Why The MacBook Air Got A Resolution Bump and The MacBook Pro Did Not

Interesting post about the future of the Mac Pro by Josh Centers where he sidetracks to the possibility of a retina MacBook Air:

“Ah,” you say, “but if screen size is key [smaller screens make for easier retina targets because of display yields], then why not go ahead with 11″ and 13″ Airs? That’s a lot of screens per sheet.” Fair question, but there are a few reasons why I think the Macbook Air will be the last of the line to receive retina screens:

4- The Air already has a better screen resolution than most Macbook Pros.

There he makes a good point about why it is taking so long for the 13″ MacBook Pro —or the whole Pro line for that matter1— to get a bump in resolution, similar to the Air. The current 13″ MBP is a great machine; it’s my laptop of preference. So when the 2nd generation of Airs was released late 2010 with a slightly higher resolution display, I was hopeful the 13″ MBP would get a similar increase in resolution. This hasn’t happened yet. Now it’s clear to me why.

A retina display just doesn’t show up uninvited. Apple has been planning and working on this for the last couple of years. They knew it would be harder to put retina graphics in the MacBook Air. That is why they went with slightly higher resolution (and higher dpi: 113 vs. 128 for the 13.3″ models) displays when they redesigned both Airs in 2010. Let’s face it, the Air is a laptop that is stripped down to its basics. It is going to take a while before it gains retina graphics. I’ll just quote from Josh’s post:

1- The Air currently has no space for a dedicated graphics processor. The current Retina Macbook, despite its beefy hardware, has a hard time pushing all those pixels.

3- Retina screens need more power and cooling. Apple managed to make the retina MacBook thinner and lighter by making it more like an Air. The Air doesn’t have the room to spare.

Substitute ”Air” for ”MacBook Pro 13-inch” and you have the reasons why Apple didn’t bother bumping its resolution before. They had bigger plans. Apple considers the current Pro machines as end-of-line, and they have been for some years. The future of the MacBook Pro is retina, both in 13″ and 15″, and that future is near.

How long before the current Pro’s are discontinued? I’m guessing after Apple has updated the iMac and its standalone displays, but well before the MacBook Air goes retina.


  1. Although, while the 15″ does have a build-to-order Hi-Res option, the 13″ does not.