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Apple built the 15″ MacBook Pro (Air) that I asked for last year. I was looking for a larger more powerful MacBook than the MacBook Air (which I also use). This would become my work computer and replace my current 15″ MacBook Pro. Apple finally answered my wish list and I got even more than I was asking for a year ago. The 1st thing they did was drop the built-in Optical (Super) Drive. No loss here and it won’t be missed at all. I think I may have put 1 or 2 discs in my 2011 MacBook Pro and even then I can’t really remember doing so. I’m just guessing that I probably used one or two in the course of a year. The addition of USB 3 and not one but two Thunderbolt ports will lessen my need for Firewire and built-in Gigabit Ethernet. Not to mention having a dedicated HDMI port is a real plus these days since I’m connecting to more and more HD projectors on the road. Yep, port wise I’m content. It’s also nice shedding some of the weight and making it thinner. If I really really really need to use an Optical Disc I can pop one in the External Superdrive or use CD/DVD sharing with another Mac on my network.

What about the Retina Display?

Let me cut to the chase and address many of the questions I’ve gotten thus far on one of the key features of this new MacBook Pro. Yes, it has a Retina Display and yes it’s gorgeous. However, with that said it’s like when the New iPad came out. We have to wait a bit for all the Apps to catch up and add Retina (HiDPI) Display Support and that could take a while. One thing I’m glad of though is that even with Apps that don’t have native HiDPI support yet, the experience is not as bad as I thought it might be. I’m in Lightroom and Photoshop every day and while Apple showed a pre-release version of Photoshop with Retina Display support during their WWDC announcement, I don’t yet have that version to play with. Yes, I’m using the same Photoshop CS6 as everyone else and it’s fine for now. The only time I can really tell that it would nice to have the update is when I zoom in close on an image as I can see more jaggies/anti-aliasing around the edges for sure. The Apps that ship with the MacBook Pro Retina Display have all been optimized for HiDPI and look great.

It’s Glossy, but not bad! I always opted for the the CTO Matte Display on my previous two MacBook Pros. I absolutely hated the glare of the original MacBook Pros that came standard with glossy displays. However, Apple has made some adjustments to it and this one doesn’t bother me at all.

No Resolution Numbers! – Apple how could you? My only complaint with the Display has nothing to do with the quality of it. It’s a software thing. Apple for some reason decided to remove all references to display resolution from the Displays System Preferences! So now you really have no idea what resolution your displaying at. Instead they’ve given us “Best for Retina Display” or Scaled. You have various choices of scaled which will make your text larger or smaller as before depending upon the resolution you choose. I could see this not being a big deal for the average consumer that leaves their resolution on the native resolution all the time.

However, I’m always changing my resolution for screen recordings (1280×720) and for presentations to test what my presentation will look like before I connect to a projector. Not being able to quickly choose/see these number is a pain in the butt! Luckily I was already using a utility called SwitchResX and not only does it allow me to keep my custom resolution of 1280×720, but it also displays all the resolutions in SwitchResX menu and let’s me freely choose. Apple no longer allows you to even put the Displays menu in the menu bar. Again, this is a step backwards on a “Pro” machine. By the way, the native resolution is 2880×1800, but at a higher PPI. Effectively it gives you the screen real estate of 1440×900 on an older display. However, with SwitchResX I prefer working at 1680×1050 HiDPI. I may concede and go down/up to the native resolution to get the best “image quality”, but I do like the real estate of 1680×1050. Apple has posted this tech note to help with resolution display issues, incompatible apps and a few tips and tricks for working in extended desktop mode (with a second display).

The Ports

As I stated in the opening, having two USB 3 ports, TWO Thunderbolt ports (Yay!) and an HDMI port pretty much meet all my needs. I’m anxiously awaiting Apple to ship the Thunderbolt to FireWire 800 Adapter that they announced and I’ll be complete. The SD card slot makes it easy for me to use the cards from my Nikon D7000 on the road and now I’m using a Lexar USB 3 CF/SD reader when I’m at my desk or when I travel with my Nikon D4. The Thunderbolt to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter works great and I just leave one of those at my desk on the end of the Ethernet cable. I’m also quite pleased to see the return of having a USB port on the right side!

The New MagSafe Power Adapter

Although the New MacBook Pro Retina display uses an 85w power adapter just like the older models, your existing adapter won’t work without an adapter. The MagSafe plug on the MacBook Pro Retina Display is actually thinner. Apple sells a $10 adapter so that you can use your existing adapters and since I have several of these around the studio and house, I’ll be investing in a few of these adapters.

