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

  • ragnarokvr1 - Wednesday, July 04, 2012 - link

    I'm utterly sick of reading about macintosh "innovation", it reminds me of people referring to Stracraft "2" as a revolutionizing video game in the series. ANYTHING macintosh does DELL does better, at a cheaper price.
    Comfort of keyboard? That's a PERSONAL TASTE, I personally HATE keyboards that have their buttons separated by spaces in-between, it makes me look down every time I type as if I was laying my hands on a computer for the first time back in 97.
    I have NO IDEA what this writer is on about, all macintosh does is take components from Intel, AMD or NVIDIA, stick them in a lackluster chassis, stick an outrageous price tag on it and call it a revolution. I thought this was a professional website. I guess I was wrong.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    Starcraft 2 is one of the best games of the last five years, the laptop industry follows Apple's lead, and you have terrible opinions. Reply
  • ragnarokvr1 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    it's people like you that make this world a living hell Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    Look who's mad.

    I'd be mad too if in my world I deluded myself into thinking that overweight housewives were supermodels and vice versa
  • ramb0 - Sunday, July 08, 2012 - link

    i hope for your sake you're just trolling. Otherwise, you're never going to be anything more than the loser you are today. good luck sir. Reply
  • Macgurl111 - Friday, July 06, 2012 - link

    Thank you for this review. When placing the 2010 mbp next to the rmbp it does look a bit dated. I have been using this for 2 weeks and so in love with it. Once again thank you for your review. And wow 442 comments on a website? :) Congrats haha Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, July 09, 2012 - link

    Tried one of these in store and the window resize animations were just painful, the frame rate was really slow so the animation was really choppy, and as the review states Safari scrolling was easily below 30fps on some pages. Hope these are fixed. Reply
  • K1 - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    My RMBP reached 96C when i opened multiple videos in youtube and played all in 1080p resolution. Once i closed them the temperature is immediately back to <60 (in a min or so..). I used 'Temperature Monitor' Reply
  • hummerchine - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Steller review Anand...I'm impressed beyond words. This is why your site is on my top-ten list of sites to check on a regular basis. I'm flabbergasted by all of the negative were so right on! Why in the heck do the negative ones even read your reviews? I mean, seriously...

    FANTASTIC job on everything you do...please keep it up!
  • hummerchine - Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - link

    Uh, make that "Stellar"... Reply

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