As rumoured, Apple has launched a range of notebooks that change the game. A refresh has washed across the entire Mac portable line – the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro, the 11in and 13in MacBook Air – easing in Intel Ivy Bridge mobile processors, USB 3.0 ports and faster graphics.  

Read the specifications of the Apple MacBook Air (2012).

And standing aloft from these running updates to existing models comes the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

This is a new design, the chassis slimmed to 18mm, weight shaved to 2.03kg, yet packing some of the fastest Intel quad-core silicon you can find.

Read the specifications of the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

No doubt it’s a thing of beauty, the solid aluminium bodywork remilled now to accomodate two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3.0 and HDMI video out. And now just 18mm thick.

That extra Thunderbolt will come in handy if you need FireWire or ethernet – adaptors will be needed for these connections for the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which lacks both.

Talkin' 'bout a Retina-ution...

The display is the thing. Laptop screen graphics have been put in the shade by a recent advance pioneered by the iPhone and now the iPad, the so-called Retina display.

A Retina display packs pixels so tightly that text and images are painted precisely, free of any matrix of pinpoint light elements that make up the familiar LCD. In the case of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, that display renders at 220ppi.

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

The Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display breaks through the screen barrier with a 220ppi IPS panel

Backing this extreme definition, 2880 x 1800 pixel’s-worth of resolution, is an IPS panel to promise accurate colour rendering and exceptional visibility when viewed from any angle.

But the visual impression you’ll get looking at this panel with its HiDPI mode engaged will be that of a 1440 x 900-pixel display, the same as that already in use on the 15in MacBook Pro. Only with the clarity of a printed photograph.

What remains to be seen is how well the new panel can combat reflections. The previous generation of Unibody MacBook Pro came fitted with a glass panel over the LCD, introducing glare when viewed in any lighting condition short of a darkened room.  

The MacBook Pro with Retina Display takes a different approach, integrating the component screen layers right inside the Unibody’s lid frame. As Jony Ive describes it:

‘By building the layers of the display into the Unibody, we actually eliminated the need for a separate cover glass.’

Mind you, a long run of perfectly nice matt anti-glare screens on laptops suggests that that cover glass was never essential anyway, and has only ever been a hindrance to screen legibility. 

15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display  

Extreme resolution and in-plane switching LCD technology promises a dream screen. But will it reflect?

At the WWDC 2012 Keynote that launched the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, Apple’s Vice President of Marketing Phil Schiller also suggested that this display would suffer 75% less glare than previous glossy screens.

Screen quality continues to be an issue with modern laptops, an example being recent Ultrabook models that have commonly exhibited limited colour gamut and shockingly bad viewing angles.  

In one fell swoop, Apple seems to have answered the prayers of those looking for grown-up technology applied to the most important visual component of the laptop.

Watch out for our full review of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, coming soon.