Thoughts on the 2013 MacBook Pro and iPad Air
Unbelievably even to me, I’m on my third MacBook Pro. Not because they keep breaking or anything…I just get “upgrade-itis.” But even a bleeding edge tech junkie like me is having a hard time justifying the latest MacBook Pro iteration over what came before it (the 2012 MacBook Pro). It was a difficult enough decision to make on paper, but now after having the new 2013 MacBook Pro for a about a month, I’ll share some thoughts. First, let’s take a look at the specs of the new model:
2013 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
• 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
• 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
• 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage
I can’t say that, on paper, there’s a huge difference between the 2013 model and the 2012:
2012 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
- 2.6GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7
- 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
- 512GB Flash Storage
The processor is a bit faster in certain conditions (which trigger the “turbo boost”). Can’t say I notice much difference – video processing seems to be a bit quicker. The 2013 models supports the new Thunderbolt II specification. Whoop-dee-do…I only have a couple of peripherals which support the “old” Thunderbolt spec…I certainly wish there was more out there I could do with it. I think there’s a better graphics card on the 2013 models as well…but again, I’m not noticing much of a speed difference. Probably because I don’t do much that really taxes the processing power of my computer (i.e. play games on my MacBook Pro). I mainly use it for photo editing, video production, article writing, and the web. The main difference you’ll see in the specs is the the amount of “hard drive” space (it’s actually flash storage, not a physical hard drive…but old habits die hard…I’ll always refer to the primary internal drive as the “hard drive”). My on board storage has doubled from 512gb to 1TB. I was seriously running low on space on my previous laptop so this was a pretty critical need for me. Another significant upgrade for the new 2013 MacBook Pro is that it supports 802.11AC – the latest and greatest WiFi specification. I bought the Apple Airport Extreme wireless router a couple of months ago when it came out, thinking the next round of Apple devices would all surely support 802.11AC (more on that later). The 2013 MacBook Pro is the first device I’ve purchased which is compatible with my Airport Extreme, so this made me happy. Internet speed certainly does seem snappier on my new MacBook Pro, and signal strength is also improved. Was it worth the upgrade? Weeeellll……maybe, yes. If only for the additional storage space and 802.11AC support, and not necessarily for the “future proofing” features which I’m not currently using to any great degree like the Thunderbolt II support and processing power. After selling my old MacBook, the upgrade cost me about $1000.00. It was difficult to justify and still has me scratching my head. But it’s hard to argue with a lack of primary drive space.
I had all but decided NOT to get the iPad Air – it just didn’t seem worth the upgrade over my 3rd Gen 64gb model. Infuriatingly, Apple didn’t see fit to include 802.11AC support in the iPhone 5S or the new iPad Air, though Apple press material did make mention of improved WiFi performance on the Air (though I’m not quite clear on what specifically is different or improved). Apple did however put the new A7 processor with 64-bit architecture and M7 motion coprocessor. Is this a huge advantage? In the short term, no. There aren’t any apps out there right now that won’t run on an A5 equipped iPad and require the advantages of the A7. I also doubt that many apps will be developed in the short term which require the A7. So the extra power, in my honest opinion, falls into the “future proofing” category. However, both the Facetime and iSight cameras on the iPad Air are nicely upgraded – useful for me because I use Facetime quite a bit when I travel. But of course, that’s not an every day used feature that strongly makes the upgrade case. So again, comparing the iPad Air to my iPad 64gb, the only appreciable upgrade advantage would be available storage space – 128gb available on the Air vs. 64gb on my iPad 3. The extra space was tempting, given that I had well filled the available 64gb on my iPad 3 with movies used when I travel. The value proposition however of upgrading just didn’t seem to be there. I was particularly resolute after having bought my MacBook Pro, and I stayed strong for several weeks after the iPad Air his the market. The price of the iPad Air with 128gb of space, and WiFi+ Cellular is a whopping $929.00. I really didn’t want to spend another $1000.00 after buying my MacBook Pro. However, during Black Friday, Apple advertised $150.00 Apple gift card with the purchase of a MacBook Pro, and a $75.00 gift card with the purchase of a MacBook Air. Having only a few weeks early purchased a MacBook Pro, I talked an Apple rep into giving me $150.00 toward an iPad Air, and I also received the $75.00 gift card with purchase. This bought the iPad Air purchase price down to about $700.00. I quickly sold my iPad 3 for $400.00, bringing my out of pocket cost to upgrade to a reasonable $300.00. Was the upgrade worth it? The extra storage is nice. Nice too is the fact that both my iPhone and my iPad now use the same Lightning charging cable – no more having to use two different cables for my iPhone and iPad. Despite not supporting 802.11AC, WiFi performance in my house does seem improved on the new iPad Air – whatever nebulous improvements have been made (to the antennas I believe) do seem to help signal strength. The biggest marketing/”wow” factor for the iPad Air seems to be the slimmer, smaller form factor and corresponding reduction in weight. This really isn’t something I care about one way or the other – I didn’t see the previous iPad form factor as heavy, unwieldy or otherwise uncomfortable.
Both of these upgraded devices don’t offer added or improved capabilities which justify the purchase price. However, a not insignificant factor in the upgrade decision is the market value of the device being replaced. I’m always scared that, when Apple releases a new or upgraded device that if I skip the upgrade and don’t sell the legacy device, that legacy device will depreciate to the practically zero value come the next upgrade cycle. We’ll see if this rationale holds true during the next round of new Apple devices – they really need to start presenting a better value proposition from year to year.
John B. Holbrook, II
John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com. *All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.