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Old Nov 28, 2012, 05:50 AM   #1
UpOver
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For those who want more graphically-oriented MacBook Pro options

We've got a good MacBook Pro. For general usage there's plenty of x64 grunt rolled into a compact, light package with good battery life. But for graphically demanding and creative applications we can do much better. For mine the following two items particularly stand out:

1) Faster dedicated GPU options - benefits for gaming, and depending on workflow, editing, modelling, and animation / rendering: The GT 650M is a solid mobile GPU, but there is plenty of room for improvement - even the Fermi-based GTX 670M outshines it, not to mention its Kepler cousins the GTX 670MX or GTX 680MX, and that's just this year's GPUs (see eg. http://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-...ist.844.0.html and http://community.futuremark.com/hardware/gpu). With appropriate power management, and well thought-out cooling, there is no reason why these GPUs can't work in a MacBook Pro (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compari...6xxM.29_series for TDPs).

2) 17+ inch retina model - benefits for image and video editing, development, modelling, animation / rendering, gaming: The 15" retina supports some very high resolutions, but they end up being quite small on the 15" screen. Where mobility is especially important this can be a reasonable trade off. But where mobility is a smaller part of the puzzle, a larger screen can make more sense, while still being relatively mobile. It makes higher resolutions easier to see - ie. more of the windows, more of the content, more of the game - without the need for a magnifying glass (and without needing to cart around an extra monitor).
The bigger form factor of a 17+ inch also has the benefit of allowing for more effective cooling and juicier batteries to drive everything when not connected to the mains. I for one would be much happier to pay the current top dollar for a kitted-out 17 inch retina over a similarly-kitted r15.

At the moment it's anyone's guess what Apple's thinking in this space. So the best thing to do - presuming you're an interested party - is to let Apple know there's a market for them. With the iMac refresh (witness GTX 680MX[!]), management shuffle-up, and the ever-nearing release of Haswell (see eg. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haswell...rchitecture%29 and http://www.anandtech.com/show/6355/i...l-architecture), now seems like a pretty good time to do just that.

If like me you're keen for these options, let Apple know on their MacBook Pro feedback link http://www.apple.com/feedback/macbookpro.html. Let's get portable graphics on Apple's radar!
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 06:08 AM   #2
leman
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I don't think what you want is possible. In detail:

1) A 60+ Watt GPU is simply not realistic in the rMBP enclosure. A cooling system is only designed to dissipate particular amount of heat - there is no easy way to increasing this amount. You'd have to increase the laptop dimensions considerably for this to work.

2) The reason why Apple canned the 17" model is because it was accounting for less then 1% of MBP sales. I doubt they would spend time and money to design/produce a laptop that won't sell.
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 06:30 AM   #3
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The 17" MBP is dead, and there's even less reason that we'd see a 17" retina model. The cost of the display would be so high that it would be priced beyond anyone's willingness to pay for such a machine.

Apple killed off the 17" MBP not because people were buying it in droves, but rather they were not making money on it. It was not profitable (or as profitable as they wanted) and so they stopped it. A retina model that would be even more expensive simply would not sell, at least in quantities to justify its existence.
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 08:44 AM   #4
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If Apple ever makes a 17" Retina MacBook Pro, I think it'll be 3360 x 2100 (1680 x 1050 effective) instead of 3840 x 2400. That should allow them to offset the cost of the display somewhat and still have it look great. The pixel density on such a screen will still be higher than what the 15" rMBP and the 13" rMBP has.

I think the only problem, in that case, would be battery life. They'd need to pack approximately 120WHr into the machine in order to provide adequate battery life.

All said and done, I think a 17" rMBP is possible (and I'll buy one in a heartbeat, even if it's $5000+), but maybe Apple is gauging the market for now. If they see enough demand, they may just go ahead with it.

But I'd like to address a few points:

1) The 650M used currently in the 15" Retina MacBook is actually overclocked to the point such that it's faster than a stock 660M. So it's effectively a 660M. This is apparent since most games, including Battlefield 3, can be played at 1920 x 1200 or above. The only bottleneck is that 1GB of RAM. Apparently, 1GB is not enough for certain games (Skyrim for instance) to store all of their graphics data. 2GB would have made this a better graphics solution. But it's a very adequate solution now.

