When Apple released the new iPad, I took a look at it but decided the extra money for the Retina display wasn’t worth it.  Frankly, I’m not doing much real photography or video work, so while the extra resolution of the display was nice, I thought that the newness of the technology introduced as many problems as it solved.

Yesterday, I went down to the Apple Store and examined the new MacBook Pro with a Retina display.   Because the machine is a bit thinner and lighter than a normal 15 incher, I wanted to see if I was interested in trading in my current Core 2 Duo MacBook Air and my 15 inch MacBook Pro with an Intel 2.2 GHz quad-core i7 to get the new machine.  After lifting it and playing with it, I have decided that the answer for me is “no”.  Let me tell you why.

First, the Retina display is very nice and I can see a difference. That said, to buy one is to accept a display which will produce a mixed user experience.  While it will produce a great view for applications optimized for the Apple display, those are currently few and far between and all exist within the Apple exosphere.  I’m already pushing the envelope by using Lion (not my favorite Apple OS) to run Adobe’s CS5 Design Premium and don’t have to money to move to CS6 which (we are told) will be optimized for the Retina display at some point no one can pin down.  The rest of the world will look pixelated on this display, and I know myself well enough to know this will make me unhappy.  It will be sometime…and probably a very long one…before most applications and web interfaces in the world become Retina friendly, and I do not want to adopt one of these displays until that is the rule instead of the exception. I already spend too much time with the technology for the technology’s sake versus getting actual creative work done.  I don’t need to belabor it with this new toy.

The bigger turn-off for me was the very slight gain in both thinness and weight the MacBook Pro with retina represents.  There simply isn’t enough difference between its bulk and that of a “normal” MacBook Pro to make the move to the new machine worth it to me.  The MacBook Air is still the king of portable laptops as far as I am concerned.  While I don ‘t like managing two laptops, I do like the Air for traveling and I like having my MacBook Pro as a backup to the Mac Pro I own and a machine I can travel with when I really need the extra power.  While the 13 inch MacBook Pro is an even better go-between, its continued use of only dual core CPU’s and single-integrated Intel GPU’s make it a “no go” for me; I need something more powerful than that.

In the end, if I do anything this year, I may spend money upgrading to the new MacBook Airs. Certainly, a 1.8 GHz i5 is powerful enough for anything I need to do on the road.  In time, I hope the MBP will move more toward a true hybrid of the current Airs and MBP’s so I can have the power of a desktop in a truly portable machine, but Apple ain’t there yet.  There is still a gap in power and portability between the MBA and MBP even though I don’t suspect that gap will exist for much longer.  That means I’m going to keep my current MBP even if I decide to put it in the closet and pull it out for only those trips when content creation is key or my Mac Pro goes down.