Retina MacBook Pro Pushes the Limits of its Graphics Capabilities

Just after the launch of the Retina MacBook Pro earlier this month, AnandTech provided a first glimpse of the machine's display performance, noting the various resolution options available to users and examining how its color and contrast compares to other notebooks.

After having more time to analyze the new machine, AnandTech last week published its full review of the Retina MacBook Pro, bringing its thorough and technically-detailed perspective to the report. While the whole review is definitely worth a read, the section on graphics performance bears special attention.

With the integrated Intel HD 4000 and discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics units responsible for driving 2880x1800 pixels in standard Retina mode and as many as 3840x2400 pixels before downscaling to display 1920x1200 at its highest non-Retina resolution, Apple is clearly pushing the limits of the machine's graphics capabilities.

At the default setting, either Intel’s HD 4000 or NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 650M already have to render and display far more pixels than either GPU was ever intended to. At the 1680 and 1920 settings however the GPUs are doing more work than even their high-end desktop counterparts are used to.

AnandTech goes on to assess this graphics performance, noting that the Retina MacBook Pro at times struggles to maintain a "consistently smooth experience".

At 2880 x 1800 most interactions are smooth but things like zooming windows or scrolling on certain web pages is clearly sub-30fps. At the higher scaled resolutions, since the GPU has to render as much as 9.2MP, even UI performance can be sluggish. There’s simply nothing that can be done at this point - Apple is pushing the limits of the hardware we have available today, far beyond what any other OEM has done.

Focusing on browser scrolling behavior, which also involves substantial CPU load, AnandTech notes that the resource-intensive Facebook news feed pages can display at over 50 frames per second on a 2011 MacBook Pro, but that the new Retina MacBook Pro struggles to hit 20 frames per second as it pushes so many more pixels.


Retina MacBook Pro at 21 frames per second while scrolling (See meter at top left)

The report notes that OS X Mountain Lion will help address some of these issues by leveraging Core Animation, but in AnandTech's testing it was still only able to achieve 20-30 frames per second under Mountain Lion. Further improvements in performance will have to wait for hardware capabilities to catch up with demands imposed by these new ultra-high resolution displays.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
109 months ago
This is why I feel like waiting for the 2nd revision really is a good idea.
Score: 128 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago
Maybe this will shut up the people clamoring for retina on the new iMac.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago

Hmm... This is a little bit frustrating. I NEED a laptop for college this year (current is a 08 MBP on its last legs). I'm most likely going for the MBPR simply because it's barely cheaper to get the MBP with the specs I want. Frustrating knowing Apple decided to ship with hardware that isn't ready./sigh.


Get the Air.
Score: 66 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago

Hmm... This is a little bit frustrating. I NEED a laptop for college this year (current is a 08 MBP on its last legs). I'm most likely going for the MBPR simply because it's barely cheaper to get the MBP with the specs I want. Frustrating knowing Apple decided to ship with hardware that isn't ready./sigh.


I wouldn't worry about it too much - actual users aren't complaining just people that are trying to get all analytical about it - none of the reviews I recall mention a bad experience due to lag - reviews mention Diablo 3 runs at native resolution lag free - many have mentioned you can run 2 thunderbolt displays without any noticeable lag - this is not a problem :)
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago
I hope in a couple years every tablet/phone/computer maker puts these high res screens on them. After using the iPad 3 and rMBP it's impossible to go back to something not retina.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago
And this is exactly the problem with Apple computers for, dare i say it Decades.

They pretty much always have fitted poor graphics cards.
Probably the main reason why the Mac almost died when the PC gaming was zooming ahead. Apple just did, and do fit poor sub par graphics to their consumer machines.

Even the top iMacs have laptop graphics are they are obsessed about saving the extra half an inch of thickness on a desktop machine.

