Practically perfect: Apple’s 2013 MacBook Pro 15 with Retina reviewed

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Apple’s already excellent MacBook Pro receives an update from Intel’s latest line of processors, complimenting the top-notch screen most PCs are envious of. Is this the best laptop around?


It’s been one year since Apple phased out its 17 inch MacBook Pro, replacing it with a 15 inch computer that was thinner, featured more grunt, and came with a screen that had a bit less real estate and yet supported a much meatier resolution.

Some have complained, but most people have moved on, noting that Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina screen is one of the company’s best computers yet, making a device that is not only powerful, but relatively thin to boot.

Now in its second generation, the MacBook Pro with Retina has been updated and sports Intel’s fourth-generation processors, also known as Haswell.

The chips used in the 2013 MacBook Pro with Retina differ slightly in architecture when comparing screen sizes, with only dual-core chips possible in the 13 inch model, while quad-cores can be installed in the 15 inch version.

Fourth generation quad-core Intel Core i7 processors are used in the 15 inch MacBook Pro as a matter of course, while the 13 inch MBPs come with dual-core Core i5 processors, with the possibility of being customised in build-to-order with dual-core Core i7 processors.

Graphics is also different based on the model you order, with Intel Iris graphics from the fourth-generation Core technology available on the 13 inch, while the 15 inch models can choose between having only Intel Iris Pro or both that and a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT750M graphics chip.

Memory on the MacBook Pro is clocked at 1600MHz across the board, with as little as 4GB available, and as much as 16GB.

No optical drive is standard on the MacBook Pro with Retina, and is one of the ways Apple manages to keep the package so thin. Another way is the reliance on PCIe-based flash storage, which comes with a minimum of 128GB on the 13 inch, and a minimum of 256GB on the 15 inch. Both models can be expanded to support up to 512GB or every 1TB of solid-state storage.

All of this sits inside of a aluminium chassis, with speakers flanking the keyboard on either side, and a large glass trackpad underneath the space bar.

Ports on either computer include two Thunderbolt 2 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a headphone port. Apple’s MagSafe 2 proprietary power connection is provided to charge the laptop with.

Wireless connectivity has been bumped up alongside the new Intel chips, with 802.11ac wireless support in the machines, all the while supporting 802.11a/b/g/n, with Bluetooth 4.0 included in the system, too. Ethernet connectivity is not here, however, though Apple does make an adaptor for its Thunderbolt port that brings wired network support back to the laptop.

There’s also the screen, with the 13 inch model sporting a 2560×1600 display relying on In-Plane Switching technology (IPS), while the 15 inch runs natively at 2880×1800 on an IPS panel, both machines running with resolutions greater than Full HD.

Our review model was a 15 inch – a top of the line 15 inch, no less – and thus featured a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor clocked at 2.3GHz, 512GB flash-based storage, 16GB RAM, and both the Intel Iris Pro and the 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 750 graphics chipset.


About this time every year, Apple applies an update to its MacBook Pro range, the aluminium-clad machines receiving a shot of power from the new Intel chips, and a few new features to boot.

This year (late 2013), Apple’s changes aren’t all that numerous, but they are necessary, especially for the company to bring the popular MacBook Pro series inline with what other companies are doing.

To do this, there’s the inclusion of a new processor, graphics chip, and a few new connectivity options, all of which make this top of the line, at least as far as Apple is concerned.

And yes, there’s still that special screen that started the higher-than-Full HD movement in other computers, supporting a resolution of 2880×1800.

As per last time, the screen is just absolutely lovely. Apple hasn’t really made any improvements here, but the company didn’t really need to, as the Retina screen in this machine is among the best laptop displays in the world.

Text is razor sharp and next to impossible to fault, while images and colours just look amazing. There are no issues with viewing from any angle, and it looks good regardless of where you’re sitting, something we wish we could say about the MacBook Air.

In fact, the only time you might notice a bit of image blur or quality loss will come from an application that hasn’t been updated to support Apple’s Retina screen, of which there are still some available.

Light enough to hold with one hand.

The weight and thickness is also something that will leave you speechless.

Technically, this isn’t an Ultrabook. Apple doesn’t make Intel-spec-matched Ultrabooks – because “Ultrabook” is an Intel devised standard, and Apple doesn’t do these – but it wouldn’t matter if it did, because the hardware doesn’t match up, and is too powerful for Ultrabook design.

And yet, despite knowing this, Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina is only marginally thicker than some of the thinner Ultrabooks out there, with a closed thickness of 1.8cm, and yet packs in more power than most Ultrabooks can manage.