Retina MacBook Pro: questions and answers

Common questions about the new MacBook Pro answered

You have questions, oh so many questions, about the new Retina MacBook Pro. You had so many questions that they couldn’t all be covered in Jason Snell’s hands-on article. So Jason gracefully handed the Retina MacBook Pro over to me so I can address more of your questions, asked via Twitter (through our @macworld account).

I’ve spent some time with the Retina MacBook Pro, and I’ve answered some of the more common questions here. This is a small sample, and there’s no doubt that there are even more questions out there. So post them in the comments below or ask me via Twitter @pinatubo2000. I’ll try to address them in our full review of Apple’s latest laptop.

From @pcweenies: Temperature-wise, how hot does the new MBP get?

I don’t have an exact temperature, so I’ll try to give my best subjective observation. As a reference point, I’m using a 17-inch MacBook Pro on my lap. When running the installer for Diablo III, the 17-inch laptop gets warm enough start the fans. I have to take the laptop off my lap and rest it on a table.

The Retina MacBook Pro, while running the Diablo III installer, warmed up, but not enough to make me uncomfortable while it rested in my lap. The heat was from the center of the bottom of the laptop, and it didn’t seem to radiate beyond that. The fans did not kick in.

I watched several YouTube videos and iTunes movie trailers, all streaming 720p over the Internet. The laptop got a bit warmer than when I installed Diablo III, but not hot enough for me to need to move the laptop off my lap. I wasn't able to trigger the fans while doing this, and the videos ran smoothly.

I also used Handbrake to convert a movie file for my iPhone—the Retina MacBook Pro doesn't have a optical drive and I didn't try ripping a DVD or CD using an external drive. The file conversion took less than 5 minutes, during which time the fans did not run, and the laptop did not noticebly heat up.

These are subjective experiences. Macworld Lab will take a look at heat issues with the Retina MacBook Pro, using equipment to measure the heat generated from the laptop.

From @curtisbridges: Any fan noise when pushed to its limits (CPU and gnu)?

To get the fan going full bore, I ran Diablo III—that game always gets the fan on my 17-inch MacBook Pro howling. With the game running at full 2880-by-1800 resolution, the fans are definitely running and noticeable. The laptop was particulary warm in the forward part of the bottom, underneath the keyboard, where the GPU and CPU are located, and it heated up enough for me to move the laptop off my lap. (By the way, Diablo III at 2880-by-1800 is glorious!)

Of course, using Diablo III is sort of going to an extreme. The Retina MacBook Pro was also in our lab undergoing benchmark tests that stress the different components of the laptop. During testing, we didn’t notice any fan noise. Not a peep.

(Image Caption: Screenshot of Diablo III on the Retina MacBook Pro, with the game's video resolution set to 2880x1800. Click to see the full image.)

From @sheppy: Does the More Space option in Displays give you itty bitty UI elements? I’m cool with that if it means more stuff on the screen.

The More Space option does makes UI elements smaller. In my opinion, they aren’t too small—as I’ve mentioned, my daily computer is a 17-inch MacBook Pro, running at 1920-by-1200. Apple says the More Space setting in the Displays system preference for the Retina MacBook Pro, “Looks like 1920 x 1200” and it certainly feels like it.

From @jasontho: With the extra resolution does it feel like there more room on the screen than the old 15-inch? Am I going to miss my 17 inch?

With a Retina MacBook Pro at the More Space setting (1920-by-1200) sitting next to a 15-inch 2011 MacBook Pro at 1440-by-900, the extra room on the Retina MacBook Pro is quite noticable. Perhaps the only thing you’ll miss about your 17-inch laptop is the workout you get from carrying it around.

From @leecostic: I keep hearing that’s “less glossy”...but not antiglare?! Can you clarify? Is there an antiglare option?

During the WWDC keynote, Apple’s Phil Schiller said that glare from the display on the Retina MacBook Pro has been reduced “up to 75 percent.” In a video during the keynote, Jony Ive said that the Retina MacBook Pro doesn’t have a separate coverglass, which results in reduced glare.

So the screen is still a glossy screen, it’s not a matte/anti-glare screen. Apple does not offer an anti-glare option.

From @ampressman: The Verge seems to think its pretty glare-y compared other recent Mac laptops. What did you think?

To me, the Retina MacBook Pro seems to create less glare, and the difference is quite noticeable. It might be enough for those who want anti-glare (outside of professional reasons) to finally give in.

From @taupecat: are either the RAM or the SSD 3rd-party upgradable in the next gen MBP?

We haven’t taken apart a Retina MacBook Pro, but it seems as if the RAM and flash storage implementation in the Retina MacBook Pro is similar to that of the MacBook Air. The standard RAM configuration of the Retina MacBook Pro is 8GB, and Apple states that this is “onboard” memory, which means it’s part of the motherboard. Apple also states that the Retina MacBook Pro is “configurable” to 16GB, which means you can customize your order so that the laptop you purchase has 16GB of RAM. Since the RAM is on the motherboard—there aren’t RAM slots for you to insert RAM modules—users can’t perform do-it-yourself upgrades.

