MacBook Pro with Retina display 13-inch vs. 15-inch: Which powerful Mac laptop should you get?

MacBook Pro with Retina display 13-inch vs. 15-inch: Which powerful Mac laptop is right for you?

MacBook Pro with Retina display buyers guide: Choosing between the light 13-inch and the top-of-the-line 15-inch

You're going to buy a new Mac, and you've narrowed your choice to one of Apple's new sleek, speedy MacBook Pros with Retina display. Seems like an easy choice, doesn't it? Just decide which screen size is right for you: 13-inch or 15-inch, then pull the trigger. Not so fast. There are other considerations you should make, as well. Because screen size isn't the only different between the two machines. This guide should help you iron out some of them.

What is a Retina display, anyway?

First of all, what makes a Retina display "retina?" It isn't a specific resolution or color gamut - it is, instead, a somewhat subjective determination. Apple coined the term "Retina display" to describe any display that, held at an average operating distance, produces imagery with indistinguishable pixels.

Both MacBook Pros with Retina display use screens with similar pixel densities - that is the number of actual pixels displayed by the screen within a single inch (pixels per inch, or PPI). The 13-inch model's pixel density is about 227 PPI while the 15-inch model's is about 220. While that's lower than the iPhone, for example (326 PPI), it's almost twice the density of "regular" MacBook Pro models. Set side by side with "standard" resolution displays, MacBook Pros equipped with Retina displays show sharper text, richer color and more image detail.

It's worth noting that both Retina MacBook Pros have significantly higher native resolutions that what you'll normally see. The 13-inch model's display has a native resolution is 2560 x 1600 pixels, though 1680 x 1050 is the highest resolution accessible through the Display system preference. Likewise, the 15-inch model has a 2880 x 1800 native resolution, though the scaled resolution is limited to 1920 x 1200 pixels - the same as the native resolution of the discontinued 17-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple does that for legibility - truly native resolution would produce almost unreadable text and really tiny pictures. But if you want to give native display operation a try, you can install a third-party utility that unlocks custom resolutions like SwitchResX.

Comparing Retina MacBook Pro models

Starting at $1,299 ($200 less expensive than the previous model), the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro comes equipped with a 2.4 GHz dual-core i5 processor, 4 GB RAM and 128 of PCI Express-based flash storage. It uses Intel Iris integrated graphics.

The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro measures 12.35 x 0.71 inches closed and weighs about 3.46 pounds. That's about two ounces lighter and just a skosh thinner than last year's Retina MacBook Pro; it's also narrow and shorter than the standard 13-inch MacBook and more than a pound lighter.

A $1,499 Retina MacBook Pro model doubles storage capacity and memory, and for $1,799 you can get a system equipped with a 2.8 GHz i5 processor, 8 GB RAM and 512 MB storage. You can configure to order systems with up to 16 GB RAM and 1 TB of flash storage if you prefer.

The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro starts at $1,999. For that you get a processor that's only clocked at 2.2 GHz, but it's a quad-core i7 processor instead. 8 GB RAM and 256 GB flash storage come standard. Intel Iris Pro graphics come standard. A 2.5 GHz system with 16 GB RAM and 512 GB flash costs $2,599. That premium model is also the only Retina MacBook Pro to include a discrete graphics chip - the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M, with 2GB of dedicated VRAM. Like past models, that system will automatically switch graphics from the lower-power Iris Pro to the higher-power Nvidia chipset depending on what's needed.

Closed, the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro measures 14.13 x 0.71 inches - same height as the 13-inch model - and weighs just a pound more. There's no longer a "standard" 15-inch MacBook Pro to compare against - this year, Apple's offering only the 15-inch Retina display model.

Apple's standard suite of application software is included on both MacBook Pros; you get the iLife (iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand) and iWork (Keynote, Pages, Numbers) apps, along with Safari, Mail and a number of other apps and utilities. OS X Mavericks is also standard issue. Both iWork and iLife got a major overhaul in October; the new apps have been designed to work in tandem with their iOS counterparts much more easily. Some interface changes and some feature limitations have caused long-time users of iWork apps, in particular, to complain.

iLife has long been standard-issue with new Macs, but iWork only started being included with new Macs this October. Also worth noting is that GarageBand in its factory release is limited - it has only a small subset of instruments and lessons. A $4.99 in-app purchase unlocks the full suite of instruments and piano and guitar lessons.

