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Retina MacBook Pro – The Best Laptop is an Apple

MacBook Pro Twin Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt is a connector first introduced by Intel in 2009. It’s currently the mother of all interconnects, offering 20Gb/s compared to ‘only’ 4.8Gb/s for USB 3.0. However, general industry uptake has been on the slow side, with only Apple’s laptop range, the Sony VAIO Z, and the Acer S5 incorporating it on the laptop side of things. While consequently the list of peripherals that work with the interconnect is still a bit limited, this doesn’t take away from its potential – and it’s fully compatible with miniDisplayPort (an alternative video connection standard to HDMI) too.

With its latest MacBook Pro refresh, Apple has not only updated all the previous model’s USB 2.0 ports to USB 3.0, but also added a second Thunderbolt port to the one found on its predecessor. That makes the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display the best-connected laptop in the world. Ever. Despite its lack of Ethernet without an adapter.

Three USB 3.0 ports aside, the Retina MacBook has no fewer than three digital video outputs - counting its HDMI output and twin miniDisplayPorts/Thunderbolt ports, the latter of which are compatible with HDMI, DVI and even VGA by using active adapters. Now you can finally plug in more than one Thunderbolt device without needing to daisy chain either, handy in all kinds of situations – for example when copying content from one external storage drive to another, or when connected to a DisplayPort monitor and Thunderbolt hard drive.

This will become even more important when we move beyond relatively simplistic uses like storage or even (blasphemy, I know), video output. As the rather special Sony VAIO Z already demonstrated with its unique external dock sporting extra USB 3.0 ports, a Blu-ray writer, and dedicated external graphics, Thunderbolt has bandwidth to spare for some pretty intensive use.

The latter in that list is where things get really interesting, as graphics has traditionally been the weakest area of any laptop – even the 2012 MacBook Pro’s Nvidia GeForce GT 650M won’t let you game at the screen’s native resolution in demanding titles. But imagine hooking up a desktop GTX 680…

MacBook Pro Retina VS Windows laptop

Retina MacBook Pro VS Windows Laptop

For all this, it’s important to remember that the 2012 MacBook Pro is still ‘just’ a laptop – and with a starting price of £1,800, a very expensive one at that. Much as we love its specifications, build quality and usability, aside from the screen these can all be matched already - or will soon be - by competing Windows laptop models, as the Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A proved conclusively when compared to the previous Apple Pro contender.

We’re also starting to see ever more ‘large’ Ultrabooks, like the Acer Aspire Timeline U M3 581T, and some of them should be pretty spiffing. Even non-Ultrabook laptops like the Sony VAIO S 15 - with its 1080p IPS screen, minimalist metal chassis, backlit keyboard, dedicated graphics and slot-loading Blu-ray drive - already makes for a compelling alternative.

One of the Retina MacBook Pro’s strongest virtues is perhaps what it will inspire in the competition, but for now it’s definitely the overall best (relatively portable) laptop money can buy.


June 18, 2012, 7:02 pm

I really don't see the point of this resolution on a 15" display if they are not going to fit more on the screen.

I have a 30" display with 2556 x 1600 resolution and the text is tiny from normal viewing distance.

It is just a waste of pixels and bragging rights. I would love to see how choppy games run at that resolution.

Tariq Pugh

June 18, 2012, 8:17 pm

The VAIO Z is still cooler.

Jason Hill

June 18, 2012, 10:16 pm

Have TR forgot to mention something? The fact that none of it is upgradable, you cant add more ram later or buy a better ssd at a later stage. If you want these now guess what it will cost you £560, just to go from 8-16gb of ram and 512-768GB ssd, and there only standard parts at that. But apple get away with this and company's like TR just lap it up as with all the other apple marketing crap.


June 18, 2012, 11:00 pm

Nice comparison between the studio shot Mac vs. real life shot Windows Laptop.


June 19, 2012, 12:48 am

Both images were shot in our studio for their respective reviews - the full review of the MacBook Pro is coming soon.


June 19, 2012, 12:53 am

I don't quite follow - "fit more on screen"?

