So, Where’s the MacBook Air With a Retina Display?

While Apple announced lots of goodies yesterday, the most impressive hardware news is the MacBook Pro with Retina display.

The machine is impressive. It’s clearly the result of taking a MacBook Pro and making it more Air-like. It’s thin (.71 inches), fast (thanks to the SSD) and has no optical drive.

Of course, the headlining features is the Retina display. Clocking in at 2880×1800 at 220 DPI, the 15.4 inch panel seems impossibly sharp.

(To see how dense the display is, check out this sample image on Apple’s web site.)

The base price is $400 more than the “regular” MacBook Pro below it. Starting at $2,199, a fully maxed out version costs $3,749.00. That’s with the following options:

  • $250 for 2.7GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz
  • $200 for 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
  • $500 for 768GB Flash Storage

In semi-related news, Apple has discontinued the 17-inch MacBook Pro, making the 15 inch machine the largest since the 17-inch PowerBook G4 was announced at Macworld back in 2003.

In my mind, these two news items are clearly related. The new Retina MacBook Pro is the replacement for the 17-inch MacBook Pro. With more pixels and more power, it still gives pro users what they need, despite the lack of a SuperDrive and limited upgrade options.[1]

So, why isn’t there a MacBook Air with a Retina display?

It’s clear Apple sees the Retina display as a “pro feature” for its notebooks (for now, at least) due to its positioning the machine “above” the MacBook Pro line. Apple’s framed the Retina MacBook Pro as its vision of the future of its notebook line. As such, it doesn’t want to have the Retina display on a machine without the other goodies fit in the machine’s chassis. (Or maybe that battery required for the Retina display just can’t be crammed in a machine smaller than 15 inches right now.)

Then there’s the fact that people expect to pay less money for smaller computers. The 11.6-inch MacBook Air is less than the 13.3-inch MacBook Air, and the 27-inch iMac is more than the 21.5-inch iMac.

This has to do with the costs involved in building a machine (bigger display, bigger chassis, etc.), and I just don’t think Apple can cram a Retina display in a $1,200 MacBook Air quite yet, and people probably aren’t willing to pay $2,000 for a MacBook Air.

Will we see a MacBook Air with a Retina display? Of course we will at some point, but for now, Apple’s content to introduce the feature slowly, which makes perfect sense to me.

  1. The RAM is soldered on the logic board.  ↩