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Linux Is A Lemon On The Retina MacBook Pro

Michael Larabel

Published on 16 August 2012
Written by Michael Larabel
Page 1 of 4 - 37 Comments

If you are planning to buy one of the new Apple MacBook Pro notebooks with a Retina Display for use under Linux, hold off on your purchase. Running the Retina MacBook Pro with Linux isn't a trouble-free experience and after using even the latest development code and jumping through various hoops, Linux on the latest Apple hardware is still less than an ideal experience. Linux support will improve for the Retina MacBook Pro in the coming months, but it's not likely to see any proper "out of the box" experience until next year.

A few weeks back I ordered the Retina MacBook Pro to see how well it would work out with Linux. Unfortunately, it's been a disappointing experience getting Linux to run on the hardware. Like many, I was attracted to the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display over its impressive 15.4-inch 2880x1800 display that packs in more than five million pixels. The weight of just 2.02 kilograms and height of 1.8 centimeters are also very attractive attributes to this new laptop. Aside from the Linux troubles encountered, the only other negative point about this high-end laptop is its price, which for the 2.3GHz Ivy Bridge model is $2199 USD or $2799 for the base price on the top-end model and not counting optional upgrades.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display at 2.3GHz is powered by an Intel Core i7 3615QM "Ivy Bridge" processor. The Intel i7-3615QM is a quad-core processor with Hyper Threading that can Turbo Boost from 2.3GHz to 3.3GHz. This Ivy Bridge processor has integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics (Gen7) while the Retina MacBook Pro also has a discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M "Kepler" graphics processor with 1GB of dedicated video RAM for handling more demanding graphics. NVIDIA Kepler GPUs work under Linux with the binary blob, but their open-source support comes up short.


With Apple OS X and Microsoft Windows drivers, the system can dynamically switch between the Intel and NVIDIA GPUs but these hybrid graphics are currently broken under Linux -- at least there's progress in the right direction. This MacBook Pro also has 8GB of DDR3L-1600MHz memory, 256GB of SSD storage, and a 720p FaceTime HD camera. The notebook measures in at 1.8 x 24.71 x 35.89 cm while weighing just 2.02 kilograms. Connectivity on the notebook with Retina display includes two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, headphone port, and SDXC slot.


The Retina MacBook Pro does away with any DVD drive and there is no Gigabit Ethernet or Firewire on the unit itself, although Apple is now making Thunderbolt adapters to offer these connection interfaces. In terms of the Thunderbolt support under Linux, Apple Thunderbolt has Linux problems as I noted a few weeks prior when testing the 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display. Wireless support on the Retina MacBook Pro includes 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.

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