Quick glance at the new MBP

We take a quick look at the MacBook Pro with retina display under Win 7.

The newly released retina-screen MacBook Pro has been an interesting product to me since it was first announced. I have long been a proponent of higher resolution screens for PCs, hoping for the lower cost screens that we are just now finding in the Korean 27-in screen market (like the Achieva Shimian we recently reviewed). When Apple announced a 15-in notebook with a screen resolution of 2880×1800, my hopes were raised that other vendors would take note and duplicate the idea – thereby lowering costs and increasing visual quality for users across the board.

While I didn’t have enough time with the retina MacBook Pro to give it a full review, I did spend an afternoon with one that had Windows 7 installed. After getting some benchmarks and games installed I thought I would report back to our readers with my thoughts and initial impressions on the laptop from a PC perspective.

The hardware inside the new retina MacBook Pro includes an Ivy Bridge Core i7-3720QM processor, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M discrete GPU, 512GB Apple-branded solid state drive, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt and of course that impressive 2880×1800 screen.

The Core i7-3720QM is the top part from Intel on the Ivy Bridge lineup with a base clock of 2.60 GHz. The GT 650M based on the GK107 has 384 cores that run at 900 MHz and 1GB of GDDR5 memory running at 2.5 GHz. The SSD keeps the system running really quickly and getting a capacity of 512GB should mean most users can go without the need for a larger spindle-based alternative.

Under OS X, the 2880×1800 screen actually doesn’t run at that resolution – instead the screen real estate is running at either 1280×800 or 1920×1200 with double or quad per-pixel resolution. It gives the screen on the retina MacBook Pro a very “sharp” feel to it much like the third-generation iPad. Under Windows though, you CAN set it to the native resolution of 2880×1800 and the results are…impressive.

Click to Enlarge

The problem of course is that things are tiny on a 2880×1800 15-in screen – setting the screen to 1920×1200 resulted in a better experience. With that said, running at the display's native resolution with a higher DPI setting in Windows was better than I thought it would be.

With this kind of resolution, it just makes sense that Apple would have chosen to use a discrete GPU rather than depend on the integrated graphics in the Ivy Bridge processor from Intel.  Under Windows, you could absolutely set the game to run at 2880×1800, though with the GT 650M that wasn’t a great idea.  But, just in case you are interested, here is a screenshot of Skyrim running at the maximum native res.

Click to Enlarge

For a more realistic measure of gaming performance, we ran the 3DMark11 benchmark under the Performance preset.

I also ran some Metro 2033 and Skyrim performance tests on the system and we were able to play both games at 1920×1200 resolution on this impressive display without much issue at High quality presets.  Given the hefty resolution, we could always use more GPU horsepower. However, for a notebook which is faster, thinner, and lighter than its predecessor the GeForce GT 650M was the perfect combination of performance and efficiency for the new retina MacBook Pro.  Overall system performance is pretty solid (as you would expect), and as always, the build quality on the Apple hardware is immaculate. 

I am hoping to get some more time with this system in the coming weeks to see how it feels over a longer period, but for now, I’ll end with photos of the screen comparing 2880×1800 to a 1920×1200 resolution. 

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge