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MacBook Pro Retina First Impressions

See my expanding review of the June 2012 MacBook Pro Retina Display.

My MacBook Pro Retina is here:

  • 2.7 GHz CPU.
  • 16GB memory.
  • 512GB SSD


  • Software Update failed (first attempt), with a “corrupted” message after a ~1.6 GB download. Great.
  • Software Update has now failed twice.
  • For text, the Retina display looks almost like paper, better really. The level of realism portends a future of more-lifelike-than-life displays (imagine 100 million pixels on a wall).
  • Display glare is quite low compared to past models— very acceptable.
  • Display contrast is impressive.

Display impressions:

My first experience is a disappointing one— even set to use native resolution, a 2308-pixel-wide image will not fit on the 2880 screen (in Safari).

No display setting (Larger Text, ... Best (Retina), ..., More Space) will properly display an image in Safari. Not even an image alone in its own window in Safari (no HTML wrapped around it).

I understand that spatial relationships have to hold for HTML (sizes of layout), but for plain images? Even the “magnifying glass” zoom in/out will not show actual pixels for an image in its own window.

Martin D writes on why large image do not display correctly (actual pixels) in Safari.

If you take the former route and specify the width and height attributes of the img tag to be precisely 50% the actual width and height of the source file, you should achieve a perfect pixel-for-pixel representation of that picture. Otherwise, the image will be resampled, period.

If you open the file directly in Safari, you run into a problem that could be termed a bug, but isn't necessarily technically a bug. I would call it a user interface problem resulting from a dubious decision made long ago.

If an image is too large to fit in the current browser window, it is by default downsampled to fit. At this time, the cursor is turned into a magnifying glass (+). Clicking the image "magnifies" the image to 1:1. Clicking again returns the image to its downsampled size.

Arguably, dragging an image into Safari on the Retina MBP should show the entire image at 1:1. Instead, Safari interprets the file as 2:1 (which would spatially match the size the image would display on a non-Retina display). With a large image, that immediately triggers downsampling so the image fits in the window! Now the cursor is a magnifying glass (+). Clicking the image does not disable the original upsampling, rather it disables the subsequent downsampling. Three possible explanations for this:

1) this is simply the behavior of the pre-existing Safari logic on top of the new Retina API stack and it either wasn't caught or wasn't judged important enough to stop and fix

2) Apple wasn't comfortable changing the magnifying glass user interface for this particular Safari behavior at this time

3) Apple believes that this behavior is most appropriate for their concept of “normal use” for viewing images on the web, which are typically low resolution and would be very small indeed on a Retina display


When presented in HTML 2:1, the image clarity is breathtaking.

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