Setting it up from Scratch

More and more I’m finding that I’m having fewer problems by occasionally starting clean! What that means in this case is NOT using the Migration Assistant and migrating all my stuff over from my previous MacBook Pro. Instead I set this new MacBook Pro Retina up from scratch out of the box. That of course means installing all my software and drivers over again and just copying over the data I need from a backup. Once I sign into iCloud all my contacts and calendar info comes down. Since I use Dropbox as my “Documents” folder, all I had to do was install the client and let it pull down all the contents of my Documents folder. Since I use 1Password for all my passwords and serial numbers, setting up my new MacBook Pro from start to finish only took about a full day. In the past I always migrated over because I never felt that I had the time or energy to setup everything again from scratch. Now I’d do it in a heartbeat. It also saves drive space, because you’re not bringing back so many remnants of past versions of software or other stuff that you just aren’t using anymore. I typically download the latest versions of my software to install too. This assures that I’m not installing or migrating some old version over. Another reason you might consider setting up from scratch is that if you do have something that is incompatible and it gets migrated over you may not be able to figure out what’s crashing your new Mac. Chances are you would discover it quicker as you were installing new things.

The Most Un-User Serviceable MacBook Pro Ever

I’m used to being able to install my own RAM or upgrade the hard drive in my MacBook Pros. However, there’s no chance of that with the New MacBook Pro Retina Display. You have an option of 8GB or 16GB of RAM. If you choose 8 and then later want to go to 16, you’re out of luck! The RAM is not standard DIMMs that the user can swap out. Same goes for the SSD drives. So you need to go with the options up front that you think you’re going to want/need down the road. In my case 16GB of RAM and a 768GB SSD. These and other items in the New MacBook Pro Retina Display are custom designed by Apple and in many cases glued in.

What didn’t work?

The only thing that flat out did NOT work on my New MacBook Pro so far was SnapzProX. I use this utility for screenshot captures. However, it’s definitely not compatible. As soon as I go to grab a screen capture it magnifies the screen to some super large size and doesn’t let me capture the are that I want.

HiDPI Apps vs. Non-HiDPI Apps

There are very few apps that take advantage of the Retina Display at this point besides Apple’s. For example, Google has announced that a version of Chrome is coming with Retina Display support and Phil Schiller showcased an upcoming version of Photoshop CS6. To date the only updates I’ve seen to my existing Apps are 1Password and SpamSieve. While welcomed, these two were hardly deal breakers. Safari on the other hand is already updated and I could see switching back to Safari until the Chrome update is available. The sites do look much better in Safari.  I use Photoshop and Lightroom every day and so far they are fine on the New MacBook Pro Retina. Can I tell the difference? YES! Is it a show stopper? No. For the most part text is a little jaggy or soft in menu items. It kinda reminds me of the days of printing a PostScript font without having the printer font installed and seeing the jaggy screen font on paper. However, this isn’t nearly as bad! You can’t judge a display by reading a review! You have to see it with your own eyes and preferably viewing your own work or apps. My eyes are different than yours and only you can deem what is acceptable to you and what is NOT!

The Bottom Line

The MacBook Pro Retina Display is a beauty! It’s the one that I’ve been waiting for for over a year. There are tradeoffs compared to previous models, but for me the benefits outweigh those tradeoffs. Thinner, lighter and faster! I’m sold.

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19 Responses to MacBook Pro Retina Review

  1. Ivan Marshall says:

    Thanks for the thorough,insightful, review from a True Pro,the True,intended market for this MacBook Pro. Even though you give presentations,you can do without Ethernet,DVD/CD Burners,and FireWire,many other Pros cannot. I don’t find my 17″ MacBook Pro as being heavy at 6.6 lbs, and the other ports,Optical drive,extra Screen-real estate,and express card slot, are more important to me than a 1-pound weight loss,and the Retina Display. I could see a good case being made for either machine,depending on your needs. Terry,why is there controversy over not being able to upgrade from 8GB of RAM,when hardly any Mac came with 4GB of RAM,and few could take 8GB?

    • Terry White says:

      The point of the RAM upgrade is that you’re locked in at whatever you decide at the time you order. Considering that most people will want to get at least 2-3 years out of their purchase, it’s probably safe to assume that while 8GB may be acceptable today, it probably won’t be enough in the years to come. In the past you would have been able to start with the 8gb and then upgrade it yourself if ever needed, Now you can’t.

  2. Alex Epelbaum says:

    Terry did you go with 2.6 processor or 2.7?

