Macbook Pro with Retina Display VS The Macbook Air

Hello, I know this question has been asked 17,000 times on this website, but I am really confused. I am a switching from windows to a macbook. I am studying at a university right now to get my music education degree (with a slight possibility of adding a 3D media fine art minor degree) and I currently don't have a computer. Just like everybody else, i'm trying to decide between the 13" pro (the October 2013 retina model) and the 13" air. I usually have pretty long days at school so I plan on taking my laptop with me a couple days a week.

The things I will be doing is surfing the web (Youtube, social media, small computer games,etc.), downloading music and movies (I currently have about 600 songs and 6 movies on iTunes ), painter 12, writing papers and running Bootcamp or Parallels.

I also plan on editing Youtube videos, I have made a couple and would like to continue with that, and editing photos as well. My family is planning on taking a family trip and last time we took a trip we took almost 2,000 photos.

I talked to someone at the apple store and she told me to get the base model 13" air. I realize that she probably knows more than me about what I need but I wanted to get a second opinion before I spend so much money. 4gb of ram and 128GB of storage just doesn't seem like enough, although she kept telling me it was...

Anyway, if everybody on here tells me the same thing then I will get that one. I just don't know if I need the extra power on the pro. I was planning on getting 16GB of ram and 256 GB SSD. So any help would be appreciated. Thanks

4 Answers from the Community

  • Best Answer:

    I would recommend listing your requirements for a new laptop and rearrange them in order of importance. Such requirements may include cost, hard drive capacity, expandibility, RAM, processor performance, weight, display quality, etc. In terms of cost, figure out your budget and get the best computer you can afford. For HD capacity, both Air and Retina can quickly become unaffordable as you get beyond 256 GB. Video will use up a lot of capacity, so the most cost effective approach is to use an external hard drive. It can be a pain to carry around and hook up. But it's probably more feasible for storing your video, music, and photos. To start, you can get a MacBook with 128 GB or 256 GB and later expand with an external HD if you run out of space. For RAM, I'd recommend 8 GB minimum, especially if you do any video. With both the MB Air and MBP Retina, the RAM is not user upgradeable. For processor performance, I'd recommend i7 quad core for video. Every computer I've used for video has had 8 GB RAM and i7 quad core, and I have been satisfied with them. For weight, I'd recommend finding a 2-1/2 lb book and carrying it around for a couple days to simulate a MB Air, then swap out the book for a 3-1/2 lb book to simulate a MBP Retina. If you can tell a difference and find it unpleasant, go with the Air. For display quality, compare an Air and Retina display side by side. I personally can tell a difference, but if display quality is at the top of your list, then go with the Retina display; it will probably be a $250-300 upper in price. In the past 20 years, I've bought 8 different Macs. Don't sweat the purchase. Get the best computer you can afford, and you will be all the more wiser when you buy the next one. Plus, Macs hold their value for resale.

    • Answered by Raymund D from Cedar Rapids
    • 11-Nov-2013
  • Very, very nice answer below... I started to type my own, though you did a better job. Since 1986 I have used countless Macs. I work with an older 11" Air and a non-retina 15" MBPro. I am looking at the same specs, and believe budget rules out / agree with the answer. Since you will be editing web-quality video, I believe you can get away with the Air, save the difference in cost, and gain more portability. The Air will surprise you with battery quality, and the flash memory uses less juice w / o moving parts. Plus the 13" display is more than enough, and for $100 you can get a cheap 20 inch LCD monitor for larger video editing. Enjoy.

    • Answered by William M from Green Bay
    • 12-Nov-2013
  • I'm a music educator (band director). I'm not sure what kind of music you're going into, but there are a couple of things to consider here:
    1) with a CD drive with the Pro, you can upload music CD's from your university's music library. Highly recommended. Otherwise you'd need an external CD drive.
    2) If you end up in an arena of music where you need to arrange music, having a larger screen is usually an asset. I bought the 15" for this reason, and it's still too short for full-band scores. Also, for some reason, the music notation software AND photoshop both take up a LOT of running space on the drive.

    Good call moving to Mac, though. In my experience I've found that artistic programs run better on this machine than on my old HP and Dell.

    • Answered by Rebecca F from Loganville
    • 16-Dec-2013
  • based on your answer of: "The things I will be doing is surfing the web (Youtube, social media, small computer games,etc.), downloading music and movies (I currently have about 600 songs and 6 movies on iTunes ), painter 12, writing papers and running Bootcamp or Parallels. " I would probably narrow your consideration down to these two things:

    Storage: You say you need 256 GB, which is offered by both the Air and Pro. Nothing's ruled out yet. Also, since you can stream iTunes media, you may not need 256 GB.
    Processing Power: Running Bootcamp on an Air is OK... not great. Haven't tried Bootcamp on a MBPR, but expect better performance, since MBPR offers much better chips than MacBook Airs.

    Also, you may want to consider the old MacBook Pro too. Price is good, and you get a great computer with a lot of storage as well. Also lots of ports, little of adapters.

    The Verdict: I would suggest a MacBook Air for you if all you are doing is surfing the web, social media, small computer games, etc. Painter 12, you may want to get the MacBook Pro Retina. Also, you actually probably don't need 16 GB of RAM. I have a MBPR with 8GB and get along with it on the work I do just fine (editing movies and music)

    • Answered by Ryan F from Larkspur
    • 26-Mar-2015