I have to admit, I have been pretty spoiled when it comes to computers over the past several years. I have not bought a computer for myself since 2007. I have been incredibly fortunate to have employers give me top-of-the-line hardware for both company and personal use.
My new job is decidedly more corporate, which means it came time for me to once again separate work and personal computer use.
Now, which computer to get?
In the past six years, I have gone from a 15″ MacBook Pro, to a 17″ MacBook Pro, to a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro. I sadly had to return the latter when I resigned. I also knew I would be getting another 15″ MacBook Pro at my new gig, though not a retina one. So with my more demanding development environment on my work machine, it seemed a bit overkill to also have a 15″ MacBook Pro of some flavor as a personal machine too.
This brought the battle down to the 13″ beauties… The MacBook Air vs. the Retina MacBook Pro.
Nearly all of my close friends all sport a MacBook Air. They swear by the machine as the ultimate combination of portability and power. I had some reservations about the power (again, I have been spoiled) and the screen, but they all convinced me that everything would be ok.
I had also heard a rumor that the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro was graphically underpowered trying to serve up all that sweet, sweet retina, which gave me pause as well.
The good news is, Apple also allows you to return a computer, no questions asked, within 14 days. WIth that safety net in place, I decided to purchase the Air first as the most svelte and affordable option.
13″ MacBook Air
By far, the most appealing aspect of the Air is its form factor. The thing is ridiculously light and thin. I mean, I have been to the Apple Store and seen one, but you do not fully appreciate its agility until you own one and actually use it and lug it around. It is the most ridiculous computer I have ever owned.
There were no performance issues, since I am not running an enterprise app environment. Yes, I am maxing out my RAM usage more often, but nothing to the point where I saw performance hits.
But the screen… It is very, very sad.
The first thing you need to know is that there are two different manufactures of the MacBook Air displays, LG and Samsung. It is a complete toss-up as to which one you will get. Most agree that the Samsung display is far superior to the LG display. Mine was an LG and all the ones at my local Apple Store were Samsung. Side-by-side, the different was astounding. The LG is incredibly dull and washed out compared to the vibrant and rich Samsung.
To determine what display your MacBook Air has, you can launch Terminal and enter this command.
The command will spit out a string of letters and numbers. If the output starts with
LP, then you know you have an LG display. Anything else should be a Samsung display.
One way to overcome the LG issues is to calibrate your display. To calibrate your Mac, you can go to
System Preferences > Displays > Color. You can walk through the process yourself (do the advanced mode) or you can scour the internet for ICC color profiles to install on your machine.
I had mixed results doing the process myself, so I spent hours looking for the best color profile to install. I searched endless forums threads until I came up with the best I could find. I saved you some time and attached what I considered the best three I found.
To install color profiles Macs:
- In Finder, navigate to
/Library/ColorSync/Profiles/Displays/and drop in the .icc files.
- Go to
System Preferences > Displays > Colorand select which color profile to use.
In the end, I simply could not look past the screen. It bothered me every single time I sat down at my laptop. There was no way I could keep it.
13″ Retina MacBook Pro
So I went back to the Apple Store and traded in the MacBook AIr with zero hassles and walked out with a retina MacBook Pro. In a word… Stunning.
Like I said, I had used a retina MacBook Pro for 8 months. My iPhone is also retina. My eyes are not only drawn to the sharpness, but they had become accustomed to it. I could go on and on about the screen, but Brian Gardner, who was a diehard MacBook Air fan, sums up everything I could try to articulate in why he sold his 13″ Air for a retina MacBook Pro.
Aside from the screen’s incredible sharpness, it gives you a higher screen resolution compared to the Air, also due to the retina goodness. Developer and designers alike will love those extra pixels. The performance is better than the Air due to beefier hardware. I have never experienced the rumored sluggishness others had mentioned due to the lower end graphics card and the retina.
Apple even came out with a hardware refresh and price reduction on the retina MacBooks last week making this decision an absolute no brainer.
One Month Review
It has now been one month since I settled in on my decision to keep the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro.
I have zero regrets. This is the best machine I have ever owned. The perfect combination of power and portability, just like the MacBook Air, but a screen I never tire of staring at all day. A far cry from loathing every morning when I sat down with the MacBook Air wondering if I would ever get used to the dull screen.
Do yourself a favor and just get this machine. You will not regret it. You have my word.