Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (2012) review

19 Jun 2012

The MacBook Pro gains a staggeringly crisp Retina display and quad-core Ivy Bridge CPU. The result is stunning, and expensive

Price when reviewed: 
1,799(£1,799 inc VAT)
5

While PC manufacturers have been busily updating their ranges with Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, Apple has gone a step further. Not content with updating the internals, it has transplanted the same Retina display concept from the iPad to its flagship MacBook Pro.

Just as the iPad’s Retina display left every other tablet trailing in its wake, the MacBook Pro now promises to do the same to every other laptop on the planet. Squeezing a massive 2,880 x 1,800 resolution into a 15.4in IPS panel, it’s a technological marvel.

Pixel perfection

Those 5.1 million pixels aren’t quite as tightly packed as on the new iPad or the iPhone 4S, but that hardly matters. The MacBook Pro’s 220ppi density is light years ahead of the laptop competition, and the moment OS X Lion’s desktop fades into view it’s impossible not to be impressed. There isn’t the slightest hint of pixel structure; not a single jagged edge to be seen. Even the individual icons on the Launchpad are so clearly defined it makes the MacBook Air 13in look like it’s slightly out of focus.

Technically, it’s near faultless. The IPS panel’s LED backlighting delivers a maximum brightness of 333cd/m[sup]2[/sup], and the contrast ratio of 1,023:1 is exemplary. Apple’s decision to factory calibrate its displays makes all the difference, too. Put to the test with our X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter and basICColor’s display 5 software, the display achieved an average Delta E of 1.4 and a maximum deviation of 3.4 in OS X – simply superb colour accuracy.

Apple Macbook Pro with Retina display (2012) - front

This is the most refined, colour-accurate display you’ll find on any laptop, at any price. However, there’s more to the MacBook Pro’s Retina display than mere pixels. While you’d imagine such a high resolution would make text painfully tiny, and shrink the toolbars and icons in applications to almost unusable proportions, Apple’s solution is OS-wide scaling.

In the default mode, dubbed “Best for Retina”, the MacBook Pro’s desktop effectively mimics a 1,440 x 900 pixel display: text is large and legible, and the icons are all big enough to click without fiddling – but it’s still a 2,880 x 1,800 screen, and those extra pixels make all the difference.

Fire up Safari and you’re rewarded with fonts so sharp and finely delineated it’s almost like viewing text on a printed page. In fact, text is so beautifully rendered it makes the low-resolution images on websites look in need of an upgrade. Apple’s own website solves the issue by using higher-resolution images when the browser detects it’s being viewed on a Retina display.

Applications are faced with a similar issue. Apple has already updated most of its iLife suite, Aperture and Final Cut Pro X, so they can take full advantage of the screen’s high resolution for editing photos and HD video. Other developers, such as Adobe, are promising updates very soon.

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Details

Price ex VAT £1,499
Price inc VAT £1,799
Overall rating 6
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 5
Performance 6

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 359 x 247 x 18mm (WDH)
Weight 2.020kg
Travelling weight 2.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i7-3615QM
Motherboard chipset Intel HM77
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 0

Screen and video

Screen size 15.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 2,880
Resolution screen vertical 1,800
Resolution 2880 x 1800
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000/Nvidia GeForce GT 650M
Graphics card RAM 1.00GB
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 256GB
Hard disk usable capacity 233GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/600
Hard disk Apple SM256E
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive none
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed N/A
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch no
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Sigmatek HD Audio
Speaker location Alongside keyboard
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 10hr 34min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 122fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.92
Responsiveness score 0.82
Media score 1.00
Multitasking score 0.93

Operating system and software

Operating system Mac OS X 10.7.4
OS family Mac OS X