Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Retina Divide

Jason Snell:

Four and a half years later, it’s still an open question. The laptop line still features a $999 non-Retina MacBook Air. Apple’s had a sub-$1000 starting price for Mac laptops for some time now, but the cheapest retina Mac is the $1299 MacBook. That’s a $300 divide. On the iMac front it’s a similar story—the two base models of the 21.5-inch iMac are non-Retina, starting at $1099 and $1299. The first Retina model is $1499, a $200 divide.

You can mentally insert iPad prices on the graphic Snell has put into this post: iPad Mini and iPad Air 2 starting at $399,1 the iPad Pro at $599, and the 12.9-inch Pro at $799. All include Retina displays that support at least 100% of the RGB colour gamut.

That means that Apple’s products have Retina displays at every $200 price point from $399 to $799, and then again from $1,299 through $2,399 (though there are two $300 gaps in there). But there is still that $500 gap between the least expensive iPad and the least expensive Retina Mac, and the same $500 split between the least expensive MacBook Air and the entry-level MacBook Pro — effectively, the Retina version of the Air.

What’s striking to me is that the MacBook and the previous-generation 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro both started at the same $1299 price point. The gap has been closed between the least-expensive model of the highest-end iPad, but that’s through the introduction of the iPad Pro, not the reduction of Mac prices. That makes a lot of sense when you consider the positioning of the iPad Pro in the trite cars-vs-trucks analogy, but it’s also notable that the $1299 price point is the lowest Apple either can’t or won’t break for a Retina Mac.


  1. The iPad Mini 2 is $269, but it is entirely outdated. I wouldn’t be surprised if iOS 11 doesn’t support it. ↩︎