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.

 

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  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    1) That's probably Canada. It is $1599 base in US for a while now and I got mine for $1100 after tax.

    2) Another Canada thing. But I agree, Sony is too inflexible.

    3) That is by design. There is a video online with an interview where they explain it. This means you can grab your laptop by the screen and not risk damaging the hinges / screen. If you grabbed your MBP Retina by the display I'd be wary of breaking it.
    Reply
  • ThreeDee912 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    There's more to a computer than its hardware spec sheet.

    You can rattle off a laptop spec sheet with a good CPU, GPU, SSD, screen, etc., but if they're not integrated very well with everything else, or have mediocre software support, you can't always take advantage of those specs without some tacky workarounds.
    Reply
  • gstrickler - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    ^^^ I'll second that. Also, the right balance of specs matters more than "this spec is greater than that spec".

    If the keyboard, trackpad, or display sucks, you'll hate the computer no mater what the specs say. If it's too fragile, or heavy, or cumbersome, you won't want to carry it. If the software is slow and bloated, it won't matter that you've got 8GB RAM and a quad core i7, it can still feel sluggish.

    The satisfaction with a computer is far more than just it's specs, or individual components, or even it's operating system. It's having the right combination of everything.
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    1) This is dependent on user. i don't care about the 1" vertical, it's really the # of pixels that matter.

    2) The previous Z had discrete built in. The purpose of making it external is to achieve the 2.5 lb form factor. Sony once had a 11" 1.6 lb netbook. That is literally the holy grail in terms of weight for a portable laptop. The move to external discrete is really a step in that direction.

    3) You can output more than 1920x1080 on HDMI.

    4) 15" is too big for me, even at 2.5 lbs. Not everyone wants a huge screen on their lap - that's why I have a monitor on the desk.

    5) Yes, at 2.5 lbs and 13", there's limited space for heat dispersion.
    Reply
  • maratus - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately, Z tops at 1920x1200 through HDMI or single link DVI on the dock station. It was a dealbraker. Now rMBP ability to drive 2x 2560x1600 and 1x 1920x1200 is simply overkill for me, I'm still confused why did Sony stuck with HDMI only and didn't even bother to provide DP, mDP or 2L DVI as a second port. Reply
  • OCedHrt - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    That's typical Sony (Japanese) stupidity. Reply
  • Chava - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    That's typical Japanese stupidity...

    Yeah for some reason you thought that was acceptable.
    Reply
  • Solandri - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    The chassis isn't thinner than the 13" 2010 MBP (it tapers from 1.0-1.3" vs the MBP's 0.95"). Its other two dimensions are smaller though (12.4" x 8.3" vs 12.8" x 8.9"), and it's lighter (lighter than the 2010 Macbook Air in fact) at 2.9 lbs (some models were 3.04 lbs, never figured out why). Sony managed this by using a lot of carbon fiber and a really thin screen. So it's not as stiff as the solid block of aluminum that the MBP used. But the keyboard bezel is solid aluminum making it very stiff.

    http://asia.cnet.com/sony-vaio-z-sports-worlds-fir...
    http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/laptops/355384/sony...

    Here's the only marketing brochure I could find for the model being discussed (in French):
    http://www.mgmi.fr/docs/pdfprod/VPC-Z11Z9E-B.pdf
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    That's the 2008 Z. 2008. The 2011 Z is a non tapered design:

    13.0" x 0.66" x 8.27" (WxHxD)
    330mm x 16.8mm x 210mm

    The MBP is 50% thicker than the Z. It's understandable given that it is 15" instead of 13".
    Reply
  • Freakie - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/sony-vaio-z-quad-...

    Here you go. THIS is true innovation. Sony did amazing work with this version of the Z to get all the functionality of a bigger laptop into a tiny package. It is even more impressive when you think about how old, hot, and power hungry the CPU/GPU was back then. Sony has innovated much more in the laptop industry than Apple has, in my opinion. Though I still wouldn't want a Sony like this just like I wouldn't want an Apple like the rMBP (user upgradability and repairability is virtually non-existant, which is an instant deal breaker for me, it was hard enough buying a laptop with a 540M integrated onto the mobo, could never buy a laptop that didn't even let you upgrade storage)

    Here's a more detailed teardown: http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&pre...
    Reply

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