June 22, 2012

Ihnatko: Retina MacBook Is Apple’s Best, But Could Be Better

Andy Ihnatko posts his full review of the 2012 MacBook Pro with Retina Display for the Chicago Sun-Times, managing also to encapsulate why his (and my) 2011 MacBook Pro is still the wiser investment:

"My own 2011 MacBook Pro is clearly the lesser Mac. But it represents a serious investment of my money and I need to get as much longterm value out of the thing as I can. Here it is, more than a year later, and I’m so impressed by the SSD performance of the new Retina MacBook that I’m considering getting a solid state drive. No problem: I can easily swap out the hard drive myself. Or, maybe I’ll crunch the numbers and swap the 512 gig hard drive for a larger one. It’s all up to me. The 8 gigs of RAM are ample for what I use my MacBook for, but if my needs change, I can upgrade to 16 gigs pretty easily."

I can replace the battery myself when it no longer holds an adequate charge, or have it replaced by Apple for $70 less than the Retina Pro's.

The refreshed 2012 MacBook Pros (without Retina Display) carry the same expandability options as last year's models, plus faster CPUs, graphics processors, USB 3 and other improvements. They're still the wiser choice.

Tinkering and expandability aren't on every consumer's radar, but the lack of them in Apple's new flagship laptop is remarkable and lamentable. Say what you will about disappearing third-party business opportunities, the fact is that reduced options means reduced flexibility, a take-it-or-leave-it attitude rendered in silicon. We don't have to like it, and we can make Apple aware of our displeasure despite the knowledge that this is a one-way street. Witness the un-tweakable Air and iPad: this is the future of personal computing.

We can expect Apple to expand the Retina Pro line to include a 13-inch model. I believe we can also expect the current pair of non-Retina Pros to be the last of their kind and be retired next year, when the Retina models fully replace them.

Hopefully the wholesale cost of the Retina Pro's components will decline by then and Apple will hit a more palatable retail price point with them. SSD prices are already coming down.

Or maybe the right-priced model will be the Air.