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Hands on with the Retina MacBook Pro

Jason Snell, | June 12, 2012
The new, Retina-display-bearing MacBook Pro was in our offices Monday afternoon. While we'll start lab testing it and getting our review going, I got a chance to poke and prod it for a few hours. Here are some quick initial impressions.

The Displays preference pane on this system (running OS X version 10.7.4, build 11E2617) isn't like those seen on previous Macs. Instead of displaying a list of different screen resolutions, it defaults to a "Best for Retina display" resolution. If you choose the Scaled option instead, you can choose from five presets ranging from Larger Text (which makes all the interface elements on the screen larger) to More Space (which makes everything smaller, feeling more like a high-resolution display on previous MacBook Pro models).

The new-look Displays preference pane.

Then there's the change that will make any IT manager groan: yet another port switch that renders a whole generation of Apple computers incompatible with a whole other generation of Apple computers. In this case, it's the MagSafe power plug, which has evolved into a thinner, wider connector that's completely incompatible with previous models. (Apple is selling a $9 MagSafe to MagSafe 2 converter to address this.) Simply put, the new MacBook Pro is too thin to fit the old MagSafe adapter. So it needed to change. But if you're a family or workplace that's already got a MacBook and wants to add another, freely sharing adapters is off the table.

A tale of two MagSafe connectors—version 2 (left) and the previous model.

Apple says that the process used to attach the Retina display to the monitor allows less glass to be used, creating less glare. It's hard to tell without more use, but it seems that the new MacBook Pro is more like the MacBook Air (which I don't find particularly glare-prone) than the older MacBook Pros (which seemed quite glarey).

If it weren't for the Retina display, this MacBook Pro would seem to be just about what I expected from the infusion of some MacBook Air sensibility into the MacBook Pro line. It seems like there will be a day, in the not too distant future, when there's just a single line of MacBooks from a tiny 11-incher to this larger 15-incher. That day's not here yet—this model is too expensive right now to wipe out the lower-cost MacBook Pro models—but it's coming. (Keep in mind, the original MacBook Air was another $2000-plus product that arrived a bit early, but within a few years the Air had become the lowest-cost, most mainstream Apple laptop. This is the path this new MacBook Pro is now on.)


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