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Taking a Peek Inside the MacBook Pro's Retina Display

By - Source: iFixit | B 27 comments

iFixit takes a look under the hood of Apple's eye-popping Retina Display.

It's been a little over a week since Apple first introduced the world to its Retina Display MacBook Pro. In that time, repair blog iFixit has already dubbed the laptop the least repairable notebook to date. One of the bigger problems iFixit encountered in its initial teardown was the display assembly, which is is completely fused with no glass protecting it. If anything ever fails inside the display, the user would need to replace the entire (costly) assembly.

This week, iFixit decided to take on the Retina Display to see what was inside. At its thickest point, the Retina Display is 7mm thick. At its thinnest, it's 3mm. This is just a fraction of a mm thinner than the regular MacBook Pro. This thinnest is achieved by using the aluminum case as the frame for the LCD panel and the LCD as the front glass. While this contributes to the slim form-factor for the display assembly, it's also what makes it so difficult to repair should anything go wrong. You've also got the fact that the display hinges actually have cables routed through them as opposed to underneath cable retainers. This means you have to replace the cables and hinges together.

Other discoveries of the Retina Display teardown include a FaceTime HD camera, a series of films and sheets for manipulating light before sending it out to the viewer's eyes, a strip of 48 LEDs along the bottom to provide light for the display, and a laser engraved internal use code on the bottom edge of the case.

Click through to iFixit for the full gallery of pictures and info on just how they got inside Apple's 2880×1800, 5,184,000-pixel display.

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  • 4 Hide
    back_by_demand , June 20, 2012 1:35 PM
    I like the idea of such a high res screen in principle, as it could show media in all it's intended glory, but this is assuming that such high res media is actively available
    ...
    Until such time as 4K video is widely distributed I think this is a bit of a waste, but it's good to know that when it is then this screen will be ready for it
    ...
    Unfortunately I think that by the time that happens a display of this resolution may well be standard on the majority of machines and the high premium paid to get it early will have been wasted
  • 3 Hide
    The_Trutherizer , June 20, 2012 1:45 PM
    @back_by_demand: You have a camera?
  • 1 Hide
    deadlockedworld , June 20, 2012 1:50 PM
    There is no link to the article on ifixit.
  • -8 Hide
    getreal , June 20, 2012 1:51 PM
    JUST_THE_FACTS0000NOT MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE - ifixit referred to the display as an "engineering marvel". Good job misreporting the story and focusing on only the things that will further fuel the anti-Apple crowd!By the way, Android sucks, and Surface will flop.


    Yep. No one else will have this technology for at least six months to a year, and most people don't replace their own busted LCD displays, since they typically cost more than a new laptop. But let's focus on it being "hard to fix" and not focus on the actual screen or technology.

    I thought this article would be about the hardware, not blatantly trolling Apple. But hey, this is toms; all you do is troll Apple anymore.
  • -5 Hide
    PTNLemay , June 20, 2012 2:21 PM
    I don't see why we need to jump straight from 1080p up to 4000. It would be better I find if there was some middle-ground to transition through.
  • 3 Hide
    phantomtrooper , June 20, 2012 3:03 PM
    getrealYep. No one else will have this technology for at least six months to a year, and most people don't replace their own busted LCD displays, since they typically cost more than a new laptop. But let's focus on it being "hard to fix" and not focus on the actual screen or technology.I thought this article would be about the hardware, not blatantly trolling Apple. But hey, this is toms; all you do is troll Apple anymore.


    On most laptops, replacing an LCD is easy and much cheaper than buy a whole new laptop (costs about $100). If you take it to Geek Squad or something it may cost as much as a new laptop however. Replacing a laptop LCD is easy enough that even someone who is not very tech savvy could do it (all you do is remove a few screws).

    Most organizations prefer to have their own tech support on hand that can repair laptops. Having to send a laptop like this back to Apple to have anything done to it for support kills it IMO for a professional environment.
  • 2 Hide
    guardianangel42 , June 20, 2012 3:09 PM
    Honestly I just don't see the point for anything other than editing photographs. I'm sitting at my computer with a 1080p 24" screen in front of me and frankly don't see the point of having a much higher resolution, especially from a gaming standpoint.

    I don't notice jagged edges on much of anything and if I do, they're generally imperceptible if I'm not looking for them.

    Frankly I see 4K screens suffering the same fate as 3D; heavily advertised by TV companies but never really catching on.

    I mean think about it; from SD to HD was an increase of 6 times the number of pixels. More than that though was the introduction of the significantly clearer progressive scan and the superior LCD and Plasma technologies which afforded better and truer colors.

    Between HD and 4K is a much more modest tripling (really 3.38 times more) of the number of pixels. And what else? OLED could do a lot but that is easily applied to existing technologies. Frankly on anything with less than 100" 4K is just plain wasteful when your audience is sitting at least 6' away from the screen.

    Plus think of the infrastructure shift that would be necessary. The bandwidth you would need to transmit and receive that resolution in real time would be staggering and would likely require a decrease in bit rate and increase in compression that would further compromise video quality, making the higher resolution effectively useless.

    2K makes sense, but 4K really doesn't.
  • 1 Hide
    gwolfman , June 20, 2012 3:09 PM
    PTNLemayI don't see why we need to jump straight from 1080p up to 4000. It would be better I find if there was some middle-ground to transition through.

    Technically by the way you're judging it you should be saying "...from 1080p to 1800p," not 4000p. And if there is a middle ground, 2560x1600 should become the new (minimum) standard.
  • 1 Hide
    getreal , June 20, 2012 3:29 PM
    phantomtrooperMost organizations prefer to have their own tech support on hand that can repair laptops. Having to send a laptop like this back to Apple to have anything done to it for support kills it IMO for a professional environment.


