Apple Retina Macbook Pro – the new DJ standard?


Apple Retina Macbook Pro - the new DJ standard?Apple today announced a new 15″ MacBook Pro. Yes I know they do this every year, but this one is notable for a few reasons, namely it finally kicks optical media and regular hard disks to the kerb, but also for the change in form factor, weight and retina screen. So is this new offering from Apple the ultimate DJ computer? For me – yes.

Let’s have a look at what it has to offer:

Less weight: 5.6lb down to 4.46lb – that’s a fair lump less to lug around. It’s only a little thicker that a MacBook Air as well.

Retina Screen: A full 2880×1800 resolution. In real terms, it means much smoother graphics… well once the software has been updated for it, otherwise it’ll be pixel doubled. It does however give the developers a lot more resolution to play with. And screen elements that had to be a particular size before now have the possibility to be small and still legible. Perhaps this will give scaleable interfaces the kick start they need. I can just imagine the super detailed waveforms now.

No optical drive: No surprise here. I don’t miss it one bit in my MacBook Air. And it’s one less reason to be accosted mid set with someone requesting that you play their CD.

No Hard Drive: Another inevitability. The speed advantages of SSDs are obvious, but the chances are it’s not user-upgradable. Having a little less space but delivered in a much faster way is a tradeoff I can live with, especially in this evolving video DJing age.

More RAM: Up to 16Gb now, and most likely factory fitted.

I/O: Annoyingly still only 2 x USB ports, but they’re USB3, which in itself offers an alleged 10 times speed difference, simultaneous read/write and much less power consumption. And it also gains 2 x Thunderbolt ports. That said, while they’ll still work, none of your DJ gear has either of these ports just yet, making this perhaps a little too ahead of the game. This move will however make the manufacturers look hard at their offerings with an eye to updates.

HDMI Port: DVI output has gone and has been replaced by HDMI. It’s very handy for instant plugging in to projectors and large screens with just an HDMI cable. And although we still have no confirmation, I cannot help but think that the inclusion is for Apple’s yet to be announced TV offering.

Apple Retina Macbook Pro - the new DJ standard?

In the name of progress, Ethernet and FireWire has gone the way of the optical drive. From  a DJ perspective, the removal of Ethernet is no real loss, but Firewire is likely to be sorely missed by those who love to carry the entire history of music around with them just in case. That said, there’s USB3, and there are easily forgettable Thunderbolt adaptors for these things as well, although it’s an extra cost on top of an already expensive laptop. It also looks as if the audio line in has gone.

Strangely, there is no speed bump. I guess keeping things cool in a small body has proved to be an issue.

It’s also worth pointing out that the 17″ MBP is no more. In my travels through various creative industries, I think I’ve only ever seen 2 of them, which is a clear indicator as to why they’ve been axed. The retina display lets you edit footage in full 1080p with room to spare, so it’s no great loss.

As a former Mac tech bod, the removal of mechanical drives is a god send. These 2 things alone go wrong when you least expect them to so I’m happy to see them gone. No moving parts means less things to go wrong which makes it more reliable. The ultra fast SSD, USB3 and 16Gb RAM makes it faster. The new architecture makes it more luggable. And the retina screen makes it much easier to look at. But you’re going to have to REALLY want one bad.

A fully configured maxed out machine is $3749/£3049 – a serious amount of anyone’s coin, especially as the £1799 entry level machine cannot be upgraded from 256Gb SSD. You’ll need to drop £2299 for 512Gb, and even then the 768Gb is an upgrade, taking it to £2699. There is no cheap route for the best DJ laptop.

If you play out for a living, it’s a hard machine to ignore and quite easy to justify. But if you DJ in your spare time, this is a lot to drop. What do you think? Is this the ultimate future proofed DJ laptop? Is it actually too ahead of its time to be of use now? Or do you prefer to have every base covered in a more cost effective way?