Would you still buy a non-Retina MacBook? [Poll]

The Retina MacBook Pro has been with us for almost a full year now. The 15-inch version came to us by way of WWDC 2012, and frankly was unlike any laptop computer ever seen. The incredible 2880x1800 resolution Retina Display had to be seen to be believed, and just like that Apple had the best laptop display ever produced.

The Retina MacBook Pro now also comes in a 13-inch form factor too, and the display is equally stunning to look at. Combined with a slimmer profile compared to the non-Retina MacBook Pro's, it's a remarkable piece of hardware.

But, the Retina MacBook's are quite expensive sat next to their non-Retina counterparts. Those displays don't come cheap, and the 13-inch versions are $300 apart for the base models while the lowest priced MacBook Air can be had for $999, a full $500 less than the cheapest Retina MacBook Pro.

For me, the jump has been irreversible. From an 11-inch MacBook Air to a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, I just couldn't go back. The MacBook Pro is portable enough to haul around on the road, and the Retina Display is simply too good to turn my back on.

And that's where you come in. We want to know what you, the iMore readers think. For your next MacBook purchase, would you still consider buying a non-Retina version? Is the form factor and highly portable nature of the MacBook Air more important? Or do you really need the Superdrive that, for now at least, comes on the regular MacBook Pro? Vote in the poll up top, and let us know why in the comments below!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

More Posts



← Previously

Six awesome first person shooters for the Mac you should play right now

Next up →

KitCam for iPhone review: Control the camera's exposure, white balance, focus, and more

Reader comments

Would you still buy a non-Retina MacBook? [Poll]


I rarely use the mbp screen. Its plugged into a huge monitor. I am, however, holding out for an iMac with retina.

I had no choice. Did not like the MacBook Air, and I needed a computer. The 13.3 inch MacBook Pro fit the bill for me. I have the new iPad (3) and that is fine for the need for Retina. I also needed the optical drive. The Pro is powerful, and does all my music needs. The display is great.

Got a 13" rMBP but going to send it back. Although it looks really good the sharping edges (near the trackpad) are a killer. My wrist gets hurt after less than 5 mins. Wrong hand position? Maybe. But the same I use on other laptops and no pain...

I have a 15" rMBP. I have zero issues with heat. The only time it actually feels warm is when im using chrome for Flash. Other than that its as cool as it can be.

A quick fix would have been to put electric tape along the edge. It sounds tacky but if done carefully it actually looks really cool.

I had the 1st Gen 15" MBP too. When the 17" came out I got that and swore I'd never go back. I have no interest in a smaller screen, and AirPlay or HDMI isn't an option when you're on the road.

I solely bought and used 17" MBPs myself...for seven years. We've still got an an early and late pair of 2011 17" MBPs. However, when the rMBP dropped, I was intrigued. I bought one in September. Another in November. While we still use the 17s for our business on site purposes, our go to laptops for every day use are the rMBPs. We love them. I know what you mean with the seventeen. I've always loved them. But the rMBP still gives me 1980x1200...albeit a LOT sharper. USB 3--twin thunderbolt and HDMI. The SSD is incredibly fast...portability is hugely improved. And the performance difference is noticeable. We do audio and video production...and I can't imagine buying anything but rMBPs in the future.


See my problem isn't resolution but screen real estate. Sure the rMBP 15" has the crisp high resolution, but that does nothing for how much you can fit on your screen, unless you want everything really tiny. I'd LOVE a 17" rMBP, but I'm not gonna hold my breath. Not having a 17" model is a deal breaker for me.

If all you want is screen real estate, an rMBP is actually perfect. Apple scaled the default resolution to 1440 x 1800, but you could turn it up to 2880 x 1800 if you wanted. I actually prefer 1680 x 1050, but through system preferences, you could turn it up to 1920 x 1200. BTW i'm typing on an rMBP 15".

the point is that the only way to simulate the screen space of a 17" is to up the resolution which will just make everything smaller. I don't want to have to have my face 5 inches from the screen to read it. The 17" model allows for more space at the same font/icon size.

