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. 

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


View All Comments

  • Sabresiberian - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - link

    Haven't been interested in anything Apple since the Lisa, but I'm actually tempted to get one of these - which is saying a lot because I'm not a fan of the company at all.

    One thing for sure; I'm sure not interested in buying a different laptop made by someone else with a lousy display! You want my business, I suggest you at least follow Apple's lead here.

    I couldn't agree with Anand more on the state of quality of monitors in general - and the fact that you can buy a (Korean) 2560x1440 monitor now for $300, including shipping from S. Korea, tells the story on affordability there.

  • orthorim - Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - link

    Compared to this review, all the others out there are more or less a variation of "ohhhh... shiny!".

    Thanks for this fantastic in-depth article, AnandTech!
  • darwiniandude - Friday, June 29, 2012 - link

    Still waiting for mine to arrive, although I've used the rMBP a fair bit in the mean time.

    Not sure why 1/3rd of the comments are about a Sony Z series, and couldn't see mention of real word battery life tests?

    Regardless, 1st gen rMBP is an awesome product, and just like with the 1st MacBook Air, this model will look terrible compared to its 2nd or 3rd gen. Can't wait.
  • danrhiggins - Saturday, June 30, 2012 - link

    I have been trying to talk myself into buying the MBR for two weeks now to replace my 2011 17" MBP (to which I added SSD) because the 17" is just a bit too large/heavy to carry around. I use the 17" mostly for my photography hobby.

    The problem is that my main computer is a 13" Macbook air and I jumped on the new 2012 MBA - which I love. So after reading your article I took my 2012 MBA down to the Apple store and put it alongside the MBR on display. Then I brought up and created a couple of matching "virtual" desktops all in full screen mode. (I used MS Excel and one of the included templates for one of the windows as that would be mostly the same on both machines.)

    Then I scrolled up and down and swiped from left to right on both machines at the same time. I wanted to see if any of the issues described here manifested themselves in this admittedly crude comparison. I tried different resolutions on the MBR. (I would not be interested in the "Best for Retina" as I would be looking for more screen real estate.) I also tried it with graphics switching turned on and off.

    Where scrolling on the MBA was very smooth, be it up/down scrolling in Safari or in Excel or side to side scrolling between desktops, the MBR was noticeably jittery in comparison. It reminded me of when my HD cable signal has a bit of interference and can't quite keep up.

    To those coming from older MBP's this may not be an issue. But having grown accustomed to the much smoother operation (IMHO) of the MBA the MBA wins. For now. Yes, they are different machines with different goals. But I don't need the extra I/O ports (1 Thunderbolt and 2 USB 3 is enough given that I use BT keyboard and trackpad) and a Thunderbolt display as a "docking station".

    I look forward to the day that the MBR will have the smooth graphics of the MBA and have addressed any other issues. Then I will get one to replace my 17" MBP. Maybe Mountain Lion and a firmware upgrade or two will clean this up. Or maybe not until the next generation or two. Then the hardware and the software (including 3rd party) will catch up.

    Thanks again for your review. I was going to buy one today. They had what I needed at the Apple Store. But because of your review I did this test and I'm glad I did. Now I'll wait. And there will be one more available for all of those anxious to upgrade.
  • marraco - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    The retina display is a waste with that crappy Intel video. Reply
  • Fingalterre - Sunday, July 01, 2012 - link

    I have the Z from 2010. It is still as faster or as fast with its graphics and i620 processor as the latest Air or 13" Pro to which it is directly comparable. What the Z lacks is the multitouch ability and the scalability of the Air or Retina Pro. What I am left with is a computer whose graphics are too small to read and a mousepad too small to scroll with easily. Also, after using Windows and Lion, I think Windows 7 is just not as user friendly as OS X. The form factor of the Air and Retina Pro are also a joy when you travel, which I do much. The Mac App store, though limited compared to the IOS, also is something Sony just doesn't have.

    I have been a Windows user for 20 years after Apple lost me with their limited selection and miscues. I still have my reservations about their corporate culture, but right now, they are producing superior products, a well thought out support network, and works of beauty of art, which distinguish them from all other OEMs. Dell once did this--my wife kept her Dell 5150 laptop for 7 years, only to trade it in for a 17 in XPS which didn't work and which was not well supported,, and then to a Mac Book Air in 2010, which has met her every need (as a high end IT security person). My Retina Pro arrives on July 20 and my Z is going to Ebay to pay for it.
  • negativeions - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    What is the point in retina? Who cares. I mean it's ok, but the scaling is so utterly stupid it's beyond belief. Why in God's name don't Apple just program proper resolution independence into OSX... Then you could have any bloody user space you want with any resolution. Reply
  • Steelbom - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    What's the point? It looks fantastic. And why is the scaling stupid? It's a pretty great way to handle it. Reply
  • gunny2k6 - Tuesday, July 03, 2012 - link
    check the EUROCOM Panther 3.0

    talk about apple making high end partts in laptops i call BS ... this compnay and many others like Clevo and Lenovo before they bourght IBM's pc hardware side ... have been putting high end things in laptops since the BLOODY Pentium 4 Northwood !!!!

    THEY ALL BEEN DOING IT FOR YEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! before apple moved to intel !

    yes not for everyone as there big heavy and expensive what jobs did was bring those peoples ides to the masses !! when they moved to Intel .... they kept the high price tag from the PowerPC to the cheaper to make Intel based system and then used that spare cash for R&D to make the above ideas work for the masses !!
  • gunny2k6 - Tuesday, July 03, 2012 - link

    for got to say let me guess a years time we will see apple do something like this and all the praise will go to Apple for "inventing it " Reply

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