Mac Book Pro with Retina Display or the Dell XPS 13



My long serving Dell XPS finally gave in and I am in a dilemma as to which laptop to pick up next. I just finished my M.Arch, so dun necessarily need a very beefed up laptop to carry around. I wanted something light and portable which can run the basic stuff like AutoCAD, Sketchup, Rhino and Adobe Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator, as I plan to get a desktop in a few months as well.

My choices are the Mac Book Pro with Retina Display and the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook. 

Also, I have never used a Mac extensively for any of the architecture programs before this, so I am a little worried about how well it can manage these softwares. Does any of you run Revit successfully on the mac? 

Thanks for the help in advance!

Jun 21, 13 12:43 pm

If portability is a concern and money is no object, go for the Mac. You can run Windows-based programs like Revit and AutoCAD via Boot Camp, and with Parallels or Fusion, those apps can appear on your dock alongside your Mac OS X apps. It's like having two computers in one.

My own setup: 15" MBP w/ Retina Display, with an external 27" Apple Cinema display, keyboard and mouse at home. At home, it's like a full-size workstation, and if I need something portable, I just grab the MBP and run. I've never had any performance issues running Revit in Parallels, although if I were doing something resource-intensive such as a rendering, I'd boot straight into Windows via Boot Camp. That said, it didn't come cheap... Thank God for student discounts and student loans.

If money is a factor, I'd get a powerful PC workstation for Revit, etc., and then something like an iPad for portable use.

Jun 21, 13 1:13 pm
won and done williams

I've always been a bit perplexed by people running Windows on a Mac. You might as well just buy a Windows machine at half the price and not have to contend with the performance issues associated with Parallels/Bootcamp. I've used PCs in an office setting for years and a Mac at home. After starting my own shop, I wanted to go all Mac and have mixed feelings with the results. I find AutoCAD for Mac to be very clunky (can't imagine Revit to be much better, but haven't tried). My feeling is AutoCAD released it as an afterthought because there was a demand, but they've put next to zero time into refining it. I've also found that the Mac OS is not what it used to be. (I'm currently running Mountain Lion.) Years ago, the Mac OS ran absolutely seamlessly across all software. I've had Adobe issues with Mountain Lion as well as Office and AutoCAD. All that being said, I hate the idea of going back to Windows and it's still hard not to love the Mac hardware. If I had to make the decision to go Mac again would I? I think so, but it's not as clear cut as I thought it would be.

Typed from my MBP Retina.

Jun 21, 13 3:22 pm

Invest in the desktop, that's where you get the most bang for your buck anyways. A Dell XPS is plenty to run the programs you listed and if you require anything more than that, you're desktop could carry the load. Also, the "retina display" is just an unnecessary added cost.

I've been in the same situation, it took two MBPs (started with a powerbook) to get me through undergrad and grad school. After grad school my MBP had a heart attack and I had the opportunity to seriously upgrade my desktop or buy another MBP. I went for the upgrades and I'm glad I did. A modest laptop is all you really need post-grad. If you're traveling quite a bit, your firm should spring for a legit workstation laptop.   

Jun 21, 13 6:47 pm


There are no performance issues with Bootcamp. It is essentially running independent of the Mac OS. Parallels is not good, as it runs, well, parallel to Mac OS.

Both Rhino and Autocad are extremely buggy for Mac, so Bootcamp is the way to go...

Jun 21, 13 8:50 pm

Parallels is only good for small stuff programs... but for Revit... I personally have found it troublesome 

Jun 22, 13 12:18 pm

Which version of windows is best to run bootcamp, 7 or 8 , is there any performance issues using bootcamp with windows 8. 

I have a 15 MBP , retina and was wondering which windows version to get.

Jun 22, 13 1:37 pm

I've been using Windows 7 on mine, and so far haven't found a compelling reason to upgrade.

Jun 22, 13 10:47 pm

all these retina displays, finger swipe devices are absolutely useless actually

Jun 23, 13 12:42 am

Windows 8 is a disaster for anything but home media center applications - stick with 7.  And there's no issue with installing 7 on a Mac with Bootcamp... performance is snappier than most off the shelf PCs because it is a clean install/no bloatware.

Jun 23, 13 1:07 am

Thanks David, and Janosh, I will try windows 7 since it seems reliable and cheaper 

Jun 23, 13 1:29 am

I use an HP Spectre with win and run Revit 2014 with no problems - that being said, a MBP with Retina display would be your best bet - besides it's more hip

Jun 23, 13 4:47 pm

Thank you for all the help! I ended up getting the MBP.  Seems alright as of now!! 

Jun 23, 13 6:41 pm

I don't mean to hijack the thread, but I do have a question regarding architectural use of laptops. When running programs with complex 3d models and doing renderings, does it help to have a beefy graphics card or is that not used with those programs?

Jun 23, 13 8:04 pm

i vote the xps. i have the 15inch xps with all the goods and it's a stud. regularly outperforms the macs in my office. I actually use it for work more than my assigned macbook pro. 

the speakers are phenomenal.  i7 and a powerful graphics card allow it to run more programs simultaneously than one would ever need. 

plus it's easily a grand less than the mac with the same features. 

the biggest con for me is the short battery life and how hot the bottom gets. 

Jun 23, 13 10:02 pm

Windows 7, no question!

Cyclist, yes, the graphics card is very important for running 3d programs. But, be careful - there is no reason to go for the Nvidia Quadro line of cards (those are the "workstation" cards) - the Nvidia Geforce (gaming cards) do just as well, and cost 5x less.

Jun 24, 13 10:26 am

ansat - smart choice - your eyes will thank you - after 8 hours on my HP Spectre, I can't drive. I saved $1200, and now need new glasses. 

Jun 24, 13 11:32 am
I'm looking at the Lenovo y500 (my budget isn't too lavish). You can get it with dual nvidia 750 graphics cards with an i7 at 3.4 ghz. Down side is that it's a 3rd gen intel processor, not a new 4th gen haswell. It's also kinda ugly when open-it's a gaming notebook. I'll probably just hook it up to an ext. monitor most if the time.
Jun 24, 13 1:17 pm

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