Windows 7 Tested on Retina Display MacBook Pro: How Good Is It?

Everyone who’s gotten their hands on the new MacBook Pro has raved about the Retina Display and its astounding 2880 x 1800 resolution — and with good reason. Text, photos, video and games have never looked as sharp on a laptop display as they do on the new MacBook Pro. Apple has optimized its own applications, including Safari, Mail, iPhoto and iMovie, to take full advantage of the increased resolution. Blizzard Entertainment has even announced that its ultra-popular roleplaying game, “Diablo III”, will support a resolution of 2880 x 1880. (We averaged 41 frames per second in our review of the system.)

But how good does Windows 7 look on the MacBook Pro’s Retina Display? In a word: Fantastic.

As long as you boost increase the size of text and icons to the “Larger” size (150%), the MacBook Pro’s 15-inch display feels as large as a 24-inch monitor. Make the text any smaller, however, and reading becomes an experience painful to anyone without hawk eyes. What’s more, the MacBook Pro’s powerful hardware ensured that our benchmarks clocked in with stellar scores — although not every Windows feature proved compatible with Boot Camp. Get the full story below.

Retina Display

Windows 7 has never looked better. But don’t take our word for it — see for yourself below. Just a brief caveat: Although the display is easier to read with text and icons set to 150 percent size, for these screen shots we set the display size to 100 percent to more effectively demonstrate the difference in quality between 1800p, 1080p, 900p and 768p resolutions.

1366 x 768

Windows 7 Desktop on the MacBook Pro at 1366 x 768

1600 x 900

Windows 7 Desktop on the MacBook Pro at 1600 x 900

1920 x 1080

Windows 7 Desktop on the MacBook Pro at 1920 x 1080

2880 x 1080

Windows 7 Desktop on the MacBook Pro at 2880 x 1800

As you can see, the Retina Display effectively quadruples the screen real estate compared to a 1366 x 768 screen. Text looks much crisper, as well. Compare these images of the Laptopmag.com home page:

1366 x 768

Internet Explorer on the MacBook Pro at 1366 x 768

1600 x 900

Internet Explorer on the MacBook Pro at 1600 x 900

1920 x 1080

Internet Explorer on the MacBook Pro at 1920 x 1080

2880 x 1800

Internet Explorer on the MacBook Pro at 2880 x 1800

Interestingly, it appears that some Windows applications, such as the Windows version of the Google Chrome browser, haven’t been optimized for the Retina Display. Comparing Internet Explorer and Chrome side-by-side, text and images on IE appear much crisper than on Chrome, which suffers from very noticeable fuzziness when viewed at 2880 x 1800. See for yourself below — Internet Explorer is on the left, while Chrome is on the right.

Performance

Windows 7 doesn’t just look good on the new MacBook Pro ($2,199) – it outperforms the competition in almost every category. For comparison, we looked at the 15-inch Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 ($1,031), MSI GT60 ($1,499) and Samsung Series 7 Gamer ($1,899).

On PCMark07, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the MacBook Pro and its 2.3-GHz quad-core Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPU, 8GB of 1600 MHz RAM and 256GB SSD racked up a score of 4,779, more than 2,000 points higher than the average mainstream notebook (2,429) and 1,000 points higher than the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 (1.7-GHz Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD).

The MSI GT60 gaming notebook (2.3-GHz Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPU, 12GB of RAM and dual 500GB 7,200-rpm HDDs) notched 3,336 on the same test, while the Samsung Series 7 Gamer (2.3-GHz Ivy Bridge Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and dual 750GB, 7,200-rpm HDDs with 8GB of Express Cache) notched a score of 3,611. In other words, the MacBook Pro beats them all.

Copying 4.97GB of mixed media files proved to be a snap for the MacBook Pro as well. Its 256GB SSD achieved an ultra-fast file transfer speed of 196 MBps — much faster than the category average (34.7 MBps). Even the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3, with its transfer rate of 164 MBps, couldn’t match the new MacBook Pro. The MSI GT60 and Samsung Series 7 Gamer, which use dual 7,200-rpm hard drives, clocked in at just 74.8 and 33.3 MBps, respectively.

