I recently sold off my Alienware M18x, which is a really amazing piece of kit in its own right and quite probably the absolute best true “desktop replacement” quasi-laptop there is, and purchased a new Macbook Pro 15″ retina. I’ve been on the road again lately, which is a use case that the “laptop in name only” Alienware is exceedingly poor at, and if I stay away from my Pandaria dailies for more than a day I go into withdrawals, so the corporate issued ThinkPad wasn’t cutting it. Much like with the second gen Air (I used the 11 for over a year and loved it), Apple has a category changing product in the MBPr 15 so I decided to give it a whirl.
There is a lot that has been said already about this notebook and all of it is accurate. The GT650M (a great mobile part in its own right) is even better in Apple packaging since they give you the GDDR5 version and factory overclock it. The i7 they use is the juicy full-blown quad core part (I opted for the 2.6Ghz variant) and the SSD is screaming fast (I own a ton of SSDs and the 512GB part in the MBPr is a perfect match for notebook use cases) With all of that they still managed to cram it into a sub 4.5lb, sub 1″ thick and 10″ deep package with a 15″ display. This alone is incredibly compelling, but the star of the show is obviously the wonderful 2880×1800 IPS panel and, more importantly, the way Apple has handled resolution scaling in OSX.
That last bit has been controversial in some ways (because not every dev has “caught up”), and I feel it is also thoroughly misunderstood. Suffice it to say that I believe Apple has absolutely taken the right approach here. They are taking short term pain in exchange for long term directional correctness. I think the ultimate expression of what the real long term vision is can be found in a use case that isn’t often blogged about when it comes to Mac coverage: virtualization.
I submit photographic evidence. Parallels 8 running Windows 7 in a VM on the OSX 10.8.2 desktop… What an incredible usage of high pixel density real estate! You can see that Windows is occupying a full resolution piece of desktop real estate, and displaying full fidelity, yet the OSX UI artifacts are all still pleasantly scaled (fonts, icons, controls, etc). The Apple scaling APIs, and their vector fonts and controls, are really really good. Parallels goes one step farther and pulls off a really impressive coup with their paravirtualized display driver: dynamic scaling. As you resize that VM window, Windows desktop resolution dynamically adjusts. Extremely slick stuff! Recommended highly. Apple has a mobile productivity package at this point that I think the PC ecosystem really can’t touch. Did I mention I’ve been getting 7hrs of real workday time (wifi on, productivity apps, email) on the road? I even managed to get 3 hours of full fidelity World of Warcraft Pandaria gaming on battery. Really amazing!