2) High resolutions are not small on the 15" Retina. There have been Windows laptops with those high resolutions for a while now, and I don't see anyone complaining that the resolution is too high. Apple's scaling algorithm allows one to comfortably use the high resolution on the machine without any real drawback other than performance. But it's still an impressive machine by any standard. Having 1920 x 1200 desk space in a 15" package is a very big deal.

Having said all that, I do actually want to see a 17" Retina on the market, and if I see that the specifications are right, I'd jump on it immediately.
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 08:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bill-p View Post
All said and done, I think a 17" rMBP is possible (and I'll buy one in a heartbeat, even if it's $5000+), but maybe Apple is gauging the market for now. If they see enough demand, they may just go ahead with it.
I don't think anyone is saying its not possible, but its not probable. Just look at the complaints of the 13" rMBP is at, or when the 15" rMBP hit the streets. I think the 17" rMBP would be out of reach with so many consumers that it makes little business sense.
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 09:23 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by maflynn View Post
I don't think anyone is saying its not possible, but its not probable. Just look at the complaints of the 13" rMBP is at, or when the 15" rMBP hit the streets. I think the 17" rMBP would be out of reach with so many consumers that it makes little business sense.
Well, to me, Apple has never been about appeasing to the masses. They have always had this sort of "do it our way" image to them.

Perhaps things have changed, but I don't see how Apple would shy away from an opportunity to introduce something great... provided they can make it viable.

Obviously, they won't try to sell a $10000 17" rMBP at this time, but I think that if they could make it $3000 or somewhere around that price point, then they'd definitely go for it. Display panel cost and extra battery cost be damned...
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 09:46 AM   #7
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Well, to me, Apple has never been about appeasing to the masses. They have always had this sort of "do it our way" image to them.
Agreed, but Apple is about making a profit and the only reason I can come up with killing the 17" MBP is just that. It was not holding its own.

They've done this before, my G4 cube comes to mind where it was such a unique design that it generated such a cult following yet apple killed it off because it wasn't selling in the numbers it needed to make a profit.
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 10:03 AM   #8
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The 17" isn't coming back. It was made for a time when laptops were so underpowered you needed a bigger size to do more. Obviously that will still be the case in certain set ups, but in general most can get by with a 15".

The 17" was probably making a small profit for Apple, so why get rid of it? The parts, and machines making it could be going to better use lowering the production costs of the other laptops.
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 11:27 AM   #9
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I think before we even start thinking about graphics hardware (let alone trying to overcome the laws of physics regarding heat management and battery life with some of your options specified) -- we should be pressuring Apple regarding the dire situation of OS X's GPU driver support and graphics pipeline.

There should be no disparity between Windows / Linux and OS X in performance with the same hardware, this is not currently the case!!!
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 11:39 AM   #10
leman
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Originally Posted by nontroppo View Post
I think before we even start thinking about graphics hardware (let alone trying to overcome the laws of physics regarding heat management and battery life with some of your options specified) -- we should be pressuring Apple regarding the dire situation of OS X's GPU driver support and graphics pipeline.

There should be no disparity between Windows / Linux and OS X in performance with the same hardware, this is not currently the case!!!
I am surprised that Apple has not provided an OpenGL 4.1 implementation yet... This would means full API compatibility to OpenGL ES 2.0 and would nicely streamline development of OpenGL applications for OS X and iOS...
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Old Nov 28, 2012, 12:41 PM   #11
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Processor will be upgraded as always, the rest of what you're talking about can just be solved with an external monitor. Apple has also never put in "this years" model of processor.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 02:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by leman View Post
I don't think what you want is possible. In detail:

1) A 60+ Watt GPU is simply not realistic in the rMBP enclosure. A cooling system is only designed to dissipate particular amount of heat - there is no easy way to increasing this amount. You'd have to increase the laptop dimensions considerably for this to work.
Good point. Agree packing in the extra watts would be a challenge, especially if the rest of the componentry remains the same. Perhaps it's a matter of waiting for the technology to progress a bit further here. Certainly for the higher-end GPU options to be a reality in the next 12 months I was thinking at least 2 of the following need to occur:

i) The available GPUs would need to become more power-efficient
ii) The rest of the system components would need to drop in power consumption
iii) The rMBP enclosure and accompanying cooling solution would need to be redesigned.

