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[personal profile] msagara
A little bit of background history, here.

I write on my laptops. I no longer work on desktops unless something peculiar demands it. This started some time ago, when our house could be populated by computer geeks who would sit down at the nearest desktop to web surf; I wanted a machine that I could close and tuck away. If the contents of my work machine were to be wiped out by user incompetence, I wanted to be certain it was my incompetence.

Laptops have LCD displays. I loved them when I first started using them because I found them so much easier on the eyes than CRTs. But LCDs work best at a fixed resolution. I could downscale the images, and that was fine - but text looked like fuzzy, blurry, anti-aliased hell. I could not work in a non-native resolution.

So I was stuck with whatever the resolution of the LCD on the laptop was.

The more pixels on a screen, the larger the desk-top space. Conversely, this makes all of the working windows much smaller. There was a race to see who could squeeze the most pixels into laptop LCDs. There are laptops now whose 1920 x 1200 resolution is the equivalent of a 30" monitor - but in a 17" diagonal space.

This would have been fine for me when I was thirty. But at almost fifty, I find the tiny type, the tiny icons, the tiny menubars … more difficult. I wanted a 17" screen that had a resolution of 1440 x 900 - because given LCD screens that would be both large enough and crisp enough. And that was never going to happen because most people who wanted 17" laptops did not want fewer pixels.

Anyway, five months ago, my husband wandered downstairs and said, "there are rumors that Apple is going to put a retina screen in their macbook pro line." With Apple, there are always rumors; this is not why he came downstairs. To my husband, this was almost ridiculous. He works on dual monitors on a desktop. He'll work on triple monitors, if he can (he programs). He hates working on laptops, and will do so only when something needs to be demo'd. Understanding that he is not in any way, shape or form, a laptop user, he came to ask me.

And I said "If Apple put a retina screen on a macbook, I would buy one tomorrow."

He blinked.

"I work with text. I work primarily with text. I spend hours staring at a screen. It is the one--and the only--thing that would cause me to buy a new computer at this point."

At which point, he decided that perhaps Apple was not entirely as crazy as he'd thought.

I was deep in deadlines when the new machine was announced. If not for LJ, I wouldn't have known, but someone on my LJ feed mentioned it.

I therefore have a new macbook pro.


My first impressions of the new machine: it's lighter. It's not notably faster, to my eye, but frankly, I've been doing an initial Time Machine backup for what feels like a full day, and that might eat some of the processor power. It is, in weight, somewhere between the rest of the macbook pro line and the macbook air line.

This is all irrelevant, though.

Let me talk about the retina display. For those apps which use text and fonts the way Apple does in many of its own apps, it's OMG wonderful. The text is crisp, it is clear, it's clean. At the distance at which I sit to type, it looks like print-on-page text. If you're sitting an inch away from the screen, it's not iPhone clean. Yes, I tried.

For the apps that don't, it's horrible. My husband said I'm incredibly picky, because it doesn't look horrible to him - but the difference between the two presentations makes me feel, instantly, like I've been sitting in front of a computer for Too Damn Long; it makes my eyes feel incredibly tired and strained, and I get the usual squinting headache.

This means I've been changing how I do things on the mac, because there are certain apps I need and use constantly - mail, for one. Twitter. I can live with a crappy looking OED (Oxford English Dictionary) because there has never been an OED app that doesn't look like garbage on the Mac, and because I don't actually use it all the time.

I hate change, so I've been grumping.

But: the one thing about the retina screen display that isn't widely advertised is this: you can set it to any of its allowable resolutions and for those apps that work well with Mac OS X, the text is just as crisp, just as clean at any size. I can set the machine to 1440 x 900 (which is, oddly enough, the recommended size), and it's crisp and clean. I can set it to 1024 x 640 and it's crisp and clean. I can set it to 1920 x 1200 and it's the same. That setting, though, is just too small for me; I've no doubt that many, many users will choose that one - because the text is clear enough it's legible even on a 15.4" display. (There's already a small application that will allow you to run in entirely native resolution - and I can't even imagine how difficult that would be to read and work in.) At the moment, I'm comfortable working in 1680 x 1050. But knowing that I can down-size with no loss of visual clarity is a huge comfort.

This means that I can have no desktop real estate but have large, easily accessible windows with large, easily read type. I can turn a 15" monitor into a 1024 x 640 screen. Everything scales: the menu bar, the windows, the text. If my eyes continue to shy away from tiny, tiny type it no longer matters. I can use a macbook. I can use a laptop.

The drive to add more pixels to screens no longer means that my eyesight and my need for larger type drives me out of the market. This was actually becoming a real worry for me, looking ahead two decades, because screens were getting more and more dense, and the resultant images tinier and tinier in their native resolutions.

Now, I can buy a machine that my son would happily use at its highest 'density', but use it at one that's comfortable, visually, for me. It can even be the same machine.

Well, okay, not the same machine, because no one messes with my writing machine, but the same model.
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msagara: (Default)
Michelle Sagara

April 2015


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