On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, the MacBook Pro matched 20,000 names and addresses in 4 minutes and 35 seconds, more than a full minute faster than the Acer, and almost two minutes ahead of the mainstream notebook average. The MSI GT60 just managed to squeak by the MacBook Pro, completing the spreadsheet test in 4 minutes and 26 seconds.

At 36 seconds the MacBook Pro doesn’t boot as quickly into Windows 7 as the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 (0:23).  But the extra time is almost certainly due to the fact that the machine must first examine the partition before launching Windows. On OS X, the MacBook Pro boots into the operating system in a cool 15 seconds. The MSI GT60 and Samsung Series 7 Gamer, which lack flash memory, booted Windows in 53 and 42 seconds, respectively.

Graphics Performance

The MacBook Pro delivered phenomenal results on our 3D benchmarks — on 3DMark06, for example, this notebook’s 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650 GPU turned in a whopping 14,330, far outstripping the 11,173 turned in by the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3 (1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M) and making the mainstream notebook average of 5,268 seem like a joke. The MSI GT60 (3GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 670M GPU) and Samsung Series 7 Gamer (2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M GPU) delivered more impressive results (19,359 for the GT60 and 20,917 on the Series 7 Gamer) — but these systems, unlike the MacBook Pro, were built to play games.

Unfortunately, ridiculously high benchmark scores don’t translate into excellent gaming experiences. In fact, we weren’t able to get “Batman: Arkham City” to run at all on the MacBook Pro running Boot Camp. The game looked good, for the brief time that we were able to run it. Running “Arkham City” at 1366 x 768 pixels and Low graphics settings, the built-in benchmark averaged 115 frames per second until the game crashed 30 seconds in.

Like most other non-gaming laptops, the MacBook Pro struggled to run “Arkham City” with its graphics at its near-maximum; after setting the resolution to 2880 x 1800 and graphics to Very High, the benchmark averaged only 13 fps and crashed after 52 seconds. Actually playing “Arkham City” proved impossible — the game crashed shortly after launching a new game, every time.

Batman Arkham City on the MacBook Pro with 2880 x 1800 resolution

Heat

We should note, also, that the MacBook Pro generates a tremendous amount of heat when trying to play high-end games — we measured a temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, 100 degrees on the underside and 108 degrees between the G and H keys after 3 consecutive attempts to run the benchmark in “Arkham City” on its highest settings. We consider anything above 95 degrees to be uncomfortable.

Even when playing streaming video on Hulu.com for 15 minutes, the MacBook Pro didn’t get much cooler, registering 82 degrees on the touchpad, 95 degrees on the underside and 105 degrees between the G and H keys.

Overall Impressions

Is the MacBook Pro with Retina display, ironically, the best Windows notebook on the market? The answer isn’t clear-cut. If you’re not in the market for games and don’t have a problem looking at small text, the MacBook Pro offers far superior performance to every other mainstream notebook currently on the market. If games are your thing, however, the system’s inability to play the latest games for more than 30 seconds may be a deal-breaker. However, performance should improve over time as drivers are updated.

Obviously, the new MacBook Pro has been optimized to run most effectively using Apple’s own OS X, but if you love Windows or are just feeling adventurous, you can use Boot Camp to install Windows 7 on your machine. Thankfully, installing Windows on a Mac is a simple process, so if you’re the proud owner of a new MacBook Pro, try loading up Windows 7 and giving it a whirl for yourself.


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  1. G80 Says:

    Under the gaming tests, did you disable anti-aliasing (retina making it somewhat redundant)?

  2. Steve Says:

    You do know showing screenshots is Pointless…We can’t see what the Retina display looks like through a screenshot, we can only see what our crappy monitors show us…

  3. oreally? Says:

    I think nvidia GT650M drivers are still not available. No wonder it crashed without a proper driver. What nvidia driver did you use for this?

  4. Jason Says:

    Rather than go for just the extreme high (2880×1800) and low (1366×768) resolutions, why didn’t you guys just try to run games at a respectable 1440×900, which is exactly half (quarter?) the native resolution? That seems most optimal for the system, and what I’d probably be running every game at if I got a MBP:TNG, but I’m curious to see benchmarks at that clip.

