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The rumored thin 15” MacBook Pro with Retina, USB 3

9to5 Mac posted a rumor about the next 15” MacBook Pro being in a much thinner (but not wedge-shaped) case, having a Retina display of an unspecified resolution, and having USB 3 ports.

It sounds plausible. Assuming that’s all or mostly true:

Thin case

The optical drive’s gone, but at this point, that’s neither radical nor newsworthy. Its removal saves a lot of space, which is nice, but it won’t save much weight — the optical drive is extremely lightweight.

To achieve the thinner case and reduce the weight, I’m curious to see if they finally removed the glass in front of the screen. On the current 15” design, the glass adds around 0.4 pounds over the matte option, and its extremely high reflectivity is problematic for a lot of people. If the new 15” offers a plastic-glossy screen instead, like the MacBook Air’s screen, that would save a lot of weight and be far less reflective for people (myself included) who don’t like glass screens.

The 13” MacBook Air is 3 pounds and the current 15” MacBook Pro is 5.6. Assuming Apple drops the optical drive and glass screen, they continue to offer at least the same battery life, and they continue to use 45W CPUs and discrete GPUs, I’d expect the new model to weigh 4.5 to 5 pounds. If they drop the GPU and pursue lower-wattage CPUs, they might get a more significant reduction, and the reduced power demands and heat output would result in a better computer for most use.

The thin case also means that Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire 800 won’t fit and are probably just being dropped. Expect video pros to complain.

USB 3

I suspect USB 3 is going to do to Thunderbolt what USB 2 did to Firewire 800: serve as the dominant interconnect for most peripherals, with the more-expensive Thunderbolt being relegated only to high-end niches.

Thunderbolt has been out for over a year, but there’s still a disappointing lack of peripherals. The few that are available are very expensive, and many potentially useful ones — such as Gigabit Ethernet or Firewire 800 adapters — don’t exist yet as standalone peripherals. (You can get a Thunderbolt-to-Gigabit-and-FW800 adapter for $1000 with a free Apple Cinema Display attached.)

It will be interesting to see if Apple addresses this rumored MacBook Pro’s lack of Firewire 800 and Gigabit Ethernet by making adapters available, and if so, whether those adapters use USB 3 or Thunderbolt.1

Retina Display

I’m not sure I’d want a Retina MacBook Pro yet. I suspect that adoption of Retina assets among Mac apps will be slower than we saw with Retina iOS devices, and more importantly, Retina graphics for websites will likely take significantly longer.

Since non-Retina graphics look worse on Retina screens than on older screens, Retina MacBook users would have significantly worse-looking web browsing for a while — probably years, not months. So I don’t think I’d rush out to get a Retina Mac, but I wouldn’t necessarily avoid a Retina screen when it comes time to upgrade for other reasons.


  1. Apple has sold a 10/100 USB Ethernet Adapter for years, but since it’s limited to USB 2, it’s extremely slow. A modern MacBook Air can generally transfer files faster over wireless (if it’s 802.11n) than over the USB Ethernet Adapter. 

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