In reality, since Apple almost certainly doesn't want to noticeably enlarge its r15 chassis, it would probably be a combination of all 3 if they were to do it. Or they could bypass the r15 for this option and restrict to a larger "halo" model, but as you've noted that won't appeal to the broader market so I'd expect in the event they'd want to offer something for the higher end 15s too.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by leman View Post
2) The reason why Apple canned the 17" model is because it was accounting for less then 1% of MBP sales. I doubt they would spend time and money to design/produce a laptop that won't sell.
Quote:
Originally Posted by maflynn View Post
The 17" MBP is dead, and there's even less reason that we'd see a 17" retina model. The cost of the display would be so high that it would be priced beyond anyone's willingness to pay for such a machine.

Apple killed off the 17" MBP not because people were buying it in droves, but rather they were not making money on it. It was not profitable (or as profitable as they wanted) and so they stopped it. A retina model that would be even more expensive simply would not sell, at least in quantities to justify its existence.
Yeah, agree the regular 17" MBP isn't making a comeback, and equally there are no signs of a 17" retina in the works (or otherwise) at present. In the absence of a formal comment by Apple though, I'm not sure whether the 17" discontinuation is purely due to sales / profit performance, and therefore lack of a cost-benefit case for the lineup. It could also be Apple didn't want a competing top end model for the r15 until panel yields were sufficient for an affordable r17 option. If this is the case we could see one down the track / when Apple's ready. Of course equally we might not. Either way it still seems like a good idea for those who are interested to let Apple know the demand is there if they're prepared to do it - nothing ventured nothing gained as they say.
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 03:25 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by bill-p View Post
1) The 650M used currently in the 15" Retina MacBook is actually overclocked to the point such that it's faster than a stock 660M. So it's effectively a 660M. This is apparent since most games, including Battlefield 3, can be played at 1920 x 1200 or above. The only bottleneck is that 1GB of RAM. Apparently, 1GB is not enough for certain games (Skyrim for instance) to store all of their graphics data. 2GB would have made this a better graphics solution. But it's a very adequate solution now.
I'd forgotten it's overclocked. It does look like Apple are trying here, and that's a good sign. There's no doubt the 650M as shipped is a solid GPU. I guess the trouble for me is that while it's punching well in the middle of the field now, next year applications will be hitting a higher mid-point, and it will start to fall behind the pack. Whereas a higher-spec GPU will remain ahead next year, or at least stick out the middle ground longer - important given the retina display, price of MBPs and the lack of upgradability (I like to hang on to my computers for several years at a time where possible).

Quote:
Originally Posted by bill-p View Post
2) High resolutions are not small on the 15" Retina. There have been Windows laptops with those high resolutions for a while now, and I don't see anyone complaining that the resolution is too high. Apple's scaling algorithm allows one to comfortably use the high resolution on the machine without any real drawback other than performance. But it's still an impressive machine by any standard. Having 1920 x 1200 desk space in a 15" package is a very big deal.

Having said all that, I do actually want to see a 17" Retina on the market, and if I see that the specifications are right, I'd jump on it immediately.
Yeah the r15 is definitely an impressive machine - no doubting that. Apple have done a great job blazing a trail here, as they often do. The rub for me is that if you sit an r15 next to the last gen 17, both running the 17 default of 1920 x 1200, the r15 certainly looks sharp, but screen elements are correspondingly smaller than the 17. For example, a couple of windows of code are larger to the eye, albeit it not as sharp, on the 17. The size difference is noticeable enough that I still would like the extra physical real-estate if available.