  5. David Eitelbach Says:

    @G80: Anti-aliasing was disabled when running “Arkham City” at 1366 x 768, but we didn’t disable anti-aliasing when we ran the game at full resolution and Very High graphics. I re-ran the test with AA disabled, with 2880 x 1880 resolution and Very High graphics, and the system didn’t do much better – it averaged 15 fps before crashing after 30 seconds or so.

    @oreally?: The GT 650M driver we used was 8.17.12.9649.

  6. Annoyingmouse Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to do this update. Did the computer run hotter under windows than it did when you reviewed it using it’s native OS?

  7. Marco Says:

    how look the other non native resolution on this display? Have the same problems about the other display at non native resolution? Sorry for my bad english

  8. Rich Says:

    I looked at the new Retina Display 15″ in an Apple Store. The display looked significantly better (using Safari browser) compared to the other MacBooks and MacBook Airs in the store for the on-line New York Times homepage. I also notice this when looking at the NYT on my iPad 3 compared to the iPad 2.

  9. newbie Says:

    8.17.12.9649 driver is a beta driver isn’t it?

  10. abc Says:

    The driver we used 8.17.12.9649 is a very old driver. Try using latest driver. There’s no release version of 650M drivers available on nvidia download section. But you’ll find a beta driver for 650M (Version 304.48 – BETA
    Release Date Mon Jun 18, 2012). It might fix these issues.

  11. abc Says:

    the driver you* used

  12. Will Says:

    This review was brought to my attention after posting this video here on youtube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiCyENtj13I&list=HL1340551184&feature=mh_lolz

    I highly encourage you to re-test running Arkham City. I was able to maintain a consistent 45+ FPS at 1920 x 1200 at high settings on the New Macbook Pro.

    Are your sure that you are running the latest drivers?

  13. Corey Says:

    Trying with the newest Apple Bootcamp driver package, it works well. Also, about Chrome, unless the application has been updated to work with the scaling option built into windows 7 it won’t show right. If you right-click on the chrome shortcut, go to compatibility, then check ‘disable scaling’ that will make it crisp. Then, simply go over to the chrome settings -> advanced settings and select 150% page zoom. This makes it look just like IE

  14. Rutger Says:

    So by increasing font and icon size by 150%, the actual aspect ratio of 2880 x 1800 pixels decreases to 1920 x 1200. I don’t see any benefit then…

  15. Corey Says:

    The benefit is in the crispness of the display. While the effective screen resolution is still 1920×1200, the quality of the image is vastly improved (and the display is rendered at 2880×1800). Sure, I could just as easily set no scaling, but I wouldn’t be able to read anything on a 15″ screen at that size.

    The scaling is not what you would think. In windows, the icons just simply use their larger counterparts (IE: instead of using the 32×32 version, they may use the 64×64 version). Text is also done this way, rendering the text as a larger font.

  16. Harold Says:

    I’d like to know how the ClearType subpixel anti-aliasing looks in Windows on the Retina display. Personally I’ve always found it to be crisper than the Apple version of subpixel anti-aliasing. I would guess Retina makes it just awesome.

  17. Thomas Jespersen Says:

    I have been running with the MacBook Retina for a few weeks now in Boot Camp with Windows 8 RP.

    AND I’M NOT IMPRESSED. On the contrary… this display might work under OS X but running under Boot Camp it’s a very mixed experience.

    I’ve seen many many reviews and most say that this works great under Windows… but I think they are either trying to convince themselves that they made the right purchases, or maybe they rushed out the review before working with the machine for more than a day.

    Running in 150 DPI:
    If you run with 150DPI setting the Windows font is changed and many applications does not work well. Eg. Google Chrome does not use Windows font rendering (same problem as Chrome on OSX). IE on the other hand shows very crisp text.

    If you attach a external screen this also has to run in 150DPI, which is way to big. And you have to log out of Windows to change settings. I hate this, because I always have 10+ programs opened. So 150DPI is i no-go if you frequently attaches a external screen.

    Also programs like Remote Desktop does not respect DPI, so the RDP machine is running 2880×1800. This is very tiny, and you can’t work this way. And unfortunately you can’t change DPI on a RDP machine.

    Programs using bitmap icons are scaled and icons looks very grainy. Also programs like Spotify and Skype does not use native rendering all over, so eg. when a message is shown, it’s a bitmap that is scaled. This is very noticeable.

