Emerging Technology

GADGET WATCH: MacBook Pro – Retina Screen edition

Patrick Stafford /

Another year, and another Apple product hits the shelves. But this time it isn’t a fancy new gadget tempting Mac lovers, but an update to the MacBook Pro line-up featuring the high-quality Retina screen.

Apple is known for building high-quality computers. But is a high-resolution display the only novelty packed into this edition? It’s time to see how the MacBook Pro stacks up.

Hardware and Features

It’s important to note there are a few different versions of the MacBook Pro, and you can customise different aspects of the computer as well.

But, for simplicity’s sake, the basic 15-inch version features a new Ivy Bridge chipset at 2.3Ghz quad-core, with GeForce GT 650M graphics, 8GB of RAM, and the basic configuration of 256GB of solid-state storage – although that’s expandable up to 768GB.

The device is extremely thin, only 1.8cm high and 35cm wide, while it only weighs about 2.02 kilograms.

Connectivity wise, the device features a Mini DisplayPort output, 720p “FaceTime” camera, two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3 ports, an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a headphone port. There’s no Gigabit port, nor is there an Ethernet connection port.

What’s the consensus?

First on the agenda is the Retina screen – it features 5.18 million pixels, four times as many as the last generation. And all reviews show this screen as being the best quality display on the market.

Over at The Verge, the publication confirms that it’s “close to impossible” to distinguish individual pixels on the screen, and that it was similarly impressed by how clear the text was at different viewing angles.

TechRadar had good things to say as well, although said that you probably won’t get the full benefit of the display unless you’re using apps that are optimised for it.

“Unoptimised apps are upscaled to prevent their tools and text appearing really small. They look fine until you compare them to optimised applications.”

TechRadar also has good things to say about the performance, noting the computer lasted for about seven hours in regular usage. With regard to video editing and other high-performance features, the publication said the Air managed to shave some time off the previous versions.

Over at Engadget, the publication also said the new fan system, which draws in air from vents on the sides of the computer, turned on successfully when the computer became hot – and it was a welcome addition.

“It’s been optimized to create a less obnoxious sort of whirring noise. Indeed it’s a subtle and unobtrusive white kind of sound, but it’s definitely not silent. In fact, the fan doesn’t sound particularly different than that on the current MacBook Air, though a few decibels less obtrusive. Still, you’ll always know when your system is really cranking.”

Connectivity-wise, Engadget also said there were some good improvements, including the changes to the MagSafe port, as it no longer accidentally catches on to USB cables.

It also said the keyboard is still good quality, with well-weighted and spaced keys. It did, however, say that the “improved” speakers didn’t offer much difference from the previous version.

“We didn’t notice a huge change here, but they’re certainly more than capable of turning your hotel room into an impromptu dance party – albeit one without too much bass. Beneath it all lies the glass trackpad, which feels just like it always has: really good.”

“MacBooks have the best touch experience in the business, hands down, and this latest one is no different.”

The Verge also had good things to say about Safari, considering the extra power helps browsing speeds.

“Just like with the third-generation iPad, if you’re surfing the web with the new MacBook Pro, you may notice just how low-quality a lot of the images are.”

Who’s it for?

The new MacBook Pro appears to be an improvement over the current version in every way. The higher screen resolution makes browsing and everyday use a pleasure – if you can get past the fact some images aren’t optimised – and the flash storage makes everything much, much faster.

If you’re in the market for a powerful laptop, or a Mac in general, then this is the top of the line. It may be a little on the expensive side, starting at $1,999, and there will be some drawbacks for traditional users, like the lack of a gigabit port or optical drive, but the power will make it worth the price.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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