Here at OWC, we’ve been talking a lot lately about the MacBook Pro with Retina display (which will hereafter be referred to as the rMBP). We’ve investigated the quality of the Retina display and how non-optimized graphics look. We’ve even attached multiple monitors to it, just to see what happened. Our research supports that this laptop was designed for professionals and does give us a truly remarkable, super-high-resolution screen. Yet with all Apple gives us in this machine, they leave one area to be desired—upgrade opportunities.
With the creation of the rMBP, Apple also focused on making the whole unit thinner. The result? Less expandability, which could affect the needs of many professionals.
On modern OS versions, and for modern apps, the base 8GB can be a little less than optimal for a “pro” machine. This leads many people to upgrade to the 16GB at an extra $200. Whether 8GB or 16GB is the chosen factory option, if that soldered-in RAM is outgrown, the user has to buy a new MacBook, rather than upgrade the one they have.
As Mac users, we have a few options—accept the options that Apple offers, or buy the minimum configuration and upgrade it with third-party offerings later. Unfortunately, it seems as though the latter option is slowly being taken away from us. What began with the MacBook Air is now present in the rMBP; our options for expansion after purchase have been largely removed.
The optional 512GB and 768GB SSD’s do offer a decent bump up from the base model rMBP’s 256GB SSD – and at a very significant cost too. However, when Tim Cook proclaimed in his All Things Digital Interview, “we have some incredible things coming out,” this is not what we expected. We would have thought “incredible” would be an all new SSD design that offered 1TB or more of storage. Or even dual internal drives.
As a result, we’re hard at work to bring users the storage solutions we believe they want for a machine of this caliber. The possibilities can be as broad as solutions we created for other Mac models like Data Doubler, Aura Pro/Envoy Bundle, Electra MAX 960GB 3G SSD, and Accelsior, but they present a new set of challenges as well. For example, Apple switched the internal SSD drive connector on this machine. The new connector isn’t an insurmountable issue, but it does require a longer (and sometimes frustrating) development curve for the user.
Overall, we feel Apple could have benefited from listening to users a little more and asked what they wanted in the MacBook line evolution. Take for example the current battery life of nine hours. As we’ve read on numerous independent sites, many users would have gladly given up some battery runtime to have extra storage instead. The battery is comprised of 3 large cells and 3 smaller cells. Eliminating one of these smaller cells would have provided room for a 7mm drive bay while still providing a 7-8 hour runtime. And one has to wonder—what’s the point of extended runtime if you run out of space to save what you’re working on?
The display on the new machines is indisputably incredible. And in situations where 16GB of memory is all that is required, it outperforms a 12-core Mac Pro in many operations. While few applications today fully utilize 12-cores, it is still remarkable that a notebook machine with 4 cores can perform equal to and in some cases better than the leading desktop model of Macintosh computers. All that said, we’re still left with the feeling that if Apple really wanted to put out an “incredible” MacBook, they should have made the optional high-capacity SSDs the stock capacity drives from the get go. There’s no question that the rMBP leaves us with a lot of possibilities, but it leaves us with a lot more challenge as well.