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MacBook Pro Retina Edition

June 13, 2012 - Dave Hecei
First off, I have not been able to play with one of these yet, but plenty of others have. I hope to see and use one of these very soon. Here is a rundown of what has been written and said about the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display (MBPRD) – as about as good of a name as New iPad.

The Good and the Bad. As much good as there seems to be in this entirely new MacBook model, there are some bad things too. Best to start with the good.

The best part is the new display based on the same Retina technology used in the new iPad and in the iPhone 4 and 4S. It is available in only one size – 15.4-inch widescreen (with glare reduction). At this size the MBPRD has double the horizontal and vertical resolution of the MBP. This ends up being 2880 by 1800 pixels, which in itself are more pixels than the Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt display. It also works out to be 220ppi (pixels per inch).

The size is also dramatically trim. Thickness is now down to 0.71 inches, about 25% thinner. The weight is also down to only 4.46 pounds. Even trimmed down, the MBPRD is said to feel more solid and have less flex than previous models. Inside the MBPRD is where things get real interesting. Most everyone knew that any new Macs would have the latest Intel chips, which are called Ivy Bridge.

The base model comes with a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and 256 GB SSD storage. The better model comes with a 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache, 8 GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 512 GB SSD. Both models have a combination video system with the new Intel 4000 HD integrated video and GeForce GT 650M discrete video with 1GB of DDR5 VRAM. The idea behind two video systems is that the integrated Intel video is slower but consumes less power. You would use the Intel video when running on battery and the GT 650M, which is much faster, while plugged into the wall.

On the left side there is a new MagSafe 2 power port, dual Thunderbolt ports, a combination USB 2.0 and 3.0 port, and a headphone/audio out port. On the other side is another combo USB port, an HDMI out, and an SD memory card slot. The webcam is now a 720P HD FaceTime camera.

There are a few more technical changes inside the MBPRD. The speakers have been redesigned and from what I gather greatly improved. There are also new microphones built-in. The idea of dual microphones is for noise reduction. While this will be a boon for those who like to Skype in a noisy environment, I suppose that Apple has designed the new microphones for use with dictation and hopefully, someday, Siri.

The Bad. Don’t get too excited, or depressed, because there isn’t much to hate about the new MBPRD. However, there are some negatives, at least to me, that you should know about. This includes what is missing and what Apple did to achieve the size reduction.

There are a few things missing, but not completely gone in some cases. The gone list includes the following: Ethernet port, Firewire port, audio in port, optical drive, and the Kensington security port. Ok, the Ethernet, Firewire, and audio in ports can be added by either a USB or Thunderbolt dongle/adapter, at an added expense to you. An external USB optical drive can easily be attached and used with the MBPRD. For those who like using the Kensington security cable, you are out of luck.

The other problem is a bit more complex. When Apple sat down to design the MBPRD they pretty much started from scratch. To get the super thin and super light design they also decided to use all custom parts inside. This is great for Apple, but trust me, when it’s time to try and upgrade your laptop, forget it. Inside the MBPRD, the RAM is soldered to the main board – non-upgradeable. The SSD uses a new connector, so for the time being it’s non-upgradeable. Repairing the MBPRD looks to be something left up to Apple alone. Although I normally don’t recommend it, if I were buying one of these today, I’d get it with the AppleCare extended warranty plan.

Conclusion. I have to say that the MacBook Pro with Retina Display (do I really have to call it that?) is probably one of the most powerful and capable laptops Apple has ever built. The super high-resolution display is perfectly suited for professional photographers and video editors alike. Especially for video editors who will love the dual Thunderbolt ports along with an HDMI video out port. Add to all this the latest Intel Core i7 quad-core processor and an all-SSD based storage system, you end up with one screaming machine.


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