Scouting Report: Retina display MacBook Pro

[Every time a hot new gadget is announced, the buzz can reach a boiling point before anyone stops to think about what all the fuss is all about. In our Scouting Report series, we’ll cut through the marketing jargon and examine what makes a certain product special—or in some cases, simply overhyped.]

No matter what you think of Apple, it’s silly to ignore a company which has had such an impact on technology. The latest MacBook Pro (see Roman Loyola’s in-depth review at Macworld), unveiled earlier this week at Apple’s annual WWDC, demonstrates exactly why. The company has elevated skating-to-where-the-puck-will-be to an art form, and the MacBook Pro is the latest example of how the company continues to push its own products—and the industry—forward.

The naked eye

The iPhone’s Retina display was impressive right up until we saw the iPad’s Retina display. Likewise, the iPad’s Retina display is surpassed by the gorgeous Retina display on the MacBook Pro. Make no mistake: This is a big deal. We’re talking about a screen that can show full resolution 1080p high-definition video in a corner of the display. Every maker of computers is going to be shoving the others aside to offer super high-definition displays in the near future, especially when purveyors of web content start really upgrading their graphics to show off what the display can do.

Do me a solid

We’re already looking back with a smile at the quaint idea of moving, clicking, spinning hard drives, but for the generation now growing up it’s going to be as alien a concept as a skipping record or a dial tone. The MacBook Pro’s reliance on solid-state drives and non-moving parts in general is great from a perspective of power management and reliability, but it makes sense given all the experience that we have with solid-state storage in iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

Weight for it

The specs users care about are no longer measured in gigahertz and gigabytes—they’re measured in pounds and hours. What good is the most powerful laptop in the world if it weighs the size of a small aircraft carrier and gets 12 minutes of battery life? At under 4.5 lbs., the MacBook Pro isn’t necessarily going to give the MacBook Air a run for its money any time soon, but consider that it wasn’t so long ago that we had a 13-inch aluminum MacBook (non Pro) that weighed more than that. In weight, as in so many other ways, it’s become about doing more with less.

Fixed gear

All of this comes with a cost. In the case of the MacBook Pro, it’s that tinkering with your hardware has become more difficult than with other systems. Like Apple’s iOS devices, the MacBook Pro is a closed book—configure it with the amount of RAM and storage space you need up front, because you’re not going to get a chance later. The gurus at iFixit have declared it “the least repairable laptop [they]’ve ever taken apart.” Then again, do you tinker with your toaster, refrigerator, or washing machine much?

Going forward, it’s clear that this new model is the cloth from which all future MacBook Pros—and, really, all future MacBooks—will be cut. And, if the PC industry’s reaction to the MacBook Air (not to mention the iPhone and iPad) is any indication, the Pro is the bar that competitors are going to be bending over backwards to get limbo under.

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