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Spoiled by Retina, in less than a day

I finally got a 15'' Retina MacBook Pro this morning to replace my 13'' mid-2012 non-Retina MacBook Pro, whose spinning disk has been getting increasingly slower (or so I felt).1 Apparently this is a pretty significant landmark in my personal computing history, since I'm saying goodbye to both spinning disk and non-Retina display on my primary computing device.

The transition was initially smooth except for a few things. First, as a tap-to-click wizard I immediately turned on tap-to-click, but I had a hard time dragging things because it was too easy to trigger a force touch instead on the medium setting, and under the firm setting I could hardly force touch at all; in the end I just turned off force touch altogether, and haven't had any problem since. By the way, I was initially worried about the keyboard too but it worked surprisingly well for me, so no complaints there. Secondly, 10pt non-anti-aliased Monaco looks weird on Retina since it's no longer the beloved bitmap version. I turned on antialiasing and now it's no longer weird, but it felt totally different and I'm not sure if I like it (definitely not as much as the 10pt bitmap Monaco anyway). It's okay right now but I'll probably need to spend some time trying out different fonts. Obviously there are like-minded folks out there. Sad story.

So much for first impressions. Apart from Monaco, everything felt great, until I returned home (I was doing setup away from home to get a less shitty connection) and connected my 27'' external monitor. Holy crap, I couldn't believe my eyes. The dock icons — the first things I saw before launching anything — looked so blurry I couldn't stare at them for more than a few seconds. That was after staring at the Retina display for less than five hours. Not to mention PDFs; they look ultra crisp on the Retina display and ultra crappy on non-Retina — especially in Preview, which is a problem I've been aware of since Yosemite.2 Moreover, the terminal font is more problematic than initially estimated — now I have a retina display and a non-retina one side-by-side, yet I can only set one font for my default profile, which will never satisfy both!3 This is so awkward I can't think of a solution. One obvious approach is to ditch the blurry 27'' and only work from the Retina 15'', but should I really let the large canvas sit idle? No idea. Or should I get a 4K external display? First, a 4K display at 27'' still can't rival the pixel density of 2880x1800 at 15.4'' (Apple ships 5K at 27'' for a reason). Secondly and more importantly, I don't have the budget for such a thing after throwing money at an expensive 15'' rMBP (with 512 GB SSD)...

Transition periods are always awkward, I guess.

12/17/2015 Update. After more than a full day's use, I actually quite love 10pt Monaco on a Retina display. I tried various fonts, including Menlo, Consolas and so on, but none of them has that whimsical feeling of Monaco. Hopefully the font is stuck now.

12/28/2015 Update. A dozen days later, I can hardly look at 10pt Monaco on a non-Retina screen anymore, antialiased or not, especially not in bold. Mind blown.

  1. I haven't got the nerve to replace the hard drive myself, since it looks so much more complicated than upgrading the memory.↩︎

  2. PDFs looked so horrible in Preview (and TeXShop, my LaTeX previewer, which only serves a niche) that I often viewed them in browsers (!!), where text at least looks reasonable (on par with slightly blurry text elsewhere). PDF Expert came along and kind of made the situation better for non-Retina.↩︎

  3. Provided that I'll religiously stick to 10pt non-anti-aliased Monaco on non-Retina.↩︎