Dual core vs. quad core: Retina MacBook Pro gets a Haswell makeover

In 2013 the Retina MacBook Pro was refreshed with Intel Haswell microprocessors - the same chips used in the MacBook Air. Haswell chips are more power-efficient than their predecessors, which nets some improvements in battery life - up to nine hours per charge for the 13-inch model and up to eight hours per charge in the 15-inch model.

The clock speeds of early 2013 models are actually higher than the Haswell versions. But other efficiencies, such as improved SSD throughput and better integrated graphics, mean the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros are quite a bit faster than their predecessors. It's a bit murkier for the 15-inch models. Some operations that don't rely on graphics processors are faster, which some graphics-intensive operations perform better only on the Nvidia-equipped high-end 15-inch model.

It's important to note that the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros come standard with quad-core Intel i7 processors. Their lower clock speeds notwithstanding, they're very powerful when running software that's optimized for multi-core processors.

Most general users can get away with a dual-core processor and not suffer any problems. But if you're doing graphics or video work, rendering 3D or other seriously processor-intensive work, consider a quad-core processor. More cores means the processor is able to juggle more balls at once without skipping a beat - great for ripping video in Handbrake, for example, or running computationally-intensive operations (often used in math, science and engineering software). For graphics-intensive stuff, also consider the discrete graphics chip on the higher-end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro - more on that in a bit.

One way or the other, unless you have a real edge case, it's probably not worthwhile to invest a lot of money in processor upgrades for your Retina MacBook Pro - go with one of the pre-configured systems unless you really need some incrementally improved horsepower.

Memory: The non-upgradable dilemma

The 4 GB included on the low-end 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is adequate for now to run Mavericks and application software; it's the minimum RAM configuration for all MacBook models across the board (the MacBook Air similarly comes equipped standard with 4 GB RAM).

Having said that, 4 GB is skimpy, especially if you plan to run memory-hungry apps like imaging software (such as Photoshop). It'd be a wise investment to bump it up to 8 GB, especially since the RAM is soldered to the motherboard and is not upgradable after the fact, unlike non-Retina MacBook Pros.

Higher end configurations come with 8 GB or 16 GB (or can be configured to 16 GB). That should give you sufficient breathing room for the next few years.

Storage vs. affordability: Get the SSD balance right

Retina MacBook Pros eschew conventional hard disk drives for Solid State Drive (SSD) instead; the net result is that they're able to be thinner and faster, with better storage system reliability than before.

Another carryover from the MacBook Air refresh is an update to the Retina MacBook Pro's storage system. This year's crop replace Serial ATA (SATA) with PCI Express (PCIe)-based flash storage. The new Retina MacBook Pros perform file-based operations much faster than their predecessors.

There is a downside, though - the actual interface used for these SSDs appears to be a proprietary Apple design, which may make it difficult to upgrade them down the road (unlike RAM, Retina MacBook Pro SSDs are daughtercards that can be removed, though they're not easily user-accessible).

So it's probably a good idea to configure your Retina MacBook Pro with as much storage as you can reasonably afford right off the bat (as with RAM, the 128 GB standard SSD on the $1,299 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is skimpy, but it's the lowest-priced model).

Integrated graphics vs. discrete graphics: A question of speed, price and battery efficiency

A benefit of the Retina MacBook Pro's switch to Intel's Haswell microprocessor is faster graphics. The 13-inch MacBook Pro features Intel Iris graphics - the next step up from the Intel HD Graphics 5000 found on the MacBook Air, which itself was much faster than the integrated graphics found on last year's processors.

Iris graphics differentiate themselves from the 5000 by having a higher clock speed, so you're able to get more done in less time. Iris Pro, standard on the 15-inch model, gains a 128 MB cache of embedded DRAM to speed things up further.

The $2,599 Retina MacBook Pro adds Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics. This graphics subsystem is ordinarily only activated when an app or process launches that demands extra graphics horsepower. Games are an obvious example. So is Adobe Photoshop. Even Apple's own iPhoto will force the faster graphics to come on. When that discrete graphics processor kicks in, battery efficiency drops like a stone. But that's the price you pay to have extra graphics oomph when you need it.

Bottom line: the more you spend, the faster your graphics get. If you need the fastest possible graphics in your next laptop, be prepared to shell out for a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.

One area free of choices for you: Expandability

All current Retina MacBook Pros come identically equipped with two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a headphone jack, dual microphones, an HDMI connector and an SDXC card slot.

