My thoughts on the new Apple hardware at WWDC 2012

So, the day all us Apple nerds have been waiting for has come and gone, the 2012 WWDC keynote. And with it came a number of portable hardware updates and I thought I might as well throw my opinion into the ring. Refreshed Airs and MacBook Pros I'll admit, I was worried early on in the show. The updates to all of the current laptop models (minus the 17" MBP which seems to have been 86ed) was underwhelming.  Sure, they upgraded the CPUs to Ivy Bridge, which also gave them better GPU and USB3 for free as part of the package. The price on the 13" Air came down a bit and you can get them with 8GB of RAM which is nice. Same story with the revised MBPs; Ivy Bridge, USB3, faster video card. All were ripe for update, so not a surprise in the joint.  If this is all they had to show, that would be a problem.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display Apple luckily had a trick up their sleeve with the 'new' Macbook Pro with Retina Display.  There were rumors of a high-dpi macbook. In fact some of the rumors had them across the whole portable line, but apparently Apple is going to take this transition more slowly than some people would have liked.

15" 2880x1800 screen is the big draw. That's really high-res. Higher-res in fact than the 30" NEC I use for my work. Big upgrade, huge. Apparently the screen is crazy thin as well. Overall thickness of the whole laptop is between the old Pros and the Air; so thin in fact that they had to replace the Magsafe connector with the new Magsafe 2 connector. Yes, I know there's a $10 adapter, but come on, they couldn't have had the thing be a couple millimeters taller and kept the single standard? YOUR standard? Whatever. That's Apple being Apple.

2 Thunderbolts but no Ethernet or Firewire. A Pro laptop without an Ethernet port? Oh you can buy a dongle for $30. Great, how about you throw that in the box for free since I'm spending at least $2200 on this thing. Speaking of the price, it's great as long as you stick with the low-end configuration. However, the second you move up to the faster CPU, which almost everyone who's in the market for a machine like this is going to do, you're looking at $2800.

So $2800 isn't so bad, right? Well, I haven't spent that much on a laptop since my original Titanium Powerbook, but we'll put that aside. Apparently, one thing they don't tell you is that the RAM is soldered onto the motherboard like on the Airs, so it's not upgradeable. So make sure you get all the memory you need when you buy it. That upgrade is another $200. So now we're at 3 grand before tax. And don't forget AppleCare, because otherwise you get the whopping 1 year warranty on that non-upgradeable 'Pro' machine you just bought. If you go all in with CPU, RAM, SSD, and AppleCare you're looking at $4100 pre tax. That's a lot of bank.

Is it a nice machine? I'm sure it is great, it better be for that kind of coin. And it's certainly got that screen which no one else at the moment can touch. I should really hold my tongue because I'm not a big fan of laptops overall. I think they're fine, I'm writing this on a 13" Air right now, but only because I tend to write better on the couch. For real work, I need a bunch of storage and a bigger screen than 15", even if those 15 inches are a glorious pixel-packed masterpiece. I'll admit that when I first heard the specs and saw the pictures I had a little tinge of lust, but then I looked at the pictures The Verge had put up and realized that it's still just a laptop. Without a big expensive Thunderbolt array and maxed-out specs, it's not enough to be my only machine, and it's just a little too big for me to carry without grumbling.

For a photographer who is editing on the road all the time, I think it would be a great solution IF you're willing to spend that kind of money. For me, it's not worth it. I know of a couple of wedding shooters who have already placed their orders. Personally, I'm going to stick with my desktop, 32GB of RAM, 8TB of storage, and a big screen. Even if it's not 221dpi, it's fine for now.

Updated Mac Pro Speaking of desktops, they silently updated the Mac Pro as well, though "update" is the extremely kind way of putting it. Basically, they bumped the bottom rung CPU up a notch and rejiggered some of the prices for the dual socket models. No SandyBridge-E Xeon, no USB 3, no Thunderbolt, and still a two year-old 5770 GPU. Honestly, you might as well not have updated it at all. Calling this machine the Mac Pro in 2012 is just embarrassing.

The high-dpi screen on the new laptop also makes the current Cinema Displays look pretty silly at 2560x1440. I'd expect an update to that, too.

Odds and Ends What's left? Well, there's a new Airport Express for $99 which is now dual-band and looks like a white Apple TV. Speaking of which, we heard nothing about the Apple TV- whether the fabled display, an updated box, or an App Store. New iPad case which also covers the back of the device. This one is actually somewhat interesting to me, I've looked for a case for my iPad 3, but holding the smart cover on with magnets seemed far too flimsy.

Overall I give it an 'eh'. Or rather, I gave it a 'WOW look at that laptop!' and then I came back to reality before they showed the price, you know, while they were showing the video of Jony Ive pontificating about how 'nothing ever conceived in the minds of man has ever been this amazing'. Keep using that line, Sir Ive.