What to Buy

I mentioned earlier that Apple mitigates risk in its designs much like a CPU maker. It’s always considered good practice to decouple major architecture changes from process node jumps (Intel’s famous tick-tock cadence embodies this). Apple similarly tries to alternate major changes to the industrial design from significant internal component changes. Although Ivy Bridge and Kepler are all new, the former is quite similar to Sandy Bridge while the latter is really no different than integrating any other discrete GPU. The more dramatic silicon departure comes with Haswell next year, and I suspect that’s why we got the rMBP this year.

In our performance investigations I mentioned that compared to an upgraded Sandy Bridge MacBook Pro (high clocks with SSD), you won’t see tremendous performance gains from the rMBP. A quick look around Apple’s website actually shows not even a single CPU bound performance comparison between the rMBP and last year’s MacBook Pro.

The logical thing to do, if you’re the owner of a recent (2010/2011) MacBook Pro, is to wait until next year at the minimum. Haswell should bring a significant performance increase (particularly on the processor graphics front) and you’ll get it in the same chassis as what you see today.

Most users however don’t upgrade annually. If you have an older MacBook Pro, the rMBP offers all of the benefits of last year’s Sandy Bridge upgrade but in a much better package, and with vastly improved thermal characteristics. If you fall into this group, the upgrade is a no-brainer. I won’t lie, the next two years are going to be tough. Haswell is looking very good, and if Intel can pull off 14nm on time, Broadwell will be even more impressive from a graphics standpoint. You can always make the argument to hold off on an upgrade as there’s almost always something better around the corner. In my opinion you really can’t go wrong picking any of the next three years to upgrade.

Should you decide to buy today, which model should you get?

As I mentioned before, the $2199 configuration is near-perfect in my opinion, save for the 256GB of NAND flash. Apple unfortunately won’t let you upgrade storage capacity on the base MacBook Pro with Retina Display so you’re left with two options: 1) live with the 256GB and hope someone will build an aftermarket SSD in the not too distant future, or 2) buy the $2799 model. While it’s quite likely that we’ll see third party SSDs for the rMBP, I seriously doubt you’ll find one with Samsung’s PM830 controller.

I do think 256GB is livable, it’s just that 512GB is so much more comfortable.

Apple has simplified things by not allowing multiple GPU options, and the CPU options are pretty cut and dry.

If you can live with 256GB of storage, the $2199 configuration is fine. Otherwise I’d go with the upgraded $2799 model.

The question of whether or not you should opt for the 16GB memory upgrade really depends on what you do with the system and how long you expect to use it. Without any form of socketed memory expansion, you’re stuck with the amount of memory you order on the system. Thankfully 8GB is healthy by today’s standards and likely will continue to be so for the next couple of years. If your present day workloads require 8GB of memory, then the 16GB option is a must have. If you’re looking at 16GB purely as future-proofing, chances are you’ll run into processor (or storage) limitations before you feel held back by memory. That being said, if you want to be kind to the next owner, ticking the 16GB box won’t hurt.

 

Battery Life Final Words
POST A COMMENT

470 Comments

View All Comments

  • Manni01 - Tuesday, July 17, 2012 - link

    Great review as usual, but I would really like to know how Anand was able to check if Speedstep and Turboboost worked. In the last Macbook review (2011), he used MSR Tools, but I could not get these to work on Lion on my June 2012 MBP 13. He remains very vague about how, although he does confirm this works as expected on the MBP 15r .
    This isn't my experience. I tried using Intel's MacCPUID in Lion, and a few other tools, and it looks like the CPU is locked at nominal speed (2.9GHz in my case), so neither speedstep nor Turboboost seem to work in Lion. They work as intended in Win7/Bootcamp, going down to 1GHz to save battery or up to 3.6GHz when only one core needs more power.
    So here are my questions:
    1) Anand please could you tell us which tools you have used?
    2) Has anyone tested this on the new macs (June 2012), using which tools, and what is the result?
    Speedstep definitely worked in Snow Leopard on my MBP 13 2011, so it must be a limitation in Lion.
    Reply
  • kenancagri - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    It is very good article. I loved it. Thanks for Lal Shimpi. Reply
  • williamsj - Friday, July 27, 2012 - link

    Even the iPhone 4 is physically easier to maintain/upgrade than this thing.

