Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display review
Subtle tweaks make a big impact – with a lightning-fast SSD and improved graphics, Apple has another winner on its hands
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.
See also: The best laptops of 2014
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.
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.
|Warranty||2 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||314 x 219 x 18mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4288U|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||0|
Screen and video
|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|
|Hard disk||Apple PCI Express SSD|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||N/A|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||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|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Mac OS X 10.5|
|OS family||Mac OS X|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|