Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display 2.6GHz review

If you want to know which innovative features will appear in next year’s Windows laptops, look at today’s Macintosh notebook. That’s the trend we’ve noted since the 1990s and this year’s Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display is certainly not going to buck it. 

Read our first-look review of the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display

We looked at the entry model Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display before with 2.3GHz quad-core and 256GB SSD. This time we turn the lamp on the ‘best’ with its 2.6GHz processor and 512GB storage. All other specifications are identical, starting with the same nVidia GeForce 650M with 1GB DDR5 and 8GB memory. 

See also: new Macworld UK review of the 15-inch Apple MacBook with Retina display, with new benchmark tests

Portwise we find two Thunderbolt, two USB 3.0, HDMI and SDHC card slot. Completing the machine are dual mics, HD webcam, 11n wireless and silky glass buttonless trackpad. 

And then there’s the ultra-high definition IPS panel with 2880 pixels across and 1800 pixels running down its 15.3in glossy screen.

Build quality of this streamlined notebook is unimpeachable. The Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display's unibody construction comprises a main chassis milled from solid aluminium with sculpted bottom plate precison-set below. Lid down, it’s just 18mm thick and weighs exactly 2.0kg.

Potential niggle points for a would-be purchaser may include the removal of optical drive, FireWire and even ethernet. The last two are covered with (sadly not included) Thunderbolt adaptors, while DVD drives are already far from mandatatory in modern PCs. Business users may balk at the lack of Kensington security slot though.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display 2.6GHz review: Performance

When we first looked at the Retina MacBook there were no Windows drivers to let us explore our usual raft of benchmark tests. Boot Camp, Apple’s easy-to-run setup for installing Windows on a Mac, has now been updated so we put the Retina through its paces.

The venerable WorldBench 6 suite asserted what the component specification already suggested – this is one fast laptop. A score of 176 points confirmed it as the most powerful laptop we’ve ever used.

Graphics performance is outstanding too – as it must be just to drive the 5.2Mp display.

The nVidia GTX 650M automatically hands over to integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 depending on running apps, in OS X at least. Running Windows, only the nVidia processor is available and this gave a decent 120fps playing FEAR, and 159fps in our ‘low spec’ Crysis test at 1024x768.

We pushed it further with resolution set to near-native 2560x1600 and Medium detail, leading to a useful 28fps.

Even more graphics horsepower wouldn’t go amiss though, as the regular OS X interface is not as fluid as it should be, evident for example as some slight ‘stickiness’ while fast scrolling through web pages. 

Totalling 95Wh, the massed array of non-removable lithium-polymer internal batteries led to a Windows runtime of 6.5 hours.

Back in Lion, we found we could keep this machine through and beyond an 8-hour working day.

OUR VERDICT

The specifications and benchmark results clearly excel yet they fail to define the precision build, meticulous design and the essential comfort of this pioneering laptop. If the £2399 price alarms, know that the £1799 model carries as much class and only its reduced SSD capacity is likely to affect some requirements.

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