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.


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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  • rs2 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    ...the $2200 one that doesn't include an optical drive and has nowhere to put one. It's not like I want my $2200 device to be usable as an impromptu blu-ray player or anything like that. No, I have money to burn buying extra appliances that do things that my pricey laptop should be able to do, but can't.

    That's what I might say if I had a hole in my head, at any rate.
  • rs2 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Also, statements like this seem at least somewhat questionable:

    "The absence of an integrated Gigabit Ethernet port will surely bother some, but Apple offers a Thunderbolt to GigE adapter for $30 to accommodate."

    So Apple leaves out a feature that many people would expect as standard in a high-end laptop, but it's okay because they also happen to sell an optional, paid add-on accessory that provides gigabit ethernet connectivity? Same goes for their $10 power-supply adapter cable.

    How about calling them out for trying to nickel-and-dime people to death?
  • Fx1 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    God people like you make me sick.

    95% of people never used the ethernet port. i would rather than 25% shaved off the profile and weight. 10$ isn't much if your one of the sad people to have to use an ethernet.

    Spending £2000 on a laptop I'm not going to care about £7 on a adapter
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Chill. Either you're sick a lot or you're being hyperbolic...

    Putting Ethernet in won't increase width by 25%. There are many, many ways to do it and there are thinner laptops out there that support it, even if using hideous dongles. Furthermore there are a wealth of legitimate reasons for wanting it.

    Basically what I'm saying is, STFU noob.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Yay for paying for baseline features! That adaptor should come as standard with a laptop this expensive. Their penny-pinching with respect to their actual margins is infuriating. Reply
  • ramb0 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Thanks Anand, nice description of what's going on here with the Retina scaling.

    How is it possible that a 600x600 (for example) image looks better on the rMBP than it does on a standard MBP, and occupies the same amount of screen realestate?

    I understand the Backing Scale of 2.0 draws the pixes 4 times more, so therefore appears the same size as on a 1440 screen, but i don't understand how this works for a .jpg image for example.

    If it is just using pixel doubling, wouldn't the quality between the "retina" display and normal display be exactly the same, because it is just multiplying each pixel by 4. So essentially you end up with 4 pixels that are the same as each one.

    Also, on a separate note, it would be great if you could set the text & UI elements in scale mode of 1680 x 1050 or 1920 x 1200, but keep the "work space" elements as native 2880x1800 (Backing scale 1.0).
  • wfolta - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    As I understand it, the image will not look better. Images on disk, say, can look better (because you see pixels you couldn't have seen before). Some websites, like Apple's, will feed you higher-density images than if you were browsing with another machine, and obviously those will look better. Reply
  • Lepton87 - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    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.

    As Thunderbolt was supposed to be as transparent as possible, it’s not surprising that even QoS overhead is nonexistent but it’s something that is clearly necessary. I’m not sure this is Apple’s fault as I’ve seen similar behavior under Windows. I suspect it’s something that Intel is going to have to figure out a way to address.
    Somehow I doubt that you would be so lenient towards any other company, but if there are glitches in apple hardware it's your fault by your own admission or someone else is at fault. Way to stay neutral and impartial.
  • Evil_Sheep - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Wow, a real bronze medal from Anand! Fewer of these are handed out than Olympic bronze medals in odd-numbered years. And all Apple had to do was innovate and ship a completely revolutionary computing paradigm in displays which, in stark contrast to its PC competition, works virtually flawlessly from day one right down to reprogramming minute graphics routines and on a topic Anandtech has been loudly harping on for years.

    But never let it be said that Anandtech is too generous with its awards.
  • Freakie - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    Hey Anand, or any other employee of the website, aren't there a few parts of this review that very specifically break your traditional object reviews of products and hardware? I mean, it's fine to be excited about something, as Anand is obviously about this laptop, but I think he is so excited that the website's integrity is a little bit compromised. I realize that anyone from the website reading this will recognize that I don't have any right to speak about the integrity of an article written by Anand himself on his own website, but I feel like it should be said anyways, in hopes of keeping your minds clear and objective.

    It's just things like praising the fact that they got rid of an extra piece of glass on the screen, and how much praise Anand gave for this admittedly stupid thing to point out. As Anand said, this is a matte screen, not a glossy screen, so there being an extra piece of glass in the front would be completely ridiculous, right? The only mention of other matte screens is that those who have used a matte screen in the past are used to not having a protective piece of glass or plastic in between them and when the real LCD starts. Other than that, there isn't anything special about it not having that extra piece of glass. Yet it just baffles me how much Anand goes on about how it has magically been engineered away somehow.

    Sorry if I sound pretentiously opinionated. I just really felt that the integrity and methodical reviews that so many people come to for feels very lacking in this review >_<

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