A pretty screen, but at what price?

July 19, 2012

Written by wukovits

Recently, Apple released a new MacBook Pro that is slimmer than any previous model, measuring a mere 0.7 inches in thickness.  What sets this laptop apart, aside from the svelte profile, is the Retina display that brings a resolution of 2,880 x 1,800 pixels, a specification unheard of in a 15-inch laptop display.  Like the latest iPad, with its Retina display, Apple has achieved this metric by increasing the number of pixels per inch (PPI), otherwise known as pixel density.  The overall result is a very sharp image, exhibiting a level of clarity for the viewer that is truly magnificent.  When comparing with another display, the difference is very notable, but that’s not the only game-changer Apple has included.

The new MacBook Pro also features other enhancements not before found on any Mac.  The latest model now supports the third-generation of Intel Core i–series processors, otherwise called Ivy Bridge, for improved performance.  USB 3.0 support can be found with the 2 USB ports included, and for the first time, an HDMI port graces an Apple laptop.  The lightning-fast Thunderbolt interface is also represented with two ports, but it seems some standard ports are missing.  No longer is a Firewire port available, which was a standard feature on Macs for years.  Another significant omission is a wired Ethernet port, with WiFi being the only option for network connectivity.  Lastly, Apple has done away with a DVD drive in this MacBook Pro, which isn’t unheard of, as the MacBook Air hasn’t had one since it’s arrival on the Apple family tree.  However, such omissions are things that have me puzzling about the actual product they’ve released.

Should this laptop be called a MacBook Pro?  Typically, the Pro series of laptop from Apple meant that it included additional functionality beyond the standard MacBook line.  It meant more performance for professional users, and while the display is certainly better, the lack of ports seems to cripple the device.  For network administrators, a lack of an Ethernet port makes the device nearly useless for troubleshooting issues.  No DVD drive means no output of video content or file backup to DVD, or CD for that matter.  Firewire was the go-to standard for fast transport of data and connectivity before, and even was a requirement for certain hardware troubleshooting between Macs.  Videographers and their high-end equipment relied on Firewire, and now the new MacBook has effectively killed that interface.  Of course, they do have Thunderbolt adapters available soon for Ethernet and Firewire, but after spending $2199 for a new entry level MacBook Pro, I would like to think that would be included.

My last gripe about the new MacBook Pro is pretty significant and will most likely preclude me from ever buying one.  There is no way for an end-user to upgrade or replace the memory (RAM) or hard drive themselves.  To save space, Apple has soldered these to the logic board, so any type of malfunction or desire to upgrade would need to be addressed by Apple directly.  From an upgrade perspective, sure you could get your MacBook Pro loaded to the gills with all the upgrades to memory and hard drive when you purchase it, but that will jack up the price to nearly $4000.  From a repair perspective, it’s genius! Force your user-base to come to you for any and all technical support or upgrade issues and keep driving the price higher.

Yes, the new MacBook Pro with Retina display has a beautiful screen, but at what price?  Being an Apple user and advocate, I’m pretty eager to adopt and open-minded about things they release from Cupertino.  Some might even say I’m drinking the Apple-flavored Kool-Aid.  However, with this model of MacBook Pro, it is safe to say I won’t be drinking from that glass.

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