If you have to "have to have my face 5 inches from the screen to read it"...you'll need an eye exam sooner than later. Again---as a long time 17" owner, I'm sold, completely on the 15" rMBP. You---I promise, do NOT have to get any 'closer' @ 1920x1200 to read, work or manipulate anything on the rMBP. It's hard to explain until you use one, with your workflow (We do nothing but video and audio production...as well as the 'typical' stuff---email/docs/surfing). It's amazing. I was adamant that I would NEVER buy smaller than 17"---I was right with ya. The higher resolution though takes care of the 'real estate' challenge. You can STILL get the same amount of information on the display when scaled. Along with that....the sharpness of the text in all of the apps and software that can NOT be scaled up or down (iTunes/App Store), the difference is astounding. I'm not arguing with you....I'm a big fan of the 17" and refuse to believe Apple has completely written it off. I think as 4k monitors and displays and delivery of the medium becomes mainstream (CES this year---4k was the 'sell'....3d was all but gone!), the 17" MBP, while not a 'big' seller for Apple, would be an excellent platform for 3840x2160 (or 4096x2160) resolutions. As with the Mac Pro re-releasing in a new package this fall, I don't think the 17" professional....TRULY professional laptop won't be far behind. Like the Dell Precision, HP's pro workstations, et al....Apple will, IMHO, release a professional, 'large real estate' laptop when the 'guts' are ready---IE, processing, GPU abilities, display yields, etc. Maybe even 32/64GB RAM capable.
With recent 'concerns' by the board @ Apple for lack of innovation....I think they may start reaching back to the 'pro' market, even though they're not big money makers...they're the machines folks prefer to use writing code, building and testing apps, video production....the list goes on. But as it sits today, as we speak...the 15" rMBP allows for everything the 2011 17" cMBPs I own technically but adds SO much more. Hard to explain....but in 25 years of owning, buying and using computers (Apple IIe was my first)---the rMBP is hand's down my favorite machine I've had the pleasure of owning. We still use our 17s....but my "Go To" machine for daily driving is the rMBP.
I can't speak for the 13"----but with the GPU/Haswell update, I think it'll be a helluva computer in and of itself.

I would mainly use a laptop for Logic and I don't need retina for audio/music applications. But what I don't want is a damned DVD drive! Give me two drives as an option (SSD and HDD) on a non-retina and I'm yours, Apple...once the new chips are out.

I would have Loved to get the Retina, but choose the regular 15" cMBP because the rMBP doesn't have a way to lock it ( no kensington lock port?! wtf.. ). I don't fancy leaving a super spendy machine hanging around an office unlocked all day or having to handle with the hassle of locking it away every lunch break

I had this in mind at the last fes weeks, when finally decided to made my switch and bought my first Mac. I really be tended to pick a rMBP, but in Brazil they are very expensive, and for the price, shoudt come with a dedicared GPU. So, I decided for the entry MBP. :-)

I have a 15inch rMBP and I absolutely love it!! I've had no issues with it and as for the screen I couldn't go back to anything less. It didn't matter to me that it didn't have an optical drive since I hardly use it anyways but I do have two non-apple external DVD drives that work just fine when I should use one. I'm using my rMBP for IT purposes and I feel like that I couldn't of picked a better laptop. ONCE YOU GO MAC, YOU NEVER GO BACK!!! Lol.

I purchased the 13" about 6 weeks ago and couldn't be happier. I recently purchased the BookBook for it from their website, and it's awesome also. But you have to understand that I was using a 5 year old Sony Vaio with more miles on it than my car. This thing is lightning fast, has a great screen, and although there was a learning curve regarding many things, it made me realize just how much I was missing.

Wouldn't trade it in.....even for a younger wife.

Hi ....
I am using sony vaio for about 3 years. Now it is time to purchase the 13'' macbook pro retina. my sponsor asks me to make a business case in order to approve and purchase it for me? Can you help me with that please?

I bought a 15" retina for my work. But if the money isnt there, then yeah I'd get a non-retina powerhouse.

I would love a retina screen but I can't stand the glued in battery that costs $199 to replace and the soldered in RAM. I just this week bought the standard MacBook Pro 13" with the solid state drive and it cost the exact same amount as the retina version, but like I said, I just can't stomach paying the $$ for a laptop that seems designed to be disposable. I just ordered a refurb 2011 iMac also for the same reason. Faster hard drive and easy to add RAM. Don't like the direction Apple is going with their new designs.

The biggest reason I went with the regular MBP is because of the Ethernet port. At my college, the WiFi gets very spotty due to the sheer number of students that are on it all the time, and they offer Ethernet connections in the lecture halls. I just plug it right in and I am good to go!

