August 7, 2012

730 words 4 mins read

Review: MacBook Pro with Retina

When the MacBook Pros with Retina display were first announced, I figured we’d never buy them at work because they were more expensive. As it turns out, if you take a non-Retina MacBook Pro and add 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD which makes the system specs identical to the Retina Pro (sans screen), the Retina is actually cheaper. Something to keep in mind if you are trying to decide between Retina and non-Retina. So we ended up getting a few of these new new Retina Pros and I’ve been using one as my primary machine since the day they arrived. Jon like.

Retina Screen

Well, this is the “MacBook Pro with Retinal Display”, so why not start by reviewing that. To put it simply, it’s freaking shiny. From the instant I turned the machine on, I could tell the difference in display density. The text on the Retina Pro was just so crisp and clean. I instantly fell in love with the display (much like the iPad 3’s screen). At first the display is simply so much more crisp and (I feel) vibrant. I didn’t realize how much the display was spoiling me until I launched an app that wasn’t retina friendly… the text was all pixelated and stuff… eww.

On the flip side, a coworker looked at the display and couldn’t tell the difference. I’d suggest anyone who’s interested in the Retina display go down to their local Apple store and compare the two. I look at several dozen different screens each day, so I can instantly spot these things, if you can’t (or your eyesight isn’t so good) then it might not be worth the upgrade yet.

The interesting part about the Retina display is that while it has massively more resolution, everything on screen looks just the same as it does on other Macs. Apple has done something to scale the entire UI, frankly the entire OS, up in size. Icons, text, and everything else are now twice as large so as to remain readable. You have the option of going into the Display settings and changing the scale size to reflect a number of different resolutions all the way from 1024×640 to 1920×1200. Normally, I leave my machine on the default (middle) setting, but occasionally when I’ve needed a lot more resolution to work on something — I make a temporary adjustment. Takes only a second to flip in and out.


While the Retina Pro is technically still part of the “MacBook Pro” line, it is actually more like the offspring of a Pro and an Air. At 15” it certainly isn’t a small travel companion. However the Retina Pro is a bit thinner and lighter than its regular Pro counter parts. If you’re used to carrying an Air (or another ultra portable), you will notice the weight difference (as the Retina weighs in about 1.5 pounds more than the Air). I’ve been carrying the Retina Pro with me to and from work everyday — I have carried much MUCH heavier laptops on a regular basis — and it doesn’t feel all that bad to me. If you travel and still need a powerful machine — the Retina Pro will treat you decently.

The case itself looks and feels much like most Macs these days. That being said, the Retina Pro is only .71” thick as compared to .95” thickness of the regular MacBook Pros. Apple got some of that slimming figure by skipping the standard optical drive. Much like with an Air, you’ll be annoyed by this occasionally, though for the most part, I don’t use optical media any more these days. Either I can download the software… or I just don’t care.


At the end of the day, the reason you buy a MacBook Pro with Retina… is for the Retina display. You can get power and speed out of regular MacBooks for potentially less cost. The Retina does lend itself to being a more portable powerhouse, but you probably won’t buy it for that. I’ve been carrying the Retina Pro almost everyday now, not because I don’t have any other machines (I’m IT — I can have any computer I want), but because the Retina screen is so gorram sexy. I will gladly accept the extra weight for the screen quality (oh, and the bumping sound system too).