"Amazing computer with a huge drawback."4.0 starson by javawolfpack
Pros: The retina display (resolution), flash memory, large memory capacity (16GB), size/weight (saves ~2.5lbs over the previous gen 17" macbook pro), unibody case, ivy bridge chipset, & discrete graphics in addition to integrated.
Cons: Forced to max out computer at purchase due to apple making this one of the least upgradable computers ever. Memory is soldered on, battery is glued in, and no details on 3rd party upgrades for storage yet.
Summary: Will start with a general review then get more technical.@JunkYardTM the Thinkpad x220 is a dual core sandy bridge processor vs the quad core ivy bridge in this computer, can only have a max of 8GB of memory vs starting at 8GB and upgradable to 16GB (at time of purchase)... It also has USB2.0 vs the macbook pro retina (RMBP) has USB3.0, only has integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics vs the RMBP has the Intel HD 4000 & discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. If all you are looking for is light weight & long battery life then yes the thinkpad x220 isn't a bad deal, but if you want serious performance & usable battery life (as honestly how often are you not going to go 20hours without finding a power outlet?) the RMBP is a better choice, but you have to be willing to pay the premium for the hardware for that boost of performance. Though will say the review above is quite lacking... but if you are going to try and compare another computer to the RMBP you should find one with comparable specs & generation of processor.
The idea of a computer that packs this much power, screen resolution, and battery life and yet be so thin/lightweight is almost hard to believe; however, that's what this computer is. That being said the draw back to this computer is huge in that nothing can be upgraded after you buy. The memory isn't removable and is propriety from the views inside the case I've seen; however, even the 8GB option is overkill for most people. But being forced to pay for 16GB from the start and at a premium compared to the cost of 16GB laptop memory.
Additionally, the battery appears to be bonded to the case, which makes replacing it difficult too. And considering how long macs last it'd be nice if the battery was replaceable down the road when it no longer holds a charge.
The only part that appears to have hope of a third party replacement is the flash storage; however, the amounts apple offers aren't unreasonable at the costs so probably not a likely aftermarket upgrade need here anyway. I am frustrated a bit personally that I am forced to upgrade to 512GB of flash storage to upgrade my processor, as I personally would prefer to get the faster processors without having to pay for additional storage.
Overall, as long as you can pay the premium to fully upgrade the RAM and pay for the additional storage for faster processors the pros outweigh this huge drawback.
Here on will be a highly technical review:
I previously have reviewed the 2010 macbook pro when apple moved to the core i7 technology (http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/apple-macbook-pro-spring/4864-3121_7-34058852-1.html) and got quite a bit of feedback appreciating the review of a computer from the perspective of someone who understands the pros of the hardware as well as has cause to fully make use of it. To that end will be doing similar analysis of this refresh of the macbook pro w/ the retina display.
Processor: For this generation (June 2012 update) of macbook pro/macbook air Apple has moved to the third generation Intel core i7 known as Ivy Bridge. You might hear the name Ivy Bridge thrown around but wonder why its a big deal. Ivy Bridge moves to a new 22nm fabrication technology from the previous generation (Sandy Bridge)'s 32nm technology. This is a measurement for the size of the transistors used in the chip.
A smaller transistor size offers the ability to fit more transistors onto the chip, which means the chip can do more in the same or a fraction of the space the previous generation did. Additionally, smaller transistors also require less energy to drive them, which means a significant savings in power.
Ivy Bridge in addition to a smaller transistor size and better power savings also includes a significant improvement on the integrated graphics that Intel has begun providing on their processors. This integrated graphics means that computers no longer need discrete graphics cards to drive graphics. This is seen in the Macbook Air that only uses this for its graphics and means Ivy Bridge provides better graphics on the newest Macbook Airs. For the Macbook Pros and this retina Macbook Pro it means that unless you are doing something which needs significant graphics processing that all the graphics can be done on the processor at a significant power savings.
Ivy Bridge also continues to improve on the core i7 architecture and provide better virtualization, multi-thread performance, etc. This means VM's run smoother and video processing will take less time. Additionally, you can run more applications without it placing a lot of strain on the processor.
Flash Storage: The biggest benefit of the Macbook Pro Retina is that it forces anyone who purchases it to move to a form of flash storage. Modern processors have less of an impact in the performance then they used to do as the slowest thing in the pipeline of executing, reading, and writing data is the hard drive in today's computers. The cache sizes and memory sizes keep increasing to try and help this but the biggest increase in performance comes when the time to read data from the hard drive isn't much longer than going to memory. This is the same reason windows computers began allowing you to dedicate a flash memory stick as temporary page file storage as this would reduce the time going to a HDD to retrieve data when the flash storage was at least 4X faster. The flash storage in the macbook pro retina provides the highest throughput comparable or faster to all the 6Gbps SATA III SSDs I've looked at on the market.
Memory: The Macbook Pro Retina makes use of DDR3L this spec provides DDR3 memory speeds but at a lower voltage, which means another power savings. I will admit the fact I'm forced to choose 8 or 16GB of memory from the start is frustrating; however, my current 17" macbook pro (2010) only has 8GB of RAM, with flash storage & the first gen core i7 I haven't managed to place a load on it yet that it can't handle including running 3VMs at the same time. As such think the upgrade to 16GB for most users wouldn't be noticeable in the performance gain they'd observe. But for video editors being able to load most of their project into memory would have a huge boost of improvement.
Graphics: The only con that has been mentioned by a few reviewers is the fact that the discrete graphics included in addition to the integrated graphics on the Ivy Bridge processor are only mid level graphics. I can understand the feeling that for such a capable machine not having the highest end graphic cards in it seems like a poor decision. The thing to note here is that apple designs their computers to maximize performance while not sacrificing battery life. They want a laptop to actually be portable and not fixed to a power cord. As such using the latest generation of NVIDIA Kepler based chips that provide significant power savings while still providing a 60% improvement over the previous generation of macbook pros seems like a good design decision over opting for a more powerful graphics chipset that doesn't provide the power savings.
I think the biggest complaint I saw was that someone couldn't get more than 27FPS on diablo III with the graphics maxed out. Honestly if you wanted the highest end graphics for gaming performance you should invest in a gaming computer with 2-4 SLI graphics. While you're at it build your own on EVGA's Classified SR-X motherboard.
When I reviewed the 2010 macbook pro I criticized the fact that only the 17" had the ExpressCard/34 slot. I thought the option for expansion via the card slot made more sense than an integrated SD Card Slot. But now am of the opinion that the integrated SD Card slot is a great feature and am glad to see that the macbook pro retina has one.
The two thunderbolt connectors seems like a waste, especially with so few storage devices available to make use of it. And the ones that do are unreasonably expensive. Not to mention that there aren't storage devices that support thunderbolt yet that can even begin to saturate the thunderbolt capabilities. Not that I don't think its a bad concept.
The move to USB 3.0 is more usable currently, and the macbook pro retina does include two USB3.0 ports.
I think the weirdest update, yet understandable, is the move to a new magsafe standard magsafe2. This means that if you are like me and have more than one magsafe power cord that would still be compatible wattage wise you'd have to buy an adapter to make use of it or upgrade your power cords. This move is understandable and only seen on the macbook air & macbook pro retina in the 2012 update as it provides the magsafe functionality in a thinner format, which means the computers can get even thinner, which improves their portability.
Summary: Regardless of the drawbacks this new revision to the macbook pro provides a very capable laptop in a very portable form. And no matter which configuration you get for most users this laptop will be overkill in terms of performance.
Updated on Jul 9, 2012