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New MacBook Pro Features Retina Display, Flash Memory

As Apple introduced the changes to the existing 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro models (detailed below), you could feel disappointment ebb outward from the WWDC conference hall. Although the new specs are good news for some people, that announcement turned out to be a clever bit of misdirection for the more dramatic reveal: an all-new 15-inch MacBook Pro, featuring a slimmer body design, all-flash memory storage, and a Retina display — which Apple is cleverly calling the “MacBook Pro with Retina Display.” (Yes, as with so many of Apple’s recent naming decisions, we hate the name, too.)

Retina and Design -- The 15.4-inch Retina display features a resolution of 2880 by 1800 pixels at 220 pixels per inch, or more than 5 million pixels total. To compare, the third-generation iPad’s Retina display includes over 3 million pixels, while the iPhone 4 and 4S boast 614,000 pixels. Apple says the screen isn’t just higher resolution, but also higher quality, with deeper blacks, a 29 percent higher contrast ratio, and a 75-percent reduction in glare (while still being a glossy screen). It uses in-plane switching (IPS) technology to provide a 178-degree field of view.

Mac OS X Lion has been updated to handle the higher-resolution display, as have Mail, Safari, iMovie, and iPhoto (although those updates were not yet available at press time). Apple also showed off improved versions of Aperture and Final Cut Pro X that take advantage of the new display.

The body of the Retina MacBook Pro resembles the rest of the MacBook Pro lineup, and it’s not tapered like the MacBook Air, as we expected. However, it’s just 0.71 inch (1.8 cm) thick when closed, and it weighs 4.46 pounds (2.02 kg). To compare, the other 15-inch MacBook Pro model is 0.95 inch (2.41 cm) thick and weighs 5.6 pounds (2.56 kg).

In the promotional video about the new MacBook Pro, Apple touts several unique design decisions. For example, most of the internal parts are designed by Apple, including fans with asymmetric blades that purportedly reduce noise while they’re pushing heat out of the machine.

Processors and Power -- Apple is positioning this new laptop as more pro than the other Pros, with an all-flash storage architecture for improved speed. It includes 8 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3L memory, configurable up to 16 GB, and either 256 GB or 512 GB of flash storage; on the high-end configuration, that capacity can be bumped up to 768 GB (for an extra $500).

The Retina display MacBook Pro models all sport a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with 6 MB of shared L3 cache. The MacBook Pro can either come with a 2.3 GHz or 2.6 GHz processor. An upgrade to a 2.7 GHz processor is available on the high-end configuration for an extra $250.

In terms of other processing power, both configurations include onboard Intel HD Graphics 4000 and discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 650M (1 GB of GDDR5 memory) graphics processors. The laptop automatically switches between the two modes depending on what’s required by running software. (See “Improve MacBook Pro Battery Life with gfxCardStatus,” 21 February 2011, for an explanation of how graphics switching works and to learn about a great utility for monitoring and controlling it.)

The built-in battery can operate the machine for up to 7 hours, according to Apple, with 30 days of standby time before being depleted.

Ports of Call -- The Retina display MacBook Pro includes two Thunderbolt ports and two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone port, and an SDXC memory card slot. New to the line is an HDMI port, as well as dual microphones.

An interesting change is a new MagSafe 2 connector for providing power (since when did power plugs get version numbers?). It appears the new connector is slimmer than its predecessor and incompatible with previous MagSafe adapters, but no other details were forthcoming; if you’re hoping to use a regular MagSafe cable to power the new MacBook Pro, Apple is happy to sell you an adapter for $9.99.

Also interesting is what’s missing. Gone is the Ethernet port (a Thunderbolt-to-Gigabit Ethernet adapter will be available in July 2012), audio line-in, and, most significantly, an optical drive. If you need to write data to disc or rip music or movies, you’ll need to buy Apple’s USB SuperDrive. The lack of an optical drive makes this MacBook Pro more Air-like than other models. The main difference now appears to be the tapering case as a Retina display could be added to a future MacBook Air.

Networking remains the same, with 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless networking (compatible with 802.11a/b/g), and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology.

