited for a laptop (and in some cases, an external monitor for additional visual space).

I bought my wife a new Windows 7 laptop a few months ago. Nothing fancy, but a good deal for $450 (on sale from $550). Intel i3 dual-core, 2.2 GHz processor, 8GB RAM, 15.6″ display, 500 GB hard drive with integrated graphics and HDMI out. Something fine for web browsing, word processing, email & basic multimedia functions like watching movies from iTunes and Netflix.

There was a funny article on Cult of Mac called Do You Really Need The New MacBook Pro? Probably Not – which was a good reminder that most people probably don’t need a crazy fast computer. There are plenty of good laptops out there and basic laptop computer packages in the $500-$1,000 price range (don’t forget to budget for an external monitor and accessories).

If you’re debating whether or not you should buy the MacBook Pro with Retina display, then ask yourself this question:

I spend most of my computer time:
A) Watching cat videos
B) Sharing cat videos on Facebook
C) Writing about cat videos on my blog
D) Creating cat videos while on an African Safari

Personally, I run a bunch of programs that require a hefty computer, including many programs for software development. I occasionally edit HD video, so having some horsepower always helps. And of course I run all the standard business and web applications that everyone runs in the normal course of work – but most of those don’t require much computer power.

On the way soon!

I used to have a MacBook Pro with a solid state drive, and while only 128GB, the computer was great. 128GB was a little small on space, so having 256 should be plenty, as most of my large files are stored externally anyway (like music and video files except while editing). I’m using around 100GB of local storage right now.

My main requirements for selecting a computer were at least 8GB RAM, 128MB solid state storage and a 15″ display. The MacBook Air was out because the display is too small and it doesn’t have enough processing power for my liking. Some quick math that supports my decision vs. the standard MacBook Pro follows. The basic 15″ MacBook Pro is $1,799. It costs $100 to upgrade to 8GB RAM (although lower cost RAM is available through other suppliers), $200 to upgrade to a 128GB solid state drive or $500 for the 256GB solid state drive. The standard 5400 rpm drive is a joke in my opinion for a high performance laptop. To outfit a MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM and 128GB solid state gets you to $2,099 or $2,399 for 256GB. 256GB sold state storage is included as the base model MacBook Pro with Retina display. Same processor, more storage, the same video card as the higher end MacBook Pro, significantly better display, HDMI out, the ability to upgrade to 16GB RAM in the future and other features in a form factor that is thinner and lighter? Easy decision. To me, it was more about the overall package vs. the Retina display, but it was a nice bonus. Will I miss the optical drive? Not likely, but I have plenty of other computers that have them if I ever need one.

Don’t worry about my old Mac laptop, as it won’t go to waste. I’ll be sure to put it to good use.

By the way, a comparable machine from Dell or a major manufacturer will run at least that if not more. As reference, a Dell Latitude E6530 with a 3rd gen Intel® Core™ i7-3720QM Processor (2.6GHz, 6M cache), 15.6″ display (1920×1080), 8.0GB, DDR3-1600MHz SDRAM and 256GB solid state drive is currently listed for about $2,750 on dell.com. Upgrading from the default hard drive to a 256GB solid state drive alone runs almost $500, which is a big part of the price.

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