Thursday, October 30, 2014

Macbook Pro 15 Retinal (mid 2014)

- So I picked up a new macbook pro to replace my old mid 2010 15".  The main reason is I really wanted proper dual monitor setup and the old 2010 just doesn't have it.  It has only 1 mini display port.  I tried one of those Diamond BVU195 USB to DVI adapters which worked ok but since it uses your existing cpu/gpu to virtualize another video card it killed performance.  If I did anything on the usb display my cpu would spike to 90%.  If you are doing some light computing I guess it was fine but I was planning to start some Swift development and I need more cpu cycles for compiling while looking at reference and video tutorials on the other monitor.
- I thought hard between the 13" and the 15" but finally decided to go 15" since I'm planing to use this for development and the extra screen relastate when not docked to my 2 X 27" asus ips monitors would be helpful.  I also wanted the biggest cpu jump I could get and I had to go 15" for quad core.  I custom configured a top of the line one with the 2.8 ghz core i7, 16 gb ram, nvidia 750m, and 512GB ssd.  I couldn't quite swallow the $500 upgrade price to that 1 TB ssd.
- I'm using the amazon basics mini displayport to hdmi adapter and the built in hdmi port.  It works well including audio over hdmi.
- Performance was quite a nice speed bump.  xcode builds nice and fast now.
- I also run a full visual studio development environment inside a virtualbox vm (windows 8.1 enterprise) and that runs great too on the ssd.
- I tried a few games like guild wars 2 and diablo 3 and both run well on the 750m.  I ran borderlands 2 off the usb 3.0 external hard drive on the exFAT partition, and it ran great.
- I picked up a seagate backup plus slim 2TB.  I decided to install bootcamp onto an external drive and save all the ssd space for osx and vm.  I followed this guide which is quite a few steps but does indeed work.  I used a real windows 8.1 machine for all the windows steps though.
- To get imagex.exe I grabbed the windows 8.1 ADK. You only need to install the Deployment Package which is really small to get the imagex.exe.  I used a msdn windows 8.1 enterprise iso which I installed to a 1TB partition.  I created a second 1TB partition and formatted it to exFat so I could share between OS's.  I figure I could install some mac steam games on the exFat partition.
- Speeds aren't bad over usb 3.0.  They keep up with the 2.5" hdd just fine.
- I bought a second 2TB external drive.  I got a good deal on a seagate expansion drive.  These aren't quite as nice or as slim as the backup plus slim one but it's still nice.  I formatted this one hfs+ and use it for time machine backups.
- I picked up a suction cup hanger.  What you do is stick it to the external hdd then hook it over the top of the macbook screen.  That way it's easier to move around with the mbp and the hard drive just goes with you.  It's a bit ghetto but it works.
- Actually, a sticky car dash mount might be a better solution.
- Upgrading to Yosemite went smoothly.
- I love Karabiner which is a great keyboard remapper.  If you use a pc keyboard with a mac and want your navigation keys like home, end, and windows, alt keys mapped properly go install this.  It has some nice pc keyboard specific settings that make this a snap to remap and setup.
- The bottom of my old mac kind of got scuffed up so I'm going to try a top+bottom iCarbons set on the new one.
- The screen is sharp and beautiful and you don't see any scaling artifacts.  It really does look perfect.  If you want to run at native give SwitchResX a try and get ready to hold the mbp about 5 inches from your face to be able to read anything.  Display Menu in the app store is pretty nice too and there is a free version.
- This ikea napkin holder makes a nice dirt cheap vertical stand.

Hightly recommended.  So far I really like it.  It was really pricey, and I probably wouldn't have upgraded if my old one had dual monitor support.  Good thing apple products maintain really good resell value.  I expect this one to last a good long time.  I felt the time to buy was now since broadwell is pretty much delayed until next year so I don't expect a mbp refresh anytime soon

UPDATE 9/2/2015:
Some tips for those wanting to install windows 10 on a usb external hard drive (clean install ONLY) on a macbook.  You CANNOT upgrade from a previous version of windows on an external hard drive install.  No matter what I tried it wouldn't work.  Only a clean install worked.
- I upgraded to a 960GB crucial M500 SSD and I put it in this USB 3 enclosure.
- The guide (same one listed above):
- Grab the latest imagex.exe from the windows 10 version of the ADK (near the bottom)
The only thing you need to install out of that is the deployment package.
- I installed windows 10 pro from the msdn iso.
- Bootcamp 6 drivers are created on a usb flash drive from the mac os x side.  Just run bootcamp assistant and it will download the latest drivers and write them to a usb flash drive.
- I went ahead and still installed geforce experience and let it download and install the latest video drivers.
- to make the trackpad work better in bootcamp I like to install trackpad++
As a prereq you need to install powerplan first:
I actually went ahead and "donated" to register them.
- I also like this mouse speed switcher to have different settings depending if there is a mouse plugged in or not:
I also paid and registered for it but there are free open source alternatives (haven't researched them though).

Speeds are crazy fast over USB 3.  Crystal Diskmark was showing 450 MB/sec reads and 200 MB/sec writes.

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