Both will cost $2199.
The MBA, as you've said, will have a 512GB SSD, compared to the MBP's 256GB.
According to MacTracker, the MBP has a slight edge in performance, 7841 to 6804. Note that that's the "standard" MBP, not the r. I don't know if the r would increase that differential even more.
According to Apple's website:
The MBA has an SD slot, while the MBP has an SDXC slot.
The MBA has one Thunderbolt port, while the MBP has two.
The MBP also has an HDMI port, while the MBA does not.
The MBA is thinner and lighter.
That is a tough call. The more I had to haul it around, the more I'd go for the MBA for its portability. One thing I'm sure of, if at all possible, I'd go some place that displayed both of them so I could play with each (and especially look at r vs non r) and I think that would make my decision for me.
I would defintiely go for the retina MBP. I purchased a 13" Air in July 2012 and recently sold it to upgrade to the rMBP.
I went for the i5, 256 GB standard configuration. It was sufficient for my needs. Unless you need to do fairly intensive cpu taks, I would not bother for the i5 to i7 upgrade. Save the money and buy something else.
If the MBA cpu (2.0 Ghz) is sufficient for your needs, the rMBP I5 will be more than enough!
Apart from that, the only difference in the configurations you mentioned is the hard drive space. 256 GB is still quite a lot. I have put around 20 movies on mine (some in HD) alodn with HD TV shows, world of warcraft, a reasonable sized iPhoto library and still have around 90 GB left. I use dropbox for my documents, thus saving hard drive space.
In the UK, the MBA with those specs is higher than the rMBP!! (using education discount). In that case, I would really just go for the rMBP.
The weight is a little more than the Air, but when I carry mine to University, I don't notice any difference to be honest (I use an incase messenger bag). Also, with the retina you get more ports, as the other person said.
I have based my opinion on evidence, having owned a 2012 MBA and a rMBP 13".
Good luck with you decission!
thank you for your advice
i will get rMBP 256gb, and i believe i will get a i7 update. i totally agree with you that it may not make a big difference, as it is anyways a two core i7 rather than a quad core one, but since i plan on keeping the laptop for 3-4 years i think i will take the leap.
just tell me, is retina display toooo good, or was the air display enough? cause i am actually basing this choice on the quality of the screen. it matters to me as i watch too much movies and a read a lot.
My decission to upgrade from the air to the rMBP was soley based on the retina display!
I know many people will think this is an overkill, but I really loved the display on the 15" when I saw it in June. Although it is the same display as the iPad 3/4, it makes a 'huge' difference on OSX! Unlike anything you have ever seen before. Reading text will be a lot more crisp for you.
If you go to an Apple store, you can compare them side-by-side and see the difference for yourself. You can't go back to a lower resolution display after using the retina, trust me!
But as you are spending so much, you might as well get the best you can! Go for it, you won't be disappointed!!