These are the first Apple laptops to sport Thunderbolt 2. In fact, the only other 2013 Mac to feature Thunderbolt 2 is Apple's forthcoming Mac Pro, which is expected to be released in December. Thunderbolt 2 offers twice the bandwidth of the original Thunderbolt - 20 gigabits per second - which means even faster peripheral connectivity than before. Thunderbolt can be adapted for a wide variety of applications, including fast RAID drives, Gigabit Ethernet or more exotic networking options like Fibre Channel, and more.

Perhaps the most frequent application for Thunderbolt, however, is the use of external displays (Apple sells Thunderbolt adapters to fit different display interfaces like DVI, VGA and HDMI). And the Thunderbolt 2 ports on the Retina MacBook Pro are capable of driving two external displays at up to 2560 x 1600 resolution with millions of colors. What's more, that HDMI interface can drive a 4K display.

Retina MacBook Pros also come with 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking, the faster Wi-Fi standard first introduced with the MacBook Air's refresh earlier in 2013. Called "gigabit Wi-Fi," the faster standard works up to three times the speed of 802.11n, though it requires pairing with an 802.11ac-compliant base station (like Apple's new towering AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule). Both systems also come standard with Bluetooth 4.0 and full-sized backlit keyboards.

Who should buy a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro?

At this point, the base-model Retina MacBook Pro is $300 more than the base-model 13-inch MacBook Air, and comes similarly equipped for RAM and storage. While it weighs more, it's a lot more powerful under the hood - faster processor, better expansion and a dramatically better screen.

For most general users, the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is the sweet spot between performance and price, and it should be a great replacement for older laptops - one area where it's particularly better is in battery life, which will be a welcome respite for you if you're used to carrying your power adapter around with you.

I'd argue that you should spend the extra money to get the $1,499 model that includes 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB flash storage - that'll hedge your bet a bit about what the future might hold for OS X system requirements and application needs.

Who should buy a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro?

The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is the no-compromises king of Apple's laptop line. It has the most capable processors, the fastest graphics and the highest resolution. It's superior to the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro by just about any measure except for battery life (and comparing apples to apples, the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is better than the system it replaces). But all that capability has a price - starting at $1,999.

Apple's decision to excise discrete discrete graphics from the low-end 15-inch model left me scratching my head. Iris Pro is certainly an improvement over what came before, and it's fine for low-power work. But the benchmarks I've seen show that the $2,599 15-inch model blows away its lower-priced sibling in graphics tests by as much as two to one.

So if you're a content creator, especially if you're working with pro audio, video or high-resolution graphics - and you're looking for the best system to get your work done, I think the high-end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is worth the money. You get a faster machine, double the RAM and half a terabyte of flash storage for another $600.

Still undecided?

If you still can't decide with Retina MacBook Pro is the right one to choose from, I'd recommend dropping by our MacBook Pro discussion forum and posting a question there. iMore has a great online community that can help answer questions and offer advice based on their own experience. You're also welcome to post comments here.

I've had my say, now I want to hear from you. Which Retina MacBook Pro do you currently use? Which one do you want? Or have you ruled the Retina MacBook Pro out all together? Please post your comments, critiques and questions.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

More Posts

 

7
loading...
41
loading...
60
loading...
0
loading...

← Previously

Apple says overseer out of order, judge out of order, entire ebooks case out of order!

Next up →

How to use Control Center: The ultimate guide

Reader comments

MacBook Pro with Retina display 13-inch vs. 15-inch: Which powerful Mac laptop should you get?

38 Comments
Sort by Rating

If I had to choose between the two I would opt out for the the 15 inch version.. Here's why.. It runs standard the quad-core intel i7 processor clocked at 2.0 ghz, that's the top of the line as far as computing processors go. If I decided to go for the 13 inch with the fastest processor it'd only be a dual core i5 intel processor clocked at 2.6 ghz and that's a really good processor but if your going to do some serious work, gaming or video and photo processing on your computer your going to need that i7 processor, not to mention everyday tasks would be even faster with it as well. Also it wouldn't be left in the past as quickly as the 13 inch would with i5, because the 15 inch with the i7 quad core processor would more likely be able to handle newer versions of Mac OS that apple is sure to update in the future and with the prices of these laptops a lot of people including myself wouldn't be upgrading within a couple of years they keep laptops much longer. For the cherry on top it has a larger screen which is great as well..

