Retina MacBook Pro Graphics: OS X Is Okay, But Linux Breaks
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 8 August 2012 at 03:07 PM EDT. 28 Comments
While the Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display is beautiful having a 15-inch display running at a resolution of 2880 x 1800 and 220 pixels-per-inch, Linux isn't ready for this high-performance, high pixel density notebook.

Details in full for running Linux on the Retina MacBook Pro will be published in the coming days along with benchmarks, but simply put, Linux isn't ready for this new high-end Apple notebook that's based upon Intel's Ivy Bridge processor with hybrid NVIDIA graphics and a retina display. Linux fails miserably at this point on the hardware for Linux desktop end-users, aside from the troubles with using an Apple Thunderbolt Display. This article will be along the lines of Linux Fails With The Apple Retina MacBook Pro.

The Linux desktop isn't properly ready for this high pixel density, Thunderbolt has the aforementioned problems, hybrid/switching graphics aren't yet properly supported under Linux, there's even simple mode-setting issues with this hardware, the battery power consumption is a disaster with Linux compared to OS X, etc. All the details will be revealed in this later article; I'm just waiting for the next round of August advertisements to get going, in order to support this extensive testing work and hardware purchases that were involved with this much sought after Linux hardware testing. (You can also help via subscribing to Phoronix Premium and/or making a PayPal / Flattr tip.)

For now you can also read the earlier Apple's Retina MacBook Pro Causes Linux Woes. I'm also answering Linux questions via @MichaelLarabel on Twitter.

Anyhow, for those curious about what the retina display 2880 x 1800 graphics performance is like when the GPU drivers are working, here's some results under OS X 10.7 and OS X 10.8. As shared a few days ago though, Linux Isn't Alone With OpenGL Driver Issues.

Benchmarks were done of OS X 10.7.4 and OS X 10.8 from the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro with 2.3GHz Ivy Bridge CPU. These are just some random benchmarks to show what the OpenGL frame-rates are like for Apple's operating system when running at the impressive 2880 x 1800 graphics and using the auto-switching Intel HD 4000 / NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics support.

Xonotic fairs pretty well at the 2880 x 1800 resolution even as the image quality settings are increased. OS X 10.8 "Mountain Lion" does appear to offer up some OpenGL performance improvements for this hardware configuration over OS X Lion. If you want to see how your system compares to these Xonotic results, with the Phoronix Test Suite installed it's just a matter of running phoronix-test-suite benchmark 1207314-SU-1207300SU41.

More data is forthcoming.

About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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