AMITIAE - Saturday 30 November 2013

Cassandra: The new 13" Retina Display MacBook Pro and its Missing Infrared Sensor

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I took delivery of the latest 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display about 3 weeks ago (11 November) and after a couple of days setting it up, including shifting data from the 2007 15" MacBook Pro, switched all my work to the newer machine. My experiences with the 13" Mac had been good, until I tried to run a presentation in class.

Working with the newer Mac has been a delight on the whole. Despite (on paper) having lesser specifications than the Mac I had moved from, I have found that the new Mac is a faster all-round machine for day to day operations. The processor may be slower (2.6 GHz Intel Core i5) compared to the 2.7 GHz i7 processor in the 15" MacBook Pro, but I have balanced that out somewhat with 16 GB RAM (as opposed to 8 GB) that runs at the faster 1600 MHz (DDR 3) and the 512 GB SSD storage compared with a 500 GB hard disk that spins at 5200 rpm. The whole experience is snappier - more lively - especially when waking from sleep or restarting.

MacBook Pro 13

Several of my classes include presentation techniques. My students are not good as they have little experience of making presentations. Their only examples are teachers. Teachers do not present. As a result, some of the students have rather bad habits, as well as nervousness, when it is their turn to make a presentation.

To bring them up to speed, I select a number of clips to illustrate certain points that they need to consider for a good presentation. Most important is knowing, not learning; planning; and rehearsal. As the 2007 introduction of the iPhone was considered to be one of the best business presentations ever, I use sections from that. As I was there, I can also add some other insights into the event.

The introduction of the iPad is also one of my prime choices, especially as time allocated to each of the presenters is carefully controlled: you can almost set your watch on the changeover between the parts, give or take a few seconds. Other clips come from Roger Rosner who outlines iWork and the presentations of Craig Federighi on Mavericks and iOS 7.

As a light-hearted counter balance I also include examples of what not to do, such as Steve Ballmer's infamous "Monkey Boy Dance" and the leaping Jonny Shih with his PadPhone introduction.

I also have to make presentations myself. Most of the time these are on subjects that I have done many times before, so am able to give a demonstration of knowledge, explaining to the students that I make it all up as I go along (sort of true), but control the input by the use of headings.

This week, I started a presentation on Presentations, but as I reached the first transition - changing from slide 1 to slide 2 - there was a minor disaster: the remote control failed to work. In a couple of nano seconds, I realised that it was still paired with the 15": MacBook Pro, made a decision to fix that when I got home, and pressed the key to change the slide. The students never knew.


At home, I started the 15" MacBook Pro and entered the Security panel of System Preferences. Pressing the the Advanced button at bottom right, I was able to un-pair the infrared remote control from the Mac quite easily.


My problem came when I tried to pair the remote with the new, Retina display 13" MacBook Pro. I pressed the button according to instructions, but nothing happened. I checked the Security Preferences, but there was no suitable checkbox. Then I looked more closely at the Mac. Not that there was much information about this at the time of the release, but the Infrared sensor is no more.

I looked really carefully, but could see nothing that resembled a sensor on the (very) clean front of the Mac. I looked at the technical specifications of the new computer, then downloaded a PDF of the manual. None of these give any indication that there is an IR sensor with the Retina display 13" MacBook Pro.

To confirm, I made a visit to the iStudio in Siam Discovery Center just after lunchtime. As I looked at the MacBook Pro, one of the staff came by and I asked about this. He confirmed that the Retina display MacBook Pro models do not have the IR sensor but that the basic MacBook Pro (without Retina display) does.

Forgive me, but I do not remember any announcement from Apple about this omission.

When making a presentation, I do not tether myself to the Mac. I wander about the area, occasionally pointing out items on the screen with my hand, but usually standing in the center at the front of a classroom. This week, I found I had to adjust my position often. Every time I needed to change a slide or a heading, I had to use the keys.

IR Remote

With no Infra Red sensor - I now have a spare remote of course - I do still have one option in the iPhone. I have had the Keynote Remote app for a while. This is not to be confused with Apple's other Remote app which is for controlling iTunes (and Apple TV).

As I have taken delivery of a new iPhone since I last used that Keynote Remote app, I took some time to make sure it was set up. I also reminded myself of how it works: for example the different screen displays in Portrait or Landscape modes.

Keynote Remote

Keynote Remote connects via Wi-Fi which is all very well when you have the Moscone Center or the Apple Town Hall at your disposal. Working on different floors of a university building where connections are sometimes hit and miss, means this is less reliable. Keynote Remote also has a Bluetooth connection feature, but that limits the range to a few metres, if the connection does not fade during the presentation.

I may well miss the IR Remote with the ability to bounce the signal off a white board at the front of the class, which allowed me a lot more freedom to go walkabout while presenting.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

information Tag information Tag

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page