It's been Apple computers weak spot for so many many years and STILL they never seem to get it. :(
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

First Impressions From New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro Owners

Thursday October 22, 2020 4:20 pm PDT by
It's already Friday, October 23, in Australia and New Zealand, which means some customers who purchased an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro already have their new devices in hand. We've seen dozens of reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro from media sites, but now first impressions from regular Apple customers are available. Image via MacRumors reader Boardiesboi New iPhone 12 and 12 Pro owners are...

Early iPhone 12 Tests Show Ceramic Shield is Stronger and More Scratch Resistant Than iPhone 11 Glass

Friday October 23, 2020 1:21 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 models are protected by a Ceramic Shield cover glass that has nano-ceramic crystals infused right into the glass to improve durability. According to Apple, Ceramic Shield offers four times better drop protection than the glass used for the iPhone 11 models. YouTube channel MobileReviewsEh conducted some tests on the iPhone 12 using a force meter to compare its performance ...

Apple Distributing New Heated Display Removal Machine for iPhone 12 Repairs

Thursday October 22, 2020 6:20 pm PDT by
Apple is providing Genius Bars and Apple Authorized Service Providers with a new heated display removal fixture for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro repairs, according to information obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source. To open iPhone 12 models, technicians will be required to slide the device into a specialized tray, and then place the tray into the high-temperature fixture for two...

Apple VP Kaiann Drance Interview Addresses Battery Life, MagSafe, and Power Adapter Concerns

Friday October 23, 2020 3:37 am PDT by
Apple's Vice President of iPhone Marketing, Kaiann Drance, has provided a new interview to Rich DeMuro on the Rich on Tech Podcast, to discuss the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Although much of the interview repeated points from Apple's "Hi, Speed" event, there were a number of interesting tidbits regarding the affect of 5G on battery life, MagSafe concerns, and the lack of a power adapter in...

Teardown Video Confirms iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Use Same 2,815mAh Battery

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:47 am PDT by
With the iPhone 12 launching on Friday and in just a few hours to Australia and New Zealand, hands-on videos, teardowns, reviews, and other iPhone-related content has been coming out. A new teardown video delves into both the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro, confirming battery life for both models and giving us a closer look at their internals. The video from Io Technology is in Chinese, but ...

Images of Supposed AirPods Diagnosis Tool Shared Online

Thursday October 22, 2020 5:24 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly rolling out a new tool to Apple service providers for testing AirPods, according to leaker known as "Fudge," who shared images of the tool on Twitter. Apple appears to be seeking to reduce unnecessary AirPods services by more accurately diagnosing the cause of a fault. Instances of a dirt-blockage, which may be difficult to ascertain visually, can apparently be...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Apple's AirTags Revealed in Newly Published Patent Applications

Thursday October 22, 2020 9:13 am PDT by
Two patent applications filed by Apple appear to depict the company's widely expected AirTags item trackers (via Patently Apple). The filings, which include a large number of images, are titled "Mounting Base for a Wirelessly Locatable Tag" and "Fastener with a Constrained Retention Ring," and describe a wirelessly locatable tag that can be used to determine the absolute location of an...

iPhone 11 Pro Outlasts iPhone 12 and 12 Pro in Extensive Battery Life Test

Friday October 23, 2020 8:36 am PDT by
Arun Maini today shared a new side-by-side iPhone battery life video test on his YouTube channel Mrwhosetheboss, timing how long the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models last on a single charge compared to older models, with equal brightness, settings, battery health, and usage. All of the devices are running iOS 14 without a SIM card inserted. In the test, the iPhone 11 Pro outlasted both ...

Apple Warns MagSafe Charger Can Leave Circular Imprints on Leather Cases

Friday October 23, 2020 3:23 pm PDT by
If you keep your iPhone in a leather case while charging with Apple's new MagSafe Charger, the case might show circular imprints from contact with the accessory, according to a new Apple support document published today. Apple's leather cases for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are not available until November 6, but a MacRumors reader has already shared a photo of a circular imprint on...