On Battery Bulges and Choosing a New Mac Laptop

A few years ago, I wrote about my first impressions with the NewerTech battery for the Macbook Pro (2006 – early 2008 models). Then, about two weeks ago, I noticed something odd.


My NewerTech battery had developed a rather noticeable bulge (see photo). Aside from the bulge, the battery works well, providing about 2 hours of use time. However, at this point, rather than risk potential damage to my now ancient laptop (of early 2008 vintage), I have removed the battery from the unit. So now my Macbook Pro is now running exclusively on AC power.

In the intervening time, I have since weighed my battery replacement options and have come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t make sense for me to spend another $100 or so on a now six year old laptop.

In considering a replacement Mac laptop, my options are between the new Macbook Air or the 13″ Retina Macbook Pro. I plan on using my laptop primarily for managing my academic workload (mostly Pages and Numbers with occasional Photoshop), but I’d also like to be able to use it for more design work, including (but not limited to) making my comics.

The Macbook Air is currently non-Retina equipped and tops out at 8GB of RAM, while the Retina Macbook Pro has the better resolution and is also upgradeable to 16GB of RAM. The cost difference is about $600. If I only use the laptop for my academics, an 8GB Macbook Air might suffice. But as a designer who only buys new hardware once in 5 years or so, I feel that the Retina display is an important factor worth considering.

In addition to RAM and display resolutions, either laptop I select must be able to drive an additional display. Both, as far, as I know – support this, via a miniDisplay port to DVI adaptor. I’m somewhat torn on what to select.

So… I’ll pose it to you, dear reader. Macbook Air or Retina Macbook Pro 13″? Is 8GB really enough? Is the Retina display worth considering, or is it overrated? Help me make some decisions here.


These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • Karl
    May 13, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Late last year I invested in a Macbook Air 13″ for both a last minute tax deduction to offset a big hit I knew was going to happen and to supplement my aging Dell Studio 17 that scans have told me the hard drive wasn’t long for this world. I use it with Pages to write my novels and as a portable go-to when the old Dell simply takes too long to load. I have watched movies on it and have not really noticed any downside to the display not being Retina and sometimes think that is overrated. The portability is wonderful (especially after lugging the Studio 17 around in a backpack) and the speed of processor AND charging is wonderful. The resolution is just fine for a 13″ monitor and I have not hooked it up to an external as of yet to see if my opinion would change, simply because I don’t have an external monitor to hook it up to and lack the cables to hook it up to the one TV that can double as a HD monitor. If you are going to use it mostly with Pages and Numbers and an occasional Photoshop project, I would lean towards the 13″ Air for your needs. While I have yet to hook up my Intuos3 to it (as I don’t have access to Photoshop CC or even have a copy of an older version to test), I do believe it will handle it well enough to continue creating Willow’s Grove on (once I get enough $ to get a good size monitor to compliment the set up for digital inking). The only downside I have encountered is learning where everything is on OS X Mavericks, having only been exposed to Apple OS on one of the very first Macintosh computers GUI and the Apple IIc before that, and of course, iOS. But being in IT for as long as I have been and techy by nature, I picked up on it quickly with only a few snags here and there that were quickly researched and rectified. Hope this helps.

    • Krishna M. Sadasivam
      May 13, 2014 at 7:53 am

      Thanks, Karl. I’m curious to know how the Air handles apps like Photoshop. I’d also be very interested in finding some benchmark comparisons between the early 2008 MacbookPro and the 2014 Macbook Air and late 2013 Macbook Pro Retina.

  • fitzage
    May 13, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I have a 15″ rMBP with 16GB RAM. I think that I could get by with 8GB RAM if I had to, but I wouldn’t want to. As usual it probably boils down less to what apps you use then it does to how many of them you use at once. For example, I can easily have a Photoshop, Illustrator, and a variety of other apps open at the same time with no issues, and even throw in VMWare. Although you’d probably be dealing with files that would send the RAM usage of Photoshop up a bit.

    After having the retina display, I wouldn’t want to go back to non-retina. But you will run into websites that annoy you with their fuzziness, especially at first. You kind of get used to it. I build all my sites with svgs as much as possible now just because I have a retina display.

    That being said, my wife uses Photoshop and InDesign on an 11″ Air that’s a couple years old and she has no complaints, so…

    • Krishna M. Sadasivam
      May 13, 2014 at 11:43 am

      Thanks, fitzage – I’m leaning towards the Macbook Pro Retina for the extra RAM and display quality. Though I’ll probably spring for the 13″ model instead of the 15″ model…

      • fitzage
        May 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm

        The one downside of the 13″ would be the lack of a discreet video card. Probably not a huge issue, but if you’re ever going to use it with a large external display, that might come into play.

        • Gordon McAlpin
          May 14, 2014 at 8:27 pm

          Ah, I have to second the importance of the discrete GPU. Not all apps take advantage of it, but check and see whether the ones you use frequently do, Krishna.

          • Krishna M. Sadasivam
            May 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm

            The discrete GPU is definitely something I would like to have, but it’s not a total deal breaker for me. The bulk of my apps don’t take any distinct advantage of the extra GPU, save for Photoshop. But I realize that this may change as developers release new versions of their software. Good points, for sure. The $2000 price tag was out of my range, but I may just wait and save up for the 15″ model instead.

  • Gordon McAlpin
    May 14, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    I have the 15″ rMBP with 16GB RAM, as well. I wouldn’t advise going to less RAM, like fitzage.

    As for the size of the monitor, it really depends on what you do when you’re actually out and about.90% of the time, I’m on an external monitor anyway, but when I’m at school I appreciate the 15″. 13″ is just too small for me to do anything but surf or type.

    • Krishna M. Sadasivam
      May 14, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Thanks, Gordon – I definitely plan on maxing out the RAM on which ever model I end up going with. I currently have a 15″ model – I’m curious, though: doesn’t the extra resolution of the Retina display make it possible to see more within the same area?

      • Gordon McAlpin
        May 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm

        I’m not aware of a way to do that. It doesn’t act like a 2880×1800 monitor; it uses high res assets and pretends to be a 1440×900. Anyway, even if you could, I wouldn’t, because the UI is already smaller that I would personally like it to be. (True resolution independence can’t come fast enough for me.)

        My screen size preference is as much about being able to click on what I want to as it is to be able to see it.

      • fitzage
        May 15, 2014 at 9:08 am

        You can set it for non-standard scaling, but unless you set it for 1:1 resolution, it won’t be optimal because things aren’t scaled to standard resolution. Of course if you set it to 1:1, you’ll need very young eyes to see anything.

        Default is, as Gordon said, an effective 1440×900. So you may actually end up with LESS effective space than your current 15″, if you have a high density display. I think the 13″ gives you the same effective resolution as the 11″ Air.