June 12, 2012 at 4:50 PM ET
Everyone is excited about the just-announced MacBook Pro and its high-resolution screen, but there may be a few bumps in the road before it's as "magical" as its Retina display brethren, the iPad and iPhone. The OS X desktop is a considerably more complicated and varied environment than iOS, and early reports suggest early adopters might face a slightly uneven experience.
The complications arise, ironically, because of Apple's decision to hide the complications of a higher resolution from the user. Normally, if you were to double the density of pixels on a display, the result would be that everything would be displayed at half the size. Each of the letters in this sentence would still be around six or seven pixels wide, but the pixels themselves would be much smaller — so, then, would be the letters. The result: tiny text, tiny buttons, and way too much screen real estate.
In order to fix this, Apple had to do some fancy behind-the-scenes footwork while avoiding mention of the actual new resolution (above). And while on iOS it was comparatively easy for them to standardize requirements for apps, things are a bit more difficult on a laptop. The techniques Apple has chosen, described in greater detail by the team at Anandtech, are smart and effective, but involve a bit of trickery for which not every application and website is prepared.
The result? Websites look great in Safari, but (as of this writing) highly pixellated in Chrome (a new pre-release version of the browser reportedly fixes this). And some games, for instance "Diablo III," let you select the highest resolution available, while others don't even detect it. And who can say what will happen with the myriad programs available for download all over the net, many of which don't have graphics teams to address these issues? For power users, it could be something of a minefield.
That's not to say people should think twice about buying one of the new laptops if they feel so inclined. But as has often been the case with first-generation Apple products, there are a few hiccups to work out, so the first month or two may be be marred by occasional inconsistencies. Unless, of course, you decide to migrate to Apple's Retina-ready apps in order to smooth things out — as Apple surely hopes many will do.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.