Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display Review - Connectivity and Usability Review

Retina MacBook Pro Connectivity
As mentioned in our MacBook Retina Rising – is Apple’s new MacBook Pro the Best Laptop Ever? piece, the latest Pro’s connectivity is unrivalled, thanks to no fewer than two Thunderbolt ports in addition to its USB 3.0 ones.

To read all about Thunderbolt and its potential, have a read here, but suffice to say it can act as a high-bandwidth interconnect for fast external storage and graphics cards, or as a DisplayPort video output. You’ll find two of these ‘magical’ ports on the left, along with the slimmer MagSafe power connector. There’s also a single USB 3.0 port (in white rather than the usual blue), finally bringing Apple’s professional laptop range up to speed for devices like fast memory sticks. Last but not least is a combined headphone/microphone jack.

On the right, meanwhile, you’ll find the second USB 3.0 port, a full-size SDXC card reader, and yet another first on an Apple laptop: an eminently practical HDMI video output. Finally, HDMI and USB 3.0 – ubiquitous on practically every premium non-Apple laptop known to man – have made it into the MacBook range. Better late than never…

The only common connector the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display doesn’t have is the good old Ethernet jack. Apple would probably argue that this is not a necessity on any laptop anymore, what with Wi-Fi being a superior wireless replacement. However, while this absence may be acceptable on the Air due to thinness considerations, on a ‘Pro’ laptop we would really expect it to be included by default, rather than requiring a Thunderbolt or USB adapter. Mind you, at least using Thunderbolt ensures you should see no performance penalty compared to actual integrated Gigabit Ethernet.

On the wireless front, there’s still no integrated 3G option, but at least Bluetooth is up to the latest version 4.0 and Wi-Fi is N.

Retina MacBook Pro Usability
As you would expect from a company that has as much experience building desirable laptops as Apple and given previous Pros were great to use, usability on the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display remains superb. The matt black chiclet keyboard offers nicely-spaced keys with a decent amount of travel, and it’s fully backlit in white.

If we have any complaints, it’s that there’s not quite enough feedback to a key press, without that distinctive click you’ll find on the likes of the Lenovo ThinkPad X220. Still, while it’s not the best typing experience on a laptop, it’s still good enough to type on all day without issue.

Getting to the glass touchpad, meanwhile, it’s still the best we’ve used, rivalled only by the cream of the Windows laptop crop. A large, smooth surface and great action on the hidden buttons leaves us with no negatives whatsoever, and it must be said that Mac OS X still makes more elegant use of multi-touch gestures than Windows 7 by a very long stretch. Of course, Windows 8 may soon even the field in this regard.

For video chatting, the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display sports the same 720p ‘FaceTime’ webcam we’ve come across before, which rivals the solutions found on many other laptops.

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