Dude, you forget one very important detail, and so is everyone, THUNDERBOLT ISN'T JUST A DISPLAY PORT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thunderbolt adapts to so many things, all you need is a cable.

I just purchase a 13 inch, should have it in my hands tomorrow. I really wanted the retina, wasn't in my price range. I think I will be happy without it, will be my first Mac.

I just purchased a 15" MBP Retina and love it. Display is gorgeous and it is fast. Love it! I chose the Retina because I wanted the slim design of the retina, add that to my belief that the non-retina will be going away and for me, there just wasn't much of a choice.

So the article says it's a poll, but there isn't actually a poll. We could assume that what was meant was to state your preference in the comments, but then almost no one has actually done that. Fail.

My opinion as someone who sees dozens of different MacBooks on a daily basis is that Retina is nice but not worth jumping through hoops for. The difference is not "night vs. day" but more like "night vs. moonlit night." If you need to buy a MacBook now and you can't afford Retina, don't wait till you can is my advice. It will be the standard soon enough but it sure isn't anything "worth waiting for."

I guess it must be tied to some nefarious advertising cookie then because it doesn't show on any of my computers

Yeah, right. Totally not giving up customization for a high-res screen. Being able to upgrade my RAM and HDD has some importance to me.

I don't much care about the Macbook Retina. My 2008 Macbook Pro is humming along just fine. My next MBP will be a 17". Apple doesn't build those anymore. And yes, I still need the optical drive. So, no Retina MBP for me, any time soon, unless I win one in some contest.

Yes. Screen resolution/Retina is simply not something i put much importance in. The old resolution was good enough. I'll take it but it's not something I care at all about. Plus most of the time it's attached to a monitor.

I have a retina MacBook. I can't go back. I understand its a luxury right now - but you can get a refurb 13" w 256gb ssd from apple for $1300.

I think you should make another poll asking if anyone would buy a MacBook without an ssd. I think that's far more important.

I would buy a 13" MacBook Pro Non Retina as long as the Memory is upgradable and the Hard Drive is easily accessible. I don't need a retina screen on my computer, but my mobile device has to have it.

I returned my non retina for a 15" rMbp. The price was steep but I got a good deal on amazon. 8 gigs of ram wit a 512 SSD. Great graphics and a speed demon. I recommend it, pick up an external DVD drive and you're set. Well worth the extra $, extremely light and portable for a 15" laptop.

I see no advantage in buying any current Apple model. I have a 17" MBP 2.3 ghz QC, upgraded to 16 gb ram, took out the DVD and put in a SSD (240gb) and second hard drive (1TB). Runs awesome! All the current models trade off expandibility for "thinness". Not a good exchange in my book.

I have a 17" MBP with 16 gigs of ram and a 500 gig super fast SSD. It's been the best computer I've ever owned and thought I would never buy a new computer. When Apple discontinued the 17" MBP I started looking into the 15" retina because I unfortunately knew that if I ever needed to buy a new mobile computer the 15" was going to be the biggest Apple I could find. Reading all the reviews flow in about the 15" MBP-r I finally decided to pick one up. I ordered it from MacMall the MBP-r i ordered was the 15" 16 gigs of ram and a 768 gig SSD. I do graphic design and the screen size of the 17" was awesome for what I do. This computer is amazing. The only thing I hate is the cost. I paid $2,743.61 after shipping, I've been trying the past few days to make up excuses on why I should send it back and just keep using my 17"MBP but the display is so gorgeous and even with my fast SSD in the 17" the 15"MBP-r just blows it out of the water. I enjoy using both computers but the screen makes a full day on the computer easy on my eyes. I also don't mind losing the extra weight I lugged around with the 17"MBP. If you spend hours of your day on a computer and need a power house then the Retina Macbook Pro is what you want.

I bought a late 2011 15 inch MacBook Pro in February last year, and I love it. I have setup several retina MacBook Pros for my customers, and I think they're awesome, but I like my own MacBook Pro more. I configured it with the "hi-res" display, so already, it is a better display that the standard 1440x900 display. Later on, I replaced the hard drive with a 512GB SSD, and I upgrade the RAM to 16GB. It flies through every task that I give it, and allows me to run multiple VMs in Parallels without slowing down. When I'm ready to replace this system with a new one, it's likely that the retina MacBook Pro will be the only MacBook Pro being sold by Apple. If I needed a new laptop right now, I would still choose the non-retina model since I would be able to save a little money up front, and upgrade it later on. My only problem with the retina models is that Apple has taken away our ability to perform upgrades. I hope they figure out a way to give that back to us. Otherwise, it means that I have to delay my purchase until I can buy a MacBook Pro that I would never need to upgrade.

