Collected: Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina Display torn down, 13-inch model looms

By Jonny Evans

With the Retina Display MacBook Pro, Apple [AAPL] has set a new standard in notebook achievement, reviews are almost universally positive, and the most recent iFixIt teardown declares the machine to be an "engineering marvel". In future all its notebooks will offer this high-res screen, with a 13-inch model set to ship in October, one analyst claims.

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13-inch model ships October, analyst claims

The top-of-the-range MacBook Pro delivers a screen resolution of 2880-x-1800 pixels (typo updated thanks to reader, "Just"). The future 13-inch model will not have an optical drive and will use flash storage and an Ivy Bridge processor, according to KGI analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo. The analyst said the new models weren't ready in time for WWDC last week, because of "greater assembly difficulty".

iFixIt this week confirmed the engineering challenges inherent in manufacturing the Retina Display used in the high-end 15-inch models:

"The Retina display is an engineering marvel. Its LCD is essentially the entire display assembly. Rather than sandwich an LCD panel between a back case and a piece of glass in front, Apple used the aluminum case itself as the frame for the LCD panel and used the LCD as the front glass. They've managed to pack five times as many pixels as the last model in a display that's actually a fraction of a millimeter thinner. And since there's no front glass, glare is much less of an issue," the report explained.

Just over 7mm thick at its thickest point, the display hinges have cables routed through them, meaning that in the event you need to replace the screen you also need to replace the hinges. Light is supplied by 48 LEDs housed on a strip at the bottom of the display.

It interests me that the company has chosen to use the hinges in this Mac in this way -- clearly as it attempts to miniaturize its Macs, Apple is choosing to exploit each hardware element in as many ways as possible.

In its first tear down last week iFixIt notes the attention given to the asymmetrical cooling fan in these laptops, saying: "We are surprised at how much attention a minor blade spacing change is getting. It is never the less a testament to how much attention Apple puts on minor details overlooked by the rest of the industry, all for the comfort of the end user."

Hard to improve

The bad side of this advanced engineering is that these new models are incredibly challenging for third party firms to repair: for example, the battery is glued to the chassis, and sits on top of the trackpad cable; while the Retina Display must be completely replaced if anything ever goes wrong with it.

This means most new MacBook Pro users should see purchasing AppleCare as a sensible option, Handy tip: Don't forget, you can nearly always get AppleCare cover for less cash than Apple's official book price if you purchase it from Amazon.

Despite the engineering/repair challenges, reviews are universally positive:

"The Retina MacBook Pro, however, is the future of Apple's laptop line—and it's a bright, shining symbol of excellence. The Retina display is something to be marveled at, and the lightweight, smaller design addresses the demand for our devices to be even more portable. You'll have to make a few adjustments, but fortunately, you don't have to sacrifice performance. The Retina MacBook Pro is quite a remarkable laptop."

Macworld.

"The new Pro is good enough to make the old Pro (even the updated version) look and feel obsolete. It pushes and redefines the category, raising the bar higher than even its brethren can jump."

Engadget.

"My first major experience with a MacBook Pro has been an overwhelmingly positive one and I found lots of things to like about this notebook."

PC World.

We had been expecting the iMac to see a Retina Display upgrade, and this remains possible. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook last week warned not to expect significant upgrades to the Mac Pro range until 2013. This was initially incorrectly reported as also being a time frame for an iMac upgrade, though Apple sources later said this was incorrect. This means an upgrade in the nearer future is likely.

And the critics say

Apple critics note that with these Macs being hard to maintain or upgrade, the company has taken a big step toward making these notebooks into an appliance.

"It seems to me that with this latest model, Apple is trying to turn its computers into a flow product, too. It's a beautiful shiny object -- but it has much more built-in obsolescence than anything the Pro line has ever had in the past," wrote one critic.

The high-res display is also creating an unexpected criticism. It makes some websites look bad. Electric Pig notes: "Head over to any website outside of Apple.com, and you'll quickly see what I mean. What looks like a crisp, sharp homepage logo on any well-designed site becomes a blurry mess. Sure, zooming out solves this problem, but you'll then require a microscope to read any accompanying words."

Despite these complaints, the advanced engineering inside these new Macs is winning plenty of hearts and minds and encouraging thousands of Mac users to drop their plastic to pick one up. Apple ran out of its initial stocks within 48-hours of the product's introduction last week.

These advanced technologies don't come cheap, prices start at $2,199. Even something as simple as battery replacement will cost you $199 (probably because of the advanced internal design and the glued-into-place batteries).

One step beyond

Don't fret too much -- as more of these things are manufactured and as other Retina Display manufacturers (principally in Japan) come onstream, the cost should shrink, enabling Apple to offer the Retina Display in more Mac models.

"It's pretty clear that as some of the technology in the MacBook Pro with Retina becomes more available and at a lower cost, they will drive those technologies down through the rest of the line," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research.

With this in mind the idea that the Retina Display will next appear inside the also popular 13-inch models in future sounds completely credible, so if you're in the market for a Mac like this, then hopefully Apple will meet your need in a few short months.

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