So yep, I'd jump on an r17 too
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 03:46 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by maflynn View Post
I don't think anyone is saying its not possible, but its not probable. Just look at the complaints of the 13" rMBP is at, or when the 15" rMBP hit the streets. I think the 17" rMBP would be out of reach with so many consumers that it makes little business sense.
Agree an r17 would be the pricey / prestige model. But having said that I don't think it would have to be all that much more than the current r15 (which equivalently will drop in price). I've little doubt they'd only offer an r17 if their component cost had come down enough to make it affordable / profitable, if only at the top end of the market. No argument this could well take a while.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bill-p View Post
Well, to me, Apple has never been about appeasing to the masses. They have always had this sort of "do it our way" image to them.

Perhaps things have changed, but I don't see how Apple would shy away from an opportunity to introduce something great... provided they can make it viable.

Obviously, they won't try to sell a $10000 17" rMBP at this time, but I think that if they could make it $3000 or somewhere around that price point, then they'd definitely go for it. Display panel cost and extra battery cost be damned...
Yeah this is my feeling too. Although I can't see why another 8 - 18 months development couldn't bring the sticker price down even further on something like this. At that point it would more be about whether Apple wanted to offer it or not, perhaps as a lower volume "halo" model (Tim Cook's comments on Pro options for 2013 seem particularly relevant here).
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Old Nov 29, 2012, 04:15 AM   #15
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Agreed, but Apple is about making a profit and the only reason I can come up with killing the 17" MBP is just that. It was not holding its own.
Yeah it could definitely be this. If so that's unfortunate, but eminently sensible business practice on Apple's part (I'm sure no one wants a return to the 90s here). But per argument above, it could also be the "one top end model" philosophy, with an r17 on the backburner for later opportunities. For me there isn't enough information in the public domain to be sure.

Quote:
Originally Posted by maflynn View Post
They've done this before, my G4 cube comes to mind where it was such a unique design that it generated such a cult following yet apple killed it off because it wasn't selling in the numbers it needed to make a profit.
Yeah sometimes no matter how innovative or useful a product is it isn't the right time for it. It's particularly galling when you're one of the admirers. Never got to try the cube out but from what I hear it was an iconic machine.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by MetzoPaino View Post
The 17" isn't coming back. It was made for a time when laptops were so underpowered you needed a bigger size to do more. Obviously that will still be the case in certain set ups, but in general most can get by with a 15".

The 17" was probably making a small profit for Apple, so why get rid of it? The parts, and machines making it could be going to better use lowering the production costs of the other laptops.
Can't dispute it could be this. I guess it comes down to where Apple wants to play in the market. Certainly there's been a shift to the mainstream in recent years (and that's good for profitability, and correspondingly, viability), but Tim Cook's comments on the Pro end of the market could be the harbinger of a change here. For this reason alone I think it's worth giving Apple some feedback on their range and what we would like.

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by nontroppo View Post
I think before we even start thinking about graphics hardware (let alone trying to overcome the laws of physics regarding heat management and battery life with some of your options specified) -- we should be pressuring Apple regarding the dire situation of OS X's GPU driver support and graphics pipeline.

There should be no disparity between Windows / Linux and OS X in performance with the same hardware, this is not currently the case!!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by leman View Post
I am surprised that Apple has not provided an OpenGL 4.1 implementation yet... This would means full API compatibility to OpenGL ES 2.0 and would nicely streamline development of OpenGL applications for OS X and iOS...
Yes, agreed this is an unusual situation.. In particular OS X should be able to level peg Linux. Strange given Apple's traditional popularity in the imaging market. Perhaps it's something we'll see for 2013?

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by Interstella5555 View Post
Processor will be upgraded as always, the rest of what you're talking about can just be solved with an external monitor. Apple has also never put in "this years" model of processor.
Yes an external monitor is certainly a viable option. For me though I'd like the extra real estate at all times and not just when I'm where the monitor is. Then I wouldn't need the external monitor at all and I wouldn't have to worry about sacrificing my workflow when I'm not at the desk (sure I would be making other trade offs here, but I'm prepared to make them).
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