MacBook Pro with Retina Display Hands-on: Absolutely Beautiful, Crazy Fast

Marrying the power you’d expect from a MacBook Pro with the sleekness and instant-on responsiveness of a MacBook Air, the next-generation MacBook Pro is one gorgeous laptop. And with a starting price of $2,199 it should be. This machine is state of the art through and through, and it all starts with a Retina display that packs an unprecedented 2880 x 1800 pixels. Add in quad-core power, 256 GB of fast flash memory and 7 hours of juice in a 4.4-pound body and you have a potential dream machine for highly mobile pros.

We’ll be bringing you our full review soon but wanted to share some hands-on impressions and photos in the meantime for those who were wondering whether they should pull the trigger.

With 3 million more pixels than an HDTV, the Retina Display on the next-gen MacBook Pro provides a crazy amount of detail. When compared side by side with the 13-inch Air we immediately noticed a difference in terms of detail but also color saturation. A trailer of The Dark Knight Rises had more vibrant colors during the football stadium scene. And on Apple’s own site the green grass on a shot of the MacBook Pro looked more lush on our Pro than the Air.

When we looked more closely at Launchpad, the icon for GarageBand had a lot more pixelation on the Air than on the new MacBook Pro. On the latter notebook icons and text look almost painted on, because the resolution is actually better than what’s on the printed page. Viewing angles are also quite generous, though the glossy panel kicked back minimal reflections.

Pro vs Air Screens

Apple has updated a lot of its software to take advantage of the Retina Display, including Safari, Mail and iCal, as well as iPhoto, Aperture and more. Third-party apps are being updated as we speak.

The overall design of the MacBook Pro is as solid as a rock, yet the aluminum body measures only .71 inches thick and weighs 4.5 pounds. We’re not sure we’d want to use this laptop on a plane, though, because it’s certainly wider and taller than the Air. But then there’s always first class.

We’re also impressed with the new MacBook Pro’s pipes. When we cranked Adele’s “Someone Like You” at our hotel pool here in San Francisco we startled some of the guests. The sound is rich and full without any distortion.

How about performance? Thus far we’ve ran the OpenGL test within Cinebench 11.5 and the new MacBook Pro returned a CPU score of 6.12 points and a OpenGL score of 33.4 fps. The 13-inch MacBook Air scored just 2.09 points on the CPU test and 10.39 frames per second on OpenGL, so we’re talking 3X the performance.

So far we’d say that the next-gen MacBook Pro is living up to our expectations. The display is simply stunning, and the combination of components make this notebook an absolute beast in terms of performance.

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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  1. JC Says:

    Just curious about the reflection of the MBP’s screen compared with MBA’s. Do they come closer? Thanks.

  2. question Says:

    So, how is the keyboard on this beauty? Is it more like the old pro’s keyboard or more like the air’s keyboard? (there is a pretty big difference in the feel of the two keyboards – the pro has better feel)

  3. Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief Says:

    I noticed a bit more glare on the MBP’s screen but less than previous models. As for the keyboard it’s more akin to the Air because of the thin profile but I found it plenty comfy. Our full review is now live if you want to check it out.

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