Boot Camp Behavior

When the MacBook Pro with Retina Display first started shipping Apple hadn’t even released Boot Camp drivers for the system. Since then Apple has uploaded a Windows Support package to its servers, and the Boot Camp Assistant will give you drivers for everything in the machine should you ask for it.

The driver bundle and Boot Camp Assistant work with both Windows 7 and the Windows 8 Release Preview, although Apple only explicitly offers support for the former. You don’t have to do anything to make the Windows 8 RP work with the Boot Camp Assistant, just supply the Win 8 RP ISO instead of the Windows 7 image during the Boot Camp setup and you’re all set.

Like all previous MacBook Pro Boot Camp installs, only the discrete GPU is “connected” under Windows. Apple relies on a lot of its own software to switch between processor and discrete graphics which obviously isn’t made available under Windows, thus you only get the dGPU. Apple uses NVIDIA’s 296.49 drivers for the GeForce GT 650M under Windows. Since the standard Windows desktop doesn’t support integer DPI scaling (see update below as you can force 2.0x scaling) Apple picked the next best option and configures Windows for 1.5x DPI scaling and 2880 x 1800 as the defaults. The result is a desktop that looks like this:

At the largest text scaling setting Windows is remarkably usable on the 15.4-inch display at 2880 x 1800. Unfortunately as I mentioned in the Zenbook Prime review, Windows 7 and third party handling of DPI scaling is hardly elegant. While applications that aren’t Retina-aware under OS X tend to simply have blurry text, those that don’t behave properly with DPI scaling under Windows just look odd. Some text elements will be huge and overflow outside of their normal borders, while others will ignore the scaling setting entirely and just be too small. It’s passable in a pinch but suboptimal for certain.


Windows 8 RP on the rMBP. Note the Skyfall trailer is in a full 1080p window

Windows 8 does a somewhat better job, but only under Metro. Metro supports integer DPI scaling at 1 and 2x factors, similar to OS X. With DPI scaling enabled under Windows 8, Metro looks like it would at 1440 x 900 - similar to the default setting for the Retina MacBook Pro under OS X. 


2
00% DPI scaling under Windows 7

Update: As many of you have correctly pointed out, Windows allows you to specify custom DPI scaling modes including an integer 2.0 setting. The result is the same "1440 x 900"-like desktop you get under OS X. Application compatibility still appears to be an issue, check out the gallery below for some examples. Overall Windows is very usable on the rMBP, but just as under OS X the overall experience really depends on application support.

Software Funniness

With the Retina MacBook Pro I get the distinct impression it was launched before the software was ready to support it. Apple did an amazing job enabling Retina support in all of the iLife applications, but iWork isn’t ready for it yet. The system technically launched without Boot Camp support although that was soon added. Then there are the UI performance issues in applications like Safari under the currently available version of Lion. There are also occasional graphical glitches under Lion. the occasional flashing of UI elements, nothing major but just not the polish we’re used to from Apple. Once again, Mountain Lion addresses a lot of this and is only a month out but you still have to deal with reality in the interim.

I also had a strange experience where the CPU clocks on the system magically decided to get clamped down to around 1.2GHz on battery power. A simple reset of the PRAM and SMC fixed the problem but it was odd behavior for sure. I can’t completely fault Apple for this one, as I know I subjected the rMBP to a bunch of strange tests over the course of the past week and a half.

If you’re buying today, just be aware that the best experience will come with Mountain Lion and even then you’ll have to wait an unspecified amount of time for Retina-aware app updates.

Driving the Retina Display: A Performance Discussion All Flash Storage
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  • Mumrik - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link


    Anand, on page 4 you categorize the rMBP as a consumer device: "At 220 pixels per inch it’s easily the highest density consumer notebook panel shipping today.", but back on page 2 you made a deal of of calling it a pro "appliance" and pointed out that it wasn't a consumer device.

