As Steve Jobs said in 2010 when he introduced the current MacBook Air design: “We asked ourselves, ‘What would happen if a MacBook and an iPad hooked up?’ Well, this is the result, We think it’s the future of notebooks.”
The new MacBook Pro is this future.
We’ve been using the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display for close to a week, and as Apple says, its the best computer they have ever made. We have broken down some of the most important facets of the new MacBook Pro: the things you will care about most when deciding whether or not to buy this Apple notebook. Read on for our review:
The Retina display:
The screen on the new MacBook Pro is incredible: it is definitely the sharpest computer display we’ve ever used, and it portrays the best coloring on any computer we’ve seen. The display’s resolution is 2880 by 1800, and that is double the pixels of the displays found in the last-generation 15-inch MacBook Pros. Instead of a string of resolution options (listed by pixel ratios) like on older Macs, the new MacBook Pro’s Displays menu provides five resolution options: “Best” Retina mode, two modes with more space, and two modes below Retina with less space and larger text. Apple markets the new MacBook Pro at “Best” Retina mode, and this is how we have been mostly using the notebook. At this setting, the screen space is the same as the last-generation MacBook Pro, but everything is much sharper. This is the same transition you feel from the iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 and iPad 2 to the third-generation iPad displays.
Non-Retina Twitter for Mac versus Retina-ready Twitterific
The display is so sharp and so beautiful that we have never seen clearer text or images on any display before. The advanced technology and sharpness that this display provides is also the machine’s biggest (current) drawback. While the new MacBook Pro comes pre-loaded with a completely Retina-ready version of OS X Lion (and the current Mountain Lion preview is also completely Retina-ready), third-party applications are yet to be updated. The only fully Retina-ready app that we could find is the latest Twitterific update. It’s a great Twitter for Mac replacement as Twitter’s official Mac app seems to be the worst looking third-party piece of software on this new display. Marco Arment has a theory on this:
Knowing @lorenb, I bet Twitter-Mac doesn't render Retina text because it's being rendered to a (1X) image buffer first for scrolling speed.—
Marco Arment (@marcoarment) June 18, 2012
Apple already announced that Retina versions of Adobe’s creative suite and some other apps and games are incoming, but until more apps are upgraded, this Retina Display is a drawback for anyone who relies on third-party software. Apple has updated some of their App Store apps like Final Cut Pro X, iLife (all of iMovie and iPhoto, parts of Garageband), and Aperture, but the popular iWork suite is yet to be touched.
For anyone currently focused on the web or first-party apps, the new Retina Display is incredible, the best computer screen ever. For anyone who relies on third-party software, we recommend waiting for those apps to be updated before making your purchase. With the current wait times on these new computers, the apps you need may even be updated by the time you are able to get your hands on one.
The design + MacBook Air comparison:
The new MacBook Pro’s design takes from the last-generation MacBook Pro, the iPad, and the MacBook Air. The computer features the last-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro’s overall look, but it takes the thin light form factor and Flash storage from the MacBook Air, and iPad components such as the Retina Display.
The last-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro had a stellar design, built with structural integrity by way of the unibody aluminum manufacturing process. The black-bezeled-display, large, back-lit keyboard, port placement, trackpad features and size, and just overall design match the older MacBook Pro design, expect for the thin and light factor.
The older 15-inch MacBook Pro was never particularly big, but this new model is slightly narrower and much thinner, making it easier to carry around the house, carry outside, or transport in a bag. We’re coming from a 13-inch MacBook Air with current design to this new MacBook Pro, and after using it for about a week, we are completely used to the larger size. The computer still feels relatively small, and its thin and light design are very easy to carry. While this is true, the size still does not match the 11 inch or 13 inch MacBook Airs. However, for those who could manage the extra size (you truly need to make this comparison yourself at an Apple Store), the new MBP’s power and display are reasons to ignore the convenience of the Air.
Speed and ports:
As a MacBook PRO, the other two headlining features come down to speed and I/O. Starting with I/O: the left side of the computer features a new MagSafe 2 port (it’s thinner and wider than the old MagSafe connector), two Thunderbolt ports, a single USB 2.0/3.0 port, and an audio port. The right side features a single USB 2.0/3.0 port, an HDMI port, and an SD Card slot.
Since this new MacBook Pro lacks Ethernet and Firewire, having two Thunderbolt ports is incredibly important. That’s because Apple sells a Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter and will sell an adapter that runs from Thunderbolt to Firewire at some point in July. The Thunderbolt technology is also used with many new external HDDs and SSDs, drives that offer unrivaled speed and performance compared to USB 2.0 drives. Thunderbolt has been present on Macs since the MacBook Pro refresh in February 2011, and offers an average of 20 times the transfer speed of USB 2.0, 12 times the speed of Firewire 800, and double the speed of USB 3.0, according to Apple’s provided benchmarks. We didn’t have a chance to create our own I/O benchmarks, but, cloning our drive’s contents from an old Mac over Thunderbolt was incredible speedy compared to the Firewire-based transfers that we have become used to. USB 3.0’s presence comes built-in to the already existing USB 2.0 ports, so these faster versions of USB don’t take up additional port space over the last-generation MacBook Pros. While typically slower than Thunderbolt, they do offer compatibility with the growing amount of USB 3.0 peripherals. The machine we are reviewing features the 512GB flash storage option, and the speed increases over a 128GB SSD from a last-generation MacBook Air are incredible. The benchmarks shown directly below explain:
Last-genertion MacBook Air SSD
New Retina Display MacBook Pro SSD
The GeekBench platform provides a score-based benchmark for computers, and this new MacBook Pro seems to be hitting between a score of 10,000 on the low-end and 12,000 on the high-end. This compares to between 6000-7000 on the MacBook Airs. It’s worth searching GeekBench’s Results Browser for in-depth details. You will see that Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors in the MBPs (2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz, or 2.7 GHz) all offer incredible performance, perfect for professionals. Overall, with the speedy chips, incredible SSD speeds, and fantastic I/O, this is the perfect professional notebook.
When the first iPad launched in 2010, the device seemed to be the culmination of everything that Apple had developed in the mobile space. The iPad features incredible battery life found in Apple’s notebooks, Multi-Touch from the iPhone, software from the iPhone that originally made its way down from OS X, and engineering developed from experience with all of Apple’s preceding mobile computers, phones, and music players. In much of the same way, the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display takes that best from all of Apple’s products and more. The machine uses Apple’s incredible unibody construction and design process from older notebooks, the portability, size, and weight of the MacBook Air, the amazing Retina Display technology from the iPad, flash storage from iOS devices and the MacBook Air, all combined with the latest professional ports, speed, and graphics.
If you are a professional in need of a powerful notebook for video editing, photo editing, software development and more, this new MacBook Pro is perfect for you. If you are a consumer in need of the extra power not offered by the popular MacBook Air, or someone who wants to be on the forefront of technology and be an early adopter of the Mac Retina Display, this new computer will fit your needs. However, if you are not in need of the speed or ultra-high resolution display, or if you are a student, the 13 inch MacBook Air is another great computer for you. With the new MacBook Pro with Retina Displays steep pricing structure, another option for power-users is the spec-bumped 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro line with the last-generation MBP design. Those machines include much of the power in the Retina Display MacBook Pro, but lack the new design and new display. In any case, this new MacBook Pro is the most advanced, most future-ready computer to date.