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Retina Display MacBook Pro Q&A - Revised March 13, 2013

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How fast is the graphics performance of the "Mid-2012" 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models compared to the models replaced?

Please note that all notebooks mentioned in this Q&A have been discontinued. However, this Q&A is up-to-date and is quite useful for anyone buying or selling one of these models on the used market.

All "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro models (A1398) have the same graphics processors. Specifically, these models have both a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 1 GB of GDDR5 SDRAM and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 with memory shared with the system.

In promotional materials, Apple notes that video application performance is "up to 50% faster" than the previous "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models, specifically citing results in Motion 5, Final Cut Pro X, and Compressor 4.

Third-Party Graphics Tests

Although you might be satisfied with Apple's official performance numbers, third-party results can be more varied as well as potentially more objective.

BareFeats hit multiple Retina Display MacBook Pro models with a number of 3D graphics tests including a Ray-Traced 3D test in After Effects CS6 and an "Extreme" 3D Game Shootout in Portal 2, WoW, and Starcraft II.

The gaming test results are interesting particularly:

The 'Mid-2012' Retina MacBook Pro is clearly a "cut above" when it comes to extreme gaming. However, if you opt for the entry level 15" 'Mid-2012' MacBook Pro 2.3 GHz, it gets beat by the best 'Late 2011' MacBook Pro in two out of three [of the gaming] tests.

Mac|Life also performed four of its own gaming tests in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer on the custom configured 2.7 GHz model and found:

All four consecutive tests were nothing if not consistent: We clocked a rate of 88.2 frames per second the first time around and 88.5fps on the next three tests. And hey, the graphics looked pretty sweet, even being pixel-doubled for the Retina Display. (The last MacBook Pro we reviewed in late 2011 hit 82.7 frames per second.)

Additionally, the Engadget blog performed a gaming test to evaluate graphics performance in its review of the system:

We installed one of the hottest games of the moment, Diablo III, and cranked it up to full resolution and full graphical details. We did, however, make one exception: anti-aliasing. When you're running at 2880x1800, there's no real need. We were quite happily surprised to see the frame rate hovering between 25 and 30 fps as we explored a few towns and crawled a few dungeons -- perfectly playable at an obscene resolution. Turning it down to something a little more reasonable, 2048 x 1280, netted 40 to 45 fps and running at a relatively mundane 1280 x 800 delivered frame rates over 70. This, then, is a quite passable gaming machine.

Diablo 3 Graphics Performance Video

For gaming, however, text can only go so far. Perhaps nothing beats a video of actual game play on a system like this one -- also of Diablo III -- from TLDToday:

Performance Summary

Ultimately, the graphics performance of the 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro can vary considerably depending on the tasks performed. Certainly, the previous generation "Late 2011" MacBook Pro models can hold their own in many tests. However, for Mac gaming on the go, a Retina Display MacBook Pro model is likely to please all but the most "hardcore" gamers.


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