Last year when I wrote about the new MacBook Airs I offered two forward looking paragraphs:

What happens from here on out is what's really interesting. Intel has already committed to moving the TDP of its mainstream parts from 35W - 45W down to 10 - 20W. Since the Air is the new mainstream Mac notebook, Apple has already made that move. The performance in this 10 - 20W segment is going to get much better over the next two years, particularly once Haswell arrives.

The Thunderbolt Display is the first sign of what's to come. Moving IO controllers and expansion into the display, and potentially even moving discrete GPUs out of the notebook are all in store for us. Apple is really ahead of the curve here, but it's easy to imagine a future where laptops become a lot more like the new Air and shift to a couple high bandwidth ports instead of numerous lower bandwidth connections.

Perhaps I was being too aggressive in the prediction of a couple of high bandwidth ports. After all, the next-generation MacBook Pro with Retina Display features four such IO ports (2 x Thunderbolt and 2 x USB 3.0). But you get my point. Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire 800 are both gone. The discrete GPU is still present but I suspect even its days are numbered, at least inside the chassis. The personal computer as we knew it for so long, is changing.

The personal computer is getting thinner, lighter, more integrated and more appliance-like. The movement is no longer confined to just Apple either. The traditional PC OEMs are following suit. Even Microsoft has finally entered the PC hardware business, something it threatened to do for years but hadn't until now. Distribution models will change, the lines between different form factors will continue to blur. What was once a mature industry is going through a significant transformation. It’s exciting but at the same time it makes me uneasy. When I first got into this industry everyone had stories of companies with great ideas that just didn’t make it. As we go through this revolution in computing I’m beginning to see, first hand, the very same.

Apple makes the bulk of its revenue from devices that don’t look like traditional personal computers. For the past couple of years I’ve been worried that it would wake up and decide the traditional Mac is a burden, and it should instead be in the business of strictly selling consumer devices. With its announcements two weeks ago in San Francisco, I can happily say that my fears haven’t come true. At least not yet.

It’s been a while since Apple did a really exciting MacBook Pro launch. Much to my surprise, even the move to Sandy Bridge, the first quad-core in a MacBook Pro, was done without even whispers of a press conference. Apple threw up the new products on its online store, shipped inventory to its retail outlets, updated the website and called it a day. Every iPhone and iPad announcement however was accompanied with much fanfare. The MacBook Pro seemed almost forgotten.

With its WWDC unveil however Apple took something that it had resigned to unexciting, dare I say uncool status, and made a huge deal about it. Two weeks ago Apple did the expected and offered relatively modest upgrades to all of its portable Macs, all while introducing something bold.

Apple calls it the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. You’ll see me refer to it as the next-gen MacBook Pro, Retina MacBook Pro, rMBP or some other permutation of these words.

After using it for the past two weeks I can honestly say it’s the best Mac Apple has ever built. And there’s a lot more to it than hardware.

Portability

If you were hoping for a 15-inch MacBook Air, that’s not what the rMBP is. Instead it is a far more portable 15-inch MacBook Pro. I have to admit I was a bit let down the first time I laid eyes on the next-gen MacBook Pro, it looks good but it doesn’t look all that different. The disappointment quickly faded as I actually picked up the machine and started carrying it around. It’s not ultra light, but man does it make the previous chassis feel dated.

While I never really liked lugging around the old MBP (and it always made me feel like the old fogey at tradeshows where everyone else had something 13-inches or smaller), carrying the rMBP is a pleasure by comparison. Pictures really don’t do it justice. The impressively thin display assembly or overall chassis thickness look neat in a photo but it’s not until you actually live with the rMBP that you can appreciate what Apple has done here. I carry around a 15-inch MacBook Pro because it’s my desktop, and as such it’s incredibly useful to have with me when I travel. For my personal usage model, the Retina MacBook Pro is perfect.

If your workload demands that you need the performance of a MacBook Pro and your lifestyle requires you to carry it around a lot, the reduction in thickness and weight alone will be worth the upgrade to the rMBP. If you spend most of your time stationary however, you’ll have to be sold on the display and internal characteristics alone. The bad news is if the design doesn’t get you, everything else will.


From left to right: 11-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Air, 15-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Pro with Retina Display


From left to right: 11-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with Retina Display


From left to right: 11-inch MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Air, MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Design & Silicon
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  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    Sony can't exactly add better DPI scaling to windows, can they? That's Apple's advantage as being both the OS vendor and hardware vendor - better integration. Reply
  • ka_ - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    "Sony added 1080p because it was popular, not because it made sense"

    What a ridiculously ignorant and biased statement! Sony did surely not place a blue-ray players in the device for a reason neither... To place a 1080p display in the product made perfect sense, retina display on the other hand is a marketing buzzword. I am sure it looks better, but really - you wont find movies or much content that benefit from the retina display - they display will likely slightly distort the movie though you can say the distortion is so small you wont notice... 1080p on the other hand...
    Reply
  • Donkeyz - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Movies are not what the retina pro is targeting. Professionals of video and imaging need screen estate on a portable device as they travel. That is what the retina is for.

