My friend Chris picked up a Retina Pro today and I was able to pry it away from him for a solid 30 minutes to get a better look at it. There are so many new details to unpack with this machine so lets just jump in.
I’m a heavy 15” Apple pro laptop user. I have owned every 15” Apple laptop case design since 2001. (The original 2001 Titanium PowerBook, the original 2003 Aluminum PowerBook, a later gen 2007 Aluminum MacBook Pro, and most recently a 2011 Unibody MacBook Pro.) I love my current Pro laptop and will hopefully get another 2-4 years out of it.
All that said, I’m totally sweating this new Retina Pro. The Classic Pro will likely no longer be an option when I need to think about getting a new computer, but that wouldn’t matter. If I was in the market today, I would buy the Retina Pro without hesitation. It has all of the power I need, is 0.25” thinner, and over a pound lighter. It’s a no-brainer.
Like I mentioned in my initial post of WWDC design thoughts, the hallmark of every new generation of Apple pro laptop hardware is what is removed. Just when you think they can’t streamline anything else, they go and eliminate ten things you weren’t even thinking about.
This time around the big, obvious ones are the optical drive, the 2.5” hard drive enclosure (the HD is now on custom designed SSD stick), and user removable RAM (now soldered to the board). These make the Retina Pro what it is.
There are less obvious reductions. Battery indicator light? Gone. Sleep light? Gone. Kensington lock slot? Gone. IR receiver? Gone. Ethernet port? Gone? Firewire 800? Gone. Audio input? Gone. Now that I have seen a machine without these things I thought I needed, they seem completely antiquated. Come to think of it, I rarely, if ever, use any of these features. When was the last time you used a Kensington lock on your laptop? Did you ever need one?
Other interesting small details:
- The power button has been removed from the upper righthand corner of the case and now the dedicated disc eject key on the upper right corner of the keyboard is the power button. (No optical drive, no need for a disc eject button).
- The edges of the casing have been smoothed down *ever* so slightly. Its almost visually imperceptible, but you can feel the difference when you run your fingers over the edges of a Retina Pro and a Classic Pro at the same time. This should make it a little more comfortable on your wrists when typing.
- The top surface of the palm rest area feels shockingly close to the table. This machine is incomprehensibly thin. I know MacBook Air users are probably rolling their eyes at this revelation.
- The front finger grip, the area where you stick your fingers to open up the laptop, has been redesigned. On the Classic Pro, this detail is scooped out. On the Retina Pro its more of a chamfer. Tactilely, the chamfer feels less sharp on the corners and I think it looks better visually too.
- The vent near the hinge has been angled up instead of down toward your lap. The hinge has also been redesigned to help direct the air up. The purpose for this may be to keep your lap cooler. It will be interesting to see if after traveling on a cold day with a Retina Pro into the office, if the redirected vents produce any condensation on the glass because of hot air being redirected onto a cold surface. My guess is it probably won’t, but I’m still curious to see if it will.
- The Retina Pro keyboard keys have slightly less travel than the Classic Pro keyboard. This may have to do with the slimmer design of the case and running out of room. Didn’t really bother me though.
- While we’re still talking about the keyboard, the dished out area the keyboard sits in is a little less deep than on the Classic Pro and hugs the keys a little closer.
Two things I can’t quite figure out:
- Apple has brought back the old squared MagSafe connector design, although this time its made out of aluminum as opposed to white plastic. I’m kind of curious as to why they did this. (Slimmer profile of MagSafe 2?) The cable of the squared design always seemed to eventually fray. The peg shaped design of the past couple years was nice because it routed the power cable to the back of the machine, out of the way of everything else. I’ll be curious to see how this revamped squared design holds up over the long term.
- HDMI. I’ve gotten so used to carrying around dongles for projectors (heh-heh, he said dongles), its kind of surprising to have a port for something I have never had a need to plug into. Its nice to have, and better than a dumb VGA port like some laptops still have, but I wouldn’t be shocked if by the time I’m ready to buy a Retina Pro, this port is gone.
Oh yeah. The Retina display. I have a Hi-Res screen on my current 15” Pro which is 128ppi, but the 220ppi Retina display is absolutely stunning, especially with so much of the Mac GUI already optimized for it. My only question is how Windows will deal with high density, scalable, retina resolutions. I use Boot Camp to run Windows 7, SolidWorks, and Keyshot so its crucial that Windows runs smoothly for me.