Weight and Resolutions
I went to Akihabara today as it was only a few stops east of my medical appointment today, and stopped by a shop which had a Retina Pro. I have to say, it was not all that I expected.
First of all, the damn thing feels heavy. Partly it’s because you expect it to be lighter, but mostly I think it’s because it has been reduced in size more than it has been in weight, therefore it feels heavier than you expect. I had the same experience with the iPhone when it first came out, and the iPod before it: it feels solid, like a piece of machinery, not some cheap hunk of plastic. I’m certain that I’ll become accustomed to it.
The form factor is as advertised: slim, streamlined, sexy. The ports are all there. The screen bevel is not as smooth as I had thought it would be, but I think I just misread a review and expected something else.
Second, there’s speed. As one reviewer pointed out, apps open fast. By the time the icon in the dock has the ability to bounce once, the app is open. Currently, my aging Pro is giving me more and more spinning beach balls. I tried to open Preview, and the icon just bounced there for a minute before I force quit it and restarted. I literally cannot wait for the new machine.
Finally, the display. As with the iPad 3, you can see the quality and the depth of the retina display–but it doesn’t exactly jump out and bite you on the face. I’m sure I will feel like at least one reviewer, who didn’t notice it as much until they tried going back to an old display, and then felt like things were out of focus or something. It’s kind of like trying to sit and watch an old pre-HD NTSC TV show, and you wonder, “How did I ever watch TV at that crappy resolution, and why didn’t I realize it at the time? It used to look sharp, now it’s just blurry.”
The Retina Pro was sitting right beside the new Macbook Pro, and you could instantly see a difference when they are side by side. The Retina display has deeper, richer colors and notably better contrast. It is, no doubt at all, a better display.
However, there is a catch: Apple is being a bit screwy handling the resolution. With all past machines, you could choose to be in native resolution, or you could, using a list of applicable resolutions, decide exactly what resolution your screen will show.
Well, not any more. Now you get options like this:
As you can see, you don’t choose from a list–in fact, the computer doesn’t even tell you what the screen’s actual displayed resolution is. You can choose to have things look bigger (lower resolutions) or tinier (higher resolution), as you would if you scaled your resolution between 1024 x 768 and 1440 x 900–except, when you choose each one, Apple only tells you, in text below the image of the laptop, what the resolution “looks like.” As opposed to telling you what “it is.”
Further complicating things is the fact that, when you make one of these changes, the screen dims and pops back–much the way it would when you make an actual resolution change.
At this point, I honestly don’t know if you get to actually see 2880 x 1800 pixels in action, or if everything is scaled down to 1920 x 1200 at best, and the real native resolution is only displayed when you do something like play games. And if we’re not getting the full resolution in normal use, will Apple give it to us after all the apps have been updated to play nice with the Retina?
Yes, I know that rendering the screen in true 2880 x 1800 would make everything unacceptably tiny, but that’s what I thought Resolution Independence, introduced in 10.4, was all about. The display would be 2880 x 1800, but everything would be drawn bigger. Instead, it seems that we get approximations of different non-native resolutions.
Can anyone explain how this works? Is the display actually always in 2880 x 1800, but just downscales individual graphic elements, or is the screen actually never better than 1920 x 1200 and all the pixels everywhere just approximated–meaning we’re actually fuzzier than if we had a 1920 x 1200 display? Will we get back full control in a future OS, with this just being a transitory compromise?