The MacBook Pro with Retina Display has only been out a day but it hardly needs an introduction. This is Apple's next generation MacBook Pro and it brings a slimmed down design, lighter weight and new ports: HDMI and two USB 3.0 ports. But the biggest change is the Retina Display, a term we're familiar with on the iPhone and New iPad. Is seeing believing? Yes it is. The display looks phenomenal in person and it brings a variety of higher resolutions to the 15" Mac portable.
But what exactly does Retina mean on a computer where resolution is tied to how much you see on screen (spreadsheet cells, 1080p video without scaling)? Mac OS X now increases pixel density, so you're getting 220 ppi rather than the usual 110ppi but in terms of how much stuff you see on screen, it's equivalent to 1440 x 900 (standard 15" MacBook Pro resolution) or whatever resolution you select under Display Scaling . That makes for noticeably sharper text and images that pop a bit. What I really like are the display options for various resolutions rather than 1440 x 900, you can run it at 1680 x 1050 or 1920 x 1200 and it looks great. Confusing? Yes it is because no one has ever done this with computer displays.
Here are two screen shots taken of the Chrome web browser (not Retina enabled) and Chrome Canary (Google's beta browser with Retina support) so you can see the difference. The screen shot is shown at 100% zoom, and that's where the difference is apparent. On the actual Retina display, it's not as distinct a difference, but it's still noticeable. The Retina optimized app has sharper fonts with no jaggies while the non-optimized app looks a wee bit fuzzy on close inspection.
The MacBook Pro with Retina Display has a 15.4" IPS panel (Apple's first IPS notebook), and you can get it with third gen Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7 CPUs ranging from 2.3 to 2.7GHz. The base model comes with 8 gigs of RAM and you can order it with 16 gigs of RAM, but you can't upgrade the memory yourself because it's soldered to the motherboard. In terms of do it yourself upgrades, the Retina Mac is similar to the MacBook Air: pretty much nothing is upgradeable. The SSD drive is potentially upgradable if some offers a module that fits (it looks like the MacBook Air SSD but it's a slightly different design). The base model has a 256 gig SSD and you can get 512 gig and 768 gig SSD drives.
Top to bottom: MacBook Air 13", MacBook Pro Retina and MacBook Pro 15"
The base 2.3GHz/8 gig/256 gig SSD model is $2,199 and the 2.6GHz/ 8 gigs RAM/ 512 gig SSD model is $2,799. You can order it with a 2.7GHz Core i7, 16 gigs of RAM and the 768 gig SSD for a truly painful $3,749. If you're looking at the refreshed standard 2012 15" MacBook Pro but want to upgrade to an SSD and 1 gig of VRAM, you're already entering the base price range of the Retina MacBook Pro, making it a better deal if you're set on a 15" Mac Pro notebook.