Pricing and Availability -- The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is available today in two stock configurations: a 2.3 GHz processor for $2199 or a 2.6 GHz processor for $2799. The machine ships with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, but can be upgraded to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion for free when that version ships in July. A fully loaded MacBook Pro, with every build-to-order processor, memory, and storage upgrade, will run a hefty $3749.

The Other Guys -- I mentioned the other MacBook Pro models earlier, which are now distinctly second-class citizens. The 13-inch and 15-inch models gain USB 3.0 ports, the capability to swap in a 1 TB hard drive or up to 512 GB solid-state drive (depending on model), Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, up to 1 GB of video memory in Nvidia GeForce GT 650m graphics processors, and up to 8 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 memory. They also get the 720p FaceTime HD camera. Perfectly nice upgrades, of course, but it may be worth spending roughly $400 more for the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display, given its vastly more impressive screen and lighter weight. Oh, and the 17-inch MacBook Pro? It’s now an ex-MacBook model.


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Comments about New MacBook Pro Features Retina Display, Flash Memory
(Comments are closed.)

SSteve  2012-06-11 18:46
"Yes, as with so many of Apple’s recent naming decisions, we hate the name, too"

Obviously they should have called it the eyeBook Pro.
Peter C  2012-06-11 19:11
MacBook Pro RD
James Katt  2012-06-11 19:26
RATS. Downsizing again by Apple.

1. They could have used 2 SSDs to allow RAID-0 at TWICE the current SSD speed - up to 1000 MB/s. read and write speeds.

2. We lost the Ethernet port, 3rd USB port AND the Firewire 800 port. They are replaced by ONE Thunderbolt port. This means we will have to invest in a $300 EXTERNAL BREAKOUT box to get these ports back. MORE extra stuff to carry about and set up when you want to do things.

3. I would have wanted at least 24 GB of RAM, not a paltry 16 GB. Come on, progress is needed.

4. A 17-inch RETINA display is NEEDED.

5. Apple always uses slow SSDs. This is why it would have been nice to be able to have two SSDs. The current one needs to be removed and replaced with a higher speed version such as from OW

Disappointing to say the least. The new CPUs are only 30% faster than the older model. it is thus a small speed bump.

Looks like I'll have to wait until next year.
I hate to say, but if that's what you're waiting for, you'll be waiting for longer than just next year. ;)
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2012-06-12 08:06
Check your facts at Apple's web site. The MacBook Pro RD has two Thunderbolt ports.
Considering how adapter-friendly Apple usually is, does the HDMI port surprise anybody else?

There's already two Thunderbolt ports, so why not have another USB3 instead of HDMI? Or a third TB? But HDMI just feels like a lot of case space used up for a single-purpose port when the functionality is in principle already supplied by another (more versatile) port. But maybe that's just me. :/
Dave Laffitte  2012-06-12 05:59
Despite the retina display, I think that the existing Macbook Pros are a much better value proposition than the new one with the reduced connectivity options.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2012-06-12 08:23
I agree with you on that. They have all the ports we need and are accustomed to and retain large internal hard drive options and a SuperDrive. Though you can get a relatively large SSD on the high-end RD model, it's exceedingly expensive - certainly not a value proposition, though I'm sure the performance is kick-ass. What's more, the standard 15" MBP now has the SDXC card slot that was on the 17" MBP. And USB 3. As well there is the option of a high-resolution, 1,680-by-1,050 glossy or anti-glare display. All tricked out at under $2.500. Taken together that's pretty good bang for your buck.
Marc Sarrel  2012-06-12 22:28
Beating a Matte Horse? Is it just me, or is anyone else annoyed that the Retina Display is glossy only? Why does Apple hate matte screens? I'll take a look when the new displays -- "75% reduction in glare" -- are available in stores, but I'm skeptical that I won't still be distracted by reflections. Glossy screens are great under perfect lighting conditions, but I don't have that much control either at home or in the office. Sure, I could get one of the non-Retina Display MacBooks, but, then I couldn't have 16 GB of RAM, etc. Why doesn't Apple at least make matte an option on all their machines and displays? I'd pay an extra $50 or $100.
Apple has pointed out that the Retina display is a lot less glossy that the previous glossy displays with their glass sheets. AnandTech's first reports seem to confirm that.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-13 01:21
I had a briefing with Apple today, and they attribute the gloss reduction to removing the outer pane of glass as well as unspecified changes to the makeup of the remaining glass.
Trevor  2012-06-26 14:23
I'm so annoyed I may move to PC's over the nonexistent matte finish option. The 75% reduction is nonsense, it's still far too reflective to use comfortably in an environment with decent lighting. Low light environments are fine, but I only work in those 15% of the time at best. This is not a professional hardware choice for creative visual professions, yet a high resolution screen is desperately needed in the creative industry for obvious reasons. This leaves us with nothing but bitter feelings on this release. My 2007 Macbook Pro will simply need to last a bit longer until they inevitably admit their mistake (like last time) and release a matte option.
David Morrison  2012-07-09 07:03
I was amused to go into an Apple Store to look at a MacBook Pro a few months ago. They have all these big, white-illumiated advertising panels on the interiror walls. So bright in fact that it was impossible to see anything on the screens because of the reflections from the signs.
Marc Sarrel  2012-08-29 21:06
I had the opportunity the other day to compare the new Retina display side-by-side with the "classic" 15-inch glossy display. There is a noticeable reduction in reflections, but for me, it is not a sufficient reduction. I will continue to purchase only matte screens.

