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Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display Review - Retina Screen Review

MacBook Pro Retina Display
Its Retina Display is undoubtedly the newest MacBook Pro’s piece de resistance. It’s not even just about the resolution increase from the previous MacBook Pro 15.4in’s 1,680 x 1,050 pixels to a whopping 2,880 x 1,800, the actual panel technology itself is now IPS rather than its predecessors’ inferior TN. This means better viewing angles and potentially more accurate colours. Indeed, for the first time in a MacBook, viewing angles are as good as they get. You can view material from as far to any side as you like, without noticeable contrast or colour shift.

Apple has also done away with the glass cover that created the bezel-free look on older MacBooks, instead using only two layers compared to the previous three. This brings the actual display closer than ever and significantly lowers reflections, all without losing any of the aesthetic benefits of a glass front (though it is likely to be a little more fragile than screens that do sport the extra layer). It’s one of many little touches that elevate the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display above the competition and previous generations.

As you would hope, the image characteristics of the Retina panel are pretty good. Already vibrant colours are further perceptually enhanced by the glass finish, as are inky blacks. Dark detailing isn’t the best we’ve come across though, with a few of the subtlest shades getting lost.

Backlighting is beautifully even. There’s just a hint of bleed along the left bottom and top edges, but this isn’t noticeable in normal use and doesn’t even distract in a dark environment. There’s no banding and virtually no sign of other artefacts either.

MacBook Pro Retina Display resolution
Sharpness is, of course, unmatched. With its insane 2,880 x 1,800 resolution giving the latest MacBook Pro 15 inch a ppi of 220 (compared to 264ppi for the iPad 3, but you hold that closer to your eyes), it’s virtually impossible to distinguish individual pixels and even the tiniest fonts become legible. Pretty much everything looks better, and though the effect can be subtle, going back to a ‘normal’ screen you’ll definitely notice the difference.

Just to put things into perspective, this 15in laptop manages to cram in more pixels than your average 30in monitor, most of which count 2,560 x 1,600. Overall then there is no question about it: the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display sports by far the best screen we’ve ever seen on a laptop. Best. Ever. In fact, the only area where it’s inferior to many desktop displays is in its colour accuracy and gamut coverage.

MacBook Pro Retina Display in use
Oh the irony; to run your desktop at this MacBook screen’s native resolution, you’ll actually need to install Windows. That’s right, Apple has made yet another decision about what it will allow its users to do with their own hardware.

Under MacOS’ display settings you’ll find five resolution presets. The lowest of these is based on 1,024 x 640, and results in huge icons and text. This is a handy setting if you’re visually impaired or sitting at a considerable distance when, for example, giving a presentation.

The middle one is similar to that of the original MacBook Pro with a 1,440 x 900 resolution, and since this doubles neatly into the new panel’s 2,880 x 1,800, Apple calls it “Best (Retina)”. This alone gives away the fact that there’s no native mode.

The highest preset the fruity company gives you is 1,920 x 1,200. While this is still a very high resolution for a 15in panel, it’s nothing outstanding and content is still being scaled, albeit superbly. Quite aside from losing desktop real estate, third-party software will need to be programmed to specifically get the most out of the Retina Display – and so far only a few MacOS-specific programs are fully compatible, though giants like Photoshop CS6 are soon to follow.  

One fairly painless BootCamp Windows 7 install later, however, and we can admire our desktop in native 2,880 x 1,800. With Display set to 150 percent zoom for text and icons (the default using Apple’s provided drivers) everything is perfectly legible, as long as you’re sitting close to the laptop. This really does provide an experience like no other; it’s simply glorious to behold.

The same can be said for games. Blizzard’s Diablo 3, for example, it also optimised for Retina and looks more gorgeous than ever on this screen – check out its performance on the next page.

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