Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display review

A beautiful Retina display, powerful Haswell processor and excellent integrated graphics make the 13-inch MacBook Pro simply awesome

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Our Rating 
5/5
Price when reviewed 
1,499
inc VAT
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Page 1 of 2Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display review

Specifications

13.3 in 2,560x1,600 display, 1.6kg, 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-4288U, 8.00GB RAM, 512GB disk, MacOS X Mavericks

Just like Apple’s new iMacs, both versions of the MacBook Pro have now been updated to include Intel’s brand new Haswell CPUs. It’s still the same great MacBook Pro we know and love, but now it’s more powerful than ever before. Despite this, Apple has barely increased the price, as the version we’ve reviewed starts at just £50 more than last year’s equivalent model.

UPDATE: Although the model in this review has since been replaced by a slightly faster version, the only difference is a 200MHz processor clock speed boost. Apart from some minor improvements to benchmark scores, our original verdict applies to the latest model.

Apple 13in Macbook Pro with Retina Display

Our review sample came with one of the latest 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-4288U processors and 8GB of RAM, although you can also upgrade to a dual core 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 model for another £180. However, we were tremendously impressed with the Core i5’s performance, as its overall score of 63 in our multimedia benchmarks makes it one of the fastest dual-core processors we’ve ever tested. This puts the MacBook Pro nearly 10 points ahead of last year’s model, and its score of 54 in the multitasking section of the test shows it’s highly capable of handling several different tasks at once. We’re also impressed by the size of this MacBook’s large 512GB SSD, which gives you plenty of space for all your media. It's also possible to upgrade to 1TB of flash storage, but you'll need a spare £400 to do so.

Apple 13in Macbook Pro with Retina Display (Late 2013)

MACBOOK PRO BATTERY LIFE

Luckily, such formidable power doesn’t come at the expense of the MacBook Pro’s battery life, as we managed an outstanding 17 hours and 21 minutes in our light use battery test. This is a staggering seven hours more than last year’s model, promising true all-day battery life when you’re on the move.

To see how the laptop would cope with more demanding tasks away from the mains, we also ran our new battery benchmark, which plays a 10-minute video every half an hour. Under these conditions, the laptop lasted a more modest 9 hours and 7 minutes, but this is still impressive compared to other ultraportables, which typically last around nine hours in our old battery test.

MACBOOK PRO GPU

One thing you can’t customise on the 13in MacBook Pro is the graphics chip, as graphics performance comes from the Iris Graphics 5100 graphics processor built into the laptop’s CPU. Don’t worry, though; the Iris Graphics 5100 chip is a cut above many on-chip graphics processors.

As there aren’t many gaming benchmarks available for the Mac, we installed Windows 8 to see how the Iris Graphics 5100 graphics processor would cope with our Dirt Showdown benchmark test. With graphics quality set to High and with the game running at a resolution of 1,280x720, the laptop delivered a respectable 29.8fps. If you lower graphics settings, you can play games 1,920x1,080 and even its native 2,560x1,600 resolution.

Running natively on OS X, we were able to play isometric RPG Diablo III: Reaper of Souls smoothly by dropping the resolution to 1,280x800 and turning down some of the more advanced graphical effects. First person shooter Counter Strike: Global Offensive was a similar story, with frame rates averaging 40-60fps after we'd reduced the settings to a combination of Low and Medium values.

It's easily fast enough to decode 1080p and 1440p video on the built-in Retina display, and can also play 4K clips smoothly on an external screen using a Thunderbolt cable.

Apple 13in Macbook Pro with Retina Display (Late 2013)

The components within the 13in MacBook Pro may have changed, but in many other respects the MacBook Pro remains very much the same. Apple’s trademark aluminium case continues to impress, and it has a good range of ports, including an HDMI output, two Thunderbolt ports, two USB3 ports, an SDXC card reader and a combined headphone and microphone jack. The card slot is fairly shallow, unlike previous models, so full-size SD cards will stick out the side, but dedicated smaller cards like PNY's 128GB StorEdge will sit flush to the chassis, letting you increase storage space on the cheap.

We’re not sure if anyone will notice, but Apple has managed to shave yet another millimetre off its overall thickness. However, the real talking point is the 13in MacBook Pro’s beautiful 2,560x1,600 Retina display.

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