At first glance the new MacBook Pro looks exactly like the old MacBook Pro. It has the aluminum body, backlit keyboard, and glass touchpad that have become familiar characteristics for Apple’s computers. What has changed to bring about a shocking $2,229 starting price tag, and that’s for a 15” model no less, is a remarkable balance between power and weight. This is a stocky, workhorse computer with the body of a light-riding travel notebook. The two rarely meet and here Apple has done just that using their eye-popping retina display to boot.
It’s certainly thinner and lighter than it should be. It’s easy to carry, enough that you could carelessly toss it or juggle it about. A set of vents along the underside help explain why. Instead of a traditional fan these vents suck in air, guide it through a tight channel inside, through an asymmetrical fan, and out a line of vents up top, just below the screen. It’s so efficient at keeping the system cool and quiet that it has allowed Apple to fit very demanding components within the smallest of spaces.
This change of space means that Apple can offer more options and so the new MacBook Pro has two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI port, and a memory card slot. This is a range of connections that users have wished for in the past, but have had to learn to do without. Little conveniences can mean a lot.
Unfortunately this extreme engineering means that there’s no removable battery or any physical method to try and repair the computer. Apple’s computers haven’t been immune to expanding battery packs or burned out connectors and so if something does go wrong, you can only bring the unit back to Apple, other services are unlikely to be much help.
At 15” the retina display is just as rich in visual detail as we’ve seen with the Retina versions of the iPad and iPhone. High Definition movies and graphics-heavy video games really do pop, making your eyes dance in an effort to take in all the clear details, but that’s more of a parlour trick. The real advantage is the space of a larger screen at a resolution of 2880 x 1800 for visual applications like iPhoto or iMovie (Apple’s software, naturally, if the first with Retina support). When you edit photographs you can make your digital incisions armed with the ability to see more details and when you edit video clips, it’s with the benefit of high definition thumbnails and the ability to scrub through your footage with greater clarity about what’s whipping by.
What’s impressive about the new MacBook Pro is that you can safely push the resolution for whatever project you’re working on. You can work on multiple photographs at their largest size, edit movies in their native resolution, and play games at high output options. In testing my unit I took the higher setting with every application I tried and the system didn’t skip a beat.
Yes, this is because of the use of quad-core i7 processors and an NVIDIA GeForce 650M graphics card, but more evident is the tweaks to speed, the faster RAM and a flash drive that finally delivers a proper storage size. When you have all of your materials accessible from a 256GB flash drive, there’s no lag, no moments when your software tries to catch up.
For professionals working in the visual arts, this set-up simply saves considerable time.
The new MacBook Pro doesn’t fare too well in battery life. Apple quotes a very careful “web wireless” seven hours, but the answer I’ve experienced in practical use is just over five. The system may be light enough for easy travel, but it won’t last as long as other travel-friendly notebooks.
Other upgrades include a 720p HD FaceTime camera and a dual microphone array that will help reduce noise from sounds coming from behind the computer screen. The biggest benefit comes from the stereo speakers which are noticeably clearer and more powerful. A good video editor makes cuts based on the soundtack as much as from the visuals and in my own editing sessions I found the speakers mad a huge difference in assembling clips.
Wait For The Consumer Model
This is Apple’s first Retina computer and so you’d be wise to take a pass and wait for the next models that will surely follow. You can bet the Retina screen will be added slowly down the Mac Book line. If you become a first user like myself you may have to contend with early bugs (my screen brightness doesn’t always auto-adjust for example) and the small selection of software with Retina support.
I can see why professional graphics artists have been quick to snatch it up for their businesses, but for the rest of us the smart move is to consider this an optimistic peek at Apple’s future in Retina computing. Wait and see.