With the launch of the new iPad and its amazing Retina Display, Apple kicked off a whole host of rumors that point to Retina Displays coming to MacBook Pro models sometime this year. To add fuel to the fire, users have uncovered retina-resolution icons in the developer previews of the next OS X operating system, indicating that Apple may have a version of the Retina Display headed to the MacBook Pro lineup.
In order to make the Retina Display a reality for upcoming MacBook Pro models, Apple is going to need to make some serious improvements and innovations in the mobile computing arena. Below are a few items that the company will need to address before Retina Displays on their MacBook models become the norm.
Upgraded Display Panel and Graphics Chips - Of course, the major design step that Apple is going to need to complete to include Retina Displays in new MacBook Pro models is figuring out how to produce and integrate the new display panel, and getting the graphics processor power integrated to power the display. Apple utilizes LCD displays from partners like Sharp, LG and Samsung, who are furiously competing to build a notebook-size, Retina-resolution-capable display which can be produced at a reasonable cost. Given that the new iPad has successfully launched with millions of units, it's likely that Apple's partners aren't far behind in getting a display of this caliber ready for the MacBook Pro.
Additional RAM Memory and Processing Power - Along with the additional display resolution and graphics power comes the need for more RAM memory and faster CPU processors. The good news for Apple is that the new MacBook Pros are likely to make use of Intel's new “Ivy Bridge” processors which are slated for launch in April 2012. These CPUs will undoubtedly be the fastest available on the market, and could easily provide the necessary horsepower for Retina Display-capable applications.
Significant Battery Life Improvements - The increased power draw from the Retina Display in the new iPad meant that Apple had to greatly increase the size and efficiency of the iPad's battery - and the MacBook Pro that receives the Retina Display will suffer the same fate. Expect Apple to figure out a way to cram significantly more battery cells inside of the MacBook Pro's aluminum frame, along with utilizing as many technological advances as possible to squeeze out as much battery life as they can. MacBook Pro owners have long become accustomed to getting upwards of six to ten hours out of their batteries, and Apple won't risk offering a diminished experience simply to improve the display.
Weight Trade-offs - Thanks to the need for an additional battery and slightly more weight in the display, a new MacBook Pro with a Retina Display will end up being heavier than its predecessors. The new iPad weighs more than the iPad 2, with the weight gain largely attributed to the additional batteries required to fuel the display and the LTE radio. Apple may be able to offset these weight gains by dropping the optical disc drive from the MacBook Pro, along with trimming down the size of the frame and perhaps finding some additional ways to shave off some weight.
Heat Dissipation Improvements - Another area that the new iPad has suffered some negative press is in its heat production, which is attributed to the higher amount of graphics processor usage to drive the Retina Display. As the MacBook Pro already comes with some pretty serious graphics horsepower in the form of AMD or nVidia chipsets, this is likely going to be less of an issue.
As you can see, simply throwing a new display panel in the old MacBook Pro shell isn't going to create a whole new computing experience for the MacBook faithful. The move to Retina Displays for MacBook Pro models is coming, that much is certain; as to when the move will be made and in what screen sizes and formats, the future is still uncertain.
Count on hearing more about MacBook Pros with a Retina Display throughout 2012 as we get closer to the inevitable launch of an innovation sure to add some fire to Apple's MacBook sales.
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