    WRONG. Most PROFESSIONAL operations have warranties and deals with vendors to replace hardware and do not staff people for broke / fix hardware issues. These jobs are almost entirely done as contract work where the vendor sends a tech on site to perform repairs.

    Have you ever actually had a real job in IT?
  • -3 Hide
    back_by_demand , June 20, 2012 3:43 PM
    The_Trutherizer@back_by_demand: You have a camera?

    Yes, a nice DSLR and I can see this resolution being useful for editing high res pictures
    ...
    But it's still a high price to pay for essentially a single/niche use
    ...
    This screen exists due to peoples inability to differentiate between wants and needs
  • 1 Hide
    molo9000 , June 20, 2012 3:58 PM
    guardianangel42Honestly I just don't see the point for anything other than editing photographs. I'm sitting at my computer with a 1080p 24" screen in front of me and frankly don't see the point of having a much higher resolution, especially from a gaming standpoint.I don't notice jagged edges on much of anything and if I do, they're generally imperceptible if I'm not looking for them.


    It's like the 24frames per second cinema standard we've had for almost 100 years or the sound of a normal stereo vs a 10grand Bang&Olufsen system.
    You don't notice anything missing until you've seen(or heard) the difference.

    I've looked at this retina display in a store today. It's not as dramatic as one might think (definitely not 10grand B&O dramatic :)  ), but text is clearly crisper and everything looks sharper.

    btw: you don't notice jagged edges on a 1080p 24" monitor? get your eyes checked!
    I have to run BF3 on ultra but without AA to get 50-60fps on my system and on a 1080p monitor I notice jagged edges everywhere... and far away targets are only a few pixels.
    Resolutions greater than 1080p definitely make sense for gaming, once the hardware to get good fps on such high resolutions is affordable.
  • 1 Hide
    quantum mask , June 20, 2012 3:59 PM
    getrealWRONG. Most PROFESSIONAL operations have warranties and deals with vendors to replace hardware and do not staff people for broke / fix hardware issues. These jobs are almost entirely done as contract work where the vendor sends a tech on site to perform repairs.Have you ever actually had a real job in IT?

    Actually it all depends on how a company is run. When I worked in IT for a small engineering firm, sometimes turnaround time was more important than the cost of repair. Some equipment needed to be running and we could not afford having time lost while a certain piece of equipment is sent away for repairs. If we could fix it in-house, we did, and, coincidentally, we fixed more laptops than any other piece of equipment. I guess it depends on how the company wants to spend it's money, or if it even can. That Mac would definitely have to be sent away. (We don't use Macs in engineering firms anyway)
  • 2 Hide
    quantum mask , June 20, 2012 4:00 PM
    The_Trutherizer@back_by_demand: You have a camera?

    His DSLR will still only shoot 1080p video
  • 5 Hide
    getreal , June 20, 2012 4:02 PM
    back_by_demandBut it's still a high price to pay for essentially a single/niche use...This screen exists due to peoples inability to differentiate between wants and needs

    Couldn't the same be said about all Macs in general?
  • 0 Hide
    quantum mask , June 20, 2012 4:04 PM
    back_by_demandThis screen exists due to peoples inability to differentiate between wants and needs

    Here, here
  • 1 Hide
    Travis Beane , June 20, 2012 4:10 PM
    And yet to get a 2560x1600 is $1000 or more. Granted, they're usually IPS panels.
    I do wonder on what colour reproduction accuracy and response rates this display has though. Is it acceptable for professional usage or gaming? 120Hz?

    As a gamer, of course I want the highest resolution possible. I don't mind if it's only 20", because I'll just sit closer. I want that extreme level of detail. Plus, I'd finally have an excuse to upgrade my i7-920 and 5830.
  • 1 Hide
    getreal , June 20, 2012 4:13 PM
    quantum maskActually it all depends on how a company is run. When I worked in IT for a small engineering firm, sometimes turnaround time was more important than the cost of repair. Some equipment needed to be running and we could not afford having time lost while a certain piece of equipment is sent away for repairs. If we could fix it in-house, we did, and, coincidentally, we fixed more laptops than any other piece of equipment. I guess it depends on how the company wants to spend it's money, or if it even can. That Mac would definitely have to be sent away. (We don't use Macs in engineering firms anyway)


    HP, Lexmark, Xerox, etc. typically have a tech on site next day with parts. Service contracts are established to cover these, though incidentals (damage) typically are paid out of pocket by the department that "owns" the equipment.

    Small businesses may employ a "computer guy" to do this full-time, but even most of those I know use a local tech company to outsource repairs.

    I should probably rephrase and say "have you ever had a job in a large organization?", which was a general question and not a diss.
  • 0 Hide
    husker , June 20, 2012 4:17 PM
    It seems to me that there is confusion about exactly what to focus on. The higher resolution is NOT the story here. Based on the changes to the macbook listed above, the majority of changes involve making it thin and keeping production costs lower. Would there be much of anything new here if it were simply a matter of making a standard thickness monitor to match the higher resolution?
  • 1 Hide
    quantum mask , June 20, 2012 4:22 PM
    getrealHP, Lexmark, Xerox, etc. typically have a tech on site next day with parts. Service contracts are established to cover these, though incidentals (damage) typically are paid out of pocket by the department that "owns" the equipment.Small businesses may employ a "computer guy" to do this full-time, but even most of those I know use a local tech company to outsource repairs.I should probably rephrase and say "have you ever had a job in a large organization?", which was a general question and not a diss.

    I gotcha. Yeah, if it's a big organization then this is a moot issue. If it's a smaller organization like the one I worked for, they probably wouldn't have realized it was an issue until it was an issue. Then, they would be on the IT guy's case, whom, by the way, they didn't consult before they purchased the dang thing! -venting-
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