MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina Display: Part 2

MB_Pro_FrontPart 2 of 2

Last week, I described the purchase, unboxing, and setup of a new MacBook Pro with 13-inch Retina display.

In this week’s post, I drill down in more detail on the value proposition of the computer, the software that is included, and some real-world use cases for Apple’s latest laptop.

Value proposition

When you compare the price of an Apple laptop to the variety of laptops out on the market, including Windows machines and Google ChromeBooks, it’s easy to understand how, at first blush, you’d consider the MacBook Pro to be overpriced.thumbs-up

As mentioned in last week’s article, I paid over $1300 for the new laptop. And that was with two discounts applied, because I bought it from an Apple-authorized retailer, MacMall. Except for back-to-school promotions, Apple almost never discounts its products at the Apple Store.

A cursory look at Best Buy shows PC laptops, including “touchscreen” and “2-in-1” PCs, ranging from $229 to $1199. If you include ChromeBooks, you can find laptops for as low as $199.

From a specification point-of-view, the $1199 and $949 Lenovo Yoga Pro models on Best Buy’s site most closely resemble the MacBook Pro, as they include solid-state drives (128GB) and 8GB of RAM (random access memory).

The MacBook that I purchased has a larger 256GB SSD, but otherwise similar specifications, and is $200-$400 more expensive. Aside from the fact that the PC laptops are running Windows 8.1, which has generally received poor reviews, what really is the advantage of paying more for a MacBook?

For me, it comes down to two things.

First, I’ve owned Macs as my personal home computers for years. MacOS X is based on the Unix operating system, which was built from the ground up with network security in mind. Windows, although improving from a security standpoint, has had a checkered history. With a few basic precautions, Macs are the safest computers on the planet.

Second, the resale value of Macs is second to none. As mentioned in last week’s article, I sold my three-year old iMac for $600 on eBay. So my net cost for the new MacBook was a bit over $700. Not bad.

Go look at the resale value of Macs compared to PCs on eBay. It’s eye-opening.

Included software

As an added bonus of buying an Apple computer, there is some really excellent software that is included. Apple lists 22 built-in apps for MacBook Pro.

software_representationI’m not going to describe them all, but here are several of my favorites:

  • iPhoto—Serious photographers have found flaws in iPhoto, but for my purposes, it’s a very good application for organizing all my photos, including those I take with my DSLR and with my iPhone. It has simple editing tools (cropping, red-eye correction, filters, etc.), and if I want to edit a photo in Photoshop, I can drag the photo from iPhoto right onto the Photoshop application. Voila…
  • GarageBand—I’ve been an erstwhile musician for 40 years, and for seven of those years, I’ve been using GarageBand to record my songs. It is an extremely versatile, multi-track recording tool with enough features to studio-quality recordings. Each version offers enhanced features over its predecessor. And it is provided at no additional cost.
  • Pages—I’ve extolled the virtues of Pages in a previous post, but it really is a good word processing/desktop publishing application that I use frequently. It will import Word documents, which you can edit, and then save back to Word format if you need to share the documents with your PC-using colleagues or friends. Pages is one of three iWork apps from Apple that compete nicely with Microsoft Office. The others are Numbers for spreadsheets and Keynote for presentations.
  • FaceTime—Remember not too many years ago when video conferencing was an expensive proposition? FaceTime enables me to do it on my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad for free. The one criticism is that it only works on Apple devices.
  • Calendar—For scheduling purposes, Calendar is a very good tool and syncs with iCloud, so that all my devices have my latest schedule on them.
  • Contacts—Same for contacts. If I edit an existing contact, or add a new one, all my devices have my latest list of contacts.
  • Time Machine—I have an external hard drive that is connected to my laptop, and with Time Machine, every little change or addition that I make on the laptop is recorded. Time Machine works behind the scenes, so is barely noticeable. But if I want to recover a file that I deleted a month ago, I can open Time Machine, go back in time, and find the file. Even more important, if my main system crashed or was stolen, I could recover my data with Time Machine.
  • iTunes—I have been organizing all my music (over 10,000 songs) through iTunes for so long, it’s hard to imagine any other app that is this useful. In addition, I’ve signed up for Apple’s iTunes Match service, so all my music is stored in the cloud, as well. This enables me to access all my music from any of my devices.
  • Notes—I use the Notes app to record ideas or little snippets of information. This is another cloud-connected app, so all notes are available from all my devices.

The MacBook Pro in use

I’m not given to running benchmarks on my computers to determine statistical performance across a number of use cases. Fortunately, other more technical bloggers take care of this for me.performance-gauge2

However, I do read their posts, and measured performance of the new MacBook Pro, while not a huge leap over its predecessor, is reportedly quite good, and compares favorably to its competitors.

What I’m most interested in is whether the computer enables me to perform my tasks with speed and agility.

My priority was to obtain a laptop that performed at least as well as the iMac that I replaced it with.

When I record a multi-track song in GarageBand, I need to process it to stereo and save it to a full-resolution audio file. Mix-down, as it is called, is a CPU-intensive task, and the MacBook Pro handles it every bit as quickly as the iMac.

When I edit a 10-megapixel photograph in Photoshop, the file should open quickly and without lag. It did on my iMac, and it does it every bit as quickly on the MacBook Pro. In fact, because of the design of solid-state drives, files actually are read and written faster on the the MacBook Pro.

When I publish the tech-52 blog, I need to have multiple browser windows, Photoshop, and a few other applications open at the same time. On the MacBook Pro, the eight gigabytes of memory and fast disk caching enable this without issue.

When I download or upload large files, the process must be fast. On the MacBook Pro, it is.

I now have the computer I need, one that acts as both a desktop and mobile computer. And one that does everything I need with aplomb.


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