Yes, MacBook Pro's Retina Display Is Brilliant, But Not For the Average User

First, I'd like to thank all the readers who commented on our post. Some of the criticisms made me cringe, such as being called a "link-baiting whore," while other remarks were more insightful and worth taking seriously. But whether the comments were for or against the post, I'm humbled that so many people took the time to participate in such a lively discussion. Because of that, we want to explain our reasoning further. 

The Average User

To start, I want to point out that I looked at the value of the MacBook Pro with Retina from the perspective of what is best for the average computer user. Professional designers, developers, photographers, graphic artists and video editors do not need me to tell them whether Apple's latest concoction is right for them. Such sophisticated users are capable of deciding for themselves which system to buy.

For everyone else, I maintain that Retina is as much a marketing feature as it is a product enhancement. Let me explain. Apple is one of the best design companies in the tech industry. The beauty of its products leaves people with the feeling that the hardware is the most advanced and the most innovative. That feeling is not always justified when you separate the look from the components.

An ultra-high resolution display is not innovation and is not worth paying more for. Why? Because if studies stemming from the introduction of high-definition TVs are any indication, most people won't be able to tell the difference between today's HD displays and the Retina screen.

In addition, Retina won't deliver a better Web experience, a key function for any personal computer. That's because the ultra-high resolution of the Retina display will produce blurry Web graphics and text in all browsers except Apple Safari. 

Now it's true that Web developers may eventually choose to modify content to support Retina-like displays. But if the industry follows Apple and heads in that direction, it will take time and by the time the transition is completed, the price of such screens will be far less.

A Marketing Feature

Introducing the idea of following Apple brings me to my next point, which is the concept of a marketing feature. Apple can justify collecting a premium for its products as long as it is perceived to be an innovator, even when it's not. If Apple can convince consumers that Retina is the next big thing in laptops, then competitors will be forced to follow, giving Apple a huge market advantage over the next year or so. 

That's because Apple will get the displays it needs through the long-term contracts it already has in place. Because the technology is new, rivals will have to wait for manufacturers to increase output or pay much higher prices. Given the razor-thin margins of most Windows PC makers, it's unlikely they can afford to pay a lot more than current prices.

The business strategy behind Retina is why Apple has chosen to make it the centerpiece of its marketing campaign for the latest MacBook Pro. If the company is successful in steering the direction of the market, then investors will reap the rewards and these are the people Apple answers to.

Pricing

However, what is best for investors may not bring equal benefits to the majority of consumers. This brings me to readers' criticism about how I explained the price difference between the MacBook Pro with Retina and the standard MacBook Pro of equal size.

Here's where I could have done a better job at explaining my reasoning. While it is true the Retina model has a solid-state drive and twice the system memory, the display is the lure that Apple is using to get people to spend an additional $400 when the less- expensive model is more than adequate. Also, given how SSD prices have fallen and Apple's volume discounts, I find it difficult to believe that component is more expensive than the Retina display.