For me the standard definition screen is beautiful and I really use the Superdrive in my business activities. I did upgrade the HD to an SSD so the performance is crazy fast. Also, my 60 year old eyes have an easier time seeing the graphics at the lower resolution of the Macbook Pro. I recognize the beauty of the retina screens, my iPhone 5 has one, but all things considered for me it's a luxury I can do without on my laptop.

I have a Mid 2010 MBP 13 ( 2.5 ghz core duo, 8 gigs of ram, 500gb Samsung SSD). I love the 13" size. I would like the retina display, but other than that my Macbook is about perfect. I plan to keep this MBP for a long time. EDIT ( A new i7 processor would be sweet also.)

Although the retina screen out does the standard screen by far, I have mine hooked up to a big monitor as well as my large tv all the time so it doesn't really matter. Another reason why I like the older version is because it can be modified to swap in a ssd drive or make a fusion drive

I wouldn't mind having both around, as the non-Retina has the hard drive space and the Retina model has the extra pixels.

Am now getting my 4th gen MBP. I opted for the 2013 non-retina for 2 very simple reasons. 1st is that it's a modular design. I can install 3rd party SSD, memory and put in a new battery pack, etc. The rMBP have all this stuff hard wired to the board...can't change a thing. 2nd, the regular MBP features all the new connections but retains FireWire, Ethernet and a SuperDrive. Stuff I use often and don't want to add to my already staggering arsenal of cables and adapters should I get the rMBP. Aside from a more potent screen which only the most discerning will appreciate, these other tangibles for the MBP make it a clear choice for my needs. It's a mega powerful machine in i7 quad core turbo with the nVidia 1Gb card and whatever size SSD and Mem you want to install (again, not proprietary so one can install whatever 3rd party upgrades one wants). Oh ya, if your retina model has a problem, likely it will cost more than a new machine to fix if beyond warranty as the components are all integrated and nothing's off the shelf. Maybe I'll miss the extra pixels but with a 15" screen, probably not.

Sure I would. IMO the only real advantage of the Retina line is the weight/size. The retina screens are a nice res and all, but you cant get them in anti-glare, and having the non-gloss screen is far more important to me than have a screen with twice the resolution.

The other issue is that you pretty much have to purchase all your RAM and "on-board" storage up-front. This is really a huge expense especially for something I may not ever need but am likely to need a year or two after purchasing depending on how my professional tool chain evolves.

I have a 2011 13" MacBook Pro (non-retina). In the event I had to get a new laptop, I'd probably go with a maxed out 13-inch Air just because it is so light and now sports a 12 hour battery. The retina is nice but to my untrained eye, I don't really notice a huge difference from my non-retina display...especially one to justify the higher cost. What I like about the regular macbook pros though is the ability to upgrade it yourself. Chances are, I'll have this laptop for a long time. Once it slows down and fills up, I plan to add a SSD and quadruple the memory.

For me, the Retina MacBooks are nice.. but just too damn expensive. However, interestingly, the resale value for them is low. Once you've taken them out of the box, it immediately seems to wipe $500 off their resale value. So, given a choice, I'd go for a MacBook Pro Retina 15", but second-hand.

It's frustrating though that in mid-2013, the (non-Retina) MacBook Pros still have such a lousy resolution. Just 1400x900 on the horribly expensive 15" model ? Really ? At that price ? My mobile phone has double that resolution. Same goes for the MacBook Airs.

I have an old MacBook Pro 17" (aswell as a second-hand i7 MacBook Pro 15") and the screen on that is lovely. Fantastic for watching DVDs ("Optical is dead", my ass..!!)