    We are talking about a 2012 device not 2008, but Sony use to be the best only because they played by marketing. Giving the best of the best and the looks.

    Why apple works? Because they focus on individual needs and have excellent support, which may be why people are willing to pay excessive $$.

    I own a Sony Z and my sister owns a MBP and I must say that Sony took 16 days to get the Z repaired where as MBP only took 2 days.

    Some people may prefer a bluray drive but I don't use my drive at all. So it really depends, I'm replacing the Z with this MBP retina purely because of the screen estate for work and support.

    Btw, as far as pricing goes, it's not expensive at all. To configure a pc of it's calibre would cost just as much and would most likely be made of plastic.
    Reply
  • Freakie - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    To configure a PC that would handily kick this things ass would be cheaper, actually. To configure a Windows laptop that has a 6 core Desktop CPU and the best mobile GPU (as well as two hard drives) would cost the same as the basic model of this. Throw in 2 more hard drives for a total of 4 hard drives, and add a second GPU in SLI or CrossfireX, and you're at the price of the high end model of this.

    And yeah, things get repaired faster with Apple, though I bet you I could have fixed your Sony in a matter of hours. Difference is you can go to someone in real life for cheap to get your Mac looked at, but if you actually know what the f*ck you're doing, you don't need to take any laptop to anyone.

    And if you are a media editor focused more on screen real estate instead of quality, then you fail miserably. Screen space comes second to color representation, space, and accuracy as well as ease of transitioning between different lighting and color profiles. Do displays that have amazing color representation come in high resolution? Yes! Because they are great things to pair together. Do high resolution displays have great color representation? NO! As is proven by this rMBP, just because you have high resolution doesn't mean that you have great colors. And compared to those color displays that have a high resolution, this rMBP screen sucks royal ass for media editing.

    You'd be much better off getting a faster PC laptop and using the money you save on a screen that will actually enable your media to come out much better (if you are a media editor). Not only that, but your PC will get the work done faster than the MBP (better hardware, cheaper price)
    Reply
  • vegemeister - Monday, July 02, 2012 - link

    >laptop that has a 6 core Desktop CPU and the best mobile GPU (as well as two hard drives)

    Yeah, but that would be retarded.
    Reply
  • mlambert890 - Wednesday, November 28, 2012 - link

    You understand that the concept of a laptop is to be portable right? WHAT are you talking about? The PC you're describing I own - AWM18x. It is 13 lbs.

    This is like saying, essentially, that size and weight (and noise) are irrelevant dimensions in a notebook.

    They are the *only* relevant dimensions. And this is like horsepower. A 600HP car isnt "a mere" 150HP more than a 450HP car. That 150 extra HP is HARD and EXPENSIVE.

    Similarly, people like you, who say "well that PC would "only" be 3 lbs heavier!" are just displaying how clueless you are with what matters in this segment.

    Show me this mythical PC laptop that is 4.5lbs with discrete graphics, SSD, quad core i7 and 15" 1080p screen or greater yet is much cheaper than the MBPr. Let's see it.
    Reply
  • ka_ - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    "Why apple works? Because they focus on individual needs and have excellent support, which may be why people are willing to pay excessive $$."

    Fine, so you say MBP is a niche product, that is meant for niches such as video editing, graphics design and so on. Your CEO, sales teams, financial staff and so on will not go buy it because they have no need for this and will not fall for the hype of having the next buzzword "Retina Scan" which they have absolutely no need for. Sure I believe you...

    1080p on the other hand make much more business sense as Sony not only sell technology like Blue Ray players but is in the Music and Video industries too. They get paid for each movie sold on blue ray too - and 1080p is today mainstream, not niche!

    I highly doubt more than a small percentage of those who will buy the MBP actually get it for a real need and not due to marketing hype...
    Reply
  • OCedHrt - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    That's the issue. When you have a 2880 x 1800 screen, you forget that most of the internet users are on 1368 x 768. and 1600 x 900. What you design may look awesome to you but it does not scale well for your audience.

    For print work, I agree 2880 x 1800 is awesome.
    Reply
  • Ohhmaagawd - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    " retina display on the other hand is a marketing buzzword. I am sure it looks better, but really - you wont find movies or much content that benefit from the retina display"

    Umm. What about ANYTHING with text?

    What about Photos?

    What about ability to edit 1080p in full res with all your editing controls on the screen next to it?

    What about Photoshop?
    Reply
  • Freakie - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    What about photo and video editors that don't use the display on any laptop, period? Media editors want color quality first, not resolution, which this screen fails at. Media editors will still use their $1,000 monitors at their desk to do their edits. Reply

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