The MacBook Pro was once the domain of graphics professionals, video editors and engineers that needed a huge amount of power in a portable package, but when Apple retired the standard MacBook it became the de facto standard for every would-be screenwriter in coffee shops up and down the country. That all looks set to change with the new generation MacBook Pro, and it’s all because of the stunning Retina display.
Looking beyond Apple’s jargon (Retina’s definition depends on what device you’re holding – seeWhat the MacBook Retina display means for youfor details) the 15.4in, 2,880 x 1,800 display is still a world first, squeezing more pixels into a laptop than ever before. A full HD video is positively dwarfed by the rest of the screen, leaving plenty of room for a timeline and playback controls if you’re working on a video project. Photos show much more detail without you having to zoom in, making it ideal for image editing.
OS X has been completely overhauled to make the most of the extra pixels, with higher resolution icons and text as well as updated applications. OS X scales up its icons and text to suit the higher resolution so, unlike when running Windows on a small, high-resolution screen, you don’t end up with tiny icons that are hard to use. Unfortunately, this means that any programs yet to be updated to make the most of the higher resolution won’t render text correctly, leaving it blurred and difficult to read. For example, Safari has beautiful high-resolution text, but the current version of Chrome has jagged text. Google is in the middle of updating its browser, and the latestCanary developer versionrenders its text correctly for the Retina display.
How web page images look depends on how the page is put together. On our home page, the logo looks slightly jagged, but the inline product images in reviews are lovely and crisp, and have more detail than when viewing the same page on a normal 1080p display. This is because the logo has a set resolution, but the inline product images are uploaded at 800×640 and then downsized to fit a smaller space in the web page. The Retina-ready browsers have more pixels in the same physical space, so can load in more pixels from the original image and so show more detail.
The MacBook’s IPS panel has near-limitless viewing angles and there’s more than enough screen tilt to combat the glossy display finish, which does reflect a small amount of light back at the user. We’ve never seen anything like this screen before – it’s absolutely sublime.
Of course, Apple hasn’t just upgraded the screen – the entire laptop has been redesigned, and the aluminium chassis has been slimmed down to an incredible 18mm. Despite the thin proportions, you still get two USB3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI video output, SD card reader and a 3.5mm headset audio jack, so there’s no compromise in terms of connectivity.
The internals are all cutting edge too, with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SATA3 SSD and dedicated Nvidia graphics. The quad-core i3-3610QM processor runs at 2.3GHz, but can also use Turbo Boost to hit 3.3GHz when thermal limits allow. Unsurprisingly, performance was spectacular – our multimedia benchmarks produced an overall score of 111, which makes this one of the quickest laptops we’ve ever seen.
The dedicated GT 650M graphics chipset helps when dealing with high-definition video, but it’s still capable of playing modern games. There’s 1GB of dedicated RAM, which helped lessen the impact of the anti-aliasing in our Call of Duty 4 test. An average frame rate of 30.8 should mean that very few games will struggle to play smoothly – as long as you stick to 720p resolutions. COD4 is still playable at 2,880×1,800, but only with anti-aliasing disabled. More graphically intensive titles will require you to drop detail settings to maintain a solid frame rate. It’s also down to developers to add support for the Retina display to their games; currently, Diablo 3 runs at a playable frame rate at 2,880×1,800.
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