The Bottom Line
Jun 27 2012 - It is no surprise that Apple killed off the 17-inch MacBook Pro with the introduction of the MacBook Pro 15 With Retina Display. The display alone on the laptop is more than enough reason for anyone serious about graphics or video work to purchase this laptop. Add to this some phenomenal performance and battery life and it just keeps distancing itself away from just about every other 15-inch laptop on the market. This compact and lighter design is welcome for anyone needing serious performance in a portable platform. Still, the lack of options on the base model and the fact that none of the internals can be upgraded after purchase can be quite annoying. Add to this a $2199 price tag and it will be something that many may have a hard time accepting but for those willing to pay for it, there is pretty much nothing else that compares to it on the market.
- Very Thin And Light for 15-inch Laptop
- Superb Display With Unparalleled Color and Resolution
- Very Long Running Times
- Lacks After Purchase Upgrades For Memory Or Storage
- Intel Core i7-3610QM Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 8GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 256GB Solid State Drive Storage
- 15.4" WQXGA (2880x1800) Display With 2.0 Megapixel Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M Graphics With 1GB Memory
- 802.11a/g/n Wireles, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, Two Thunderbolt, HDMI, SDXC
- 14.1" x 9.7" x .7" @ 4.5 lbs.
- Mac OS X 10.7, iLife
Review - Apple MacBook Pro 15 With Retina Display
Jun 27 2012 - The Apple MacBook Pro 15 With Retina Display is the first major redesign to the companies flagship laptop since it first introduced its unibody chassis. Dimensions have dropped significantly where this is an extremely portable 15-inch laptop that doesn't skimp on performance. It measures just seven tenths of an inch thick across the whole body that gives it a height akin to the MacBook Air's hinge. Weight also dropped by over a pound from the traditional MacBook Pro 15 design.
Performance on the MacBook Pro 15 With Retina Display is very strong thanks to the new Intel Ivy Bridge processors. For the base $2199 version of the laptop, it comes with the Intel Core i7-3610QM quad core processor. This is more than enough performance for the average user and provides solid performance for those looking at demanding tasks such as desktop video work. The processor is matched up with 8GB of DDR3 memory which is good but there is a downside. The memory cannot be upgraded at all by consumers. Everything within the system is sealed at the factory so if you want more memory, you will have to custom order it at the time of purchase.
The storage features have undergone major change for the MacBook Pro 15 With Retina Display. Rather than using a traditional hard drive and optical drive combination in past models, it now uses a solitary solid state drive similar to what was done with the ultrathin MacBook Air. This provides it with some incredible performance and fast response times when loading applications or booting up the system. The downside is that the 256GB drive does offer less space than would be found in the more traditional MacBook Pro 15 with its 500GB hard drive. To make up for this, Apple has increased the number of high speed peripheral ports. Rather than a single Thunderbolt port, it now features two which can be used for both graphics or high speed external storage. There are also two USB 3.0 ports for the more typical external peripheral devices on the market.
The display is of course the big feature for this laptop and it is truly amazing. At 15.4-inches, it has the same dimensions as the older MacBook Pro but gets the retina treatment that its name implies. This takes the previous 1440x900 base resolution of the MacBook Pro 15 and quadruples it to a massively 2880x1800. To put this in perspective, the resolution on this display is greater than that of the 27-inch iMac or the 27-inch Thunderbolt display that top out at 2560x1440. It features IPS panel technology that also gives it some incredible color and viewing angles making this the best display to be found in any laptop to date. All of this and the display panel is thinner than just about any laptop manufactured.
While the extra resolution is great, to take full advantage of this, the programs you run on the Mac OS X operating system must be retina display enabled. This brings up the same problems that was encountered when the New iPad was introduced with its retina display. Those applications that aren't retina enabled will tend to look blocky and pixelated. Still, those applications that are enabled give an incredible level of detail.
The graphics subsystem of the MacBook Pro 15 With Retina Display has also changed. Previously, Apple was using the AMD Radeon HD graphics processor but they have switched over to the NVIDIA Kepler based GeForce GT 650M graphics processor. This is a good compromise between performance and heat. It offers excellent acceleration for 3D and non-3D applications. It is even able to drive the retina enabled Diablo III up to the full 2880x1800 resolution with smooth overall frame rates.
All of this performance means that Apple had to put a very hefty battery into the thin chassis. In fact, the battery pack takes up most of the space and comes with an amazingly high 95Whr capacity rating. In video playback testing, the base version of the laptop was able to provide an amazing nine hours before going into standby mode. This surpasses even Apple's estimate of seven hours of wireless web browsing. In fact, it pretty much dominates the running time out of pretty much any laptop on the market with only the Samsung Series 7 providing a fairly close running time. The downside is that the large battery did play a big part in the thin laptop still having a fairly hefty four and a half pound weight.
One big problem that comes with this new design is the ability to have it repaired. Essentially, the system is built with such small tolerances that it pretty much is a sealed package at the time of purchase. Storage and memory can't be upgraded, even by highly skilled technicians. Crack or chip the display, the whole unit will likely need to be replaced. Because of this, many might want to look into the purchase of AppleCare protection plan to help ensure the laptop can be replaced for longer than the single year of coverage. It is quite pricey though at $350 and does not include the $49 accidental replacement coverage they offer with the New iPad.
And finally, there is pricing. While the $2199 price tag is quite high, the price is actually quite reasonable for Apple as it is just $400 more than the standard MacBook Pro 15 yet offers higher performance, improved display and smaller profile. It is also quite good considering that this replaces the MacBook Pro 17 which was priced at $2499. Still, this puts the price well beyond what most 15-inch Windows based laptops cost. In addition, the upgrades can quickly send the price even higher.