Review: Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina (mid-2015)

A new year, a newly updated Apple MacBook Pro, with the mid-2015 refresh delivering battery optimised processors and a really new graphics chip. Is this as close as Apple gets to perfection?

Features

Apple’s last entry in the 15 inch arena is the MacBook Pro with Retina, so if you’re needing a 15 inch computer and you want it from Apple, this is the one to look at, or at least the series to.

Be aware, however, that this is pretty much professional territory, with a sense of professional pride extending to what Apple throws into this machine, making it gutsy and high-end simply because of what the company is using.

As such, you’ll find Intel’s quad-core processors here, with Core i7 chips from the fifth-generation, also known as “Broadwell”, offered in either 2.2 or 2.5GHz versions stock, though configurable up to a 2.8GHz version.

This is paired with 16GB RAM which is the maximum, with either a 256GB or 512GB solid-state drive — no hard drives are found here — with this solid-state drive also configurable to a whopping 1TB, twice that of the 512GB drive.

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Video options are indeed options in this laptop, providing either Intel’s Iris Pro graphics standard — built-in graphics for those playing at home — or a choice of AMD’s Radeon R8 M370X with 2GB graphics. That option is only available in one of the models, the high-end model, with the base model not upgradeable to this option.

Viewing the graphics, you’ll find a 15.4 inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) screen, offering Apple’s “Retina” concept in spades with a display resolution of 2880×1800 native, which in turn provides a pixel clarity of roughly 220 pixels per inch, not far from what is offered in the 13 inch MacBook Pro (227 ppi).

A few ports are also offered on this machine, and you’ll find two Thunderbolt 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a single SDXC slot, one 3.5mm headphone jack, and a lone HDMI port, which appears to be consistent with the previous MacBook Pro 15 inch.

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Connections are also consistent, offering both Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac WiFi, with the latter of these backwards compatible with existing wireless 802.11a/b/g/n standards, while multimedia is also catered through Apple’s typical assortment of microphones (two of them on this body, found on the left side of the machine) and a FaceTime HD 720p camera above the display.

A full-size backlit keyboard is also here, as is Apple’s new style of trackpad, the “Force Trackpad” reliant on vibrations that trick your fingers and brain into thinking a button is there.

Apple’s MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina comes with Mac OS X 10.10 “Yosemite” out of the box.

The model in this review is the highest model out of the two available before configuration, and is equipped with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and both Intel Iris Pro and AMD Radeon R9 M370X auto-switching graphics.

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Performance

Big laptops aren’t as popular as they once were, but Apple’s MacBook Pro still manages to draw attention due to the level of quality the company throws in.

Need a desktop every where you go? No worries, because that’s what the 15 inch MacBook Pro is more or less designed to cater for, providing a big screen and big set of specs in a machine that barely hits two kilograms.

That’s not something many computer companies can build, either, and as you can imagine, Apple’s attention to excellence is evident in this 15 inch MacBook Pro as much as it has been with prior models.

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This is like the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro 13, the iMac, and even that especially thin brand spankin’ new MacBook we saw earlier in the year, with another beautifully chiselled unibody piece of aluminium making up the shell of the computer filled with the right technical configuration and operating system combination to make a machine truly spectacular, a fact you realise when you switch the machine on and let the interface greet you for the first time.

There’s the familiar Apple chime that starts the computer up, the bright Retina display shining information into your own retinas, and a speedy system bringing it all to life super quickly.

And it does exactly that, because while the fourth-generation Intel processors from last year we’re no slouch, the fifth-generation “Broadwell” processors are just as strong, booting the system up quickly and providing a computer for you to use.

If you’re already with a 15 inch MacBook Pro, chances are that you won’t have a lot of reason to change to a new computer, unless you’ve throttled yours to death, and that’s because the differences aren’t huge.

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Let’s start with the screen, because if you’ve ever seen the 15 inch Apple MacBook Pro since Apple made the move to its high-grade pixel-perfect Retina screens, this isn’t new.

The 15.4 inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) display with 2880×1800 resolution is still sharp, still bright, and still super easy to look at thanks to the extra amount pixels it packs in, and resolutions can be scaled which is ideal if you have weaker eye sight.

The frame is still the same, with more of that solid aluminium Apple has relied on for yonks providing a durability that few hardware manufacturers can match.

There’s little doubting that the aluminium material and Apple’s design both help to make the MacBook Pro one of the better feeling machines out there, and when we review them, we’re always reminded of that fact.

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Apple’s keyboard is also top notch, again with the island key design that so many refer to as “chiclet” (it’s an American thing that has to do with gum, in case you’re curious), with two speakers flanking the keyboard on either side.

One thing has changed, however, and that’s the mouse, with Apple grabbing its Force Trackpad found on the 13 inch MacBook Pro and that new super-slim MacBook.

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