Dude, why must you put that MacBook Pro laptop on your lap?

Summary:Almost all reviews of the new new MacBook Pro have a section on heat and noise. The new model with a Retina Display may run "too hot," depending upon what program it's crunching. Still, here's a tip: even though a certain class of computers are called "laptops" it's not advisable to actually work with them on your lap.

Almost all reviews of the new new MacBook Pro have a section on heat and noise. The new model may run "too hot," depending upon what program it's crunching. Still, here's a tip: even though a certain class of computers are called "laptops" it's not advisable to actually work with them on your lap.

In the reviews, heat and noise observations are often being combined, since the fans are there to cool the logic board. Still, noise and heat are very different user elements and subjective in nature. After all, what might be warm to me, could way hot to someone else. Same difference with fan noise.

Apple says it went to some length to mitigate noise in the new MacBook Pro using asymetrically-spaced fan blades and new venting slots that work together to move more air inside the enclosure, reducing heat while at the same time, reducing what Apple calls "tonal impact." Noise.

For most of its history, the MacBook Pro models have run hot, sometimes very hot. Burning hot. From what I can see, most reviewers say the new MacBook Pro with Retina Display runs a bit cooler. The new lower-power processor and the fans appear to make some difference. Or not, depending.

At The Verge, reviewer Ross Miller says after a stress test running CPUTest for 12 minutes straight, the keyboard gets hot.

There’s good news and bad news: while the fan was surprisingly quiet — even in an apartment with closed windows and some light traffic and rain outside, I could barely hear it — the heat was in the ballpark of what we’d expect from our personal 2011 MacBook Pro. Which is to say, hot — particularly the metal rim around the ‘U’ key, which is about where the processor rests internally. It's hard to touch for more than a few seconds.

Um, why wouldn't it get hot?

Roman Loyola at Macworld said running a demanding game was where push came to shove off his lap in "subjective observations/"

Front Vents: The Retina MacBook Pro has vents that sit in front on the display, something you don’t see on the regular MacBook Pro. After Diablo III finished its installation, I ran the game. I was able to select 2880-by-1800 in the game’s settings, and during gameplay, the fans are definitely running and noticeable. The laptop heated up immediately, in the forward part of the bottom, underneath the keyboard where the GPU and CPU are located, and it heated up enough for me to move the laptop to a desk.

I watched several YouTube videos and iTunes movie trailers, all streaming 1080p or 720p over the Internet. The laptop got a bit warmer than when I installed Diablo III, but not hot enough for me to need to move the laptop off my lap. I wasn’t able to trigger the fans while doing this, and the videos ran smoothly.

The MacBook Pro is a desktop-replacement computer, it's a "laptop" because of Apple's excellent engineering and the industry-wide trend towards miniaturization and mobility. But is it reasonable to demand that a powerful, mobile computer should be able to sit comfortably on your lap instead of a desk? Really! I wrote about the trade-offs of performance and mobility in a post following the initial release of the MacBook Air. Of course, it's easy for me to ignore the lap issue, since I don't have much of a lap. I use a nice wooden tray when computing in bed.

My Apple Core colleague Jason O'Grady wrote the other day about the hard choice between buying a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro. It's useful reading.

However, for a number of users, the deciding element for the MacBook Pro with Retina Display will be the difficulty installing third-party options. There are no slots for DIMMs — customers should spend the extra $200 to max out the memory at 16GB at purchase time (like the MacBook Air). Same deal with its proprietary flash memory storage modules. And of course, there's no removable battery (but that has been true since the MBP generation).

Sure, upgrades will be offered, but the difficulty is over the top. In its teardown analysis, iFixit gave the MBP Retina a 1 out of 10 rating for upgradability and user repairs.

•Proprietary pentalobe screws prevent you from gaining access to anything inside. •As in the MacBook Air, the RAM is soldered to the logic board. Max out at 16GB now, or forever hold your peace—you can't upgrade. •The proprietary SSD isn't upgradeable either (yet), as it is similar but not identical to the one in the Air. It is a separate daughtercard, and we’re hopeful we can offer an upgrade in the near future. •The lithium-polymer battery is glued rather than screwed into the case, which increases the chances that it'll break during disassembly. The battery also covers the trackpad cable, which tremendously increases the chance that the user will shear the cable in the battery removal process. •The display assembly is completely fused, and there’s no glass protecting it. If anything ever fails inside the display, you will need to replace the entire extremely expensive assembly.

If upgrading is a value to you, stick with the other 15-inch model, which appears to be a refresh of the previous MacBook Pro (Late 2011) model.

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Hardware


David Morgenstern has covered the Mac market and other technology segments for 20 years. In the recent past, he founded Ziff-Davis' Storage Supersite, served as news editor for Ziff Davis Internet and held several executive editorial positions at eWEEK. In the 1990s, David was editor of Ziff Davis' award-winning MacWEEK news publication a... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.