Why The 2015 12″ Retina MacBook?

When the decision was made to move on to something different from the MacBook Pro Retina, I seriously considered moving back to PC with the announcement of Windows 10.  Since the release of Windows 8, the overwhelming reaction has been less than stellar.  To say I hated Windows 8 would be an understatement.  However, Windows 10 is a step back towards relevance for Microsoft.  But I just couldn’t move back to PC.  So, what computer would work then?  In order to make that decision, the ways in which I use my computer had to be considered.

Daily MacBook Use

My every day job calls for a fair amount of travel.  I travel out of state two weeks out of the month, living out of a suitcase.  The other two weeks are spent on the road visiting customers.  A light, portable laptop is an absolute necessity.  The MBPr served this purpose perfectly adequately.  At only three-quarters of an inch thick and about three-and-a-half pounds, the MBPr is more than portable.  But the allure of a two-pound, incredibly thin ultraportable laptop was even more intriguing.  When I began this job, I was given a Dell laptop by my company.  An adequate machine, it quickly began collecting dust in the closet.  The battery could barely last five hours off of charge, and spending entire days in the field required something that had the stamina to last all day.  Carrying around a spare battery quickly became tiring, as I would always forget to charge the extra one at night.  So portable but still with strong battery life.  What else?

A typical use case for my computer consists of surfing the internet and watching YouTube videos during my downtime.  For work, the only real requirement was a machine that could handle numerous emails and operate Excel spreadsheets.  Beyond that, my computers do not get overly taxed.  There were days that my iPad with a Logitech Solar Folio keyboard (fantastic product) was the only device that I took with me, and it suits 95% of my day just fine.  However, I’ve always preferred a clamshell design with a full fledged operating system, so the iPad is relegated to a media consumption device.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, hard drive space was discovered to be a big necessity.  Similar to “range anxiety” that electric-powered car owners experience while driving, I had what we could term “hard drive anxiety.”  I have seen many Tesla car forum members describe the overly anxious feeling they get while driving any long distance because they are afraid of running out of juice.  Although I’ve never run out of hard drive space, seeing that I only have 30% remaining (after only 3 months!) was too much to handle.  So there you have it: light, portable, strong battery life, and plenty of storage.  Those are the requirements.

Why the $1,600 Model?

I’ve heard it all too many times already: “Why would you pay $1,600 for a glorified Netbook?”  Truth is, if you begin to crunch the numbers, the price turns out to be very similar to most other options.  The 12″ Retina MacBook starts at $1,299.  And for that you get a svelte ultraportable laptop with 8gb of RAM, a 1.1GHZ Intel Core M processor and 256gb of SSD storage.  It might seem steep, but let’s compare against Apple’s other options.  Sure, the MacBook Air 13″ starts at $999, but you’re not getting a great machine for that price.  The Intel Core i5 processor is clocked at 1.6GHZ (Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHZ), which is solid.  But you only get 4gb of RAM and a 128gb hard drive.  When built to match the 12″ MacBook with 8gb of RAM and a 256gb hard drive, the 13″ MacBook Air costs the same $1,299.  You do get a more powerful Core i5 processor, but not by much when looking at Turbo Boost (at least on the paper): 2.4GHZ vs 2.6GHZ.  And the MacBook Air has an antiquated and low resolution screen.  The potential trade-off for processor speed is well worth it when compared to the Grand-Canyon-sized chasm in screen resolution.

To compare against the PC competition, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 is a stiff competitor.  It runs the same Intel Core M processor, is just a hair over two pounds, and has a similar 12″ high-res screen.  Also, when spec’d with the same guts as the MacBook, the Samsung costs the same $1,300.  Now we’re only talking about personal preference; PC vs. Mac, Samsung vs. Apple… You get the idea.  I will choose Apple over Samsung every single time.

When comparing the $1,299 model MacBook against the $1,599, you’re really only paying for hard drive space.  The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both cost an additional $300 to upgrade from 256gb SSD to the 512gb variant.  And you don’t get a bump in processor speed.  Any additional performance bump from the 1.2GHZ Core M processor is just an added bonus.  And some early reports show a significant performance jump from the 1.1GHZ model (I know, no benchmarks).

MacBook Shortcomings

To say the announcement and subsequent release of the MacBook has been polarizing would be an understatement.  If you’re reading this, then I’m sure you’ve read all about the cons to owning the MacBook.  But do they really affect you?  Using the MacBook for it’s intended purposes, an ultraportable computer shouldn’t require so many ports.  If you’re the user that plugs in USB hubs and Thunderbolt peripherals, then no, you should not consider the MacBook.  I only ever connect a thumb drive or an external hard drive.  And the added inconvenience of carrying an adapter, or buying new, compatible options doesn’t outweigh the portability and aesthetics of this machine.

