Retina display MacBook Pro puts an end to the 17-inch

One sad footnote following today’s WWDC keynote: it appears that Apple has put an end to the 17-inch MacBook Pro, at least for now. The unit is no longer in Apple’s tech specs product matrix.

Up until yesterday, Apple still listed the 17-inch MacBook Pro as an option – the $2,499 machine came equipped with a 2.4 GHz quad-core i7 microprocessor, 750 GB hard disk drive, and AMD Radeon HD 6770M GPU. The system may still be available through some third-party Mac resellers, and is still listed among the refurbished units available sold via Apple’s online store.

Billed by Apple as “the ultimate mobile studio,” the system came equipped with a 1920 x 1200 pixel display. And that, right there, is probably why Apple chose to put an end to the massive mobile workstation.

Because on Monday, Apple also introduced the Retina Display-equipped 15.4-inch MacBook Pro. That newly-tooled machine sports an astonishing 2880 x 1800 pixel display – the highest resolution of any laptop available today, and higher even than Apple’s 27-inch Thunderbolt Display.

While there might be some benefit to the larger form factor of the 17-inch, it does seem increasingly anachronistic to have such a massive laptop when its primary benefit – higher resolution – has been usurped by a slimmer, smaller model that is mostly its better, for less money to start. A Retina Display-equipped MacBook Pro with comparable storage and better graphics is only $300 more than a 17-inch MacBook Pro would be.

I admit to a special fondness for the 17-inch model. I hopped on board that bandwagon years ago, when Apple introduced the 17-inch PowerBook G4, and stuck with that size after Apple made the Intel switch with the MacBook Pro. It was huge, heavy and unwieldy – I rarely walked away from a week-long sojourn at a trade show without welts on my shoulders from lugging the thing around in my backpack – but it was comfortable to use, in the same way that a vintage Cadillac is a comfortable ride.

I only gave up the 17-inch years later when a hardening economy and my own emptier pockets forced me to downsize. Now I’ve gone to the other end of the spectrum – I’m writing this article on an 11-inch MacBook Air. It’s certainly not as big and comfy as my old 17-inch MacBook Pro, but I don’t miss the welts.