You’re giving up ethernet & firewire. You’re losing your CD/DVD burner. You’re giving up a great MagSafe power connector (the new one sucks). You’re losing quite a bit of storage (the SSD drive is half the size of the regular MB Pro. You’re also losing dedicated audio line in and line out ports in exchange for a single audio port. In exchange you’re getting a much faster SSD storage drive, an HDMI port, more video RAM on the low end model, and a lighter weight computer overall.
Since I can live without the losses, and find the additional features enticing, I’ll call all those specs a wash. That means it comes down to the Retina Display.
The MBPR offers a ridiculous 2880 x 1800 Retina resolution that looks absolutely stunning. The color and vibrancy is incredible. But unless I’m watching video or looking at photos, it’s really not something that offers much benefit to me. I was more interested in the increased screen real estate.
The problem is, at the highest resolution setting, the MBPR’s display makes everything on the screen tiny. Really tiny. I fired up Photoshop on the MBPR at my local Apple store and could barely distinguish the icons in the toolbar. I had to move up so close to the display that I felt like I was looking at my iPhone, rather than a 15″ laptop. Apps that aren’t specifically built for Retina Displays show some blurriness (though I didn’t think it was bad as some tech reviews I’ve read).
You can of course change the resolution 1920 x 1200, but I found that to be a bit too small as well. The next step down is what Apple considers the middle of the road, or “best,” setting in the Display Preferences: 1680 x 1050. I agree with Apple, it was the best setting for me. The regular 15″ MB Pro comes with a 1440 x 900 resolution display by default, but for $100 you can upgrade to the HD screen with the same 1680 x 1050 resolution.
So at the end of the day the MBPR costs $400 more, and I must accept the trade-offs mentioned above, and I can’t enjoy or take advantage of the premiere feature – the display. In the end, I can spend the same amount of money to upgrade the regular MB Pro to the same specs as the MBPR, and keep the Ethernet, optical drive, etc.