Apple MacBook Pro w/Retina Display

My old Apple MBP is now six years old and has smoke and steam coming out of it trying to run the latest resource hungry apps. Time for an upgrade. I had been hanging out for the release of the mid 2012 MacBook Pros and when the 'high end' model with the Retina display was announced I knew I had to have one. My enthusiasm was tempered by the price ($3.5K with some upgraded bits) so I held off hitting the 'Buy Now' button for a couple of weeks while I procrastinated but eventually did it in late June. The item was then on back-order so it was four weeks until mine arrived on July 24, the day before the Mountain Lion OS upgrade was officially announced. I was entitled to an upgrade as my laptop was bought within a one month qualifying period.

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As all of you know, I am an Apple fanboi and can only compare this machine to what I have previously owned and the specs I know of the current range. I am not saying it is the best laptop in the world as I have had zero experience of recent Windows machines and probably never will.

My new MBP-r has five killer attributes compared to my last machine - weight, performance, battery life, screen resolution and Mountain Lion. Lets look at them one at a time.

Weight
The new MBP-r weighs a little over one kilogram. Two and a bit pounds. It is over 30% lighter than previously plus with the extended battery life, one doesn't always have to lug around the charger so the gross weight of the overall package is significantly down. From a portability POV, it is not in the MacBook Aiir class but as a fully configured desktop replacement system, it is uber portable.

Performance
Apart from the display, the MBP-r and it's feature set are all about performance. That the new machine is fast should be a given, not a surprise. I configured it with 16GB of memory and the 512 GB SSD. It is predictably a lot faster (boot times under 20 seconds), applications starting without a 'bounce' from the Dock, and power apps like Aperture updating complex RAW photo edits instantaneosly. The system never slows down irrespective of how many windows are open, downloads are faster (perhaps a function of better wireless chips / upgrades), and I haven't missed the deleted Superdrive. To load MS Office, I shared the DVD drive on my iMac over wi-fi with absolutely no problems at all. Other improvements are the inclusion of an SD slot (convenient for photography) and USB 3 which I have found to be significantly faster than USB 2. I don't yet have any Thunderbolt drives to test, nor have I had any reason to test Bluetooth 4. Overall, the features and performance makes using the machine a joy rather than a chore.

Battery Life
As mentioned above, the improved battery life (around seven hours in normal use) means that you can work 'leash free' and not fear running out of juice or have to worry about carting a charger and cables around. Really makes the laptop 'mobile', something that I hadn't enjoyed in years.

Screen Resolution
Thought I should talk about this in the middle of the review so it wouldn't sound like such a rave. The screen is simply breathtaking. Whether zooming in on photos, or reading text and just staring at it, the quality is extraordinary. Hi-res photos from a DSLR are almost 3D-like, and the printed page looks crisper than you can imagine. It would be hard to go back to an older-generation screen once you got used the Retina display. A real game changer.

Software - Mountain Lion, iLife Suite, Safari, iTunes
I only have a couple of days experience with Mountain Lion (ML) but I am impressed so far. It is more stable on the MBP-r than Lion and it is more functionally rich and feels more resolved than Lion ever did. I am yet to fully explore Notes / Reminders / Messages but they seem like a welcome communications additions, AirShare works as advertised streaming the display to an Apple TV-connected HDTV. Developers have done a good job testing their apps for ML as apart from a minor bug in Rapidweaver (fixed in the current beta version) I have had no compatibility issues at all. Even the iOS-like predictive text feature works better and seamlessly in this version. Another benefit for me is 'gestures' through the trackpad. I didn't have access to the full range of gestures on my old MBP's trackpad, so I am finding the usability of shortcuts combined with gestures to be a real productivity aid, even more than I would have expected.

The machine also comes with the freshened versions of the iLife suite - iPhoto, iMovie and Garageband. I can't speak for iMovie as yet, but iPhoto looks a little cleaner with improved sharing options, and by all accounts Garageband is maturing into a complete music / sampling / creation tool.

Safari and iTunes get an update for ML. Airplay availability is the major change for me in iTunes, although I use Apple TV for my audio streaming. Safari is different. The unified URL/search field (intuitive and sensible really, thanks Chrome!), the removal of RSS (no problem for me), social network sharing support plus iCloud integration options among a number of other features make Safari 6 feel much more modern and part of your wider cloud / social networking universe than ever. A good thing, and well overdue.

Is there anything not to like? To get the packaging of the MBP-r just 'so', Apple have made some construction compromises making the device non-serviceable with many components soldered and not able to be replaced or field upgradeable. Probably makes AppleCare as a must-have as you would be unhappy if either through accident or component failure your new-ish mega-buck MBP-r turned into a expensive paper-weight. Some commentators have lamented that Apple haven't advanced their wireless speeds beyond the 'n' standard and therefore may have missed an opportunity to advance the MBP-r wireless performance.

However, I couldn't be happier with this device.

Bye for now, BomberBoy