After the exchange with Apple, and two months since I originally received the laptop, the final piece of the puzzle came together today. Parallels released an update to its software that allows you to run Windows in a virtual machine, and it supports the high resolution of the "retina" screen. A few other apps, including Google Chrome, have also been updated, so now I'm getting the full beautiful experience of that screen.
Windows 8 looks fantastic on this computer. More importantly, Visual Studio is incredible. Staring at code for long periods of time is a lot more enjoyable when the text is as sharp as a printed sheet from a laser printer.
The eye candy is certainly something that makes working on it more enjoyable, but even prior to the updates to support the screen, the innards of the computer have made everything about development faster. Being able to run more than one VM at a time for testing, building stuff and running tests super fast, and Intellisense that doesn't drag... it's all good.
I see a lot of people complain about the cost of well endowed computers, and I don't get it. Do they not remember what it was like a dozen years ago? I remember the first laptop I ever bought was $2,500 in 1999, which is about $3,300 in 2012 dollars. That wasn't even a very powerful computer relative to the desktops of the time. Now you can buy a stacked laptop for around two grand or so, and it will last for years. And if that machine is the primary tool for what you do for a living, why would you not pay for something excellent? Do you think auto mechanics buy cheap tools from Wal-Mart?
I've started to look around at the other computers in the house. My desktop, a 27" iMac, is almost three years old, and not having a solid state drive makes development feel slow. That said, I don't do all that much dev work on it anymore, as it's mostly my hub for photos, video and music. For the most part is still performs the media tasks adequately. I looked into an SSD upgrade, but the one manufacturer that sold an upgrade kid doesn't anymore, and pulling it apart to upgrade is not easy, either. The iMac line hasn't been updated in awhile, and I can't really justify replacing it, so I suppose I'll use it for at least another year. I foresee that being Simon's first computer.
Meanwhile, Diana's computer, a 13" MBP, will be three years old in January. She's perfectly content with it, and it doesn't appear to be falling behind in any particular way. I'm amazed that the battery performance is still so excellent with well over 400 charge cycles. I suspect when she's ready, we can replace that one with a MacBook Air.