Logging into a new Apple machine for the first time continues to be a breath of fresh air as I'm not bombarded with a ton of bloatware that promptly requires my attention to remove. It's similar to installing a fresh non-manufacturer copy of Windows as you get to experience the operating system as it was meant to be. Apple asks some basic information such as your language and keyboard layout preferences before linking your Apple ID to the system. If this is your first Apple product, you can easily set up a new account during this process.

Something to be noticed immediately about the Retina system is how quickly it booted. I'm used to working with systems that use flash storage as all of my computers boot from SSDs but this computer is flat out fast. The unit booted fully into OS X in just 18 seconds. For reference, it took the Air roughly 44 seconds to accomplish the same feat.

During my testing, I also installed a copy of Windows 7 using Boot Camp. The entire process is seamless as the software guides you through each step in case you are more familiar with the Mac environment than Windows'. You will need a USB drive with Windows 7 files or an external drive since the MBP Retina is Apple's first 15" system that doesn't include an optical drive. I opted for the USB route since my optical drive wasn't detected by the system for some unknown reason.

We also installed Windows to complete our benchmarks because Apple's operating system isn't fully compatible with all our testing software. For example, fps recording tool Fraps doesn't work in OS X, which meant I was unable to obtain apples-to-apples results in StarCraft II (running in OS X) to compare with recently reviewed Windows notebooks.

As we've mentioned a number of times, running Windows on Mac hardware is quite feasible and easy to setup, but I would personally not encourage it on laptops as the systems tend to operate at warmer temperatures and battery life is compromised.

Benchmark Results

If I'm not mistaken, the Retina system produced the best results we've ever seen in our iTunes encoding and file transfer tests. The transfer tests were just blistering fast, besting the Air by several seconds. Note that the iTunes and file transfer tests were run under OS X.

Synthetic Tests MacBook Pro Retina MacBook Air Asus N56VZ
(HD 4000)
Asus N56VZ
(GT 650M)
3DMark 06
3DMark Score 14467 3DMarks* 5785 3DMarks* 7033 3DMarks 9665 3DMarks
PCMark Vantage
PCMark Suite n/a n/a 7349 PCMarks 8675 PCMarks
Overall Score 12061 6197 n/a n/a

Application Tests MacBook Pro Retina MacBook Air Asus N56VZ
iTunes Encoding Test 43 sec 51 sec
1 min 5 sec
File Transfer Test
Small files 15 sec 22 sec
1 min 17 sec
Large file 13 sec 21 sec
57 sec

The iTunes encoding tests consist of converting 14 MP3s (119MB) to 128Kbps ACC files and measuring the operation's duration in seconds. For the file transfer test, we measure how long it takes to copy two sets of files from one location to another on the same drive. On the small files test we transfer 557 MP3s, totaling 2.56GB. For the large file, these same MP3s were zipped into a single file measuring 2.52GB.

Gaming Performance MacBook Pro Retina MacBook Air Asus N56VZ
(HD 4000)
Asus N56VZ
(GT 650M)
Far Cry 2
1024x768, Medium Quality 104.0 fps 37.3 fps 43.3 fps 85.2 fps
Native resolution, High Quality 31.88 fps 19.3 fps 20.5 fps 36.4 fps
StarCraft 2
1024x768, Medium Quality n/a 25.1 fps 31.2 fps 68.4 fps
Native resolution, High Quality n/a 16.1 fps 17.6 fps 31.5 fps

  • 15.4" 2880x1800 IPS LED-backlit display
  • Intel Core i7-3615QM (2.3GHz - 3.3GHz)
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 650M 1GB discrete / Intel HD 4000 Graphics
  • 256GB SSD
  • Mac OS X, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

  • 13.3" 1440x900 LED-backlit display
  • Intel Core i5-3427U (1.8GHz - 2.8GHz)
  • Intel HD 4000 Graphics
  • 128GB SSD
  • Mac OS X, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

  • 15.6" 1920x1080 LED-backlit display
  • Intel Core i7-3620QM (2.6GHz - 3.8GHz, 8MB L3 cache)
  • 8GB 1600MHz DDR3 memory
  • Nvidia GeForce GT 650M 2GB
  • 750GB 7200RPM hard drive
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)