MacBook Pro with Retina Display redefines 'pro' laptop

Apple isn't afraid to stir things up, making people to rethink how they use technology. In recent years, most of that kind of innovation has focused on the iPhone, iPad, and iOS. But the MacBook Pro with Retina display now directs attention back to the Mac.

The Retina MacBook Pro is not only a groundbreaking release, combining stunning performance and portability in a 15-inch Mac laptop. This model will also force you to change the way you interact with a laptop. From overhauling how you view and work with content to how you deal with external devices and connections, Apple isn't afraid to push its customers in new directions. The Retina MacBook Pro is certainly a more-than-gentle nudge.

Looking good: The Retina display

The marquee feature of this laptop is right in the name--the Retina display. The Retina display made its debut in the iPhone 4, followed by the third generation iPad. It's finally made its way to a Mac. You can look at the Retina display as another step in the iOS-ification of the Mac, or you can see it as I do--another way to remind you that all of these products are part of one big happy Apple family.

The Retina display's numbers are mind-boggling: 2880 by 1800 pixels--that's 220 pixels per inch--for a total of 5.18 million pixels on a 15.4-inch backlit screen. When the Retina MacBook Pro is set at its (Best) Retina setting, it's spectacular--the detail in photos is great, and text is the crispest and cleanest it's ever been. For the first few hours with the Retina MacBook Pro, I even found enjoyment in reading the text of system alerts. The Retina MacBook Pro helped rekindle my appreciation for the little details of Mac OS X that, over time, I've taken for granted. There were no dead pixels or light leakage on the two Retina MacBook Pros I looked at, and compared to my 17-inch MacBook Pro, colors were exceedingly vibrant.

With so many pixels, it's easy to notice the amount of detail you can see in high-resolution photos. But it emphasizes the low quality of many website images. Fire up Safari and you can read an article displayed in finely rendered text, with images that now look jaggy. For anyone tuned to such nuances, it can be annoying, but don't blame the laptop. It's up to Web designers to start to optimize graphics for Retina displays. With the popularity of the iPhone and iPad, the addition of a Retina laptop, and the eventual adoption of high-resolution displays in non-Apple devices, it's only a matter of time before the Web catches up.

Videos on the Retina MacBook Pro look excellent. To fit a 1080p video on MacBook Pro, the video is enlarged to fill the screen. Since these MacBook Pros already have more pixels on the screen than on a HDTV. I didn't notice any ghosting, and the laptop's video card seemed to have no problem handling the video.

The Retina MacBook Pro actually has two video cards--one integrated, one discrete. The integrated video card (which shares memory with the main memory, and is actually part of the CPU), is Intel's HD Graphics 4000, which is used to help preserve battery life. The discrete video card (a separate component with its own memory) is Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M, with 1GB of video memory. The system automatically switches processors based on the activity you're performing, so you're not sacrificing performance while, say, playing a game. You can turn off automatic graphics switching, which then sets the Retina MacBook Pro to always use the discrete video card.

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