Explosives and New Macs

Explosives 1.3G = Fireworks?

We backed off a bit. I figured that sign was as good as a “DO NOT TAILGATE” bumper sticker… We were not as close as this photo makes it look because I used a telephoto zoom to be able to get a clear shot at the truck carrying explosives. Er, perhaps “a clear shot” is a bad way to word it… One shouldn’t shoot at trucks marked explosive.

On a totally unrelated note, someday I would like to get a new computer as my existing Macintosh PowerBook G4 (2004?) struggles to do tasks like Photoshop and worst of all intense audio and video processing when making movies like the Kickstarter video we made which caused the machine to overheat. This isn’t a purchase that’s going to happen soon, maybe next year, I hope. Until then, I watch the new models come out and window shop. A guy can look…

Yesterday I got to try a new MacBook Pro and a MacBook Pro Retina side by side at an Apple retailer. Not a full Apple store as they don’t exist out here in the sticks, but Small Dog Electronics in Burlington is close enough.

Both machines were outfitted with the same processors, processor speed and memory. The MacBook Pro had the lowest screen resolution option so it was similar to my existing PowerBook. The Retina version has the new 2880×1880 screen resolution. I could not see any difference between the two with them set at the same display level. With the Retina set at more work space, e.g., higher resolution, I did not like it as things on the screen were too small for comfortable reading. Quite frankly, I can’t see pixels on the 1440×900 screens so any more than that is a waste to me. To see a pixel I need a magnifying glass and to get up very close with even the older notebooks (1440). Adding more pixels for Retina is not worth it to me because it places more drain on the processor, graphic processing unit (GPU) and battery. I would rather have more speed and more importantly, more battery life. If you have hawk eyes you might feel differently.

Both notebooks felt to be the same speed doing normal work even with the Retina at the highest resolution which should use more GPU resources. Despite the theoretical increased load there was no noticeable difference that I could tell. The difference in normal work is insignificant. Maybe it would be different with graphic intensive tasks. I did not get the chance to run a truly heavy duty performance graphics load like X-Plane 10 but I did use Adobe’s software such as Photoshop and Illustrator which was on the machines as well as Apple’s various software.

The Retina version is lighter and thinner but I did not actually like that as it made the machine seem physically less stable and less rugged. I want a solid machine. I like the heavier base of the regular MacBook Pro as it makes it set on the table more stabily. This impression is a little superficial so don’t put too much in it. Both were lighter than my existing PowerBook notebook computer. I suppose if I was constantly traveling the little bit of saved weight might be nice but for my application of mostly working at a desk and occasionally taking the computer with me I would rather have the addition I/O and optical disk drive which have been sacrificed in the Retina version.

I also like the end-of-the-line machines as they’ve had the kinks worked out. My current PowerBook G4 is the last of its line. Apple seems to have worked out all the bugs. The latest MacBook Pro (non-Retina) is similarly an end-of-the-line machine. The Retina is the start of a new line of machines and there will be problems. I’m very wary of the 1st Gen machines like the Retina as I don’t like bleeding on the cutting edge. I have real work to do.

Disk access seemed the same between the MacBook Pro and Retina versions but again I had nothing to really push it hard so I couldn’t test the difference between a hard drive and Solid State Drive (SSD) which has no moving parts. From reading the technical specs an SSD should be a much better choice. SSD is more expensive, especially in the higher capacities.

The store was noisier than my home office so I could not really compare the machine noise to my existing PowerBook. The Retina made no vibrations that I could feel with my fingers so it is probably completely quiet. The new MacBook Pro I could feel operating, a slight vibration in my finger tips, which was likely the hard drive. My PowerBook feels about the same vibration-wise and I can hear it operating at home. Ben’s MacBook Pro is quite loud and the fans come on easily. Getting it with the SSD option would put the price about the same as the Retina unit as well as probably the same speed and sound level as the Retina version. Quieter would be nice.

