Refurbished Retina Macbook Pro vs. Brand-New Alternative
I'm sure you guys will be able to shed some light on a dilemma of sorts I'm having. A series of unfortunate events has me rocking my old laptop again - an early 2008 white Macbook. Battery life has been greatly diminished, and it takes forever to charge. Moreover, the lag on it is excruciating. I don't mean videos are slow to encode; that's a given (and I suffer). I mean serious lag trying to open an Excel or Pages document. Let's not get started on iPhoto.
My usage scenario consists of: (work) heavy multitasking between large databases, statistics software, and (home) lots of browsing, downloading, photo importing/exporting, and Handbrake batch encoding videos.
The point is, I need something new. I was browsing through Apple's website, but I came in with a very clear idea of what I wanted. The plan was the following:
High-tier Macbook Pro 13" (non-Retina), which is US$1,499. A few months later I'd get myself a nice Samsung 256GB 830/840 SSD to use as a main boot drive and swap the 750GB HDD as a data drive in the optical bay. A RAM upgrade for kicks - 16GB of high-speed RAM is only US$100 - would not have been out of the question. Around US$200 on an SSD, US$50 on a datadoubler cage to use the optical bay as a hard drive tray, and I'm at US$1,750 for my MBP. This is very close to the Retina Macbook Pro 13"........which doesn't interest me in the slightest. I'd be spending US$50 more for a machine that had a slower CPU (2.5GHz i5 vs. 2.9GHz i7), half the SSD storage, none of my HDD data storage, and no ability to upgrade RAM in the future. The extra resolution is sweet and it's a sad tradeoff, but I've read the CPU can't cope with the rendering and that there's actually some UI lag when scrolling - exactly the kind of thing I wanna get rid of. The slimmer profile and reduced weight would've been great perks but don't really tip the scales in my personal order of priorities.
Had my choice been between these two setups, I wouldn't be writing this post. The thing is, the refurbs page on the Apple website has complicated matters. You see, they're listing a Retina Macbook Pro - the 15" real-deal no-nonsense one, for US$1870. When compared to my customized 13" non-Retina, the result is: the same amount of SSD storage, 4 times the pixels on-screen, the addition of a dedicated graphics card, twice the physical CPU cores (goodbye encoding woes), slimmer profile and no added weight. All I'd be losing is the mechanical HDD for data storage and the ability to upgrade RAM in the future.
I don't have any experience in dealing with refurbished products of any kind. I know Apple's support is superb and they stand by their products; moreover, a quick read on the interwebs tells me they offer 1 year warranty on their refurbished machines.
If the 13" non-Retina were at least 1440x900 like the the MBA, I'd stick to an upgradeable machine with dual drives (as an economist, I need software exclusive to Windows and space can get tight on a dual-booting SSD setup). But paying around US$1,700 for a laptop whose resolution is matched by most cell phones nowadays seems kind of silly when the alternative is the bleeding edge.