The point of the Retina display is that it makes everything sharper in normal use - fonts and menus are all the same size as a normal 1440 x 900 display but are much clearer. But, for compatible programs you can use the full number of pixels. For instance when editing 1080p video you can have the full HD video shown but still fit all your tools around it or when viewing pictures all the thumbnails can show way more detail. Yes you have to peer closely to see all the details but at least they're there.

That's the principle anyway. We'll be back with our full review to assess whether its beneficial in practice.


June 19, 2012, 12:55 am

I'm in two minds on this point. On the one hand I fully agree that it's ridiculous how closed the system is but on the other if that's what it takes to make such a system then so be it - it is quite something in the flesh.


June 19, 2012, 1:21 am

I hear that the maximum native resolution you can set this thing at is 1920x1200. Not the marketed 2,880 x 1,800? (TWiT Podcast)


June 19, 2012, 2:09 am

That's the highest you can select for the system resolution but other programs can dig deeper as it were. My video preview may hopefully clear things up for you. http://www.trustedreviews.com/...


June 19, 2012, 5:14 am

Any chance of finding out direct from Apple (being priviliged enough to have press access as you are) why they won't offer 512GB with the slower processor? Bit of a jump in price that you have to opt for the faster processor on top if all you want is the extra storage (ie for a Windows 7 install to do some gaming, for those of us with slow net connections who want to leave stuff installed rather than having to download again over a period of days).

Just seems a bit cheeky of them to not offer the flexibility. I can almost kid myself that the base model with 512GB would be merely 'expensive', whereas the top end model is 'ludicrous' (not saying it's worth it or not worth it, but one figure is within the price range I'd consider, and one isn't - and I'm sure others might think the same)

Also for that price would it kill them to just include the £65 Superdrive as a freebie? I guess there's a reason they have a $100 billion cash pile.....

When you buy a Ferrari, you get to choose the colour of the seats, the colour of the stitching, the gearbox, the type of brakes...pretty much everything. Surely when purchasing the Ferrari of laptops, we could expect the same flexibility!


June 19, 2012, 5:49 am

Thanks Ed. That explains it nicely. I think that's a very wise implementation of the high resolution.

Such a shame that there are simply no user replaceable or upgradeable parts. In two years this will be a slow brick tied to the power cable. £200 to replace a battery? No SSD or RAM updates? £2000+? It all sounds a bit mad from my cheap seats. Then again, I should think that most the people that buy these will be happy to buy the next one in 2 years time and just put these in the cupboard or on an auction site.

Cracking bit of Hardware.


June 19, 2012, 12:05 pm

Seems Ed is having to defend this article pretty hard and I'm going to jump in in support. Yes, this laptop is fiendishly expensive, and yes it isn't upgradeable, but those are two sacrifices you make to get a machine this powerful, portable, well built and stylish, featuring what is without question the most outstanding screen on any laptop made to date by any manufacturer.

The storage on the MacBook Air isn't upgradeable either - it's a trade-off Apple makes in order to fit the components in such a compact chassis. I suspect they've realised that the proportion of people who ever actually upgrade a laptop's internal components is vanishingly small.

Personally, I'd sell a kidney for one of these.


June 19, 2012, 12:06 pm

The RAM and SSD are *not* "standard parts" - they are custom built to fit the enclosure of the new MBP, and soldered in place. That's *why* there's no aftermarket upgrades.


June 19, 2012, 3:06 pm

John, you're not the first to have that idea!


This does look like a fantastic laptop. Nobody really complains about Mercedes being too expensive, seems that this is the Mercedes of laptops, it's almost a tech demo. There's nothing to touch it on the market yet so they can charge what they want. Some more flexibility on configs at purchase would be nice though.

I expect in a couple of years a lot of laptops will have similar displays and features, and Apple will have moved on to something else...

Phil 9

June 19, 2012, 11:26 pm

I am currently the owner of a 17" MacBook Pro (Late 2007). I've been waiting to upgrade for some time.