As for the flash storage (we may call it a solid-state drive, but Apple calls it flash storage), this also is probably like the MacBook Air. The storage isn’t a drive mechanism that you may think of when you think of an SSD—a small box (2.5-inches in a laptop) that connects to the motherboard with a cable. Apple’s flash storage is a module of flash memory that plugs into a slot on the motherboard. Since such modules aren’t available from third-parties (PhotoFast tried to sell a flash storage upgrade for the MacBook Air, but Apple forced them to stop), it’s unlikely that users will be able to upgrade the flash storage themselves.

From @dominiquejames: Not a sexy topic and no one seems to be paying attention, but did they improve the battery technology?

Not a sexy topic, but a great question. It stands to reason that a Retina display demands more horsepower, so battery life will be affected. Apple claims “7 hours wireless web” time with the Retina MacBook Pro’s 95-watt-hour battery. The regular MacBook Pro has the same 7 hour wireless web rating, but with a 63.5-watt-hour battery.

Part of our benchmark testing includes battery life, and Macworld Lab has both the new regular MacBook Pro models and the Retina MacBook Pros. Battery life testing takes a while (it takes a long time to fully charge a battery and then drain it using a real-world test), but we’ll report on the results as soon as they are available.

From @tuhin: Does the Retina Macbook Pro have an Audio In other than using Apple Mic? Like for Podcasting or MIDI?

The Retina MacBook Pro does not have any ports dedicated to audio in. The only audio port is an audio out/headphone jack. Looks like you’ll have to use a USB or Thunderbolt device for audio in.

From @otolithe: So the new MacBookPro loses the Kensington lock slot?

There is no Kensington lock slot on the Retina MacBook Pro.

From @calebzierke: Are both ports USB 3?

Yes. They are also compatible with USB 2.0 devices.

From @chadkirchner: I’m assuming the USB 3 ports don’t have a blue inside like on PC?

You assumed correctly.

From @MikeTRose: Did they include the FireWire 800/TB adapter?

Apple does not include any connectivity adapters with the Retina MacBook Pro. You’ll have to buy the Thunderbolt-to-FireWire 800 adapter separately, but as of this writing, it’s yet to be available from the Apple Store.

From @kevinstates: Do you think HDMI is a sign towards an Apple TV? Or is that crazy talk?

Hmm, that’s an interesting point...

From @alexleiphart: Is the ‘MacBook Pro’ lettering on the display?

No, the only lettering you see when you open up the Retina MacBook Pro are the letters on the keyboard. The MacBook Pro label is actually on the underside of the laptop.

From @einmaleins: How’s the wrist-placement? I love the way the Air slants, but the old Macbook Pro cut into my wrists while typing.

The design of the Retina MacBook Pro is virtually the same as the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro, the major difference being the thinness of the Retina MacBook Pro, which measures 0.71 inches along the edge. By comparison, the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro is nearly an inch tall. Your wrist will still cut into the edge of the Retina MacBook Pro, but the angle won’t be as steep, so it might not cut into your wrist as much as it would on the regular 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Reptitive stress and related injuries shouldn’t be taken lightly, and everyone’s comfort level is different.The best thing to do is visit an Apple store and try typing on a Retina MacBook Pro for several minutes.

From @mzuvella: Weight compared to a 13inch MBA?

The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro weighs 4.46 pounds. The 13-inch MacBook Air weighs nearly 3 pounds, so the difference is significant and noticable.

(Image Caption: MagSafe 2 (left) and MagSafe.)

From @jonathanhuber: How likely will debris get into the air intake ports in the bottom?

In my opinion, I think it’s an eventuality that debris will get into the air ports along the bottom of the Retina MacBook Pro. As someone who frequently likes to work at coffee shops, I can imagine a few loose crumbs from my morning coffee cake finding their way into a vent. We haven’t taken a Retina MacBook Pro apart, so I can’t say if debris that slips into the slot falls further inside the laptop, or it rests in a area between the vent and case.

From @rlauraya: How is the speed?

Macworld Lab is running our full suite of benchmarks, so we hope to have hard numbers soon. Subjectively speaking, the laptop feels quite snappy, and I haven’t experienced any performance issues, like unexpected slowdowns or sluggishness.

From @fraying: Is the little battery level indicator on the side gone, too?

The Retina MacBook Pro does not have a battery level indicator, like the one found on the side of the regular MacBook Pro. It’s not as convenient, but you’ll have to rely on the battery status in the menu bar.

From @reppep: Please confirm MagSafe 2 chargers fit old MagSafe laptops directly.

MagSafe 2 and MagSafe chargers do not fit into each other’s connectors—you can’t plug in a MagSafe 2 adapter into a MagSafe plug, and vice versa. If you want to use a old MagSafe adapter with the Retina MacBook Pro (or the MacBook Air, which uses MagSafe 2), you’ll need a $10 MagSafe to MagSafe 2 Converter.

From @bleifus: Is it my imagination or did the 17-inch MacBook Pro dissappear yesterday?

It is not your imagination. It’s true, the 17-inch model joins the MacBook, Newton, and other products in Apple’s graveyard. Long live the 17-inch MacBook Pro!

Roman Loyola is a Macworld senior editor who used to be devoted to his 17-inch MacBook Pro.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Roman Loyola

Roman Loyola
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Cate Bacon

Aruba Instant On AP11D

The strength of the Aruba Instant On AP11D is that the design and feature set support the modern, flexible, and mobile way of working.

Dr Prabigya Shiwakoti

Aruba Instant On AP11D

Aruba backs the AP11D up with a two-year warranty and 24/7 phone support.

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?