I'm not a graphics professional at all. I'm just someone who doesn't like my screen to be a mirror. Both at home and at work, I do not have sufficient control of the lighting environment to make the Retina display a pleasant experience.

I do give Apple partial credit on this one. The reflections of people and objects were much less noticeable. However, light sources, lamps, windows, fixtures, etc., were still bright and very distracting.

Bottom line: please give us a matte option for all Apple screens.
Mac Bakewell  2012-06-13 11:37
The trouble with the new MBP's is that they are essentially only slightly beefier Airs with better and larger screens and more powerful processors, and many of the same limitations in terms of expandability. I like expandability -- as in the option to replace an internal optical with a faster-than-Apple SSD from OWC, or even just an additional spinning hard drive -- so I would prefer to see a clearer differentiation.

But until I need additional internal storage, for now I'm just one of those who commutes primarily between home and office. At school I work in one room, facing the class. Because I do not frequent e-café's or libraries, and rarely have reason to take an optically-challenged computer to meetings, I prefer keeping as much as possible in a single package, both to simplify transport and to minimize clutter on my various physical desktops.

I use my optical most frequently for burning, sometimes for watching movies or presenting AV over digital projectors, occasionally for importing shared multimedia, and rarely for installing software. There have been many times working from cramped projector tables that I've been grateful the drive was built-in, and I really don't see the point of requiring (yet another) dongle to do something as commonplace as connecting to Ethernet!

I'm also partial to 17" -- no matter how crisp the resolution of any size screen -- so I hope they bring that back soon!! And as a photographer I'm a hard-core matte screen advocate, but will withold comment on that aspect of the new retina displays until I've seen one in the flesh.


USB 3 is a no-brainer and should have been included in Apple's MBP's for some time already. I'd guess the fact that it has not may be related to the company's desire to promote Thunderbolt, but that's a technology that seems much slower than expected to catch on. Thunderbolt is indeed promising, but it's still Apple-only, not widely available, and ridiculously expensive. That may change, but not, I fear, qite as fast as Apple and/or Intel has hoped.
Mac Bakewell  2012-06-13 22:34
The 15" Retinas are remarkably crisp -- visually almost as much so as a 4S -- and also significantly less reflective than the current non-Retina glass-fronted MBP's. But glass remains a very different experience from matte and, from certain angles, in addition to reflections, the ones I saw in the Apple Store today sometimes displayed an odd moire pattern on dark backgrounds. I'm not sure where that came from, or how noticable it would be in real-world usage, so I'm just saying ...

There's no getting around the fact that adding any sort of glass to an IPS makes the contrast seem artificially high when compared to a graphics-professional standard like an Eizo ColorEdge, and there's apparently no adjustment for that.