So I've had a long look at this new retina MBP. Yes it's got an amazing screen and USB 3, but they are really the only major changes over previous models. In my opinion, there is more going against it:

NO 17" version
I need lots of screen real estate, so 15" is just not feasible since I am often away from my desk.

NO ExpressCard Slot
I have invested in eSata & CF memory adapters which will be completely unusable.

NO Upgradeable Hard Drive or Memory
My current MacBook Pro has a 512Gb SSD Drive which I upgraded myself. I want to reuse this in any new laptop to keep the upgrade costs down.

NO built in Ethernet port
Why do I have to carry around another adaptor/cable that can be lost/broken. Ethernet needs to be built right in like every other laptop world. It's just utter insanity excluding this.

So I've ended up buying the latest 17" model available (Oct 2011). It cost me £1500. It has all the connectivity as my existing laptop and comes with the additional Thunderbolt port. Better spec & better price all round. Yes it would be nice to have USB3, but at some stage I will get a Thunderbolt dock that will have USB3 anyway.

Whilst there will be some performance gains over previous models, stats showing up on GeekBench show that the 17" Sandy Bridge models from Late 2011 don't lag significantly behind the retina models. So upgrading for performance gains doesn't hold much sway.

I like to live on the bleeding edge of technology, but in all seriousness moving to this 15" retina MBP feels like a step AWAY from the edge.


June 20, 2012, 8:13 pm

Well...I just had a little play around with one in the Apple store in Westfield Shepherd's Bush...quite a nice bit of kit, feels like a fantastic piece of engineering. Very slender when closed, rock solid build, not creaky like my plastic hand-me-down Dell Studio 17 (and half the 4.1kg weight too). And I have to say, the scaled 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 looked pretty sharp to my eyes.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't getting the credit card out on the spot to get one, but it's going to be a tough decision if my own laptop dies, which it seems to be well on its way to doing.

And I'm in the "I don't really like Apple as a brand, they're too smug, and they really need to convince me why I should buy this" camp, not the "ooooh shiny apple take my money" camp. But this might just win me over....


June 21, 2012, 11:40 pm

I just got a chance to check out the new MBP, and the screen is honestly everything what ED described it to be. The retina display on it is INCREDIBLY sharp!.. Its like that feeling when you first got an iphone 4 after using a 3GS for so long and you think to yourself "I dont think i can ever go back to that old screen". At the apple store I kept moving back and fw between a MBP with the old screen to one with the retina display just so i can keep admiring the difference. You really have to see it in person to believe its beauty.


June 22, 2012, 12:09 am

I dont know what "step AWAY from the edge" means, and your "NO.." list are just features pertaining to your own taste. They're not a necessity. Happy for your new MBP 17" though.

I am curious however, by squeezing the depth of the chasis, did this new macbook pro sacrifice features like speakers (sound)? Im excited for the full review.

Jim Fulton

June 23, 2012, 3:11 pm

Predictably, the posted comments have been in two camps. I hate Apple vs the rest. As an Apple user, it appears that this laptop is very very good, but wayyyy out of my price range currently. I'd like to say one thing to those moaning about upgrading and tooling about with the SSD: most buyers really can't be bothered doing that. My 2008 iMac (3.1GB, 1TB) is now four years old and performs like the day it came out of the box. A current model (I know refresh soon) would only be marginally faster/better. To most consumers (vs techies or gamers with extremely deep pockets) any device that's north of a grand needs to last more than three years. No different for laptops. If you need the latest and greatest, every year, then you must be less than 1pc of buyers, and are as anal about "want it now" as the fanboys are about every single Apple device.


June 23, 2012, 4:29 pm

It really is good isn't it? What impressed me too was how slender it is when it's closed. Makes my Dell Studio 17 look like a (creaky, poorly made and plastic) whale.
If it was a Windows laptop I'd probably already have one, thankfully the jump to OS X is enough to make me pause and not impulse buy with money I don't have! (since I have lots of software and more importantly games for windows, the switch in OS is still a negative factor for me even with Bootcamp....but what a machine, why can't any other manufacturer make anything close?). Time to start saving....

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