Review: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display 15" (2012)

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display 15" (2012)

Our score: 5/5
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February 13, 2013 4:30 PM
 
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Published: July 6, 2012 3:27 PM
By Alexandre Botella / Guillaume Letoupin
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
Say goodbye to the 17" MacBook Pro, and hello to the 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Will Apple's new notebook maintain the same standard of excellence set by the previous models? Will it live up to fans' expectations? Answers and more in this review...

Design4/5



Apple apparently decided not to change a winning team and gave the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display an all-aluminium unibody. The finishings demonstrate all the expertise we have come to expect from the brand—there isn't a wobbly piece on the device, everything's impeccable. But the contours of the glossy black screen will require a certain amount of upkeep, unless you actually want finger smudges.

                             Edge
 
The keyboard and touchpad haven't changed an iota; they're just as enjoyable to use as the previous models. The backlit chiclet keys provide for soft and quiet typing and the large, clickable touchpad offers smooth movements and all the current multi-touch functions available (zoom, rotate, multiple-finger scrolling...).

Macbook retina keyboard


One big difference between this model and the "regular" 15-inch 2012 MacBook Pro is the connectivity. It's better on this one. On the right you have an HDMI port, one USB 3.0 port and a card reader. On the left is the power supply (which, convenient as always, simply unplugs if you pull too hard, rather than taking the whole MacBook down with it), two Thunderbolt ports, a video out/data transfer port, a second USB 3.0 port and a microphone/headphone combo jack. That should cover most people's needs.

There is one thing missing, however: we find it absurd not to have included an RJ45 (Ethernet) port. If you want a wired connection you have to buy a special adapter on the website, which will only jack up an already steep price.

Macbook retina connectivity
                           SD card reader, HDMI and USB 3.0                                         Power, Thunderbolt (x2), USB 3.0 and audio out

We detected a minor flaw during our tests: when you launch more processor-intensive software the fan starts to churn out a considerable amount of noise. The "good" news is that it's not all the time. You can run the same programme more than once, and sometimes the fan will blow loudly, sometimes not.

The heat levels, by contrast, are much more reasonable. What's also reasonable is that the hot air gets ventilated through a space between the keyboard and the display, which means your legs don't get hot when you have it sitting in your lap.

Apple Macbook Pro retina: heat
Heat readings for the 15" Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display with the components under stress.
Images captured with a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.

Now that we're done with that, we can move on to the fantastic Retina display. In addition to the fantastic 2880 x 1800 resolution, the PLS panel offers extremely wide viewing angles. These allow for homogeneous colour rendering and, conveniently, you don't have to turn the laptop to face you every time you move a foot to the side.

Macbookpro 2012 reflections

Apple obviously worked on the colour accuracy as well, because the screen gives a Delta E of 2.7. That's excellent, especially in the world of laptops, where high prices in no way mean accurate colours. And the contrast is just as good, with a ratio of 990:1. All together, the resolution, colour accuracy and contrast make this one of the best displays we've seen on a notebook.

MAcbook pro

However, there is one major, unavoidable issue here. Apple inexplicably chose to use a glossy surface. That means that every time you have the lights on (i.e. most of the time), you'll get reflections up the wazoo. That kind of ruins the effect. All it needed was a matte screen and we would have been in seventh heaven.

One last, more positive, thing about the display: with the ultra-tiny pixels the image looks precise no matter what resolution you're using.

Audio4/5



macbook pro retina audio
Frequency response: lows to the left, highs to the right. As you can see, there is absolutely no low-end.
 

The headphone output gives an extremely flat frequency response (that's a good thing). It has good dynamics and the stereo rendering is more than decent. The volume on the MacBook Pro with Retina Display can truly serve as a reference for laptop computers, because not only is it high, but even at max volume there's no distortion whatsoever.

As for the built-in speakers, the quality is great, with above-average volume. However, once you raise the decibels to 80% of the max volume or more, the chassis starts to vibrate. This is a flaw that didn't exist in the earlier generations of the MacBook Pro, and can usually be attributed to a chassis that's too thin. If you look at the graph above (or just listen to music on the computer) you'll notice the other thing that's wrong with the audio: the gaping hole where the bass should be.


Our Review Model:

The model we were sent to test is the version with a 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 512 GB solid state drive and an Nvidia GT 650M graphics card (using Optimus technology with an Intel HD 4000). Our comments so far have applied to the both versions of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. What follows below applies only to this model, as the other one has a different clock rate and amount of flash storage (see inset).

Processing Power5/5



The combination of the CPU, RAM and SSD in the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is practically synonymous with high-performance.

With the Intel Core i7 processor, the MacBook has enough computing power to handle anything you throw at it, from simple word processing to photo editing.

The 512 GB flash drive and 8 GB of RAM make it highly responsive. It takes less than 3 seconds to come out of sleep mode, and not even 30 seconds to start up (including Wi-Fi connection time). And to shut down? A mere 5 seconds.

Gaming4/5



The new MacBook Pro tackles video games with a next-generation Nvidia graphics card, the GT 650M. This allows it to play video games in 1920 x 1200, including a large number of processor-heavy, such as Diablo III, and in high detail. Which is nice, because the catalogue of iOS-compatible games has been growing steadily.

For HD video decoding and all apps that do not require the GT 650M, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display hands the work over to the Intel HD 4000.

Battery Life5/5



The dimensions (1.8 x 35.89 x 24.71 cm) and battery life (6 hours of video with the headphones in, the screen at 100 cd/m², and the Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off) are perfectly suited to nomadic users. But weighing in at 2.02 kg, it could become heavy for some users.
5/5 Apple 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) DigitalVersus 2012-07-06 16:27:00

Pros

  • 6-hour battery life
  • Quick start up & shut down
  • Great overall performance from the CPU, RAM & SSD
  • Good gaming experience
  • Excellent PLS display (resolution, colours & contrast)
  • Impeccable finishing

Cons

  • Fan makes noise at times, for no apparent reason
  • Audio: chassis vibrates when the volume's high
  • Audio: no bass
  • Glossy screen
  • No RJ45 port or DVD burner

Conclusion

Apple pulled out all the stops with the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The screen, processor and graphics card are all high-calibre, the battery lasts nearly 6 hours and the finishing is tip-top. As it stands, the few shortcomings (such as the connectivity) aren't enough to warrant anything less than our best rating.

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