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

It does this with a weight of two kilograms (ever so slightly over, actually), which is only a bit heavier than many of the Ultrabooks out there, and yet once again, isn’t technically like the Windows PCs out there that have been put on a diet.

The aluminium chassis Apple is using feels just as strong as ever, and is very hard to fault.

If you could, it might be that connecting metal-pronged devices to the ports on the side and hearing that scratching metal-against-metal noise is like nails grating against the side of a chalkboard, but that’s a minor issue, and one that only a few sensitive chaps like this writer might succumb to.

Regardless, when you take that formula of thin, light, and well built, and then marry it to the sort of tech prowess Apple has thrown in this thing, that marriage is among the most successful we’ve ever seen, and is unlikely to result in anyone divorcing from this computer.

Hell, even as a Windows user — a pretty dedicated one, no less — this journalist is considering jumping to the Apple side, a statement that shocks even him.

The reasons for this come from how well this combination of parts work, and in a very typical Apple way, the company has made everything feel close to perfect.

We’ll start with the new processing innards, and on the 15 inch, the increase to Intel’s fourth-generation hasn’t made it a super duper speed increase on what we saw last year, but it’s still impressive nonetheless.

As a journalist, this reviewer is required to use Adobe Photoshop and Audition often, and both of these apps have no problem opening things up quickly and letting us get to work.

Regular office apps of course fly, and there’s virtually no lag or slowdowns jumping between the various apps as we need them.

Gaming is also a treat and with a 2GB GeForce graphics chip on-board, we found we were able to immerse ourselves in a little game of the excellent Portal 2 (a geek favourite), even if we wish we had brought a better mouse selection than the trackpad (Apple’s trackpad, regardless of how good it is for everyday things, isn’t a useful gaming device).

Overall, it’s an impressive performer, and we suspect this will tide anyone over for the next two years.

Over in the battery life department, Apple’s recommendation for maximum runtime doesn’t stray too far from what you get, provided you’re not taxing the system considerably.

For the most part, Apple suggests that a maximum of 8 hours are possible from the 15 inch Retina machine, and if you don’t make the system work for it, you can find it easily gets that.

Battery life, as always, is really dependent on what you’re doing. The battery meter we use for our Mac laptop testing seemed to suggest that the more downloading we did over Steam and game playing, we could pull a little over three hours out of the MBP 15 inch. If we decided to spend that time writing and surfing, the battery performance doubled and was closer seven.

That’s not terribly far off the mark, and given the parts inside as well as the size and weight, is pretty damned impressive.

Then there’s the rest of the package, such as the inclusion of Mac OS X 10.9 “Mavericks” which flies along with the machine, the backlit keyboard with multiple degrees of backlight control, two USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, support for 802.11ac wireless connectivity (even though neither the iPhone 5S or iPad Air have it) and terrific speakers.

Previous complaints about the computer getting warm can still be acknowledged here, something that’s even more noticeable with an aluminium chassis, but to Apple’s credit, the move to the fourth-generation chips has reduced temperatures considerably, and we never found it to get remotely uncomfortable.

All in all, it’s an excellent machine, and about the only things we can fault are the inclusion of only two USB 3.0 ports – which we can forgive since Thunderbolt 2 is also included – and that the machine just puts so many other computers to shame.

It’s also expensive, which is a negative point, but one people who demand the best are probably quite forgiving on. Case in point, the 15 inch model we reviewed comes in at over $3000.

That’s a lot of money for a laptop, but it’s also one of the best laptops we’ve ever seen, and so while we don’t quite agree with the high price, at least there’s a good reason why it can demand it.


Apple’s MacBook Pro with Retina in late 2013 is one impressive beast, and this is a computer that will make PC users think seriously about jumping ship.

It raises an interesting question, though, and one we’d love to have answered: if Apple has crafted such a wonderful piece of technology in this size and form-factor, why is it so hard to get other manufacturers to do this with Windows machines?

We suppose we’ll all have to wait for the answer on that one, but right now, Apple’s late-2013 MacBook Pro with Retina is pretty much best in class as far as laptops go.

It’s thin, fast, beautiful, and built very well.

Seriously, if the new MacBook Pro with Retina isn’t close to perfect, we don’t know what is.


Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Typical beautifully designed machine; Brilliant screen; Not an Ultrabook, and yet insanely thin; Includes 802.11ac technology, even though new iPhones and iPads don’t; Decent battery life;
Only two USB 3.0 ports; It puts other computers to shame;