I admit that I have been jealous of those lucky people who could afford the luxury of staring into a Retina-resolution screen all day. Last week my ship came in and delivered not one but two Retina-devices.
As fate would have it, both a new golden MacBook as well as a luxuriously outfitted Retina 5K iMac arrived in short succession. So I had the pleasure of unboxing them on the same day. Here’s the double-feature YouTube video for that ceremony.
I got asked whether I would be coding on the MacBook as well – because it has less CPU-power than a 2-year-old MacBook Air – I can say: yes I will and I have already for about a week. The keyboard is nicely responsive and you only experience a bit of the slowdown when compiling an Xcode project from scratch. But 90% of the time the performance you get from MacBook Gold is enough.
I was somewhat fearful that you couldn’t even do an occasional unboxing video in Final Cut Pro X. But it was holding up quite well even in that regard. The same process of analysing and optimising the video clips would top out at 460% CPU on the Retina 5K iMac and go up to 280% on the MacBook. But once this step was done, editing went well.
The biggest problem I was having with the unboxing video was not the encoding performance of the machine, but that the main video had been shot in portrait video. Kids, don’t ever do that… it’s a pain to make a 16:9 video out of that. So I had to be content with a 4:3 video.
The 2015 MacBook does not have any fans, and I am not talking about people but cooling devices. There is a grid of many minute holes at the base of the display where hot air rises. This makes it the first Mac that does not have any moving parts and you are are treated with an early noiselessness. Doing things like encoding a video many times in a row – I kept finding flaws after having started the process – causes the MacBook to get slightly more than hand warm. The hottest part will be underneath the MacBook logo.
The 12″ screen is amazing and I also noticed that the built-in loudspeakers are much louder than the ones in my previous 13″ Air. No longer do I need to amp up the movie sound in Plex, but actually I have to set the volume at less than 100% to be normal. The only time when I am missing a large enough screen is when I am using the Xcode assistant editor to connect outlets in Interface Builder.
On slight inconvenience comes from the device only having a single USB-C port. So for connecting my iPhone for debugging I needed to procure an USB-C to -B cable, readily available at a Mac reseller near you.
“5K iMac makes you unable to look at normal monitors ever again…” – Tonči Jukić
And that might really be the case. I feel quite lucky to be able to upgrade both my normal working machine as well as my travelling portable at the same time.
The MacBook might be too weak for doing CPU-intense work all-day long, but for occasional bursts like compiling code or encoding a video it is a very minimal tradeoff. The one-port-problem is only one if you work on the MacBook long enough to need plugged in power.
I am very happy with both devices. The 5K iMac because “I can see clearly now” (TM) and the MacBook because it is a technical marvel breaking new ground in several areas. The Retina iMac is a no-brainer for people looking at text the whole day, your eyes don’t feel as tired.