I have been waiting for this piece of hardware for a while. As a matter of fact, once the Retina MacBook Pro 15″ was released, I sold my 2011 MacBook Air because it had only 4GB of RAM and I was on the road to upgrade to the pro-line of Apple notebook computer. The 15″ version of the MacBook Pro is a lovely and very capable machine. I still think I would have kept the 15″ version if it wasn’t for some display panel issues I had with the 2 machines I tried. In addition, switching from a MacBook Air, the 15″ rMBP was way too heavy for me. So I returned them and have been patiently waiting for Apple to release the 13″ version of the new rMBP. The time has come on Oct 23 when Apple finally announced the 13″ version of the Retina MacBook Pro and also made it available for online ordering on the same day.
So how does it compare? The two options I really wished Apple would have added to the 13″ version are: 16GB RAM option and quad-core CPU option. I know Apple has to ensure there is product differentiation between their products and that is exactly what they did to separate the 15″ and the 13.3″ models. 15″ has more RAM and a quad-core CPU. If you want the portability, you have to let go of these options.
So that puts the 13″ rMBP right in the middle between the 15″ rMBP and the 13″ MBA, in terms of price, hardware features and portability. Seems logical, but I still wished they would have given me the options. The 8GB RAM setup puts it right on par with the 2012 MBA series of notebook computers. It is not a small amount for today’s computing, but at the same time for a machine I expect to use for a few years, that is not enough. The quad-core CPU would have made it a portable power-house but since it does not exist as an option for the bigger, non-retina 13″ MBP, it might just be exactly how Apple likes to position these notebook computers in the market.
I opted for the dual-core i7 CPU upgrade and a nominal amount of SSD drive space – 256GB.
The order was placed on Oct 23 at night. This is actually the first time I ordered a brand new product from Apple that it was shipped directly from China. It was estimated to be delivered on Oct 31. Of course, to my surprise it arrived this afternoon (Oct 29).
So from ordering to delivery, it took Apple only 6 calendar days (2 of which was on the weekend) to have it delivered to my hands, factory direct from China. Hats off to Tim Cook for running Apple as efficiently as it is. What’s more is when I looked at the shipping box, it was boxed on Oct 21. So I assume the product was assembled and boxed up only 2 days before it was announced, and it took 8 days since it is boxed up in the factory for me to get it. It is so amazing how just-in-time manufacturing is executed by Apple.
In terms of the quality of the product, I found there are some very slight oil-based blemish on the aluminum outer shell of the display, but it was easily rubbed off with a micro fibre cloth. There are no other visible signs of mishandling. The display is perfect, no bad pixels (the reason I returned the first 15″ rMBP) and no shadows from the backlight (another reason I returned the second 15″ rMBP). I am very happy about this retina display.
I used SwitchResX to play around with extra display options. This software allows you to use the retina display with other resolutions in addition to the selections made available by Apple. For example, I tried running the display at its native resolution (2560 x 1600). The effect is that although it is extra crisp, it is too small to use for more than a few minutes. It was fun for the first few minutes until I had to squint and lean forward to read the tiny text. It is not worth having bad posture and strained eye sight for the extra screen real-estate. I also tried running it at 1920 x 1200 resolution. The size is bearable but because of the non-optimal scaling, the text is not as crisp and that defeats the purpose of paying extra to have the retina display. So I settled on running it at the Apple allowed “scaled – more space” resolution (1680 x 1050). The text is crisp and I have more working space than when I had the 13″ MBA (1440 x 900).
In terms of portability, it is about a pound heavier than the MBA. Is it worth the extra money and with less portability? Only time will tell but so far I am very happy with this purchase.