Which MacBook? Decisions, Choices, and More Decisions

Which MacBook? Decisions, Choices, and More Decisions
By James Hicks
  • What a whirlwind of excitement it has been for Apple fans these past 48 hours.

    Tim Cook and the other usual suspects of Apple executives opened the annual WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC) with a flurry of hardware and software announcements that should have made everyone, at least momentarily, begin that mental justification process of checking the credit card balance in preparation for a new needed purchase.

    So what’s an enthusiast to do? Yesterday, my team over on THE Tech Scoop wrote a number of posts highlighting the refreshed MacBooks, the latest updates coming in iOS6, and the forthcoming goodness that is OSX Mountain Lion.

    Last night, I told Shira that, as expected, every tech blogger under the sun was writing about those key elements of the keynote and I didn’t want to merely add to the noise by writing yet another post regurgitating the highlights.

    I told her that instead, I’d write about my planned new purchase (yes, I went through that mental justification and decided that, indeed, it was time for an upgrade).

    To put my dilemma into context – I was already using a 11in MacBook Air with a 128GB SSD drive. So it wasn’t like I was sitting around with a sub par system.

    The hard part: which system to choose? The 15in MacBook Pro with Retina Display is all sorts of awesome. As a matter of fact, once I saw the product, I immediately sent out a tweet that expressed how I really felt about it:

    But do I really need all of that compute power and display or do I just want it? Sure, when we got Retina Display on the iPhone and iPad it was definitely game changing and soon after the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 were launched we began seeing other manufacturers creating smart phones and tablets that tried to match Apple pixel-for-pixel. And some decent successes were had on the Android and Windows Phone side, but really,the king of the hill is still Apple.

    Now look, I don’t profess to be an expert – I only play one on the Internet…

    My purpose in technology blogging is to focus on the end consumer and how they are going to use new technology. I don’t write for the pundits (the 10%) – my focus is the everyday consumer (the 90%).

    If you’re a high-end computer user (photographer, developer, designer, coder, etc.) then yes – go with the Retina Display MacBook Pro. With its minimum of 8GB memory and 256GB SSD drive, expandable to a maximum of  16GB memory and 768GB SSD drive, there’s definitely a configuration that’ll meet your needs.

    That being said, for my needs of publishing, audio/videocasting and web research…there is no $2199 expenditure on a laptop happening today.

    So that means no Retina Display MacBook Pro.

    Next up — MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, and what size?

    When I walked into the Apple Store this morning (yeah, I was there at 10am when they opened), I still hadn’t finalized on which system I was going to get. Only thing I did know was that I wanted to step up to a 13in display.

    Three factors that would determine my purchase were form vs. functionality vs performance. By default, the Air with SSD was nice, while the Pro with a 5400 RPM 500GB drive was just OK. I’ve been spoiled by 8-second boot times with my 11in Air.

    What finally solidified my choice was a factor that’s more subjective than objective.

    It wasn’t functionality since all these new MacBooks have the speedy Intel Dual Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor. 4GB RAM is now the standard, so going from a 2GB 11in was a performance gain, too. I haven’t used a CD-drive in years, so no need for the optical drive. Higher native resolution display on the Air vs. the 13in MacBook Pro (1440×900 vs. 1280×800). USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, SD slot – same for both.

    The spec that got me was the 2.96 vs. 4.5 – that’s the weight of each unit. After carrying around a 11in Air for close to a year, it felt like I was lifting a dead-weight when I picked up the Pro.

    So, needless to say, I walked out of the Apple Store with a 13in MacBook Air.

    Having a 128GB drive instead of 500GB is a significant difference, but most of my work flow revolves around storing content in the Cloud (iCloud, Flickr, and DropBox in particular).

    There you have it; decisions, choices, and more decisions from a tech blogger ready to drop a little coin to help keep the economy going.

    What are your thoughts? Are you considering buying one of these new laptops? If so, what is your mental justification and decision process?

    Let me know – would love to help you find/pick the right system for your specific needs.

    James Hicks is Editor-in-Chief at THE Tech Scoop and INFOtainment News. Follow him on Twitter.