Sent from the iMore App

i sure would go to 15 size because i like it, but i cant pay for the 512 ssd, and im not sure to get 256 plus an external hd. im not sure about if i will lose much speep.
in case id like to work with logic pro and audio.. then my question is... can i record audio using an external hd without speed problem? tks..

The thing that convinced me to go for the 15" model was the 13" machine's native resolution translating to a relatively meagre 1280x800 real resolution once you take retina pixel doubling into account. It might be an exceptionally pretty 1280x800 (and, oh, boy, are these retina screens pretty) but that's still not an awful lot of screen real estate to be playing with. I know I can use non-native, scaled resolutions but I'm not keen on that. Integrated graphics (hell, mobile graphics in general) are only ever so powerful and I'm not convinced that even Haswell's integrated graphics will be good for that scaling years into the future as OSes find newer and shinier ways to spend their computing power. I could have gone for the app you linked to that would allow full native resolution but I'm pretty sure my eyes would have gone on strike if I'd tried that.

I didn't, on the other hand, splurge for the proper high-end model with Nvidia graphics. That price tag was rather too rich for my blood. I don't play games or do other high-end graphics on my Mac very often, so a v. fast CPU, bags of RAM, and an awesome SSD more than cover my computing needs. And code compiles so, so quickly for me on this machine.

So far, well, I'm in love with the machine. There've been a few spots of bother along the way but they're the usual 10.x.0 software issues. Apple will fix them and they're only minor bumps in the road. The performance has justified the expense.

I went with the 15" maxed out model myself; even the SSD. I took Peter's advise from another article/comment and just picked up AppleCare too. I figure this is a one time purchase for something I use for both my job/work and play. I won't be investing in a new system for at least 3 years and as such worth the investment.

I picked up the CalDigit Thunderbolt Dock too. Just wish it was TB2.. Otherwise love this dock! MUCH better than the Belkin IMO so far; plus costs less.

Glad to hear about AppleCare. My take on it is this: Your first out of warranty repair after 12 months is likely going to be more than the $249-$349 you spend on AppleCare. Not everyone wants it or needs it, and that's fine - everyone's use case is different. But I'd rather be safe than sorry.

If you do music, and running Pro Tools 11, or another DAW, I would get the i7, and no less than 8GB, 16 would be better. Even if you do not do video, and only music, 4GB is really putting a strain on how much you can work with. If you have a big project, you will run out of working CPU quicker than you think.

I was just at a computer store today playing with both the 13" and 15" MBP, as I'm looking to replace my desktop PC with a MacBook.
I was considering the 13" (8GB, 256SSD) only because of price, but I'm pretty sure I'll end up going with the base model 15", which is plenty powerful enough for what I need. I like the larger screen and quad core processor.

Two questions.
1. I want a good external back-up hard drive (one for Time Machine, and another general purpose back-up for my files), is there a particular brand of hard drive that works better with Mac's? (WD or Seagate).

2. When I was in Windows I used Acronis' True Image. Now I am in Linux and use Redo backup, both programs make 'images' of my system.
Is there a similar imaging back-up program for OS X, or is that what Time Machine does?

Carbon Copy Cloner can produce a bit-for-bit duplicate of your hard drive. I've used it to back up many a Mac over the years.

There isn't a particular brand of hard drive that works better with the Mac- they're commodity items for the most part; any drive can be formatted to work with the Mac's file system. Having said that, Western Digital had early problems with Mavericks following reports of data loss on their hard drives; they've apparently corrected that with an update to the "SmartWare" app that they include on their disks.

I don't generally use any hard disk maker's factory-installed software; I reformat the drive using Mavericks' Drive Utility and just go from there.

I had a total failure of a Seagate network drive and lost over 2TB of data. I almost cried. Because of certain content, I could not get Seagate to restore it.

On the backup issue, I have a 2011 Time Capsule and restored with Time Machine. I haven't had an issue other than finding it a bit slow over wireless.

Thanks a lot for the help. I'll definitely check out Carbon Copy Cloner once I get my MacBook.

I've never used a disk-makers software, mostly because I've never trusted them to work well or because I prefer using other software to do it.
I knew WD had some sort of issue with Mavericks, but wasn't quite sure what it was -- so it probably would have been irrelevant to me then.

You can restore a system from a Time Machine backup. You may also want to check out Carbon Copy Cloner. I use it to clone my iTunes drive.

Last year I got the then brand new 15-inch rMBP right after Apple introduced it, and it was an easy choice because there wasn't a 13-inch model yet. When I saw the 13, I lusted after it, but the GPU was enough to temper my desire.

