[tech] a n00b’s small review of 2013 Retina Macbook Pro

Seduced by the sleek aluminum body, I plunked down more than $1000 in November to become the owner of a 2013 retina MacBook Pro (rMBP). Was it worth it?

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 17.25.46

The good

The build quality from Apple is always top-notch, and it feels like a polished product from head-to-toe. The trackpad is always one of the best things about MBPs, and definitely does not disappoint here as it is responsive and large. Surprisingly, the speakers are crisp and clear, but very nondescript, coming from some low-key cutouts on the bottom of the laptop. I especially like the placement of the fans, below the screen, so the hot air never actually burns your legs when you are using the laptop in your lap. Most important, the retina display is gorgeous and blows away any screen I have used before.

The rMBP is far lighter than its predecessors with the optical drive, and I find that I don’t really miss the optical drive in day-to-day usage (I keep my spare laptop around if I need to use an optical drive).

Overall, the rMBP is solidly built and bar a few other choices, probably the best-looking and best-built laptop out there.

The bad

I am not very pleased with Mavericks and OS X as a whole. I keep running into bugs, like the sound ceasing to work when I wake up the rMBP from sleep.

The shortcuts are unintuitive. What button does that little staircase stand for? I have no idea. I know people will just tell me to learn them, but is it really that aestetically bad to write “fn” or “optn” instead on menus? Or perhaps change those keys to the symbols? I find this incredibly perplexing from a company that prides itself on ease-of-use.

I have Amazon Prime, so I frequently watch Iron Chef. Amazon Prime Video uses Microsoft Silverlight, which eats up battery life like no other. After watching around three episodes of around 40 minutes each, my 100% battery becomes 10% and my rMBP is gasping for life, running its fans at full power. I also play games on Neopets from time to time (don’t judge), and Flash seems to eat battery like no other as well.

On a good charge, this rMBP will last around 6 hours, puny compared to the 10+ commanded by the MacBook Air. When using the rMBP heavily and running many applications that require intensive CPU usage, this translates more into 3 hours. Obviously, most of the battery goes to supporting the power-hungry retina display screen.

The ugly

Nothing really stands out as “ugly” except a bug that was fixed a few weeks after Mavericks was released. Essentially the whole screen would freeze and you’d be unable to do anything except stare at your beautiful screen. Sometimes you could wait it out and then be able to move again but most often, you lost patience (and work) and just rebooted the computer. This would happen at least once a day to me. Since the bug fix, this problem has not occurred again, but I am appalled such a terrible and persistent bug made it through to the final version of Mavericks.

Some accessory suggestions

If you end up buying a rMBP, I advise buying a case or sleeve to protect it from scratches and a keyboard cover. Once you spill something on the keyboard, your rMBP’s life is 99% over. It takes time to get used to typing with a keyboard cover, but considering the pig I am, it has saved my keyboard from millions of crumbs.

The verdict

As a relatively normal user of the computer, except for some advanced word processing and data manipulation, the 2013 rMBP was not really the best choice had I been price-conscious. Moreover, I am not highly invested in the Apple ecosystem, and their products are not an essential part of my life. Thus, if you are a person who gets along just fine with Windows, only uses the computer for light activities, and has a budget, the 2013 rMBP is most likely not a good choice.

I honestly think that the “Mac is easier to use” argument is stupid, because most of us grew up with Windows and Mac can be pretty mystifying at times too (how do you uninstall a program?). In addition, since more people use Windows, you have a lot more resources to figure out and diagnose problems with your Windows machine.

Nonetheless, I paid for the beauty and build. In that end, I am very satisfied.


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