Both of the new machines felt cool to the touch. That is a big improvement. My PowerBook is warm. Ben’s old MacBook Pro is way too hot on the wrist rest and keyboard. Cooler is better. Not only is it more comfortable but cooler means less power is being wasted to heat.

Hands on Conclusion:
If I had the money today would go with the MacBook Pro non-Retina for my own needs including being able to do video processing for making our upcoming Farm Tour Video. Since the extra Retina screen does nothing for me I would probably skip that. That extra resolution is possibly a resource drain making it a slight negative. I do want the extra traditional I/O ports and the optical disk drive available with the older MacBook Pro form factor. I would have to buy these things separately for the Retina since I need them for my peripherals. Having it all in one package is ideal.

I would max out the RAM and go with the 512GB SSD in the MacBook Pro for speed, silence and hopefully lower power consumption and longer battery life. The upgrade to the 768GB SSD is not worth it to me. If I needed more storage I would rather put that extra money towards an external networked RAID drive for reliable backup and storage which I would be able to access over WiFi using the Airport Extreme’s disk ability. This ends up with the same price tag but I can get Terabytes of double backed up storage for the same price.

By the time I actually get around to buying one the market will have changed and maybe I can get one used. Until then, I’ll make do and window shop.

So what do explosives have to do with it anyways? Well, we got back in time to do evening chores and then go over to our neighbors house where they were setting off fireworks. This isn’t some little display of fire crackers – It rivals what they do in the nearby towns and is a lot more fun because there’s no crowd, there’s eats and it’s much closer to home. This year Adrian read the entire United States Declaration of Independence. This was a wonderful way to set the tone.

Outdoors: 82°F/68°F Sunny, 1/4″ Rain Last Night
Tiny Cottage: 76°F/69°F

Daily Spark: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -US Declaration of Independence

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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6 Responses to Explosives and New Macs

  1. Explosives 1.3G are fireworks..

    And I think the new Retina display Macbooks are not user upgradable (ram or disk)

  2. Jeremy Merritt says:

    You do not need the power of the retina display, but, here is a in-depth explanation of what is going on and probably why you saw no difference in the store:


    (The whole review is excellent).

    BTW, SSD is worth every penny for every user. One dirty secret of the computer business is that the processors get faster, but the bottleneck is often the disk.

    • Thanks, Jeremy. I’ll check out that article. I’m looking forward to SSD both for the speed (nice) and quiet (very nice) since my office is also our bedroom and at night the computer works (idle CRU are the Devil’s cycle or something like that…)

  3. Aa8Egccidental Mick says:

    I agree with you comments about brand new lines.

    When I worked in IT there was a saying “The only thing pioneers get is arrows in the back.”

  4. Mark says:

    For about a decade, especially since I started buying them on a monthly basis, I’ve thought of computers as a commodity. Granted, the software stack I depend on (which I use to do everything from control the flight path of a little remote control plane, log data from temperature sensors, and to render 3D animation for instructional videos) can be installed on nearly anything. So I can just buy whatever hardware fits my application and gets me the most bang for the buck. It shocks me a bit to see someone limit themselves to a particular manufacturer as a first step. But I get it. You can only buy what you know how to use.

    Still, the upgrade to the 512GB SSD through Apple is really steep at $700, about $250 more than it should be (assuming installation is $100, which is generous). Hopefully your local dealer can do better.

    In any case, things are changing in the computer world fast. The old boys club is crumbling. It should push prices down on everything, even Apple’s wares.

    • Actually, you could not be more wrong. I have been working with computers since the 1970’s. I’ve built computers from the component level on up. I’ve programmed on mainframes, PDP-11’s, CPM, DOS, Windows, MacClassic, MacOSX and other machines included embedded applications. I am going to be doing a system that works with mobile (iOS is my choice). There are reasonable odds I’ve been using a a wide variety of computers since before you were born. I hack my owner computers, replacing everything from boards to memory to drives to individual components as I’ve discussed many times on my blog, combining parts to keep machines going. My data is what’s important – not the hardware. For general use, I like the MacOSX and iOS best. Fine that you like something else. No big deal.

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