Also, unoptimized or otherwise less than perfect images, including thumbnails, are strangely pixelated, as explained in this post from OWC

> The downside to iPad’s Retina display is that while text and other
> Retina-friendly imagery is razor sharp, images made for 1-to-1 pixel
> displays like almost all imagery on the web looks blurry, pixelated, or
> low resolution in comparison to the razor sharp look everything else has.
> The reason for this is that images on the web are made for 1-to-1 (1 pixel
> = 1 pixel) displays. Contrast that with a Retina display which commonly
> has 4 pixels in the space that used to occupy 1 pixel.
> For a device that has pinching and zooming like an iPad, 1-to-1 pixel
> imagery is livable, but the 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina display isn’t a
> Multi-touch screen that promotes zooming, so the pixelated issue of 1-to-1
> pixel imagery is very much an issue. Even the Google logo looks pixelated
> on the MacBook Pro with Retina, while everything else is so crisp and
> “Retina-esque”.

So this is cutting-edge technology, which I'm very much looking forward to seeing in displays 17" and larger. It will take time for applications and Web design to catch up, but clearly points toward a brilliant new future in computer visual technology.
Are the Core i7 processors in these new models basically the same as the Core i7s inthe previous generation
No. They're Ivy Bridge. Last generation used Sandy Bridge.

Ivy Bridge is the 22 nm die shrink of the Sandy Bridge architecture based on tri-gate ("3D") transistors. The new chipset that came with Ivy Bridge also integrated USB3 support. Compared to Sandy Bridge: 5% to 15% increase in CPU performance, 25% to 68% increase in integrated GPU performance.
For any given Mac (or PC), is there any way to know which you're getting when buying?
Curtis Wilcox  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2012-06-23 16:30
How do you know which processor architecture you're getting? Apple certainly won't tell you, they prefer to downplay those kinds of details. Articles about their products will often mention when a change like this occurs. A reliable source is the 3rd party specs site,, they'll mention the architecture "code name" on a model's page but more importantly give the processor's specific model number so you can look up details on Intel's own site or elsewhere.

For other hardware, it depends. When I shop for Dell computers for work, the online configurator gives me a choice of processors and will include its model number. Searching the web using the make/model of computer and an architecture name like "Ivy Bridge" would probably be effective in most cases.
Waldova  2012-06-15 12:51
Wondering why there's so little outcry over the fact that memory *is not* upgradable in these units. C'mon Apple, I know you're doing every subtle thing you can to drive me away but stop...Linux isn't ready yet :)
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-15 13:22
I'm seeing some outcry, but I think people understand the memory design is serving the overall design. Apple probably couldn't have made the laptop as thin as it is if it also had to accommodate replaceable memory. The fact that they're selling (and upgraded) the other MacBook Pros is a sign that they know some people want more configurability. But I wouldn't get attached to them. When Apple has a design in mind, they rarely adjust it to accommodate what turns out to be a small fraction of customers.
Chap Harrison  2012-06-28 21:11
I played with a rMBP 2.3GHz / 8GB at an Apple Store briefly, and I was surprised by how "stuttery" the resizing animation was when I switched Safari into and out of full-screen mode. (In non-full-screen mode the window occupied about 1/3 of the screen.) Safari was displaying the site, and the animation staggered six or eight times during the resizing.

On my 2011 MBP 13" / 2.4GHz / 8GB, the same operation is almost completely fluid.

I didn't get a chance to check Activity Monitor to see if the machine was maxed out doing something else, but I somehow doubt it was....

Wondering if others have noticed this.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2012-06-29 08:43
Fascinating - I wonder if there's a significant amount of processing that goes on when hitting all those Retina-enhanced graphics.
Chap Harrison  2012-07-05 09:02
I posed the same question on MacInTouch, and someone reported that he sees the stuttering only when he's selected the screen resolution that gives the maximum amount of apparent desktop space. When on the "Best for Retina" setting, the stuttering goes away. (No idea what setting I was looking at.)
David Morrison  2012-07-09 07:08
You noted that there is no audio in port on the MBP with Retina. There is no audio in on my MacBook Air bought last year either. But just out of curiosity I plugged in my iPhone headset to try using a VOIP application while overseas. Yes, it works. The headset microphone becomes audio in. So a bit of creative adapter making would give you both an audio in and audio out port.