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Performance at a Price

July 2, 2012 - Dave Hecei
I have finally sat down in front of a new MacBook Pro with Retina Display (it really needs a new name – how about MacBook Pro RD, or RD for short). While the new iPad with Retina Display is significantly sharper than previous iPads, the MacBook Pro RD is even more so. The only problem is that the price is steep for a 15-inch notebook.

The display is what really gets you with the RD. Yes it is a bit thinner and is a bit lighter. It is only 0.71 inches thick compared to the standard MBP at 0.95 inches. The RD weighs only 4.5 pounds and the standard MBP is 5.6 pounds. A pound lighter is nice, but not really significantly. The Retina display is a whole other thing.

The MacBook Pro RD is only available in one size – 15.6 inches. The screen has a native resolution double of the standard MacBook Pro. This works out to be 2880 by 1800 pixels and trust me, that’s a lot of pixels. This new Retina notebook panel is of the IPS type. It stands for In-Plane Switching. This technology allows for much wider viewing angles and wider color pallets.

Apple has done something different with this Retina display. While there are plenty of pixels you don’t actually run it at its native resolution. If you were to run it at the native resolution the text would be so small you could barely read it. Apple created a whole new Display Settings control in System Preferences.

The new control panel gives you three resolution choices: ‘Best for external display’, ‘Best for built-in display’, and ‘Scaled’. The first two settings have no other settings tied to them. The last one, Scaled, has five sizes to choose from. You don’t set specific resolutions for the display just how much space you get to see. It ranges from ‘Larger Text’, everything on screen is bigger but shows less of it, to the middle ‘Best (Retina)’, to ‘More Space’, which makes text small but shows a larger desktop.

For best results, Apple recommends you leave it set to ‘Best for Retina’, which sort of makes sense. The actual scaled pixel count of the screen is not really listed, but from what I could see it shows about the same screen real estate that the standard MBP shows. What it does show is a tack sharp, brilliantly colored image.

When running software that understands ‘Retina’ the display is absolutely stunning. Of course text is super crisp, but photos and video are where the Retina screen literally shines. The color range is definitely extended on the RD. The amount of detail that it shows will take your breath away. If you are lucky enough to buy one, or better yet you get one at work, be prepared to be spoiled for life. After working with the RD for even a short time, other laptop screens start to look like junk.

The only problem is the price. Some might say that $2200 is not bad for a high-end notebook, and the RD is definitely high-end. If you decided to go with the standard MBP you could save yourself $400. But the RD has a super fast SSD and more RAM. If you custom order the standard MBP with the same RAM and SSD it is actually $200 more than the base RD model.

Price and performance is what it is all about. Macs do have the performance, but at a price. The new MacBook Pro RD is premium priced at $2200. A premium Dell configured like the RD, but without the high-resolution display, is around $1500-1700. The question is whether Retina is worth the extra money. I think it is, if the cost can be justified. It is true what they say – performance does come at a price.

 
 

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