MacBook Pro with Retina display: 45 days in

One and a half months ago, I broke down and replaced my ageing MacBook with a 13-inch MacBook Pro. This laptop rocks a Retina display and is my primary desktop system. Paired with an inexpensive gadget, it is a great tool for my work.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

The MacBook I used for years was flagging and in need of replacement. I originally ordered a MacBook Air, but cancelled the order since the Chromebook Pixel spoiled me for a Retina display. The 13-inch MacBook Pro arrived 45 days ago, and has become my primary desktop system. It has already served me well and I am happy with the purchase.

Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick/ZDNet

The model I ordered has a 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5 processor paired with 8GB of memory. The 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) has enough free space to keep me comfortable for a good while. This configuration is faster than I thought it would be, and it handles all tasks with ease.

The 13-inch Retina display is simply gorgeous, and I am so glad I cancelled the MacBook Air for this model. It helped that Apple recently dropped the price by $200 to make the switch more palatable.

I use the MacBook Pro as my primary desktop system. The display is so good that it's all I use. In the past, I have used a laptop with a large external display at the desk, but this laptop screen is all I have needed and I have no immediate plans to get a monitor to use with it.

I use an old Magic Mouse at the desk, but mostly for gaming. The trackpad is my preferred pointer for regular work tasks.

I occasionally take the laptop for working remotely, but most of the time it stays at the desk. It works fine when taken mobile, but I have other gadgets that work well for day trips. I usually grab something smaller and lighter to throw in the bag.

I am very pleased with the purchase and how the MacBook Pro has handled desktop duty. It works better than I expected, with no shortfalls.

The short list of apps I have installed get me through my work day with ease.

  • SnagIt: Screen capture tool

  • Google Play Music Manager: Utility that automatically brings Google Play music purchases into iTunes

  • Google Drive: Finder integration for my Google Drive cloud storage

  • Evernote: My favorite cross-platform note taking app

  • iMovie: Used for video productions

  • Air Display: Connects my iPad or iPad mini via wi-fi for use as an external monitor when convenient

  • Logmein: App that lets me control the MacBook remotely from either iOS or Android.

One of the special purposes that drove me to purchase a new MacBook is video production for product reviews. The reviews are edited, encoded, and then uploaded to YouTube for inclusion in reviews.

By far the greatest amount of time with video reviews is spent in the encoding of the video. This is especially true for HD video, and while the MacBook Pro is pretty fast I found a little gadget that greatly reduces the time required for encoding.

Elgato Turbo
Elgato Turbo.264
Image: Screenshot by James Kendrick/ZDNet

The Elgato Turbo.264 is a USB "stick" that plugs into the MacBook and takes over the encoding duty from the laptop processor. It is simply amazing how fast the Elgato encodes video. True HD video is encoded in near real time in the little USB device, which greatly reduces the post-production time required.

I bought the Elgato on Amazon for $85 and consider it a good investment. It comes with its own video software but I use it directly with iMovie for simple encoding. The Elgato is recognized when plugged in and just works.

I am very happy with the MacBook Pro and have no complaints at all, which is unusual for a gadget. There is nothing I wish it did differently or better, and I consider it worth the money I paid.

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