Friday, June 15, 2012

Thoughts on the MacBook Pro Retina for AEC use

Although I’m a little late to the Macbook Pro 2012 launch blog pig-pile, I thought I’d share some thoughts specifically aimed at the Macbook Pro Retina and its usefulness as an AEC workstation.

This post originally started off as a simple comment/response to Arch Daily’s article about the MacBook Pro Retina (found here: Somehow, it grew into something dramatically larger, so I’m posting it on the VDC blog instead.
Essentially, my concerns with the utility of the new MacBook Pro Retina as an AEC workstation are summarized by:

  1. Screen Size
  2. User replaceable components
  3. Death by dongle
  4. Final Thoughts

1: Screen size:
I have 20/20 vision, and I can't imagine using a 15.4" monitor for any length of time for AEC purposes, especially when 24" or 28" LCDs are $150-$300 and drastically reduce eye strain... pixel density is great, but expansive screen real estate is better… or you could get totally crazy and buy two 28” LCDs and go dual monitor.

2: User-replaceable components.
The 2nd generation (aka Unibody) MacBook Pro was a great step forward from a design esthetic and with regards to the easy replacement of internal components. For those a little fuzzy on ancient history, the 1st Gen MacBook Pro effectively retained the G4 PowerBook chassis.  The largest improvement from the 1st Gen to 2nd Gen was the ease of HDD replacement.  As a side note, second only to maxing out RAM, upgrading from a spinning drive to a SSD is easily the best upgrade for a laptop, if for the increased battery life alone.
Back to the MBP-R’s upgradability: Don’t listen to me, read this:

If you’re not interesting in reading the long article… let me explain… no there is too much, let me sum up #princessbride

  • The new MBP-R is the most non-upgradable laptop iFixIt has ever reviewed.
  • Need a new battery? Ship your laptop back to Apple.
  • Want to upgrade your RAM? Sell your laptop and buy a new one.
  • Crack your screen? Pawn off some internal organs.

For many of us who would either be purchasing a laptop for work (and then locked into a 2-3 year new computer cycle) or for home (locked into a new computer cycle tied to our paychecks), upgrading our computers is a critical intermediate step, and one that allows us to extend the useful life of our silicon and aluminum friends… 

Furthermore, anyone who’s gone through an intensive ISO certified Life Cycle Analysis (e.g. KieranTimberlake) knows extending the usable life is a great way to reduce overall environmental impact.

3: Death by Dongle:
This new MBP-R increases the number of dongles you’ll need to carry around.

  • Mini-Display Port & Thunderbolt ports are great for a small form-factor, bad for all the dongles you need to carry to a presentation… I’m sure no one’s ever forgotten their VGA dongle at home before a presentation or design review, right?
  • Now with the MBP-R, you also will need a dongle for Gigabit Ethernet. The lack of a built-in Ethernet port is a deal killer for a professional work environment, unless of course you love dongles.
  • In the MBP-R’s defense, it does have an HDMI port, but banking on an HDMI cable to be available for every presentation/review is an awful big gamble.

Final Thoughts… The other Mid 2012 MacBook Pro
Don't get me wrong -- Apple designs a beautiful product, this new MacBook included, but I’d be far more interested in the much less heralded non-Retina MacBook Pro which also features the new screaming fast Ivy Bridge processor, but unlike the Retina edition, has upgradable components, removable battery and a dedicated Ethernet port.

…Or, if you’re feeling counter-cultural, you could get a Dell Precision Mobile Workstation like the M4600 or M6600.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I couldn't agree more to your ideas. Apple products are good. Avoiding spams is the best thing that I love about it. The this is though, it's extremely delicate and some parts just can't be replaced. Might as well throw it away than try to fix it if repair costs almost level up to the product purchase cost. It just isn't practical.