I’ve been wanting to upgrade to a new Mac Book Pro for sometime now. My late 2009 MBP had started to feel sluggish on big renders and it has never performed as I’d like with ZBrush. When the new Apple machines were announced on the 11 June I ordered my right after the conference. I opted for the new 15″ Retina macbookpro with 2.6 Ghz, 16 gig of ram and the 512 SSD. Having read the reviews that said the machine was the least upgradable/repairable laptop ever, I went back and reviewed my choices and remained positive. 16 gig is the max for that machine so having it soldered onto the board made no difference to me. 512 SSD was double the space of my old machine and for several years now I’ve kept everything on external firewire800 lacie drives. The lack of ethernet made no difference to me and I bought a superdrive at the same time as I have lots of software still on disks. I immediately installed Cinema4D R13, Abobe production premium and ZBrush and started to test them all out.
First thoughts, It’s fast! Bear in mind my main graphics/3D machines are twin iMac core I5’s with 16 gigs a piece and my old MacBook Pro. So it was always going to feel fast. With an SSD and the new Quad core Ivybridge chip I wasn’t expecting anything less (certainly not for the price tag). The second thing you notice right away is load times. It boots in seconds, programs load in seconds and the whole operating environment feels zippy. The fact that the gpu can handle three external video outputs simultaneously is amazing (via two thunderbolts and a HDMI)
Next thing is the retina screen. Having 2880×1800 pixels on a 15 inch screen isn’t as straight forward as you think. This version of Lion gives you two main display options. Retina and scaled. Retina mode uses the full 288o pixels but it makes the interface just look like a super crisp version of a 1440 laptop screen. It’s nice but it’s not for everyone. If you use the scaled option you can set it to sizes upto 1920×1200 which feels about right for me. You can FORCE it to go to 2880×1800 (read the mac rumours post) using a little script as apple doesn’t give you the option in the display settings. When you ramp it up to this full retina everything is microscopic. The interface items, panels, text etc. is all so small as to be rendered pretty useless.
ZBrush is amazing on it for me. I heard today of an artist with a new machine that is overheating when running ZBrush but so far after 15 hours of ZBrush work I’ve not even heard the fans kick in. I updated the Wacom drivers to the latest ones on their site (not new for the retina but at least the most up to date). I tested ZBrush with an Intuos 4 wireless and a wired one. Both performed well. The Wireless Intuos does give a microsecond of delay intermittently but but it’s not so annoying that I couldn’t use it. I expect that dedicated drivers will sort that out soon. I also used a Cintiq 24HD with simlar results. I quickly sculpted some dynamesh heads and then ramped them upto to 11 million polys for detailing and experienced no lag and no writing to disk that I could tell. Going up and down subdivision levels was fast even when ramping up to 10 million+. BPR rendering was faster than I’m used to on my iMacs and I was adding sub tools to test the performance and all seems fine.
Photoshop and After Effects ran well and performed as well as I could wish for as did Cinema4D. I haven’t spend a great deal of time in either yet but I have had no unexpected issues because of the screen resolution. EDIT: See comments from photographers who may not be as happy with Photoshop on the Retina MBP yet.
All in all I’m am very pleased with my first few days with the retina machine. I don’t agree with a lot of the gripes I’ve heard and I’m not experiencing any issues so far. The retina screen is clearly the way that all machines will go and this first implementation on a macbook pro seems to have it right. I will post my first few days test sculpts and sketches into this thread over the weekend.
If anyone wants me to test anything then please feel free to ask.
Photoshop CS6 on the Retina Macbook.
Problems to be aware of