Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display review

2 Nov 2013

Subtle tweaks make a big impact – with a lightning-fast SSD and improved graphics, Apple has another winner on its hands

Price when reviewed: 
1,499(£1,499 inc VAT)
Buy it now for 
5

While all eyes were on the iPad Air and the newly pixel-packed iPad mini at Apple’s autumn keynote, the company also revealed an update to its 13in and 15in MacBook Pro with Retina display models. It was a moment many had been eagerly anticipating – the arrival of Intel’s Haswell CPUs alongside a selection of turbo-charged PCI Express SSDs. However, the big surprise wasn’t anything to do with the technology inside, but rather the price cut, which saw the entry-level MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display tumble by £350 to £1,099 inc VAT.

Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display

The price isn’t the only thing that’s smaller. Apple has also managed to shave a few grams off the MacBook Pro’s chassis, which has dropped the weight from 1.63kg to 1.55kg. It’s lost a millimetre around the waist, too, so it’s now 18mm thick, including the rubber feet on the underside. It isn’t slender enough to trouble any Ultrabooks – it’s a veritable lump compared to Sony’s 1.05kg VAIO Pro 13 – but the whole package, including the PSU, comes in at a manageable 1.81kg.

Under the surface, Apple has rung the changes. Gone are the Ivy Bridge CPUs of old, replaced by a trio of Intel Haswell options: two Core i5 parts and a Core i7, the latter being a pricey optional upgrade. Most notably, and unlike the Haswell-powered Windows laptops we’ve seen, Apple has used CPUs equipped with Intel’s Iris Graphics 5100 GPU, which promises a significant advance on the Intel HD Graphics in the last generation. Rounding off the new specification is a range of new PCI Express SSD drives, with capacities in the preconfigured models stretching from 128GB up to 512GB, with 1TB an optional extra.

Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display

Suffice to say, the move to Haswell delivers a whole range of improvements. In our Real World Benchmarks, the improvements were slight: the previous Ivy Bridge model, with its 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, scored 0.73 overall; our review model, equipped with a 2.6GHz Core i5-4288U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD, edged ahead with 0.76.

Subjectively, it’s the new PCI Express SSD that brings the biggest boost. Whether you’re working in OS X or Windows 8 via Boot Camp, the MacBook Pro feels incredibly light on its feet. Applications bound into view, and boot times are remarkably swift. Put to the test in Windows 8, the 512GB SSD in our review unit blitzed the AS SSD benchmark: it achieved sequential read and write speeds of 723MB/sec and 616MB/sec respectively, well ahead of the fastest 2.5in desktop SSD we’ve reviewed, Samsung’s 840 Pro.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,249
Price inc VAT £1,499
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 5
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 2 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 314 x 219 x 18mm (WDH)
Weight 1.550kg
Travelling weight 1.8kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-4288U
RAM capacity 8.00GB
Memory type DDR3L
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 0

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 2,560
Resolution screen vertical 1,600
Resolution 2560 x 1600
Graphics chipset Intel Iris Graphics 5100
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 2

Drives

Spindle speed N/A
Hard disk Apple PCI Express SSD
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed N/A
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 1
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.0mp

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 11hr 4min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 17min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 58fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.76
Responsiveness score 0.84
Media score 0.82
Multitasking score 0.63

Operating system and software

Operating system Mac OS X 10.5
OS family Mac OS X
Recovery method Recovery partition

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