Dan Belcher writes:
I don’t have a personal computer at the moment — apart from an iPad 3 and an iPhone 5. I am currently looking for a Mac; which do you think would provide the best experience: an iMac 27″ or a MacBook Pro Retina 13″? I can’t decide if I want more power or portability. What do you suggest?
Dan, for starters, the answer to this question largely depends on how you will primarily be using the computer, and the capabilities most important toward fulfilling this task.
I’ll begin with the external pros and cons of each machine. The 2012 iMac 27″ benefited from its weight loss to 21 pounds. This weight loss may be largely attributed to the new slimline build that Apple is using for all of its new personal computer products (MacBook Pro Retina, MacBook Air, etc.). All of the in-out ports are still located on the back of the screen.
All of the following in-out ports are included with both iMac sizes: 3.5 mm headphone jack, SDXC memory card reader, two Thunderbolt ports, a gigabit ethernet port, and four USB 3.0 ports.
The MacBook Pro Retina 13″ boasts similar aesthetic attributes: MagSafe 2 power port, two Thunderbolt ports (up to 10 Gbps), two USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps), HDMI port, headphone port, and SDXC card slot.
Aesthetically, the two are quite similar aside from the obvious weight and size differences. Internally, the Pro Retina 13″ will give you 128 GB of storage space versus 1 TB in the iMac. If you choose the Pro Retina 13″, I would recommend purchasing an external hard drive. To point you in the right direction, check out my recent post about the best external hard drives for a Mac.
Additional internal differences are the graphics cards and processors. The graphics difference between the Pro Retina 13″ and the iMac are staggering. The iMac has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX graphics processor with 1 GB of GDDR5 memory; the Pro Retina 13″ has Intel HD Graphics 4000. If the graphics card makes enough of a difference with you but you still want the portability of the MacBook, the Pro Retina 15″ contains the same graphics card as the iMac.
The most powerful iMac 27″ runs a 3.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (turbo boost up to 3.6 GHz) with 6 MB L3 cache. In contrast, the most powerful Pro Retina 13″ runs a 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (turbo boost up to 3.1 GHz) with 3 MB shared L3 cache.
The catch? They are both priced similarly.
All being said, I still support my original answer that you should purchase a machine based on how, specifically, it fits your needs and expectancies.