15/06/2012 11:53 | By Cliff Joseph, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display review

The top-end MacBook Pro offers stunning design and performance - and a drop-dead gorgeous screen - at a premium price.

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What is it?
Apple says: "the best laptop we've ever produced".

What's great?
Excellent high-res Retina display. Slimmer, lighter and faster than its predecessors.

What's not?
The price....

Bottom line
A real step forward for laptop design - impressive display and performance, all in a slim, light chassis.

A starting price of £1,799 means the new MacBook Pro with Retina display will be out of reach for most people. However, there's no doubt Apple has once again raised the bar for laptop design and set the standard for its rivals to follow.

The headline grabber, of course, is that Retina display. As with the displays on the latest iPhone and iPad models, this screen has a remarkably high resolution. So high, in fact, that - according to Apple - the human eye is unable to pick out the individual pixels that make up the images it displays.

In technical terms, the screen has a resolution of 2880x1800. That's more than twice the resolution of a high-definition TV screen, and four times the resolution of the standard MacBook Pro model (which remains on sale in both 13.3- and 15.4-inch versions).

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display is rated four stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets (© Apple)

The result is superb - the sharpest, brightest and most colourful screen we've ever seen on a laptop. It will absolutely be the dog's danglies when watching high-definition video or - more likely at this price - editing your own indie epic.

But the Retina display isn't the only feature that sets this laptop apart from its rivals. The machine measures just 1.8cm thick and weighs a mere 2.02kg - noticeably less than the 2.41cm and 2.56kg of the standard 15.4-inch MacBook Pro model. In fact, it's thinner and lighter than the 13.3-inch model too, which is 2.41cm and 2.06kg, making it the lightest and most compact 15.4-inch laptop we've seen so far.

That crash diet comes at a slight cost: Apple has removed the DVD drive in order to keep the size and weight down. Still, DVD drives aren't really essential these days and, if you do need one, Apple's external SuperDrives are available for £65.

Light though it is, the Retina laptop is still very much a heavyweight performer. It has the latest quad-core Intel i7 processor, which is powerful enough to cope with heavy-duty tasks such as video editing and music recording. The £1,799 model runs at 2.3GHz and has 8GB of memory, along with 256GB of high-speed Flash storage instead of a conventional hard disk.

See also - Mac Mini (2012) review

There's also a 2.6GHz model with 512GB of Flash storage, although that brings the price to a whopping £2,299. In fact, if you throw in all the added extras you'll tip the scales at just over £3,000 - which probably explains how Apple ended up with about $100 billion of spare cash sitting in the bank.

Both models also sport two separate graphics processors. There's a power-efficient Intel HD 4000 that won't drain the battery too much, and a more powerful GeForce GT 650M that you can use for 3D games or for graphics work needing an extra bit of horsepower.

However, that super-high-resolution screen does soak up a lot of power. Apple says it provides the same 'seven hours wireless web' as the other MacBook Pro models. In fact we were getting about four and a half hours out of it when streaming video off the web, compared to five hours for the other models we've tested. Even so, that should still see you through the best part of a full day's work between charges.

For ordinary day-to-day use many people will still prefer the even lighter MacBook Air, or one of its many less-expensive PC rivals. But if you need a really powerful laptop for work and want one that is also light enough to carry around without breaking your back then the new MacBook Pro with Retina display really is in a class of its own. It's very expensive, which costs it one star in our ratings. But professional users in fields such as photography or video-editing will find that it truly earns its keep.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display is rated four stars out of five by MSN Tech & Gadgets

Essential info:
Price: £1,799
URL: http://www.apple.com/uk/macbook-pro/
Screen: 15.4-inch, 2880x1800 resolution
Processor: Intel i7 at 2.3GHz
Memory: 8GB
Hard disk: 256GB solid-state drive (Flash)
Weight: 2.02kg

Also consider:
MacBook Air - not as powerful, but slimmer and lighter, and also Apple's cheapest laptop.
Toshiba Qosmio X770-11C - another powerful laptop with i7 processor and even larger 17-inch screen.

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