The Core M processor is essentially out of a tablet.  Yes.  But as I stated earlier, I don’t need an overly powerful processor.  The Core i7 processor in my MBPr was being completely wasted.  And based on early reviews, I’m willing to take a chance on this processor.  Which brings me to my final point.

If, for some reason, the processor is not powerful enough to be my one and only computer, I picked up a used Mac Mini for cheap (~$300) to use in the office.  From my time using my MBPr as my only device, I have a 27″ 4K monitor and Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse already.  The new (to me) Mac Mini is powered by an Intel i5 processor, 16gb of RAM, and a 256gb SSD hard drive.  If the MacBook can’t handle it, this will.

I’m willing to take a bit of a gamble on the New MacBook and I will continue to document my experience along the way.  I’m hopeful (confident?) that I will come out of this impressed and satisfied.  Please tag along for this journey and thank you for reading.

Current Set-Up & Initial Thoughts

What Is It?

I chose to begin documenting at this specific time because I have been deciding on whether or not I should purchase a new computer.  As I stated in my first post, I am currently using a 2015 13″ MacBook Pro w/ Retina.  This laptop was purchased roughly 3 months ago, when the new 2015 model was announced at the Apple Keynote.  I had been wanting a new computer as the Mac Mini that I was using just wasn’t what I was looking for, but I wanted to wait to see the much-rumored MacBook Air Retina.  Following the keynote, I decided that the MacBook Pro was the way to go and I travelled to my local Apple store and placed my order for a custom laptop.

The model that I went with was a custom build that took about two weeks to be delivered.  I chose to begin with the base model 13″ MBP, which had 128gb of storage and 8gb of RAM.  After much debate, I decided to upgrade to the Intel Core i7 processor.  My reasoning for this was that I will be using this laptop for both work and everyday normal tasks.  With work, I am consistently using Excel spreadsheets and they had a tendency to run poorly on my Core i5 2014 Mac Mini.  I figured the added processing power would help remedy the sluggish performance (more on this later).  I decided to make no other customizations and placed the order.

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Initial Thoughts

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my new MBP.  I had never placed a custom order and the 14 days that it took to be delivered were excruciating.  I was really excited to try the new Force Touch Trackpad and the portability was going to be a nice feature when compared to my Mini (not that traveling with the Mini is particularly difficult).

In my time with this computer, I have been able to form some initial impressions: some that could change, and a few that I’m confident will not.  The first thing you will ever notice about an Apple laptop is that they make the most beautiful hardware on the planet right now.  No other company puts as much time and energy into crafting such a meticulous piece of art.  The aluminum body looks great and has a tendency to give you a nice cold jolt on your wrists if it has been sitting unused for any period of time.  The glowing Apple logo on the back is great too.

The next thing I noticed within the first few weeks is that I honestly can’t tell a difference in speed between this Intel Core i7 processor and the less powerful Intel Core i5 that’s found in my wife’s 2013 MBPr.  There is no question that this MBP is a faster performer in day-to-day use when compared to my Mac Mini.  But I’m almost positive that has more to do with the SSD (which is blazing fast!) in the MBP compared to the HDD in the Mini.  This is one fast computer!  But I would recommend saving your money on the processor as the base model Core i5 in the 2015 is plenty fast enough.

Where I would recommend spending the extra money is on hard drive space.  There is no possible way that 128gb of space is enough for somebody’s only computer.  I’m a fool for thinking I could make due with the space and this is the single biggest reason that I am back in the market for a new computer.  I can’t stress this enough: DO NOT BUY THE 128GB MODEL AS YOUR ONLY MACHINE!  I did purchase a 64gb Transcend SD card to help, but it’s so slow to transfer files when compared to the SSD that it is not a viable solution.  The Transcend SD is a pretty slick product though as it sits flush against the side of the MBP and doesn’t stick out the way other SD cards do.

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The Force Touch Trackpad was a topic that Apple spent a good amount of time promoting during their keynote.  It is a great new product that works just as well as the older, click-style trackpads that Apple has been making for years.  I’m not sure that I see the value of the Force Touch itself though.  In my time with the MBP, I have only used this feature maybe twice.  However, it is fun to turn off the computer and press the trackpad.  Nothing happens!

What’s Next?

I think the MacBook Pro is a fantastic computer and I can see why Apple sells millions of them.  However, I have decided to move onto a different computer because I made a huge mistake and purchased a primary device that has too little storage (my iPhone 6 has as much storage as my laptop!).  Sticking with Apple, I have decided to purchase the new 12″ Retina Macbook.  I placed my order this past Friday for the space grey, 1.2ghz, 512gb version.  I know that this computer has been polarizing since its announcement, but I decided to move forward with this experiment to see if it will work as my primary laptop.  I’m being told the expected delivery is 2-3 weeks and it can’t come soon enough!

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Thanks for reading and please leave a comment!