- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2012


It’s sleek, shiny, weighs less than its predecessor and has a screen to die for. No, I’m not talking about Apple Inc.’s iPhone 5, announced Wednesday, but rather the months-older MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Starting at just under $2,200, this 15-inch computer is making me rethink some recent pronouncements.

While nowhere near the weight of an iPad/keyboard combo, this new MacBook Pro is light enough (4.46 pounds) to be quite handy, while providing a large, super-brilliant screen for on-the-road work. Yes, it would be much pricier than the iPad/keyboard arrangement, but given how much more one gets, it’s worth thinking about. (And, should Apple extend the Retina Display feature down its line to the MacBook Air, watch out!)

The greatest revelation, for this user, is the blistering speed with which this computer starts. The model I’ve acquired (at my day job) has a whopping 16 Gigabytes of RAM, but also 256 Gbytes of solid-state memory, instead of the once-standard hard drive. Such a configuration pushes the retail price of the MBPro to just under $2,400, but for a high-end product, that’s not too bad.

Definitely “not bad” is the aforementioned startup time. From the moment I pressed the start button to the time I get a login screen, mere seconds — nanoseconds, almost — pass. Contrast that with the usual start time of about 90 seconds for my homebound 2009-vintage iMac desktop computer, and you’ll see why I’m thrilled with the soul of this new machine.

Few things are more useful, in my opinion, than having your computer start up quickly. This is about as close to “instant on” that I’ve seen in a full, desktop-equivalent machine. Yes, the iPad (and most other tablets) will start faster, but as capable as the iPad is, it’s not a “full” computer. The MBPro is full-fledged and full-featured — with one notable-yet-understandable exception — and that makes the start time so impressive.

And that “Retina Display?” The one with, as Apple says, “2880-by-1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors?”

It’s awesome. What else could it be? I can hardly wait to use it on photo editing and other tasks, but even with simple things such as Web browsing (the latest versions of both Apple’s Safari Web browser and Google’s Chrome are updated for the Retina Display), it’s a treat. In fact, one might wish Apple made this in a 17-inch display, but that’s not currently available.

Connectivity is a bit of a paradox, at least for right now. Having moved to the “Thunderbolt” connection port in 2011, Apple embraced the technology as a way to link a notebook computer with a monitor as well as additional displays and peripherals. One can, for example, power two external Thunderbolt displays from a single connection to the notebook computer.

The Apple Thunderbolt Display, a mere $999 at your local Apple Store, also has connections for Gigabit Ethernet networking, a FireWire 800 port and three USB 2.0 ports. So, it makes sense to hook up your new MacBook Pro (with or without Retina Display) to this monitor. But, I don’t have one yet, so making the most of the built-in connections is a priority.

To connect with my organization’s local-area network, for example, I needed to get a $29 adapter, but that’s not a big issue.

More concerning — at least initially — might be the lack of an optical drive built into the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. That’s fixed with the $79 Apple SuperDrive, which connects via USB. And, given the trend toward putting things either on flash drives or as Internet downloads, the need for optical storage may well decrease in the future.

Overall, as you might surmise by now, I’m thrilled with this system and the power it provides. If this is a preview of what we can expect for future portables, it’s going to be rather pleasant times ahead.

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