MacBook Pro Retina Display Reviews: A Lot of Money for a Pretty Screen

Reviewers have gotten their hands on the big talk of the Apple announcement bonanza Monday, the revamped MacBook with Retina Display.

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Reviewers have gotten their hands on the big talk of the Apple announcement bonanza Monday, the revamped MacBook with Retina Display. Before you splurge on the $2,200 machine, take a look at what the techies have to say. Most of them loved it, especially that sharp Retina display. But, is it worth the price?

Cost: High

The New York Times's David Pogue called it one price-point short of perfect:

The new Apple laptop that went on sale Monday hits an impressive number of those high notes in one radical swoop. As you might guess, the one it misses by the biggest margin is “inexpensive.”

CNET editors have sticker shock:

With a $2,199 entry-level price tag, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display costs more than the typical American mortgage.

Endgadget's Tim Stevens says it is worth it, if you've got it:

If you can afford the premium and aren't set on a 13-inch model there's no reason to buy any Pro other than this Pro.

The Verge's Ross Miller calls it a "value":

The MacBook Pro with Retina display is already a decent value in its first generation — for an Apple computer, anyhow — and as with the MacBook Air, we expect later generations will become more compelling in price.

Screen: Sharp

Buzzfeed's Matt Buchanan tweeted the following comparison to show just how much better the screen is:

Pogue calls it the hallmark feature:

The headline component of the new MacBook Pro will hit you between the eyes the minute you open its lid: a Retina display.

That’s Apple’s term for a screen with such high resolution — so many tiny dots — that you can’t make out individual pixels, even if you smash your face against the glass like a loon.

CNET is similarly wowed:

The unprecedented high-resolution screen on the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display makes images -- even simple text -- look beautifully clear.

Things look better, explains Miller:

While we haven’t measured it, qualitatively we were incredibly impressed by how clear text was at very extreme horizontal and vertical viewing angles, although glare became an issue well before then.

But not all things, he continues:

But like the transition from iPad 2 to new iPad, third-party developers still need to update their apps to work in the new, more pixel-dense environment — and as we alluded to earlier, it’s the text-based apps that suffer the most.

And, really, it mostly looks great, adds Stevens:

Viewing angles are expanded compared to Apple's other high-end displays, so the annoying drop in contrast that happens from odd vantage points is all but abolished. Contrast, too, is boosted and, interestingly, glare reduced.

Design: Small for What It Is

It is light, but not that light, explains Miller:

It’ll feel a little bit better than the Pro models when carrying it around in a backpack, but to be clear this is more of a step down from the Pro than it is a step-up from the Air, which is still far and away lighter and more portable.

It's light enough, says Pogue:

The new laptop is only 0.7 inch thick — about the same as the fat end of a MacBook Air — and weighs 4.5 pounds. It’s not the thinnest or lightest 15-incher (the Samsung Series 9 is fractionally thinner and 0.8 pound lighter, for example), but it’s easily one-handable.

Those looking for a light computer should get the air, suggests CNET:

In other words, this is not the ultimate mobile laptop for people who have to jog around from place to place all day long, five or more days per week.

Insides: Powerful Enough to Run the Screen

Super-fast, says Pogue:

The guts are top of the line and sizzling fast

It's just powerful enough to do most gaming, explains Miller:

As for the more slow-paced Civilization V, if you can read the small-but-very-legible text, playing max resolution is great. On the other end of the spectrum, the twitch-puzzle-shooter Portal 2 recommended a much smaller 1280 x 800 resolution for smooth 60FPS — but so long as we didn’t try to tweak the Advanced Video effects (which all but grinds the game to a halt), with 2880 x 1800 the game would still be consistently in the 50FPS range with only the occasional minor stutters. And Blizzard’s other tentpole series, StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, clocks in at around 23FPS with full resolution and "extreme" settings — it drops during big battles, though. You can hit 60FPS by either dropping settings to "low" (keeping full resolution) or by dropping resolution to 1680 x 1050 (keeping "extreme" settings).

Overall, it goes super-fast, though adds Stevens:

In fact, you'd have to be a seriously jaded desktop user to want more oomph from your on-the-go machine. The new MacBook Pro handled absolutely everything we could throw at it and did so with aplomb. General productivity tools fly and more... intensive things run impressively well.

Bottom Line: It's the Best

Pogue thinks even at the price, it is worth it:

Over all, then, how does the new laptop fare on the Ultimate Laptop Wish List? Extremely well. It tops the charts on screen, keyboard, sound, start-up time, looks, battery life and fast/thin/light. It can have copious memory (up to 16 gigabytes) and storage, for a handsome fee.

And inexpensive? Not even close. But as with cars, homes and partners, you can’t have everything. Professionals, commence your scrounging.

If you're the type of person who wants this type of power, go for it, says Miller:

If you’re in the market for a premium OS X laptop right now, it’s hard not to recommend the new MacBook Pro with Retina display. If, however, power isn’t your ultimate goal, may we suggest shaving a few pounds and specs for the MacBook Air.

Price aside, it is still the best, says CNET:

The newly redesigned MacBook Pro with Retina Display combines an amazing screen with just enough of the MacBook Air design to feel like a new animal, and to take its place as the best of the current MacBook breed.

This isn't just the best, it's a game changer, adds Stevens:

This is a laptop that stands poised to kill an existing one, one that Apple has dominated. 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. If you can afford the premium and aren't set on a 13-inch model there's no reason to buy any Pro other than this Pro.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.