Review: MacBook Pro with Retina Display
July 21, 2012 — by Per Christensson
I was fortunate to get one of the first MacBook Pros with a retina display (thanks local Apple Store). I picked up the high-end model with the 2.6 GHz processor and the 512 MB SSD since I needed the extra disk space. After using it for just over a month, I am happy to say it has lived up to my high expectations.
The most notable feature of the new MacBook is its incredible retina display. It has double the resolution of the previous 15" MacBook, so images look incredibly sharp. I took my new MacBook on a two-week trip to Europe right after I bought it and used iPhoto to edit and upload my photos to Facebook. The high-resolution display made it easy to detect blurred images and image artifacts without zooming in.
Unfortunately, many applications still do not yet support the retina display. The most notable is Photoshop, which displays images in half the resolution. This makes it difficult to use Photoshop CS6 on the new MacBook. Fortunately, updates for Photoshop and many other programs are in the works. Until these programs are released, there will be some annoying incompatibilities. Additionally, I should note that standard resolution images look a bit pixelated on the retina display. Therefore, some applications may actually look worse on the new MacBook than older computers. If you've ever run old apps on your new iPhone or iPad, you know what I mean.
The great thing about the MacBook Pro with Retina display is that it's not just the display that makes this an amazing computer. Apple has clearly paid attention to detail in other areas as well. They put USB 3.0 ports on both sides (thank you!), and added two Thunderbolt ports (double thank you!). While there are no Ethernet or Firewire ports, you can use a Thunderbolt adapter for either of these connections. The Thunderbolt ports also allow you to connect two external displays, which means the MacBook Pro can function like a desktop computer. Apple also included an HDMI port and an SD card slot, both which I have already found useful.
Absent from the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is the optical drive. Therefore, you cannot insert a CD or DVD into this MacBook Pro. While some people may find this to be a nuisance, I think it's great. The slimmer design achieved by removing the SuperDrive is well worth it, since I hardly ever use discs anymore. If you need to use a CD or DVD with the new MacBook, you can use Mac OS X's Remote Disc feature, which is also available for the MacBook Air and Mac mini. I used it to install iWork from my iMac's disc drive over Wi-Fi and it worked seamlessly.
Apple's attention to detail also shows in the case design, which is meticulously crafted and feels extremely solid. The 15" MacBook Pro with Retina display is significantly thinner than the standard MacBook Pros, and even weighs less than the 13" model! Each edge of the machine has been slightly rounded, so it feels great in your hands and on your lap.
Finally, I am happy to say the performance of the new MacBook does not disappoint. Thanks to a super-fast SSD, files, folders, and even applications open almost instantly. Standard system operations are nice and snappy thanks to a fast CPU. I did notice scrolling is a bit choppy in some programs (specifically web browsers), since the video card is rendering four times as many pixels than previous models. However, the lag isn't too bad and I believe an upcoming software update may improve this issue.
Overall, I am thrilled with what I call my Retina MacBook. While I still prefer desktop computers over laptops, this is the first laptop I actually enjoy using. I can't think of a single thing I would change about this computer, which is why I am giving it a perfect rating.