At the WWDC keynote yesterday, Apple launched a new MacBook Pro with features that had been at the forefront of Mac news for months now, specifically a Retina Display enabled notebook. The device, available only in a 15.4 inch screen configuration, is thinner than the existing MacBook Pro but does not approach the thinness of that offered by the MacBook Air. In addition, the new design includes the disappearance of an optical drive and the inclusion of USB 3.0, Thunderbolt and quad-core Intel Ivy Bridge processors of up to 2.8GHz.
The inclusion of a Retina Display in the new MacBook Pro means that the pixel density is at 220ppi which is slightly less than that offered by the iPad 3 (263ppi) and the iPhone 4/4S (326ppi). This means that, because the display of the new MacBook Pro is normally held further away from your eyes than the iPad 3 and iPhone 4/4S, the individual pixels are indistinguishable by the human eyes.
The implications of the Retina Display are enormous, both in the context of the user experience and in the construction of the new MacBook Pro. The screen will obviously be the best looking display on any notebook computer, but as demonstrated by Apple, requires a significant amount of hardware to power, as well as being a big drain on the battery. While Apple claims 7 hours of battery life in the specs, it will be interesting to see what real world useage is like, although the inclusion of SSD storage instead of a hard drive will likely offset much of the power consumption.
The new MacBook Pro also has a new cooling system, with an asymetrical fan an extra cooling ports along the side. The device, with powerful quad core i7 processor and NVidia GeForce GT 650M graphics card will likely generate a significant amount of heat, and it’s interesting to see how manufacturers are using novel engineering methods to deal with this. Prior versions of the MacBook Pro simply had vents at the rear of the device, beneath the screen, so it remains to be seen how the increased venting in this MacBook Pro can cope with the heat given off by the processor and whether the new MacBook Pro tends to be hotter or cooler under heavy usage when sitting on your lap.
In terms of price, the new MacBook Pro is certainly not cheap ($2199 in the USA, £1799 in the UK for the base model), but offset that against an equally powerful device, and the Retina Display and SSD seem to be the kickers in terms of speed, user experience and performance. Also, when comparing the new MacBook Pro to the prior generation MacBook Pro with an equivalent processor ($1799), the extra $400 buys you Retina Display, an additional 4GB RAM (the new MacBook Pro is offered with 8GB as standard), SSD storage of 256GB versus a 500GB hard drive, a 1GB GeForce card in the new model, versus 512MB in the previous model, and the same amount of battery life. It therefore doesn’t seem all that bad.
Essentially, what it all comes down to and what many people will be askign themselves, is whether to spend the extra on the new MacBook Pro. With the speed of SSD, the extra memory, the beautiful display, USB 3 and Thunderbolt, and the new design, it’s a no-brainer. As with the Air, it’s the benchmark against which all future notebooks will be judged.