    Many programs relies on pixels, and when painting UI elements the text or other parts of the UI floats out of the picture.

    So while running 150DPI is the best option, when these issues are so prominent that it ruins the entire experience.

    Running 1440×900
    I was aware of these issues when buying the retina, but I figured that I could just use 1440×900, and then use 4 pixels to draw 1, and that would make the picture as sharp as a native 1440×900 display (maybe even better because of the better display technology like IPS).

    Boy was I wrong… running 1440×900 is absolutely terrible. And the 4 to 1 pixel mapping is only theory. It is exactly as grainy as if you run 1680×1050 or any other none native resolution.

    I simply don’t get why everybody is so excited about this screen. Most review notes the same issues as above, but still concludes that running Boot Camp on a Retina is great. In one word: FAIL.

    Running OS X has the same problems as running 150DPI in programs that has not been updated (like Chrome and most none Apple applications). However OS X users can expected this to be fixed in the coming months/years. But in Windows this is not going to happen before Metro takes over the world… but Metro Apps are single tasking apps, and not meant for desktops. Running a Twitter, mail or browser in full screen does simply not make sense.

    I’ve been running Windows on Mac for 5 years, and this is the first time that I’m not satisfied (apart from the mouse/keyboard which always have had small issues under Windows). I would exchange this screen with a 1440×900, 1680×1050 or 1920×1200 any day. But even though Apple has also launched new none retina MacBooks, they are thicker and much more expensive if you want SSD and the same amount of RAM.

    Do yourself a favor and see this in action before you buy a Retina as your Windows machine.

    PS: Sorry for my spelling. I’m trying ;-)

  18. Sophie Taylor Says:

    Thanks for sharing such a lot of interesting information. Have not experienced it myself though but can guess what amazing effect it must have had on the display so as to make it appear as a 24-inch monitor.

  19. Joan Says:

    Why on earth would you bother taking 2880×1800 screenshots and then downsizing them to 640×400 on the website so that it’s impossible to look at the details?

  20. Strikewolf42 Says:

    90 F is nothing…

  21. John S Says:

    For me a middle aged man I find resolutions almost a negative vs a positive after a certain point. They get so high that eventually many of us begin to look for ways to reverse the side effects. One of those is the fact that the high retina display in the Macbook Pro requires more graphic power. Thus almost becoming a Achilles heal for gaming and many times forcing a reduction is resolution to get good frame rates. So is this a positive or a negative?
    I certainly see it as being positive for some people such as photographers. But from what I have read from some pro photographer’s. The Macbook Pro retina is not so professional and does not do what they need it to do.
    In this end I believe this is more of a over hyped feature that Apple decided could be added with minimal costs but at a decent additional profit margin. Making it appear to be worth the added costs to users.

  22. Bruno Ferro Says:

    Concerning your apreciations on how Batman Arkham City works on the MBPr, the issue about the game crashing 30 secs after start a new game it’s bacause of the nVidia GT650 driver for Windows not supporting the game, you’ve to change manually the configuration forcing the Physx to be charged on the CPU instead of the GPU or wait for an update rollout…

    I own a MPRr and play Batman Arkham City without any issues…

  23. There's a mistake Says:

    You list the highest resolution of your sample photos as 2880×1080. It should say 2880×1800.

  24. pencil Says:

    I would like retina display technology to be the last word on screen resolution issues much the same as anti-aliased textures was the last word for good textures in a game. This is an essential technology because it will finally give people the feeling that they can’t see the pixels anymore AT ALL (though they are already becoming somewhat difficult to spot). Give it time though folks. This technology is brand new and will need time to mature and become practical . I don’t want the computer industry to give up on this. We gave graphics cards time and amazing things happened. Just be patient. Wait for the technology to mature and we will eventually have picture perfect screens everywhere. Windows laptops had better catch up.

  25. Archer Says:

    I’ve got a completely spec’d out MBPr and after I installed the latest nVidia update and installed the Direct X 11 patch I’ve been playing Arkham City with maxed out settings just fine – I’ve been running it at only 1920×1200 and it’s frame rate has been as smooth as butter. (Runs even better than it does on my Xbox 360)

    You should really check what causes the game to crash before you assume that it’s the system you’re running it on.

