Achieving Retina - Redux

I've already gone over how Apple enables Retina support on OS X so I'll point you back to the 15-inch rMBP review for a deeper dive into everything Apple did here. In short, the 13's default configuration approximates a 1280 x 800 display but with 4x the number of pixels. All UI elements and things like Finder windows are the same size they would be if they were rendered on a 13.3-inch, 1280 x 800 panel, but they contain 4x the pixels (and thus look awesome). Images and other non-scaled objects are mapped 1-to-1 with panel resolution. This allows you to display a 2500 x 1400 image in actual size (1:1 mapping, without zooming out) while still having perfectly legible menus, icons and text.

If you need additional desktop real estate, Apple provides two scaled resolution modes: 1440 x 900 and 1680 x 1050. At these resolutions, the desktop is rendered at 4x the scaled resolution (1440*2 x 900*2) and then scaled down to fit the 2560 x 1600 panel. Apple wrote its own scaling and filtering algorithms to maintain consistent quality across both Intel processor graphics and NVIDIA discrete graphics (15-inch rMBP). The added scaling and filtering work means there is a performance penalty to enabling these scaled modes, but in practice it's rarely that impactful. Also since you're performing a non-integer mapping of resolution to pixels on the downscale, there is some loss in quality but once again it's not hugely noticeable thanks to Apple's filtering algorithms.

Once again, UI elements, text, windows and icons are also rendered at 4x their size so everything remains legible, but things like images and videos remain unscaled allowing you to fit more content on your screen at the same time.

Similar to the 15-inch rMBP, Apple doesn't directly expose a native 2560 x 1600 setting although there are ways around that.


In using the 13-inch rMBP I found myself frequently switching between the native 1280 x 800 and two scaled modes. For basic web browsing or reading, the 1280 x 800 setting delivered the best overall experience. Everything was easily legible from a distance and quality was great thanks to 1:1 pixel mapping. The 1440 x 900 scaled setting was perfect for a combination of photo and typing work. Text was still large enough for me to comfortably see at a distance and the added desktop real estate made multitasking much better. Finally the 1680 x 1050 setting came in handy when I had a lot of applications open at once. It's easily the most impressive setting, but you have to have pretty good eyesight to be ok with doing a lot of reading/writing in this mode.


13-inch rMBP (left) vs. 15-inch rMBP (right)

Switching between scaled resolution modes is very quick, although application and Finder windows don't retain their proportional sizes when moving between resolutions. For example, a full height window at the 1280 x 800 (Best for Retina) setting turns into a window that only takes up ~85% of the vertical height of the screen at 1440 x 900 (or ~60% at 1680 x 1050). I can understand why Apple does this, but it'd be nice to have the option to keep everything proportionally sized when moving between resolutions. Even better, I'd love to see some intelligence where only those windows that make sense to resize proportionally are touched between resolution changes.

Non-permanent image retention has been a part of both rMBPs launched thus far. Keep any static image on the screen for a long enough time and you'll see a ghost of that image even after the screen has changed. Apple attributes the image retention issues to its use of IPS based LCDs in the rMBP, however the severity of image retention can vary depending on a lot of factors. I've personally seen image retention happen on both 13-inch and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros. In my use, image retention was never a significant issue with either the 13 or 15-inch rMBP although I suspect how bothersome it is depends a lot on the user and usage model. There have been numerous reports of LG based Retina Displays behaving worse in the image retention department than Samsung sourced parts, however I don't have access to a large enough sample size of rMBPs to really validate those claims.

Silicon: Dual-Core Only The 13-inch Retina Display in Numbers
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  • KPOM - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    The 13" MacBook Pro always had a dual core processor and never had discrete graphics. The Retina version is no different in that regard. If it isn't a "Pro" than neither is the non-Retina version.

    As an 11" MacBook Air user, the weight difference and extra thickness are more noticeable to me. Hopefully Apple comes out with an 11" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, since it does look very nice (I saw one in the store and it blew away the screen on my Air).
    Reply
  • Arbee - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Agreed. Much as the original Air was basically an engineering placeholder waiting for SNB to make it good, this seems to be a placeholder waiting for at least Haswell, and possibly Broadwell. Reply
  • jeffbui - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Anand, your aspect ratio chart is off. The MBPs are still 16:10 Reply
  • jeffbui - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Oops, looks like you switched the 16:9 chart with the 16:10 chart. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    I wonder why Apple do not all stick to the same 16:10 ratio. The New iMac is 16:9, while all notebook are 16:10. Reply
  • Aenean144 - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - link

    iMacs have >20 inch screens. When you get that big, there's enough vertical screen space so that wider aspect ratio screens are tolerable.

    For smaller screen laptops, vertical space is at a premium. 16:10 is at best a compromise to me. Going to 16:9 would make it less usable.
    Reply
  • yserr - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    I have a MBP 15" (no Retina). I'm willing to give up GPU or quad, but not both, for portability.
    Do you think haswell will bring quad core to the 13" MBPr.

    I think with the dismiss of the 17" and the trend to smaller, light devices. The 15" will be the new 17" and the 13" will be the new 15".

    The 15" rMBP has two soldered ram banks the 13" rMBP has one.
    Are there 16GB modules which are reasonable priced for one bank (which apple could offer)?

    I will wait for haswell and than decide between 13" and 15".
    My dream machine will be 13" rMBP with 16GB Ram and quad.... so I hope haswell will deliver my dream :-)
    Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Quad Core as standard and 2x Graphics Improvement. That is what i am hoping for as well. But with the 4x increase in Pixel count i doubt even Haswell is even good enough in Graphics Department. I just hope Broadwell will bring at least 3x performance over Haswell. Reply
  • yserr - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    At least you see here (http://bit.ly/PalAfy - Haswell Preview) on the haswell slides that they will support 4k and High Resolution Displays. Lets see if they can deliver the performance needed for that. No question Broadwell will be better than Haswell. I hope Haswell will be fast enough for my needs. Reply
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Actually Ivy Bridge does support 4K displays if they are being driving by two DP.

    Haswell will implement DP 1.2 so it will be able to drive a 4K resolution display over a single cable. The GT3 + eDRAM versions of Haswell should be able to handle accelerated GUI without much issue. Gaming on the other hand at such high resolutions is something even high end GPU's (Radeon 7970, GTX 680) are struggling with.
    Reply

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