Last year when I wrote about the new MacBook Airs I offered two forward looking paragraphs:

What happens from here on out is what's really interesting. Intel has already committed to moving the TDP of its mainstream parts from 35W - 45W down to 10 - 20W. Since the Air is the new mainstream Mac notebook, Apple has already made that move. The performance in this 10 - 20W segment is going to get much better over the next two years, particularly once Haswell arrives.

The Thunderbolt Display is the first sign of what's to come. Moving IO controllers and expansion into the display, and potentially even moving discrete GPUs out of the notebook are all in store for us. Apple is really ahead of the curve here, but it's easy to imagine a future where laptops become a lot more like the new Air and shift to a couple high bandwidth ports instead of numerous lower bandwidth connections.

Perhaps I was being too aggressive in the prediction of a couple of high bandwidth ports. After all, the next-generation MacBook Pro with Retina Display features four such IO ports (2 x Thunderbolt and 2 x USB 3.0). But you get my point. Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire 800 are both gone. The discrete GPU is still present but I suspect even its days are numbered, at least inside the chassis. The personal computer as we knew it for so long, is changing.

The personal computer is getting thinner, lighter, more integrated and more appliance-like. The movement is no longer confined to just Apple either. The traditional PC OEMs are following suit. Even Microsoft has finally entered the PC hardware business, something it threatened to do for years but hadn't until now. Distribution models will change, the lines between different form factors will continue to blur. What was once a mature industry is going through a significant transformation. It’s exciting but at the same time it makes me uneasy. When I first got into this industry everyone had stories of companies with great ideas that just didn’t make it. As we go through this revolution in computing I’m beginning to see, first hand, the very same.

Apple makes the bulk of its revenue from devices that don’t look like traditional personal computers. For the past couple of years I’ve been worried that it would wake up and decide the traditional Mac is a burden, and it should instead be in the business of strictly selling consumer devices. With its announcements two weeks ago in San Francisco, I can happily say that my fears haven’t come true. At least not yet.

It’s been a while since Apple did a really exciting MacBook Pro launch. Much to my surprise, even the move to Sandy Bridge, the first quad-core in a MacBook Pro, was done without even whispers of a press conference. Apple threw up the new products on its online store, shipped inventory to its retail outlets, updated the website and called it a day. Every iPhone and iPad announcement however was accompanied with much fanfare. The MacBook Pro seemed almost forgotten.

With its WWDC unveil however Apple took something that it had resigned to unexciting, dare I say uncool status, and made a huge deal about it. Two weeks ago Apple did the expected and offered relatively modest upgrades to all of its portable Macs, all while introducing something bold.

Apple calls it the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. You’ll see me refer to it as the next-gen MacBook Pro, Retina MacBook Pro, rMBP or some other permutation of these words.

After using it for the past two weeks I can honestly say it’s the best Mac Apple has ever built. And there’s a lot more to it than hardware.

Portability

If you were hoping for a 15-inch MacBook Air, that’s not what the rMBP is. Instead it is a far more portable 15-inch MacBook Pro. I have to admit I was a bit let down the first time I laid eyes on the next-gen MacBook Pro, it looks good but it doesn’t look all that different. The disappointment quickly faded as I actually picked up the machine and started carrying it around. It’s not ultra light, but man does it make the previous chassis feel dated.

While I never really liked lugging around the old MBP (and it always made me feel like the old fogey at tradeshows where everyone else had something 13-inches or smaller), carrying the rMBP is a pleasure by comparison. Pictures really don’t do it justice. The impressively thin display assembly or overall chassis thickness look neat in a photo but it’s not until you actually live with the rMBP that you can appreciate what Apple has done here. I carry around a 15-inch MacBook Pro because it’s my desktop, and as such it’s incredibly useful to have with me when I travel. For my personal usage model, the Retina MacBook Pro is perfect.

If your workload demands that you need the performance of a MacBook Pro and your lifestyle requires you to carry it around a lot, the reduction in thickness and weight alone will be worth the upgrade to the rMBP. If you spend most of your time stationary however, you’ll have to be sold on the display and internal characteristics alone. The bad news is if the design doesn’t get you, everything else will.