  26. Martin Says:

    I’m running windows 7 on a retina MacBook pro, and play all games without any issues. Just make sure you install the latest Notebook Nvidia drivers all games run great. It’s like a gaming laptop, just much better looking, much longer battery life and overall just better quality. Don’t increase the DPI as some say though, it screws with a lot of things, either run on lower res, or enjoy windows 7 at 2880, which I actually do :)

  27. Micah Says:

    This is for Thomas Jespersen:

    You’re running under Windows 8? Apple hasn’t even produced Windows 8 drivers yet. I’m running it under Windows 7 in Boot Camp with NO issues – and I love it (as much as one can love Windows).

    Were I to install pre-release software, I wouldn’t take the experience as an expectation for actual performance once all the kinks are worked out.

    Please don’t make comments like that unless you’ve been running established software and continue to experience issues.

  28. bilbo Says:

    Why do they use this meaningless retina lingo ?
    Why cant they say, 350dpi x 15″ instead which actually means something.
    Salesmen that confuse have got something to hide and are not to be trusted.

  29. Gill Says:

    Hi, I am planning to install Windows 7 on to my MacBook Pro with retina display spec: OS X 10.8.2, 2.3 GHz Intel Core 7, 16GB memory 1600 MHz DDR3.
    Which version Windows 7 is most suitable – is it the 64 bit with SP1?
    Thank you.

  30. Andrew Says:

    This article is inaccurate. The machine has no issues playing arkham city according to other benchmarks and tests. Perhaps update your drivers

  31. Dave Lim Says:

    Hi, I installed Windows 7 x64 with BootCamp (Dual Boot) to my newly purchased MacBook Pro Retina 15″ with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD running on OS X 10.8.2.
    After 1 month using this, I encountered some annoying “Auto Power Off Problem” when I boot into Windows 7.
    There was once I was not able to boot up the machine at all, and I sent back to Apple Service Centre to check. The technician open up the case (which I do not have to tools to open), unplug the battery cable, plug in again, then perform some diagnose and it works for 2 weeks.
    But ever since then, my MacBook is now “Auto Power Off” when I boot into Windows 7, but it works fine with OS X.
    Hope any Guru here could advice what should I do? Is there any patch or firmware, or Windows 7 drivers to fix this problem.

    Thanks in advance,

    Dave

  32. man van Says:

    I also had the some issue but I can be bother to play any games on the windows going to delete this windows 7

  33. Ben Says:

    I got a Macbook Pro Retina 15″, installed Win7 with Bootcamp and it runs HORRIBLY UNSTABLE. Seriosly, it never lasts longer than 5 minutes until it crashes. I’m wondering why there’s so much positive feedback on running Win on a Macbook around?

  34. rcvdveen Says:

    Running Win8 (using bootcamp) very smooth on my MacBook Retina 15″ for several months now. The only problem I run into is the size of icons in the iconbar in programs like Paint Shop Pro or Adobe PS. It is great to use and edit photo’s at the 2880×1800 resolution but if I can’t see the icons to select functions like lasso anymore the advantage is gone….

    And the disabled intel video if we use Bootcamp is also very annoying… Common’ Apple, let us Bootcamp users use our MacBook the green way on Windows also please….

  35. Kent Says:

    Guys, im thinking about buying a retina macbook pro for using 90% with windows 7.

    Ill be using 3ds max and zbrush, 3d applications.

    I just cant decide this, there are mixed feelings everywhere. No one has come to an agreement.

    How can I make my decision?

  36. Marc Says:

    So for my MacBook with Retina, should I buy a 32bit or 64 bit version of Windows 7? Thank you.

  37. REMMENBER THIS EVERY TIME YOU HAVE A PROBLEM Says:

    Who is the writer of this poor article! I finished batman arkham city on very high setting. At first it crashes yup but if you update graphic driver to 306.14BETA. nVidia driver it doesn’t crash I play tomb raider 2013 and spec ops the line on 1920×1200. On ultra and very high setting. So….. It isn’t impossible every problem has a solution! Man!man! Just remember me and my sentence every problem I had with my mbpr had a solution just find it I just find the driver solution in a day so… Just think try and then write about this brilliant. Laptop I don’t have overheating. Just 70-74c. Good luck just remember my sentence…

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