  3. Alexander Epelbaum says:


    I always trust your recommendations and read your blogs almost daily. I was hoping to ask if you could help with MacBook Pro decision. I currently have a MacBook Pro June 2009, 2.8 ghz core 2 duo processor with 500gb harddrive. I use it for photo editing (amateur, not professional use) with Aperture and Adobe Photoshop CS6. I also do some family movies with iMovie. First, would you upgrade to the Retina Display given above and second what configuration would you recommend. I would really appreciate your input.


    • Terry White says:

      If your current MBP is doing the job then there’s probably no reason to upgrade. If you are ready to upgrade AND you don’t need the ports, optical drive, etc. of the regular MacBook, then the Retina Display is the way to go.

  4. Alexander Epelbaum says:

    Ports? Aren’t there adapters for FireWire? It is doing it but I keep getting the spinning circle (thinking) way too often.

  5. David says:

    Hi Terry, Thanks for your great awaited review! The only thing you didn’t give your opinion about is…..the price. Sure, the first price of a MBP Retina is $2199 but it has only 256gb of flash storage. Just like you i want – and need – one with 768gb flash storage but this option is only available with the most expensive one at $2799 (and for that price it still have only 512gb of flash strage!). Don’t you think that even with all these awesome new features it’s a bit exagerated – if not crazy – that we have to pay $3300 to be able to have 768gb and even $3750 with all the options you choose? (16gb of Ram, etc…) I love Apple, and i can even agree on the reasons why their devices are more expensive than others, but sometime they exagerate, too much is too much!
    C’mon, Terry, i’m sure you have something to say about this!

    • Terry White says:

      Remember the 1st MacBook Air? Low on features, high on price and at the time there was nothing else like it.
      1st iPhone? Lines of people shelling out $600 full price, unsubsidized and still signing up for a 2 year contract!

      Is there a comparable notebook with the same feature set that’s cheaper? Apple typically prices things at what they feel the market will bare. If it doesn’t sell or if competition comes along the price is adjusted. Apple also tends to price the 1st generation of a product higher (probably to cover R&D and ramping up the factory on the new form factor). Remember the 1st gen Apple TV? Although the price of flash memory has come down it’s still pricey over 256GBs. I’m not in any way trying to justify the price. It is what it is and people will either pay it or they won’t, but this is not some unusual thing for Apple.

  6. Paras says:

    Hi Terry i just wanted to know that when ur building a laptop u should be giving a DVD/CD Burner, Mac book pro with retina display doesn’t have any. I thought that this time apple would be giving a Blue Ray player. whats the fun of spending $2799 for laptop with no DVD writer…. when you have to watch a movie or burn a disc , you have to carry an USB DVD writer with you…??

    • Terry White says:

      I haven’t had to care about using a disc in several months if not a couple of years. In my last MacBook Pro I may have used a DVD like twice if that. When it comes to movies, I’ve ripped my entire collection a few years back to my server. If I want to take a movie with me I simply copy it to the hard drive. I can do the same for Blu-rays, but I really don’t see the point as I don’t need the quality on such a small screen. All my software now installs via a download so I have no needs to install software from a disc either. I simply have no need for optical media anymore.

  7. Paras says:

    Hello Terry, Thanks for your reply. I know that there’s not much use of any optic media these days, even i don’t use it in my desktop, but the point is every one cant download things from internet, those people who don’t have a wireless internet connection how would they get their stuff on their Mac..?? if i have a mac book pro with retina display, and my friend burns a DVD of movies or pics for me, then how would i copy it to my mac…?? The only option is that i ‘ll have to borrow my friends laptop and then copy the whole data in a USB storage media and then copy it to my MAC. More over all the Movies these day are coming in BLUE RAY discs or DVD’s with superb HD quality, whats the fun of giving a retina display on MAC when u cant enjoy the stuff directly from the DVD. i am just saying that “Wouldn’t it be much better if my MAC already have a Optical Media…???”

    • Terry White says:

      Apple sells MacBook Pros still with built-in SuperDrives
      Apple sells an external USB Superdrive.
      Apple provides CD/DVD drive sharing over the network.

      I’m not sure what the problem is? The Retina Display MacBook Pro doesn’t come with one built-in just like the MacBook Air doesn’t. If you (or the folks that can’t download stuff) need one, then buy a Mac that includes one or buy an external. I don’t need one built-in and I’m glad I now have the option to not have one!
      The MacBook Pro Retina Display doesn’t come with an optical drive. If you need one, then this is not the Mac for you. It’s that simple. They are banking on more people not needing one than those that do and I think it’s a safe bet.

  8. Rosabell says:

    can i install windows in mac book pro. And can both mac and windows run simultaneously together…???

  9. Rosabell says:

    what if my mac UI gets currupted..??
    can i re install it..????

  10. HollywoodHick says:

    SnapzProX works fine on mine.