Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display: See the Whole Picture

Carl Weinschenk

Mobile device displays — their size and clarity — are a vital competitive issue as device makers, from smartphones up to laptops, battle for every customer.

The display on Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display is getting a tremendous amount of attention. Here is a long review at The Washington Post. It's no wonder people are excited: Ars Technica says that the display features four times as many pixels as the previous model — and accommodates them so efficiently that the device actually is a bit thinner than the previous MacBook Pro.

The story does a great job of explaining how Apple pulled this off. However, this story contains more than the opportunity to marvel at how clever Apple is. The design path that the company took to achieve the contradictory goals of a thinner machine with a more powerful display makes it far more difficult and expensive to fix:

While that makes the display ever so slightly thinner than before, it makes potential repairs more costly. "There's no way to replace just the LCD, since the entire thing is the LCD, so users with unfortunate accidents will have to replace the complete assembly," iFixit's Miro Djuric told Ars via e-mail. "The intricacies of opening the display also mean that if anything else should fail inside, that same assembly will still have to be replaced, or the user will have to make do without the component."

The Ars Technica story was based on a teardown by iFixit. A post at the site adds to the feeling of anxiety an organization charged with supporting the notebook should feel:

But even though it packs lots of gee-whiz bells and whistles, we were thoroughly disappointed when we ventured inside. This is, to date, the least repairable laptop we’ve taken apart. Apple has packed all the things we hate into one beautiful little package.

Companies contemplating the Retina MacBook Pro should be very careful. They also should make it clear to employees that they are not responsible for all of a huge repair bill if a problem emerges while the device is being used in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) arrangement.

At ZDNet, Andrew Nusca provides a history of the MacBook line and discusses whether the MacBook with Retina Display is right for corporate use. He seems to feel that it is, in some cases. Of course, this is Apple, so people will use the new devices — and the ones following on with the same design characteristics — for work. That is sobering when considered in the context of formerly inexpensive repairs suddenly exploding in complexity and cost.

Apple makes beautiful products. In this case, however, organizations should be extremely careful about letting, or encouraging, employees to use them. The downside — once the thrill wears off — seems to be too great.

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