    Check http://www.ifixit.com

    The worst maintainable piece of hardware they have ever looked at!!

    John
    Reply
  • Throckmorton - Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - link

    You didn't address whether pixel doubling is supported for games. IE rendering each pixel as 4 screen pixels. That's very different from upscaling, because with pixel doubling there's no blurring. Reply
  • Dubious1968 - Thursday, August 09, 2012 - link

    I've given up waiting for Apple to refresh the iMac, and am thinking of buying the Macbook Pro Retina instead. My only concern is that Apple should have equipped this laptop with a more powerful graphics card, given it is driving such a high res screen.

    I will be using it for Photoshop and HD video editing along with some gaming.

    Any help appreciated.

    Dubious
    Reply
  • sleddoggin - Saturday, August 11, 2012 - link

    So, I've done my best to read (skim) through all 46 pages of comments for this post, and have been reading other threads on more-or-less the same topic, so forgive me if I've missed something.

    I own a base model rMBP w/ 16mb ram (for safety), and am really quite unimpressed by openGL performance in games that were fluid (30-60fps ANYway) on my old Mac Pro 2006 w/ an ATI Radeon 5770 HD graphics card (I guess it helps, too, that the Mac Pro GPU is sitting in an x16 PCIe lane, not an x8, as with the rMBP). The Mountain Lion upgrade has been some improvement.

    When I first read Anandtech's article, I sort of thought, why not shut the lid on my MacBook Pro Retina, and plug in my old Apple Cinema display when I want to play games (I plan on using my desktop display when I'm at home for most stuff anyway). Then, the discreet NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M wouldn't be overworked by having to render all those extra pixels, right? Wrong. Gauging from the tests I've done, anyway, I'm getting the same choked performance on my relatively low-res external display (with the rMBP lid shut) as I do when I play those games on the rMBP screen (either at native OR scaled resolutions).

    So my question becomes, isn't this a software issue? Shouldn't the Apple/NVIDIA engineers be able to re-route ALL of that sexy mobile GPU processing power to a single, lower-res external display, and save us gamers the hassle of trading in our rMBPs for regular 2012 MBPs?

    This computer upgrade is really a no-brainer for me, otherwise. With the Thunderbolt ports, and the built in HDMI, I've been easily able to retire my old Mac Pro, and still keep my various displays (HDTV, etc.), and extensive array of USB/Firewire accessories fully operational. It just blows my mind that I get better gaming performance from my creaky old 2006 Mac Pro.

    Thanks for reading my contribution to this thread. Does my thought hold ANY water? I sure as heck don't want to give up this beautiful-looking piece of hardware if I don't have to...

    Cheers,
    -SledDoggin' (another reluctant Apple fanboy)
    Reply
  • vml_ - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    Here's what I don't get and haven't seen answered anywhere. If there are performance issues at 1800p, can they be alleviated by downscaling (eg to 1080p)? Reply
  • S J - Friday, August 31, 2012 - link

    That sounds like great. good effort. Also have seen nice article on http://techinlead.com/apple-introducing-macbook-pr... Reply
  • LookupOEM - Saturday, September 22, 2012 - link

    maybe i'm wrong, but i always thought that OEM means "Original Equipment Manufacturer", a company that makes equipement that is sold by others under their own name.

    Toshiba making hard drives for Apple makes it an OEM, just as Intel, Samsung and others

    but, Apple IS NOT AN OEM, and there is no such thing as a PC OEM !!
    a PC OEM would be a company that supplies parts to build a PC, not the PC maker itself.

    did i miss something here ?
    Reply
  • Penzi - Thursday, October 04, 2012 - link

    Now that Mountain Lion has been out for a bit and several programs have been "retinized" are you planning on updating your review or crafting a mini-review that addresses changes, improvements and new caveats? I, for one, would love to hear about scrolling performance and resolution impact to common software (the OS and iWorks, FinalCut, etc), such as setting the display to "more space" (1920) and clocking the Safari FB news feed, and so on... Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now