This year I got a Haswell 13-inch MacBook Air, and again an easy choice because the Haswell MacBook Pros weren't out yet. And again, I lust after the 13-inch rMBP.

Maybe next year.

I my mind it's the perfect combination of the Air and and the Pro. The sweet spot.

We'll see!

The sweet spot for the rMBP is the 13.3", only if it has the same specs as the base 15" rMBP;

quad-core CPU
Iris Pro Graphics
8GB RAM
256GB PCIe SSD
2880x1800 retina screen

in my opinion, of course.

I've had problems with the 13" macbook pro retina. track pad and keyboard freezing up and now problems with the ports, window keeps popping saying I have ejected my hard drive when I haven't. going to replace it with the 15" now. although I am tempted by the 13" air as well.

I recently purchased the 11" MacBook Air as it suited my needs for a portable secondary Mac. One thing I notice that it was $200 to go from 128GB of storage to 256GB, but on the MacBook Pro with Retina display, that $200 also got you 8GB of RAM.

I'd definitely choose the 15" MacBook Pro with the discrete graphics chip option if it isn't too darn expensive as I like my games running at high settings. But I probably would be fine with the 13" $ 1,499 MacBook Pro model (I think this would be the highest price I can consider when buying a laptop without having to skip lunch for a whole year, haha). I find it the perfect balance between performance and portability.

Sent from the iMore App

For me, the 13" MBP isn't really worthy of the "pro" label. I see it more as a retina macbook air, in that it has about the same benefits as the air, but with a higher-res display. Whether the improved screen is worth the extra outlay is up to the individual buyer to decide.

Quick note: Under the "Who should buy a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro?" section, you wrote "For most general users, the [13-inch Retina MacBook Air] is the sweet spot between performance and price", I think you mean just the normal macbook air. :)

Thanks - that's a typo, obviously (fixed), but I meant the Retina MBP. I think it's a better all around value than the MBA given the relatively small cost difference.

Excellent blog, one question, you recommend the 15" with graphics card for video editors. I plan to do a bit of video editing with this laptop, nothing fancy, just home movie with hd video from gopro and camcorder. Will I notice much of a difference with the 15" macbook with the video card an without?

Thanks! For general use, the 13-inch is probably a more cost-effective machine. I'm mainly referring to content creators who live in apps like Final Cut Pro X and After Effects. Those apps are very demanding on the system's GPU, and they'll benefit from the extra graphics muscle the premium 15-inch rMBP has to offer.

I went with the 15" version. I looked at the size difference (the 13" would have been nicer to carry around to school), but because I am spending a premium on the computer, I wanted to go for future-compatibility. I figure the 4-core will last me a little longer than the dual. I also customized mine with 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD, only because I have a lot of media (huge music collection and movies). This is definitely the nicest laptop I've ever owned.

On a side note, I have a late-2011 iMac, with the quad core i5, post-purchase 16GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive. This MacBook blows that sucker away! I use the iMac for most of my work and the MacBook when I need some couch time or want to hang out with my wife.

I just got the 15" model, and have been very happy with it. I never considered the 13" version because I keep lots of windows open when I work, and the extra space makes a big difference.

As far as I know, the 13" rMBP / MBP never had discrete graphics. As far as the current 13" rMBP doing 4K graphics, yes it can @ 30hz, which is not that great. Doing 4K at 60hz is idea.

Typo where you say 512 MB (GB?) of storage?

Great summary, I went with the 13". One thing I didn't see discussed much was the portability advantages of the 13"—that was my determining factor. Had the 2012 15" rMBP ... this new 13" is so much better for semi-daily travel ...

Dunno about timing of the article, because I went for the 13" rMBP with the dual-core 2.8Ghz i7 processor and 16GB RAM. I don't think I saw any post in the article about i7 for 13".

Interesting is the Intel processors native 1600 speed which is exactly why RAM is 1600 speed. Thus the more RAM the better and upping to a i7 should alleviate the bottleneck at the CPU.

Also helps that when picking the higher CPU the SSD choices are 512GB or 1TB. I went with 512GB which is more than enough for what I need.

Hi,
I'm buying my first Apple laptop ever and found this blog really great, to the point and very helpful for a person like me. still have few questions and it will be great if someone could help.

