Honest rMBP Review from a long time 17" User...

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by JS77, Aug 14, 2012.

  1. JS77, Aug 14, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2012

    JS77 macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2008
    As the title suggests, I wanted to provide an honest review of my 2.3/8/256 rMBP having migrated from a C2D 17" MBP (4,1 model, circa 2008).

    Let me start by getting this out of the way... even though I opted for the base model, this machine is an absolute beast! Yes, there are some niggles (which I'll point out below) but otherwise, I'm just floored at how powerful something so slim can be.

    The Good

    My biggest concern was that coming from a 17", I would find the 15" screen too cramped/small for everyday use. The Interesting twist in this is that after using the rMBP for a few days, going back to my 17" looks too big. :eek:

    It's a strange paradox where my 17" just looks like a behemoth after spending an hour or 2 on the rMBP! That's not to say I'm glad Apple decided to drop the 17"... truth be told, I would have paid the extra for a 17" this slim and light, BUT I have had no problem adjusting to the rMBP from the 17".

    One point I should make is that I have been running my rMBP at native resolution (2880x1800). Yes, everything is very small, but I have actually gotten used to it and it's amazing how productive you can be with multiple apps open next to each other. I occasionally switch back to the scaled 1920x1200 resolution if I'm just browsing (mainly to make things more comfortable on the eye), but I haven't used any of the lower resolutions (desktop space is far more of a premium to me personally).

    The harddisk is blistering fast, with a boot time taking less than 15 seconds. It's just exceptional performance, and coming from traditional 5400rpm harddrive, the difference is night and day.

    Bootcamp performance is also superb. I had some initial issues with bootcamp (See further down) but once Windows 7 was installed everything has been smooth. Infact, Windows 7 at the native resolution is even better than OSX becuase you have the option to scale up the UI elements, making everything look super sharp whilst still being comfortable be to use at the 2880x1800 res.

    For gaming, it's also been a powerhouse of a machine. Using just the stock bootcamp drivers and no tweaks, I get 35-50 fps on Battlefield 3 on 1050 resolution at High settings. Knock those down to Auto-Medium/High and the game still looks amazing and the fps improves.

    Crysis and Crysis 2 also look superb and play great, so long as you stick to a max 1080 resolution. Personally, I think expecting a mobile GPU to handle 2880x1800 is asking for too much, and whilst some games certainly get away at playable framerates at the highest res, I would much rather prefer a smoother gameplay experience and the lower resolutions superb anyway.

    The Bad

    Very little to be honest. I have not experienced any of the major issues many other posters have complained about (touch wood). Yes, I guess you could say there is a very slight lag in the UI when browsing at the scaled resolutions, but it's barely noticeable.

    I think my biggest complaint would be that Apple should have offered the native resolution without having to use 3rd party tools. More to the point though, Apple should have updated ML to include higher dpi UI elements (Like windows 7 does) so that using the full 2880x1800 would be a lot more comfortable with UI elements appearing larger at the highest possible resolutions. As I mentioned above, Windows 7 offers this which makes using the native res even more amazing that in OSX.

    I expect Apple will eventually get around to this, but it really should have been in ML IMO.

    The Ugly

    This is actually less to do with the rMBP and more with the software but I thought it would be worth noting any issues I've experienced so far...

    Installing bootcamp failed on my first attempt and during the initial reboot (just before windows 7 gets installed) the system hung on the Windows "blinking cursor" screen for over 10 mins before I had to reboot and manually force a Windows 7 Installation on the bootcamp partition. Not a massive issue, but I have read a lot of other users having this issue.

    Having come from the 4,1 MBP, this is the first "black plastic" keyboard I've used. The keyboard itself is fantastic BUT it's a fingerprint and smudge magnet!

    Update: One thing that has me baffled is the gaming performance via HDMI. Games which run smooth on 1080 on the rMBP are extremely choppy and laggy when hooked up to a 1080 LED TV... Turing vSync on helps but it's still mostly unplayable. I'm sure it's a simple fix as I don't see why it would play fine on the rMBP screen but not an an external screen? If anyone can offer some advise, I'd be very grateful!
    Update 2: Managed to fix the screen tear issue, see my posts further down :)

    Closing Comments

    This is undoubtedly the best laptop I've ever owned. The sheer amount of performance in such a svelte package is astounding (and I only have the base model). Coming from the 17", I feel the adjustment to the super high resolution on the 15" screen was without issue, and that was one of my biggest concerns. That being said, IF Apple had offered a 17" Retina MBP, I would have paid the extra for it... but that being said, this 15.4" machine is such a beast, I just don't think there's any need for Apple to re-introduce the 17". (Back to that weird paradox I mentioned in my opening!)

    Hope this was useful to anyone on the fence about getting a rMBP.

    /super long post :p
  2. rockyroad55 macrumors 601


    Jul 14, 2010
    Phila, PA
    Nice review, but I;m very interested in this part for Battlefield 3. Could you elaborate on the 1680x1050 resolution?
  3. Kankki macrumors regular

    Sep 10, 2007
    Österbotten, Finland
    I don't understand. Isn't that exactly what the 1440x900 lookalike "best for retina" option is? Or do you want the title bar and everything bigger, but the apps themselves standard?
  4. Dangerous Theory macrumors 68000

    Jul 28, 2011
    Interesting about the lag via HDMI. Did you set up the external display as main and the only one running? I haven't tested HDMI out, but I used my TB-to-HDMI cable with my TV as the only screen running, and performance and graphics were superb in the two games I tested - GTA IV & AC2 at 1080p and maxed settings (bar some anti aliasing).
  5. JS77 thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 18, 2008
    Yes, that's correct, but the Mac Desktop is still rendered at 1440x900 usable space on the "best for retina" setting (well, until at least all Mac Apps are properly updated to make use of the Retina Display the way FCP does for example).

    In Windows, you still have a usable 2880x1800 desktop, but the dpi of the UI elements (Start Bar, Window Title Bars etc) can be increased so they remain visually sharp but also appear at the same size they would if you were on a lower resolution. :)


    I managed to get to bottom of this and it was a pretty easy fix actually. My Samsung 40" LED is particularly notorious for game lag (I use a smaller 32" for my PS3 so it's never been a problem). The fix was 2 fold... ~Firstly, I enabled Game Mode on the TV which removes all of the post-process effects that occur when watching normal TV - This eliminated about 80-85% of the screen tear, but there was still some noticeable lag/tear on certain games.

    In the case of Crysis, I simply had to enable VSync from the Game Options - Crysis still has a bit of tear but it's definitely playable. Also, Crysis is getting on a bit now so i expect the optimization just isn't there in the code. Currently downloading Crysis 2 to try that.

    In the case of BF3, I had previously been messing around with the Video options before I plugged the HDMI in... I noticed that the available resolution options where all at weird 24hhz refresh rate settings. A simple "Reset Default Values" defaulted the resolution to 1080@60hhz with Auto-High Settings and the game looks and plays great on my 1080 LED :-D ... Only downside is that I'm still a much bigger Bad Company 2 fan, and can't get into BF3 multiplayer :D
  6. gentlefury macrumors 68030

    Jul 21, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    Looks like 1440 is doing exactly that. If you put a 2880x1800 wallpaper on your desktop you will see it pixel for pixel. The only difference is that windows doesn't uniformly scale properly and some apps ignore dpi scaling (ie origin). Or you can go into an apps shortcut properties and disable dpi scaling, a feature I really wish Mac had!! There is a greyed out view in low res that Is always checked on apps that aren't retina aware and are the apps I would like to ignore scaling. You can only tell apps that are scaling properly to not scale, which is incredibly stupid IMHO.

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