During the keynote at WWDC Monday, Apple unveiled a series of updates for its current MacBook Air and MacBook Pro line. In what is perhaps the most significant update to the MacBook Pro in years, Apple unveiled what it calls the “Next Generation MacBook Pro” featuring a frame that is just 0.71 inches thin, weighing less than any other MacBook Pro. In fact, the Next-Generation MacBook Pro weighs in at just 4.46 pounds.
To put icing on the cake, Apple added a Retina display to the new MacBook, giving it a pixel resolution of 2,880 x 1,800 across a 15.4″ display. That’s a pixel density of 220 pixels per inch, making it the highest-resolution display ever put on a notebook computer.
The display and thin design aren’t the only things that have been updated with this new MacBook. This MacBook Pro features third-generation quad-core Intel Core i7 processors, a remarkably high-capacity SSD storage drive, and a number other other improvements that help the new MacBook Pro become a powerhouse compared to even the latest MacBook Airs.
As mentioned before, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display features three million more pixels than a traditional 1080p screen packed into a 15.4″ frame. At 220 pixels per inch, this is the highest resolution screen currently being offered on any notebook of any screen size.
Because the display is actually factored into the unibody design, there are less layers between the picture and the user. The glass goes all the way to the edge of the bezel. In addition, Apple announced that the new display will have a glare-reducing coating which combats the trademark mirror effect commonly associated with Apple’s glass screen.
To go along with this new, higher-resolution screen, Apple is including Intel HD Graphics 4000 and an NVIDIA GeForce 650M with 1 GB of GDDR5 memory on-board. To put it mildly, this graphics solution is no slouch. It really shouldn’t be with so many pixels requiring information.
Along with many of the other MacBook Pro notebooks, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display includes the latest-generation Ivy Bridge Core i7 quad-core processors. Two options including the 2.3 and 2.6 GHz processors are available, at starting prices of $2,199 and $2,799 respectively.
The 2.3 GHz Core i7 processor can be overclocked with Turbo Boost to up to 3.3 GHZ and the 2.6 GHz can be boosted to 3.6 GHz. Not that you’d need to boost these processors, but the option is certainly available to you.
When compared to the MacBook Pro, only the 15.4″ MacBook Pros starting at $1,799 and $2,199 match this CPU offering on the base models.
Along with impressive processors and a breakthrough new screen, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display includes some new storage options including 256, 512, and 768 GB SSD drives. The base Retina Display model (2.3 GHz) comes with 256 GB of SSD storage while the 2.6 GHz model gives you the option of either 512 GB or upgrading to 768 GB for $500 more.
In the world of computing, few upgrades have as much of a direct impact on your system’s performance than switching from spinning platters to flash storage. Solid-state storage drives (SSD) access information much faster than ones that depend on a spinning platter and a reading arm. In addition, the lack of moving parts makes them slightly more reliable, especially in circumstances where bumps and jarring motions occur during use.
The new design also includes a fan design that is intended to reduce noise without impacting cooling efficiency. Asymmetric fans spread the sound put off by fans across a wider range of audio frequencies which results in a perceived reduction in volume. Traditional symmetrical fans create noise on a single frequency range, which can appear much like a crowd of people all speaking at a whisper which results in a single loud background hum.
New updates to Aperture, Final Cut Pro X, Mail, and iPhoto allow for full use of the Retina display which allows you to see more in a tighter space.
For example, the preview area of Final Cut Pro may take up a quarter of the screen, but you’re seeing the preview in its full 1080p glory. For video editors, this is a big deal because that preview window is notorious for being inaccurate to what you might expect in the final render.
You can edit photos in much higher resolutions, making it easier to see things as they will appear once printed. Detailed editing is also more possible as you are able to see the entire image at the same time rather than a zoomed section of it.
Battery life, as claimed by Apple, is roughly 7 hours for all versions of the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display. In real-world terms, that usually amounts to about 4-5 hours of battery life during normal use with screen brightness and other factors put into play.
That said, the lack of a spinning hard drive, moving parts such as an optical drive, and other energy-efficient changes may do quite a lot to increase expected battery life during normal use.
The new MacBook design may be the first of a series of changes to the professional line that moves away from traditional limitations placed on mobile computing. Screen resolution, a constant factor for notebook computers, is now improved beyond that of even the most popular large-screen desktop monitors. With several million pixels over 1080p, I’m interested in seeing what productivity applications can do with this new virtual screen real estate.
I personally don’t see myself wanting to rush to the Apple Store to throw down a couple grand for this new MacBook when the existing lines have received some remarkable upgrades on their own. You can still pick up a very capable MacBook Air that packs a performance punch of its own for less than half of what you would spend on this new MacBook Pro. The current MacBook Pro line itself received a great update, and still remains one of the more powerful systems offered by Apple.
What we didn’t see at WWDC this year may be more telling than what we did see. The 17″ MacBook Pro is missing from the lineup, and that’s one change that is sure to drive more photographers and other media professionals to consider the Retina Display.