    Other than that - this DPI improvement really needs to get moving. It's been so many years and we've essentially been standing still since LCDs took over and the monitor business became a race towards the bottom. IPS, high DPI and native support for it in software PLEASE. 120hz would be nice too.
    Reply
  • dwade123 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    I don't understand why Apple doesn't take advantage of their lead in Thunderbolt. This machine screams for E-GPU with GTX 670! Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Probably because right now the user experience would be poor. See Anand's comments about sound and USB cutting out when high-bandwidth transfers are occurring. That would be catastrophic mid-game and would definitely lead me to return the hardware as unfit for purpose. Apple have had their slip-ups but they rarely release hardware that is unfit for purpose. Reply
  • inaphasia - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Does Apple have some sort of exclusive deal (ie monopoly with an expiration date) on these displays, or can anybody (HP, Asus, Lenovo etc) use them if they want to? Reply
  • wfolta - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    In recent years, Apple has been the King of the Supply Chain due to Tim Cook. He's now the CEO. I doubt that there will be many retina 15" screens available for Apple's competitors for a year or more.

    Even if Apple didn't lock up the supply chain, Apple's competitors have been running towards lower resolutions, or the entertainment-oriented 16:9 1920x1080 (aka 1080p), so it will take them a while to pivot towards higher-density displays even if they were growing on trees.
    Reply
  • Constructor - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    Apple has been paying huge sums (in the Billions of Dollars!) to component manufacturers in advance to have them develop specific components such as this one, even paying for factories to be built for manufacturing exclusively for Apple for a certain time.

    It is also possible that Apple has licensed certain patents from various (other) manufacturers for their exclusive use which might preclude open-market sales of the same components even after the exclusive deal with Apple is up, because the display manufacturer may not be able to keep using these same patents.

    In short: The chances for PC manufacturers to get at them just by waiting for them to drop into the market eventually don't look too good.

    After all, none of the other Retina displays have appeared in other products yet. And the iPhone 4 is already two years old.

    So either the non-Apple-supplying component manufacturers or the PC builders will have to actually pay for their own development. And given their mostly dismal profit margins and relatively low volumes in the premium segment, I wouldn't hold my breath.
    Reply
  • Shanmugam - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Anand and Team,

    Excellent review again.

    When is the MacBook Air Mid 2012 review coming? I really want to see the battery life improvement, I can see that it almost tops out at 8Hours for light work load for 13" MBA.

    Cannot wait!!!
    Reply
  • smozes - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Anand states: "[E]nough to make me actually want to use the Mac as a portable when at home rather than tethered to an external panel. The added portability of the chassis likely contributes to that fact though."

    I work with an external display at home, and given that there are none yet at this caliber, I'm wondering about doing away with the external display and working only with the rMBP. In the past I've always needed external displays for viewing more info, and I'm curious if this is no longer necessary.

    Has anyone tried doing away with an external display and just using the rMBP on a stand with a mouse and keyboard? Since the display includes more info than a cinema display, and given healthy eyesight, would this setup be as ergonomic and efficient?
    Reply
  • boeush - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    For several years, I've been using 17'' notebooks with 1920x1200 displays. That resolution had been more than enough for the 17'' form factor; having even such a resolution on a 15'' screen is going overboard, and doing it on an 11'' tablet is just plane bonkers. I don't see the individual pixels on my laptop's screen, and I'd wager neither would most other people unless they use magnifying lenses.

    I really don't get the point of wasting money on over-spec'ed hardware, and burning energy pushing all those invisible pixels.

    I'd rather have reasonable display resolutions matched to the actual physiological capabilities of the human eye, and spend the rest of the cost and power budgets on either weight reductions, or better battery life, or higher computing performance, or more powerful 3G/4G/Wi-Fi radios, etc.

    The marketing-hype idiocy of "retina displays" now appears to be driving the industry from one intolerable extreme (of crappy pannels with sup-par resolutions) right into the diametrically opposite insanity -- that of ridiculously overbuilt hardware.

    Why can't we just have cost-effective, performance-balanced, SANE designs anymore?
    Reply
  • darkcrayon - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Reminds me of comments when the 3rd gen iPad screen was introduced. You have a review which both subjectively (from an extremely experienced user) and objectively from tests shows this is the best display ever for a laptop. Yet people ignore all of that and say it's a waste... I think it would be a waste if it didn't actually... You know... Provide a visibly dramatic level of improvement. And its better to make a large jump bordering on "overkill" than to make tiny incremental steps with something like display resolution- fragmentation/etc being what it is, Reply

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