I went into the Apple store and was looking over the different options, and I finally decided on going with the Mid-2012 Non-Retina Macbook Pro 13.3" with the 2.9Ghz i7 processor and 8GB of RAM. I kept the HDD drive that comes standard on this Macbook because I am highly considering removing the optical drive and installing a SSD... most likely a 128 or 256Gb to run the OS, certain programs for finance and programming. I am a college student, so I was able to get this Macbook for $200 cheaper. I am extremely happy with my decision. It is already extremely fast and received better Geekbench scores than the current RMBP 3.0Ghz. I have been getting 7950-7980 scores on the 32-bit version of the test, whereas the RMBP 3.0Ghz is receiving scores between 7800-7900. Granted, it's not a huge difference, but I just couldn't see spending $500 more for a machine that isn't more powerful than the one I bought. It might seem faster than mine because of the SSD that comes standard, but once I upgrade mine they will be on a level playing field. I may also upgrade to 16Gb RAM, but not before the SSD. This is just my opinion, but I think you cannot beat the quality of this product for the price versus the more expensive Macbook Pro's.

About a week and a half ago, I bought the MacBook Pro (NR) 13 inch from Best Buy. I talked with the manager, and he was actually extremely helpful in my decision. I told him my history, college student, do some photo editing but am not a professional, watch tons of movies, not a huge gamer, so on and so forth. Instead of trying to upsell the 13 inch Retina MBP, he told me that for my personal use, the original MBP would be my best choice...Now, consider the fact that I did, indeed, have money for whichever one I decided upon. So in this case, the price issue was not a huge dilemma. Of course, now that I have it...it DOES do everything I need it to do, and the fact that it is super upgradeable is a HUGE PLUS, however, there is a war going on in my head over that damn retina display! But you know, I do have a Retina iPad, so all in all, i think the features of the original MBP are excellent, it does everything a normal 21 yr old college student would need it to do with the ability to soup it on up. In a year or two, when some newer models come out, I will probably be ready to upgrade, and keep this little baby as a back up. You've also got to realize, a Mac is a Mac, they are ALL great machines, and always will be. :)

Just bought myself a 15" Non-Retina MBP for university. For me this was easily the best choice as I produce complex musical projects so a retina display wont help me hear it any better! Plus people say that the display on the non retina is still excellent. I grabbed it at the bargain uni prices Apple offer and i could not justify spending the extra on superflous, albeit beautiful, screen. Alongside that, I want to upgrade my Macbook in the future so that this costly investment will not go out of date quickly and the non retina is the only one to allow that (just ordered a ram upgrade). Especially seen as there is very little (albeit startup times and file access) performance difference but this can obviously be remedied with the implementation of an SSD. I need the fastest processor to handle many virtual instruments and effects so it turning on half as fast doesnt bother me, especially considering most of the time you will put it to sleep. For me going to a uni which doesnt have complete wifi coverage an ethernet port is essential (im not paying £25 for an adapter) and so is an optical drive as my love of music causes me to buy many CD's. It will be delivered soon and I cant wait to see how fast my new machine really is, but as for the poll, BUY WHAT YOU WANT - very little performance difference - if you need (more of a want really) the screen get the retina but sacrifice futureproofing.

I'm buying a non-rMBP "old school" laptop this week because I can upgrade 4GB RAM to 16GB RAM (which it does accept) for $120 --I've already done this with my other MBP from 2011.

It has a Kensington Security Slot (I use it in libraries; the new rMBP and MacAirs have no acceptable secondary market hardware security device despite about a half dozen poor options).

I can upgrade or personally replace the HDD anytime, plus it accepts a SSD (in the stock 500GB HDD slot) anytime if I choose that option (and I might when prices come down on SSD).

I can replace the optical drive with SSD, too, if so motivated (instructions online). I like the optical drive on occasion (looking at old CD ROMS of photos; watching a DVD movie), and although I have to carry it all the time as it's built-in, I cannot predict when I'll need it and would likely have the USB drive in my messenger bag anyhow. Plus, saves $79 for the drive.

I have ethernet port just in case (thus, I don't have to buy and carry a $29 Thunder-Ethernet adapter). Think you won't need ethernet? I used it just this week with an Apple "geek" to reinstall Mavericks when my software was corrupted (i.e no reliable wi-fi); ethernet is critical now that Mavericks is the first completely downloadable OS.

I can replace the battery myself.

Sacrifices? Non-Retina, one extra pound, a slightly slower chipset (but, honestly, with 16GB RAM, won't even be noticed) and 2 hours less battery life.

I'm just presenting another way to look at it...especially as the nrMBP is less than a grand for Education pricing at Apple now. Everyone will have a different Apple to fit their needs; this one, for me, has many advantages. Thanks for having me post. SVen