Preface It's important to note that the following review is based on the visual representation of non-retina apps and content on a retina display. For the most part, your non-retina apps will function completely fine on a retina display. Overview There's no denying the lure of the Retina display but you have to completely understand and fully appreciate what you're getting yourself into if you plan to use the retina 2012 MacBook Pros for design or audio production. Background Since the release of the Retina display in June 2012 a lot of small 3rd party developers have been fantastically supportive of the new technology and have been very quick to push out lovely Retina updates of their apps. Quite simply, they look amazing. Apple have also pushed out a huge batch of retina-optimized updates for their apps and they too look great, as you'd expect. Here comes the caveat. The MacBook Pro with Retina display launched with huge fanfare and press releases from Adobe (and the likes) saying that they would be supporting the display with updates to their apps. What Adobe failed to do was commit to a date. This goes for a lot of other big name developers. Graphic Apps - December 2012 It's now December 2012, 7 months after the release of the retina MacBook Pro and Adobe still haven't released their retina updates. Look a little closer and you'll notice that they haven't included InDesign of Fireworks on their retina todo list. At this point in time Adobe apps look terrible on a retina display and are barely usable. Just look at how badly a bezier curve renders in Illustrator or how pixelated all of the UI elements look. Pixel-level editing in Photoshop is bad. Really bad. Lets return to the omission of InDesign and Fireworks from their todo list. If you use InDesign you'll probably have to wait until CS7 for a retina update. In the meantime you're going to be stuck with a horribly pixelated experience. Sure, Adobe will probably release their retina updates in the next few months but by then Apple will probably have plans for the second generation retina MacBook Pro which will no-doubt come with even faster processors, graphic chipsets and refined retina scaling code to make pushing all those pixels around the screen as 'butter smooth' as you would expect from Apple. The current models are definitely pushing the limits of the current technology and it shows from a stutter here and there. Step outside of Adobe and you'll quickly find that most of the other big name graphic companies have yet to commit development time to updating their apps to support the retina display. Audio Apps - December 2012 When it comes to Audio apps and plug-ins, the story is bleak from the outset. Apple may have updated most of their apps but Logic Pro wasn't one of them. Development in the audio community is notoriously lethargic and Apple has set the pace from the word go. There are almost no retina-ready plug-ins or DAWs. The only company I can think of that supports retina at this time is Sinevibes. Ableton have announced Live 9 for early 2013 but have publicly said that it won't have retina support. I imagine they'll eventually update it but it's obviously very low on their priority list. This goes for the rest of the audio development community. Some forward-thinking developers will eventually add retina support over the next year or two but just think of the challenges they face. Most audio apps have heavily graphic intensive interfaces, all currently designed to the existing 72dpi standard. Rotational knobs are often constructed with hundreds of turn state PNGs. All of these fiddly elements will in most cases need completely re-drawn and rendered. Most audio developers don't make a lot of money from their apps so it's a considerable investment of time and money for them. Make no mistake. Retina is the future, but at the moment it's a very niche market and for some it's not worth the time and money until it becomes a wider standard on more Macs and most importantly - PCs. The vast majority of audio plug-ins began life on the PC and have been ported or re-written for the Mac. Reality Check In December 2012 graphic and audio professionals are left with a frustrating situation. They have the opportunity to purchase some of the most beautiful hardware Apple has ever made - with the best displays ever. The major caveat is that most of the apps you're likely to use are going to look terrible on them. Some developers like Adobe have promised support and it'll come - but when? Other developers will take months, even years to eventually find the resources to re-draw their app GUIs to retina standards. Expect an especially painful transition in the audio community. Some current top-of-the-line plug-ins haven't been updated in over a year (often more). Conundrum If you're a graphics or audio enthusiast it doesn't make much sense to buy a retina-based Mac now. You'll be investing thousands of dollars into a system that's going to make all of your apps look terrible. Of course, if your a developer, writer or photographer you may find that you're covered. Aperture looks fantastic. A lot of web development apps have been updated and as I mentioned earlier, a lot of small developers have been quick to embrace the retina technology - which should be commended. So where does that leave you? You'll probably find that your apps will get the retina treatment in the next 1-2 years. By then Apple will have ironed out their early teething problems with pushing pixels smoothly around a retina display. Then would be the perfect time to invest. Options Thankfully you have a few options. If you're going portable then a top of the line 2012 MacBook Air is a great option. It's very fast, incredibly portable and has a really nice regular (non-retina) LED-based display that'll display all of your apps in their intended glory. Of course, Apple have updated their classic MacBook Pro line which is just as powerful as the retina models but don't have to drive a retina display. The existing design is still great and it's almost a no-brainer option for a high performance non-retina portable. For a desktop you have the wonderful new 2012 iMac. It has a fantastic IPS-based (non-retina) regular display and will render all of your existing apps in their full glory. It's also insanely fast and will last you for years - or until all your favorite app developers catch up with Apple. A half-way option would be to endure the rendering of your non-retina apps on a retina MacBook Pro and connect it to an external Thunderbolt display - which is also non-retina. I hope this helps with your purchasing decisions.