I would like to use my new mackbook for following work and I don't keep too many applications open at any given point of time, also I'm not frequent traveler but still don't want to spend any extra penny if not justified,

1. Internet browsing, like gmail, facebook, pinterest, g+, also will be doing editing work for my wife's website by log in to hosting service provider,
2. I never play games online or on computer so will never use Macbook for games,
3. will be using for some photo editing, with iPhoto or Adobe Lightroom,
4. will be installing Hadoop and related technology like Hbase, Hive, Spark, Zookeeper,some supporting DB for study purpose, so will be dong some coding as well,
5. will install Virtual Machine for some windows specific work but very minimal, but it all depends on next point,
6. Want to have Oracle DB installed but came to know that Oracle has stopped release for OS X so may have to rely on VM for this.

considering these needs what you suggest, shall I go for
15 inch starting model (8 GB, 256 GB SSD and quad core processor)
13 inch middle model ((8 GB, 256 GB SSD and dual core processor) or this with RAM 16 GB (if required)

wat did u buy, i am also having 2 options and looking for the openion.
em a Structural Engineer, i'll be using it in ma Post Grad. and more likely for all the strusture design Softwares and might be installing windows if found necessary.

i am considering these needs what you suggest, as wat u were looking for, so shall I go for

15 inch starting model (8 GB, 256 GB SSD and quad core processor)
13 inch middle model ((8 GB, 256 GB SSD and dual core processor) or this with RAM 16 GB

Hi,
I'm about to get my first mac , but then i have a few problems deciding which one to get, just starting college and majoring in Mechanical Engineering, hope you guys can help, okay so here's what i'd be doing:

1. Run Autocad, (mac version or I don't mind using bootcamp)
2. Slight gaming like the f1 game and fifa (on windows)
3. Surfing the web and a little programming ( FORTRAN)

I sort of have the funds for both, but if i get the 15 inch with the gt750m i wouldn't have that much money left to get accessories, so my question is, is the hd5100 and dual core powerful enough for my needs ? thanks :)
Please I need an urgent reply as i'm looking to buy it this week.

Great article, really useful for consumers who are looking into the market. I was wondering how the 13" i7 compares to the standard 15" inch MBP as they share roughly the same price. I suppose the quad-core would still fare a lot better but it'd be interesting to see a side by side comparison. Another point I'm still uncertain of is the real usefulness of 16gb ram compared to the default 8gb as a lot of people have mentioned that 16gb is only useful for professionals, or simply recommended to future proof the Macbook and get a higher resale value. I am thinking however that by the time people start selling their current-gen MBPs the market will have switched to touchscreens entirely. This process has already begun with Sony releasing their Vaio Pro models etc. Finally, thanks for reading my thoughts. Cheers!

We are considering the switch from PC to Mac, because the PC only 2 years old has problems. How steep is the learning curve for middle-aged people? My husband is a professor of art history, so looks at a lot of art and photographs online, and manipulates somewhat with Adobe Photoshop. He's considering the 15-inch MacBook Pro. He needs to be able to attach a 2nd monitor, use flash drives, and have good battery life, as well as light weight for travel. He currently uses MS Word and Excel. Will he be able to use something similar on the Mac? Also, we use Quicken on the PC. Is there financial software that works well with the Mac? We're looking at the $2599 model, which seems to have the best reviews. Any reason we should NOT go with that one?

I would buy a 13" rMBP with i7 2.8Ghz, 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD but..... but...... but...... the keyboard is terrible. It has absolutely zero tactile feedback and the keys are spaced too far apart. I prefer the Lenovo keyboards, specifically on models T420 and earlier, which is a shame because I love the rMBP for it's retina display and operating system OS X Mavericks.

Until the 13" Retina gets an i7 Quad-Core I will choose the 15" version. The discrete GPU is not as important if the 13" gets/has the Iris Pro but a Quad-Core is basically a must. I kind of like the 13" size. Much easier to use coming from a 17" gaming laptop. My go to gadgets were Smart Phone, Tablet, Laptop (17"), Desktop. With a 13" Retina Macbook Pro with Quad-Core i7 my gadgets would be iPhone 6 (5.5 Phablet), 13" Retina MBP, Desktop/Workstation.

The secret with back up and Time Machine is to do it on two even three separate hard drive. If one died, you still have two other. I use any brand of hard drive.
As of my choice of MacBook Pro I picked the 15 inches Retina GT 750m
I had a17 inches before (2011) and the new 15 inches 2014 is like the "Ferrari..." of the computer world!