Apple MacBook Pro 2012 with Retina display review

With 5.1 million pixels on the 15.4in display, the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors and up to 768GB of SSD storage, Apple has raised the bar for laptops.

26 Jun, 2012
(£1,799 inc VAT)
The MacBook Pro gains a staggeringly crisp Retina display and quad-core Ivy Bridge CPU. The result is stunning, and although expensive there is no other laptop out there to match it.

Apple has transplanted its Retina display concept from the iPad to the MacBook Pro range with outstanding results. Just as the iPad’s Retina display left every other tablet trailing in its wake, the MacBook Pro promises to do the same to every other laptop on the planet.

Squeezing a massive 2,880 x 1,800 resolution into a 15.4in IPS panel, Apple has produced a technological marvel with the MacBook Pro. We would go so far as to say it comes with the most refined, colour-accurate display you’ll find on any laptop, at any price.

Perfect pixels

Those 5.1 million pixels aren’t quite as tightly packed as on the new iPad or the iPhone 4S, but this is not a problem. The MacBook Pro’s 220ppi density is light years ahead of the laptop competition, and the moment the OS X Lion desktop fades into view it’s impossible not to be impressed. There isn’t the slightest hint of pixel structure; not a single jagged edge to be seen. Even the individual icons on the Launchpad are so clearly defined it makes the MacBook Air 13in look like it’s out of focus.

Apple MacBook Pro - Retina display

The 5.1 million pixels on the MacBook Pro help to deliver unrivalled image quality

Technically, it’s near faultless. The IPS panel’s LED backlighting delivers a maximum brightness of 333cd/m2, and the contrast ratio of 1,023:1 is exemplary. Apple’s decision to factory calibrate its displays makes all the difference, too. Put to the test with our X-Rite i1Display Pro colorimeter and basICColor’s display 5 software, the display achieved an average Delta E of 1.4 and a maximum deviation of 3.4 in OS X – simply superb colour accuracy.

However, there’s more to the MacBook Pro’s Retina display than mere pixels. While you’d imagine such a high resolution would make text painfully tiny, and shrink the toolbars and icons in applications to almost unusable proportions, Apple’s solution is OS-wide scaling.

In the default mode, dubbed “Best for Retina”, the MacBook Pro’s desktop effectively mimics a 1,440 x 900 pixel display: text is large and legible, and the icons are all big enough to click without fiddling – but it’s still a 2,880 x 1,800 screen, and those extra pixels make all the difference.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display vs 11in MacBook Air

A close-up comparison of the Apple logo in OS X shows the difference in the number of pixels. On the left, there's the 135ppi display of the 11in MacBook Air; on the right, the 220ppi display of the MacBook Pro

Fire up Safari and you’re rewarded with fonts so sharp and finely delineated it’s almost like viewing text on a printed page. In fact, text is so beautifully rendered it makes the low-resolution images on websites look in need of an upgrade. Apple’s own website solves the issue by using higher-resolution images when the browser detects it’s being viewed on a Retina display.

Applications are faced with a similar issue. Apple has already updated most of its iLife suite, Aperture and Final Cut Pro X, so they can take full advantage of the screen’s high resolution for editing photos and HD video. Other developers, such as Adobe, are promising updates imminently.


OS: Mac OS X Lion

PROCESSOR: 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3615QM



SCREEN: 15.4in 2,880 x 1,800 IPS

CONNECTIVITY: 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0

PORTS: 2 x Thunderbolt, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 x SD card reader

DIMENSIONS: 359 x 247 x 18mm (WxDxH)

WEIGHT: 2.02kg