A little over four years ago I made the complete switch over to the Mac. You may remember, if you have been around BestTechie long enough, that epic live stream when I ordered my Mac Pro, and then, when it showed up on my door step a week or so later.
A lot has happened in the past four years and my 2008 Mac Pro has been there for all of it, with some upgrades along the way of course. In terms of technology, four years is like a century and I have to say my Mac Pro has passed the test of time with flying colors. Which is why for quite some time, I thought I would never need another computer. When I say need, I mean like truly need, as in it’s broken and cannot be fixed (or too costly too fix) or it’s just so painfully slow and outdated that it would be time for something new. And to be fair, according to that definition, I still don’t need a new computer, but I got one anyway.
I was lured in to the new Retina MacBook Pro and I took the bait. Hook, line, and sinker. This review will most likely be a bit different than any other review out there for the MacBook Pro with Retina display, as it’s coming from a perspective of a desktop lover who took the leap to using a laptop full-time.
The Retina MacBook Pro Review
The Retina Display
Let me just say that I thought I had it good with my 27″ Apple LED Cinema Display. You haven’t seen anything until you see a MacBook Pro with a Retina Display.
Beautiful and stunning are the two words I think are most apt to describe the display on the Retina MacBook Pro. If you really want to see what I’m talking about I would recommend heading into an Apple retail store to take a look at one in person.
The rMBP has over 5 million pixels packed into a 15.4″ display, running at a resolution of 2800-by-1800. Everything looks crisp — colors appear vibrant and vivid at almost any angle. And when Apple said they reduced glare, they weren’t kidding.
Power & Speed
I ordered the 2.6Ghz i7 model with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of flash storage. This thing is blazing fast. I ran benchmarks using Geekbench on the Retina MacBook Pro and my 2008 Mac Pro and found that the rMBP is essentially two times faster.
Which, to me, shows two things:
1. The Mac Pro’s are beasts and are designed to be top performance machines for years.
2. Apple has created an extremely powerful and portable laptop computer.
The all flash architecture is really impressive. Everything opens immediately, there is no waiting. The boot process is insanely quick too, a cold start (when the computer is completely off) to on and usable clocked in under 20 seconds. Even notoriously slow applications such as Adobe Photoshop launched completely in under 3 seconds. My Windows 8 install took under 5 minutes from start to finish (logged in and ready to use).
In additional performance tests, I was able to comfortably run a Windows 8 virtual machine with dual cores and 4GB of RAM, without noticing any hiccups in OS X with several applications open.
In terms of graphical performance, the hardware in the rMBP is very robust, as you would expect the case would be to power the Retina display. The computer features two sets of graphics cards, the first is an Intel HD Graphics 4000 which is utilized in most everyday usage, while the second card is a NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPU with 1GB of dedicated video RAM which is switched to when more graphics power is required. The NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M is great for video editing and gaming, while the Intel graphics are great to maximize battery life when you don’t require that extra power.
I’ve only encountered one problem when it came to performance so far, which occurred while watching this Apple advertisement in 1080p. In full screen the video would hiccup between the fast cuts, which I assume has to do with the Retina display and the computer having to do all kinds of rendering to play it full screen.
Portability & Battery Life
Weighing in at just under 4.5 pounds, it’s no MacBook Air, but is still an impressively lightweight computer, especially considering its power. This makes it great and easy to travel with, both around the house and on-the-go. It’s also incredibly thin, measuring in at 0.71″ when closed.
Despite it being a powerhouse and remaining so light and thin, the rMBP’s battery life comes in at an impressive 7 hours. In my testing, even with videos and music playing, web surfing, and other miscellaneous tasks and apps running, I definitely came close to that.
How is this possible, you ask?
Well, half of the computer’s innards come in the form of a giant battery pack. Between the battery pack and Apple software engineers optimizing Mountain Lion to run super efficiently on the rMBP, you have a winning formula.
Ports & I/O
The rMBP comes standard with two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3 ports, an HDMI port, an SDXC slot, and the new slimmer MagSafe 2 power port. Being that I have so many devices and am a little spoiled by my Mac Pro, which has more ports than I know what to do with, it does require that I do a bit of juggling with devices. However, that being said, for most people’s every day use, the rMBP has you covered.
As with every other Apple laptop, it comes with a FaceTime camera built-in. The 720p (HD) camera is good, but not great. It’ll get the job done for FaceTime, Skype video calls, or some fun PhotoBooth pictures, but that’s probably the extent of it.
I’m somewhat of an audiophile, so when Apple said they improved the speakers on the rMBP I didn’t think much of it. After all, how good could be they really be? The answer is: surprisingly awesome. Granted I still prefer to plug in my Bowers & Wilkins MM-1’s while I’m at my desk, but these new speakers are definitely good enough to listen on without cringing.
The Retina MacBook Pro is by far the best computer I’ve ever used, it’s the perfect combination of power and portability.