BitDepth#840 - June 26

Is the new Retina model of the MacBook Pro the ultimate temptation?
How new is the 2012 MacBook Pro?
The new, slimmer and lighter MacBook Pro with Retina display. Photo courtesy Apple.

Apple stirred up a tech storm two weeks ago with a new MacBook Pro featuring a Retina display. For those who haven’t been following this development in smartphones, the “Retina” designation applies to screens with extremely high resolution, so dense that the eye no longer can see individual pixels on screen.

Introduced on the iPhone 4s, that handset’s screen packs 326 pixels per inch (ppi) into a 3.5 inch (diagonal) display. Next up was the iPad, which also claimed Retina class graphics, but dropped the screen density to 264ppi.

The new MacBook Pro drops that density again to 220ppi, which is still far more than the 96ppi that you’ll find on most high-resolution laptop screens.
The screen’s likely to be lovely (at 2,880 x 1,800 pixels, it’s exactly four times the screen area of the standard MacBook Pro), as anyone who has seen the Retina screens on the iPhone and iPad will attest, but for most of us, the new MacBook Pro is still something being judged sight unseen.

Much of the conversation is not about the screen, focusing instead on what Apple has chosen to leave out of the new laptop. Ethernet, Firewire, audio input, the Kensington lock slot and a CD/DVD drive are missing, dropped to make room for a massive array of battery modules and a noticeably thinner profile. The new pro laptop also dropped a pound in weight and a fraction of an inch in thickness, not a simple thing in a device already notably unbulky.

The result is a computer that looks a lot like the MacBook Air, just bigger and faster. And, it must be noted, more expensive. If you need one of these computers with all the bits that Apple left out and its full complement of RAM and flash based storage, expect to pay more than US$3600.

You should also be ready to spring for another US$350 for AppleCare to extend your repair insurance on the device, since there’s nothing in there that you can fix, upgrade or even look at too aggressively.
iFixit, a website notable for selling hard to get Apple parts as well as taking part new Apple gear when it’s released, described it a the least upgradeable Apple laptop ever, rating it a sneering one on a scale of one through ten.

By blending pentalobe screws, glue and solder, the MacBook Pro’s interior is, frankly, user hostile, but this shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s opened one of these systems in recent years.
A few months after I bought my current MacBook Pro in 2008, several issues arose that needed to be fixed under warranty. Here’s what happened. iSight camera malfunction? Replace the whole screen. Keyboard illumination issue? Replace the top case. Audio-in issue? Replace the motherboard.

In short order, Apple’s repairs, handled by local provider F1 connect, left me with the original RAM, hard drive and bottom case, a metal sheet that’s basically an aluminium baking tin.
The door to user fiddling in Apple’s laptops has been closing for some time. With the new laptop, it’s firmly slammed shut. RAM is soldered to the motherboard. The solid state storage uses a proprietary connector. The battery is glued in. If you don’t like the new model, the previous model remains in the lineup.

It’s time for me to upgrade, and this new system is tempting, particularly with its weight loss.
But I’ve also been having second thoughts. If your software isn’t upgraded with new graphics to match the Retina display, it’s pixel-doubled, making software look awful. If you’ve ever run an iPhone app full screen on an iPad, you’ve already seen this graphics horror.

Photoshop CS6 has apparently been upgraded to Retina quality, but the chances of Adobe adding these enhancements to version 5, the one that I’m running, is exactly zero.
Ultimately, the success of this new closed box MacBook Pro will come down to the experience that users have with the laptop. If Apple has proven anything with their takes on phones and tablets, it’s that you can’t judge their products on the cold specs.
Will the market go for this new take on a 15 inch laptop or stay with the original MacBook Pro?
iFixit teardown
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