Retina MacBook Pro – Five First Impressions

I had to get up way before 10 AM to make sure I was available to sign for the package, but boy, was it worth it! My review unit of the new retina MacBook arrived today.

A full review will appear in the Sun-Times shortly. But here are an arbitrary five first impressions:

  • The first thing I noticed was how much lighter it felt than the 15″ MacBook Pro I bought last year. I have plenty of experience toting that thing around the house and it truly feels like what my MacBook would weigh if it had no screen.
  • It doesn’t feel as slim or tiny as you might think. It’s still a full-sized 15″ notebook, after all. If the new MacBook were just as thick as the old one, I could have handled that without losing my **** over it, is that I’m saying.
  • No hardware battery indicator. Bummer. As I always do when I unbox loaner hardware, I parsed the question “Do I need to hook this up to AC for a few hours, or can I start rock-and-rolling with it right away?” Instinctively I looked for a little button on the side and a line of dots.
  • It’s been a while since I set up a brand-new Mac. I was surprised that I needed to enter my AppleID credentials so many times in the first ten minutes. It feels like this should be a keynote demo that starts with Craig Federighi entering in an ID and a password, waiting for three beats, and then saying “…Boom. Done.”
  • The Retina display has a subtle initial impact. It looks exactly like my 15″ display…just, better. The first thing I really noticed was that the familiar tuxedo icon representing the setup wizard had a tabbed collar and onyx shirt studs. Subtle but impressive. For a dramatic example of the improvement, start browsing the web. Bitmapped images (rendered at traditional pixel density) look like utter trash alongside the Retina-quality text that flows around it. Naturally, the images on are juiced for Retina.

More later.

[Later: based on some reactions on Twitter from web developers who read my “utter trash” observation and then yanked that length of flexible ducting out of the laundry room and headed out to the garage with it, along with their car keys and a hastily-scrawled not, I should probably clarify what I meant. I was just speaking casually. It’s more accurate to say that whereas the improvement in display resolution isn’t immediately obvious in a Finder window, it’s pretty glaring in a webpage. It’s a bit like how you thought your vision was perfectly fine until you got an eye exam and realized just how many more lines of the eye chart there were.

I do wonder how the arrival of this new MacBook is going to effect web design. Designers want things to look great. Are they going to build Retina-optimized and non-Retina-optimized versions of everything they publish? I dunno. But I hope that any designer clever enough to mprove their site with higher-density graphics will also be clever enough not to push those high-bandwidth images to hardware that can’t do anything productive with them.]

15 thoughts on “Retina MacBook Pro – Five First Impressions

  1. Dave

    The screen’s impact sounds exactly like the new iPad retina display’s impact. When I started using mine, I thought it looked nice, but nothing earth shattering. About a week later, the clearer text and graphics really hit me.

  2. Rolf

    I can’t remember using the LED battery indicator in the past 5 years or so. I think it’s fine that they took it out. Less is more.

    What I do find annoying though, are 2 things:
    1) New Magsafe connector means I can not share adapters with my colleagues
    2) Connecting to Ethernet requires me to carry around a dongle at the office all day.

    I really think that these converter cables make the mac look like a gorgeous 25 year old super model with an eye patch and a wooden leg. But then of course, there are people who are in to that sort of thing.

    (and yes I am jealous of your retina macbook, even if it is “just” a review unit)

  3. Dave

    With the SSD allowing the computer to start and come out of sleep so fast, a battery charge check is quick.

    The battery charge LEDs were nice looking but I rarely used this feature after my first month with my 13 inch MBP.

  4. TechStock2000

    Hey Andy – was this written on your iPad? I wonder because there are letters missing here and there (like “not” instead of “note”), which is what happens to me when writing on iPad.

  5. Michael A.

    @Rolf Apple does sell a $9.99 MagSafe-to-MagSafe 2 adapter so you can share power adapters or reuse old ones. Looks like it’s just a little tiny “nub”, rather than a dangly dongle.

    @Andy In addition to the missing letters, you used “effect” where you should use “affect” (“effect web design”). I suspect this was a typo not a dictation error? I’d like to think Siri would almost always get that right.

  6. David

    Maybe Mountain Lion will ask for your AppleID once and then use it for the rest of the setup.

    I personally never enter my AppleID when setting up a new machine. I always start by creating a new username with no associated AppleID. That user account is kept as clean as possible for future troubleshooting. Then I run Migration Manager and import selected items from my old system.

    My eyes aren’t what they used to be so I don’t notice much difference between a new iPad and an old one, but if the new MBP display has significantly reduced glare I would definitely appreciate that. Right now the grey sidebar on this page is showing me a remarkably clear reflection of the air conditioning vent in the ceiling behind me.

  7. Marianne

    Thx Andy, I’m looking forward to more “Laters” as your relationship with your loaner MBP w/Retina Display develops. I’m weighing options for a tricked out 13″ MBA and this new MBP. I’m a web designer and so it is going to be interesting see how the retina display effects/affects us/things. My middle aged vision has been well, middle aged vision. If the retina display is considerably easier on the eyes that would kind of cinch it for me. Your 2ยข on the topic is welcomed and appreciated.

  8. Plasmaborne

    @Andy fan noise, how hot does this new MacBook Pro get along with battery life running the retina screen? When I checked out the 2012 retina iPad the lower right corner was warm. I have a 2011 iPad and Nov07 white MacBook. I’ll like buy the new mid-2012 MacBook Air. .Hope this loaner gives you much joy.

  9. Ammon

    This is going to be a rough year for me. I’m holding out for next year until I replace my MacBook Pro. Maybe then I’ll go for an Air . . . I want to wait for one more Air refresh before I make that decision.

    Great review!

  10. Jason Baldwin

    I wonder if the Retina display will finally make SVG images (or another vector format) mainstream. It’d be a lot easier to produce scalable images for a site once than relying upon Javascript to serve up such big files.

  11. Tony Taylor

    Its funny I thought the IPad 1 display was superb then I had my cataracts done and began to see the pixels and when the new iPad launched the new display really stood out. Coincidentally every display (tv) in the house improved from normal viewing distances.

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