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
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  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    He missed another important point. All of that was in 3 lbs. Now, the current generation starting from last summer has an external discrete graphics and optical drive connected via a thunderbolt based connector (because Apple had exclusivity) with the laptop being only 2.5 lbs.

    This isn't going to compare to the retina macbook pro though - at 15 inches 4.5 lbs is pretty impressive though I think if Sony wanted to do it they could do 4 lbs or less.
    Reply
  • deathdemon89 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    I agree completely, I'm a proud owner of the old Z, and even today it doesn't feel the least bit dated. And the 1080p screen is holding up admirably well, with no signs of pixellation at normal viewing distances. This device was truly innovative for its time. I still don't understand why it received such mixed reviews by the press. Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Mainly the price. Only Apple are allowed to charge that much for a laptop. Also, only Apple can have hot systems. Repeat ad infinitum. Reply
  • mlambert890 - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    Really ridiculous comment. I can see you are bitter, as is the other mega z fan, but come on already. I worked for Sony for 5 years and love the company. I have owned probably a dozen Vaios including the top of the line last gen Z (with the SSD RAID)

    Instead of ranting and raving you need to ask yourself *why it is* that "only Apple can charge so much" and why "Anand only gives a free pass to Apple"

    You feel what exactly? That there is some grand conspiracy in play? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?

    WHY has Sony *lost the ability to charge a premium*? In other words WHY have they *burned all customer loyalty and good will*? I left the company back in 1999 because I saw the writing on the wall.

    You (and the other Z guy) are no different than any other apologist. Companies dont bleed marketshare and fail to sell cancer curing products (you guys are presenting the Z as "truly revolutionary" right?) for no reason. Sorry to tell you there is no "big conspiracy".

    Sony sells super high priced products into a super commoditized market and then they layer on a CRAP TON of bloatware dragging the machine to a stop, make idiot decisions like the HDMI one, and push proprietary crap *worse* than Apple ever has. All of that into the Wintel space which, sorry to tell you, was *always* driven by the cheapest possible parts at the best possible price.

    The PC industry grew *because it was cheap*. Apple *always* occupied a premium niche. I vividly remember the initial release of the Apple I, the Lisa, the Mac 128. These were all always premium products and the competition at the time (be it Commodore, Atari, Ti, or the wintel ecosystem) *always* captured share by being cheap.

    That may annoy you for some reason, but Apple has pretty much *always* held a core premium audience. The only exception was the period of insanity when Jobs had been pushed out and Scully destroyed the company. Even then, the core fans stayed.

    You two make it sound like poor Sony is a victim because the world doesnt all run out and by the Vaio Z.

    Even *without Apple* Sony would be going under, hate to tell you. Sony's problems are Sony's and the whole is *not* the sum of its parts with a laptop.
    Reply
  • solipsism - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    None of that makes sense and is, in fact, rubbish.

    Sony added 1080p because it was it was popular not because it made sense. You have a 168 PPI display on 13" machine which makes text too small to be a good experience for most users.

    They also didn't use a good quality display or add anything to the SW to make the experience good (unlike what Anand talked about in this review), they just added the single metric that was trending because of HDTVs.

    Blu-ray in a notebook has always been a silly option for most users. There is a reason the BRD adoption failed on PCs and it's not because everyone is stupid... except you. ODDs are long overdue for being removed since they take up 25% of the chassis, require them to placed at an edge reducing over 5" of port real estate and restricting design, require a lot of power, are noisy, more prone to break due to the many moving parts, are slow, are just too expensive to be feasible, and add nothing visually that most users trying to watch a movie can discern.

    Quad-SSDs? Really? That's a sensible solution for a consumer notebook?
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    and that really is what people don't get. It isn't just about raw specs. The package needs to be complete, polished, what have you. In this case of high dpi screens, is good scaling support, and Apple did it. Support on the software side is something they never get credit for by the Apple haters. All they can see is numbers and think "I've seen numbers like that before". Reply
  • mabellon - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    No Apple didn't do it. Just like on the iPad, they increased resolution by doubling width and height. Their software simply doesn't scale well to arbitrary higher resolution. If it was done right then Chrome would work out of the box - instead the OS 2x scales everything without increasing resolution/quality.

    To the consumer, the choice means a good experience without breaking apps. But claiming that Apple was successful simply bc of software? HA!
    Reply
  • Ohhmaagawd - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Did you actually read the retina part of the review?

    Chrome doesn't work right because they do their own text rendering. Read the review. If an app uses the native text rendering, the app will look good (at least the text portion). They will have to update the graphical assets of course.

    BTW, Chrome Dev builds have this issue fixed.

    Windows DPI setting isn't default, so few use or even know about the setting and devs haven't made sure they work properly in the high DPI settings.

    Apple has made a move that will be short-term painful in having apps that aren't updated look a bit fuzzy. But since they made it default, this will force devs to update.
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    What do you mean Windows DPI setting isn't default? You can change it in a few clicks, but the same thing applies - if your app does not read the DPI values, then Windows can't help you. This is because windows UI is not vector based (I don't know about now, but older apps definitely not) and many applications back then were coded with hard coded pixel counts.

    When the DPI is changed, windows scales the text but the UI dimensions is controlled by the application implementation.
    Reply
  • KitsuneKnight - Saturday, July 07, 2012 - link

    On Windows, changing the DPI will generally mean a huge amount of applications will become simply unusable.

    On this Retina MBP, the worst case appears to be slightly blurry text (which was quickly updated).

    Apple's solution is a good one, because it does things in a way that should keep existing apps working fine, while allowing future developers to leverage new APIs to take advantage of the increased resolution.
    Reply

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