Retina MacBook Pro – After 2 and a Half Months

The 15″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display is by far the best computer I had ever used, no question about it. And I had used great many – although only a handful made a deep impression (I mean a positive impression, because I came across several that made unforgettable bad impressions). These are heavy words from me. As you might have been noticed I’m really picky on everything I use (just browse the Hall of Shame section for rants about bad design and/or execution).

You can read my initial impressions about the machine here.

During the last months I had used the machine as a desktop for software development (both iOS and OS X) as well as studio work, and lugged it around the country as a field laptop to assist during my photo trips. Most of my first impressions are still valid, and I love the machine even more than I though at first. I would just like to add further observations.

Battery Life

In my initial post I wrote around 5 hours. Since then OS X 10.8.2 came out, which increased battery life substantially. Now I get something between 6 and 8+ hours, depending on the usage pattern (disabling Adobe Flash holds a great contribution to increased battery life, though).

Tethered Shooting

Working Tethered

I started working tethered for landscape shots immediately after receiving the MacBook, and the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience of lugging around a computer. Before the MacBook I had tried to use the Lenovo X200s for tethered work, but was not really satisfied with it and abandoned the idea until the MacBook arrived.

I like several things about this setup.

No time required for image sorting and selection later. I just bring home the keepers. This proved to be a huge time-saver!

I can make the first cut of the final processing in the field, using the same tools I use in the studio. This fits extremely well into my creative process. The high resolution and color-accurate display helps a lot in this. It’s like holding an A4 sized print in front of me. I even stitch panoramas made with the 24mm TS-E lens to check whether everything is good about the shot.

Images are immediately backed up, as the the tethering software saves images to both the memory card in the camera and onto the computer. (Which app? – you might ask. Don’t worry I’ll devote a few posts for that subject later.)

As I wrote in my first impressions piece, the machine fits perfectly into my Lowepro Pro Trekker 400AW. Fully loaded it’s now a back-breaking experience, but if I leave home stuff I don’t need for the shoot, then the full weight is around 15kg, which is bearable. I did several 2-3 hour hikes with the setup without any effects on my back and shoulders (did I mention that the Pro Trekker is a great backpack?).

Other Good Things

The notebook-as-the-desktop was really helpful during the August storms. I routinely power down and disconnect sensitive equipment during thunderstorms, as I saw quite a few over-voltage spikes in the past. But with the MacBook I can continue working during these hours. I really like thunderstorms and they put me in a creative mood, so it’s a big plus!

Last, but not least, no more copying or syncing or Dropboxing files between my desktop and field notebook! No more forgetting to copy something in the hurry before I leave! This saves me lot of time and the peace of mind that comes from the fact that I always have everything I need with me is priceless.

What I miss?

Thunderbolt docks. Matrox’s and Belkin’s solutions are both delayed. Plugging in all those cables (all the connectors of the machine are populated) in the morning really pisses me off. I’ll be first in the line for one of those docks!

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  1. Your experience sounds very promising and encourages me to get the new 13″ one. Do you really find the Retina screen that good even compared to the Eizo as you mentioned in the calibration post?

    • Laszlo Pusztai says:

      I do. It’s a joy to work with. You should check it at an Apple retailer.

      • I did check it out but I had no comparison to a better quality Eizo monitor.

        I had an interesting discussion with someone (as I know Gabor Bakos is a friend of yours) who thinks none of the newer Apple displays are good enough for graphics work. However many visual artists use it for their work, he says their image quality and technical details are fare worse than any other displays on the market. He says Apple once used to be a good screen manufacturer but until now they got far away from being a good choice for graphics work.

        This makes your evaluation much more interesting.

        • Laszlo Pusztai says:

          I agree with Gabor to some extent. The silver bezel Cinema displays were pretty good monitors in their day – but don’t misunderstand this: they were never at the level of professional graphics displays, they were never suitable for color-critical work, they just were on par with better consumer displays.

          Since that time what Apple produces on the display front ranges from slightly unacceptable to utter crap. I especially hate the former iMac displays (can’t say anything about the new one, though).

          But the retina display is in an entirely different class. It is not your usual Apple display (at least the Samsung one, I can’t say anything about the LG). Actually it’s the best notebook display I ever saw.

          So, to summarize my opinions.

          Is the retina display more precise than the EIZO? YES (at least the Samsung panel in the center).

          Is color uniformity better than the EIZO? NO, far from it. The EIZO have special circuitry that safeguards that.

          Is the color space bigger? NO. The EIZO is an Adobe RGB monitor, whereas the retina display is sRGB.

          Would I sell the EIZO and just use the MacBook? NO WAY! They are different tools for different tasks. They perfectly augment each other, however. What surprised me is that I rarely need to adjust my field-edits made on the MacBook when I check them later on the EIZO. Rarely, but not never.

          Do I say that the retina display is a professional color display? NO! It’s just a pretty damn good consumer display that I’m not afraid to use for field work! But critical color judgements are and will be done on the EIZO.

          Which is my favorite of the two? Absolutely the retina display! It’s so much easier on the eyes, and simply a joy to look at.

          Making a professional color display requires special circuitry, more space and way more power so don’t expect them to appear in notebooks in the foreseeable future.

          • Thanks a lot for the detailed answer. You really convinced me about the Retina MacBook Pro – and to keep my Eizo next to it.

            About the iMac I’m afraid the new one won’t be any better than the previous ones and it didn’t yet get the retina resolution yet what I don’t even understand.


  1. […] I’m shooting tethered (which is the majority of cases when I do landscape work), I rely on Kuuvik Capture to assess […]

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