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Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 2 Nov 2013

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,249 (£1,499 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £1207
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO A-List

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.

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User comments

chipset?

Why do you keep describing the CPU integrated graphics sub-system as a "chipset"? It was bad enough when people started referring to a single support chip as the "chipset" just because that functionality used to be two or more chips, but calling a part of one chip a "chipset" really is draining language of all meaning!

By JohnAHind on 2 Nov 2013

2 year warranty?

when did apple start to offer a free 2 year collect and return warranty?

I can find no mention of it on their site. All I can see is 3 years of applecare at £199.

By imaginarynumber on 3 Nov 2013

@imaginarynumber

I believe it is an EU requirement. Apple have been in trouble for selling Applecare to customers who are already covered by their statutory rights.

By tirons1 on 3 Nov 2013

Not as good with Windows

If you are planning on running Windows apps on a VM then the higher resolution screen will put a stop to this as apps will be appear unfeasibly small.
Likewise 1080p video will be slightly lower quality than when viewed on a normal 1080p resolution screen, due to the interpolation required.

By tirons1 on 3 Nov 2013

Battery life

Would be interesting to see how long this laptop could last under OS X, especially with the extra emphasis on this in Mavericks. (Testing done by Ars Technica showed battery life increases of 30% under Mavericks compared to ML).

By pbryanw on 4 Nov 2013

13 inches

...is too small, surely. I use twin 24 inch monitors and don't fancy the idea of squinting at 1/4 of that real estate, especially since at that price it would have to be my main working device.

By KevPartner on 8 Nov 2013

@KevPartner

How do you use two monitors with a thunderbolt/mini display port? I thought you can only do this with Apple cinema displays?

By kingjulian on 11 Nov 2013

A List Comparison

I notice in your comparison of the Apple MacBook Pro with the Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1you list the Operating System as OSX 10.5 (Leopard), surely you mean 10.9 (Mavericks)?

By icbosman on 15 May 2014

Re @KevPArtner( Re13 inches)

I wonder whether KevPartner is referring to his using a desktop with two monitors or is he using a monitor splitter of the Display Port

By icbosman on 15 May 2014

Enthusiast Category

I wonder what PC Pro mean by this? For sure the specs for this MacBook are pretty tasty 8GB RAM, i5 & SSD HDD, but the Intel Iris Pro isn't exactly a powerhouse in GFX terms.

Don't get me wrong, I love the MacBooks, I've just ordered one of these as I found the 15" too big, but I think I'll miss the GTX 750M.

By Gogster on 20 Aug 2014

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