From left to right: 11-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Air, 15-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Pro with Retina Display


From left to right: 11-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with Retina Display


From left to right: 11-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Design & Silicon
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  • orthorim - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    A very high resolution display is not a retina display - totally different thing.

    Retina is a special mode where each logical pixel is made up of 4 physical pixels, and special support for fonts and images.

    It's a huge step to go from 1:1 logical : physical pixels to a different factor. It's like bitmap based fonts vs. points-based vector fonts.

    Maybe a lot of PC manufacturers just don't get that?
    Reply
  • vegemeister - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    Apple is not using a PPI independent UI for their high-res displays though. There's a separate set of assets at 2x resolution, and programs that don't acknowledge that they're rendering at 2x resolution get upscaled.

    A real PPI independent UI, such as Gnome 2, uses vector resources for everything and allows applications to query the PPI of the display so they can render at appropriate dimensions.
    Reply
  • maraboshi - Saturday, June 30, 2012 - link

    and still that was FAIL because it runs Windows and not a brilliant OS like the Apple one...when will you stupid Apple haters will understand the fucking difference????? Reply
  • gbanfalvi - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    I have it. It's a piece of crap. It feels like they just stuffed everything they could in this device without thinking.

    The pads on the bottom fell of from the heat.
    The battery died seven months in.
    The trackpad starts glitching regularly (not to mention it's terrible in general).
    The 1080p screen gets lines across it.
    The laptop overheats when I put it in speed mode.

    Evidence: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/245279/Photos/Photo%20201...
    Reply
  • azaat07 - Friday, July 13, 2012 - link

    Hole in your hyperbole...

    Only option is Intel Graphics 4000, shared memory.

    Intel 4k graphics are on par with 2007 discrete.

    Andrew
    Reply
  • woodsielord - Sunday, July 15, 2012 - link

    I have the said computer. I bought it with very high expectations, and the screen is still amazing, but the rest of the hardware keeps causing trouble. I have lived without my computer 3+ months due to repairs, and currently I'm typing this from my girlfriend's Zenbook (which, on the other hand, is zero problems and all play).

    The lack of international Sony support and the proclimity to hardware failure rule out Sony of all my future purchases. Many times I said to myself that I should have bought a MBP instead. If Sony stopped spewing forth so many products and instead tended to the details of flagship products and cared about its customers, it might have worked.
    Reply
  • mark3785 - Saturday, September 08, 2012 - link

    Ok, I'll play the fanboy…

    This is where Apple haters really get pissed (and as an Apple fan from the mid 80s (and a loyalist from the 90 days from bankruptcy days) (if I'm playing the fanboi thing I may as well go whole hog) I really start to chuckle).

    The MacBook Pro with retina display is proof positive that Apple can do things that the windows community can't because Apple has control of both sides of the coin, the hardware and the OS, plus (and this is a really huge plus) they have some very smart people working for them. It's one thing to put a hires display on a computer and an entirely different thing to make that display resolution independent. Sony may have come out with a hires laptop back in 2010, but they didn't do anything interesting with it.

    Eventually 2880x1800 will be run of the mill and higher resolutions will start to dominate. It isn't the number of pixels, it's how the system uses them to it's best advantage. This is (hopefully) the beginning of a new trend.

    BTW, one helluva review! Reviews are boring, though comforting when they state the obvious (yes, you bought a nifty machine, pat on the head) but a review this informative and complete just reinvigorates my interest in the hobby.
    Reply
  • Targon - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    You need to look at the different price points that machines are sold for before you make statements like that. Most manufacturers see far greater volumes in the $500 range than they see in the $1500+ range, and it is that range that the majority of consumers look when it comes to buying a computer, either desktop or laptop.

    The area that manufacturers SHOULD be moving in is to make the move to a 1920x1080 display across their entire range of 14 inch and greater machines as the norm, rather than as an extra feature that people need to pay extra for if you are in the $450+ price range. Higher resolutions should be offered as the norm for higher end laptop displays. Until that happens, the PC side of the industry will seem to be inferior when it comes to display technology.

    If you think about it, display technologies have been fairly stagnant except from Apple, and we have not seen an aggressive attempt to improve what we see out there. 1920x1080 displays have been the norm for too long, and going to 1920x1200 isn't enough.
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    Check out the new Sony TT Reply
  • vegemeister - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    1920x1080 should be the norm for 11". Reply

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