MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina review

Is the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display worth upgrading to?

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MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina review
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MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina review
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MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina review
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MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina review

For

  • Retina display
  • Epic battery life
  • Quality keyboard

Against

  • The price hike
  • Small storage

The new MacBook Pro 13-inch is a genuine change in the world of high-end laptops with a Retina display and an ultra fast flash memory system

The Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display is part of the Cupertino brand's strong 2012 line-up, launching alongside the iPad Mini and iPad 4 and following not far behind the recent unveiling of the iPhone 5 and iPod Touch 5th Generation.

The new MacBook goes head to head with premium laptops like the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31, HP Envy 14 Spectre and, perhaps, Apple’s own MacBook Air 2012...

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina: Size and build

The cold metal and sturdy glass screen will be familiar to MacBook Pro users. In terms of inputs and outputs, there’s two Thunderbolt ports, a headphone socket, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI out and the usual SD card slot.

Basic but well specified, the 1.62 kg 'Mac Retina' has the most subtle of design tweaks that only hardcore Mac fans will note, like the screen bezel no longer featuring the actual name of Apple’s premier laptop - perhaps the grey wonder that inspired a generation of PC ultrabooks no longer needs to introduce itself.

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina: Features

The 13-inch MacBook Pro now comes with entirely flash based SSD memory, like the MacBook Air - available in 128GB or 256GB flavours, both a big drop from the standard (and slower) 500GB HDD storage of the standard 13-inch £999 MacBook Pro. The headline feature is the Retina display, offering four times as many pixels as a standard screen.

If you’ve seen the Retina display on a new iPad, using Retina optimised apps on a MacBook looks even better, though can cause low resolution web pages to look a little rough around the edges. In summary, it’s the best screen you’ll see anywhere in 2012 unless you’re in the market for a 4K TV, like the Sony KD-84X9005.

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina: Screen

The Retina display offers a maximum 1680 x 1050 display and looks stunning with DSLR images. If you’re an amateur photographer, this is the laptop which demands your attention. Video playback is equally excellent, though the i5 processor isn’t the best in class when editing video.

We hooked up the new MacBook to a TV to test HDMI skills and witnessed the laptop struggle but, really, once you’ve seen the Retina display, any other screen looks pedestrian by comparison.

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina: Performance

The i5 processor and flash based memory mean that you’ll experience superb load speeds when viewing photos and videos and using intensive apps. Running several apps at once offers decent speed though you can notice the difference. The i5 processor is supplemented with 8GB of RAM and an Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip.

The screen takes a lot of that processing grunt to power, so lower priced PC based ultrabooks with i7 chips and better graphics card will perform better on paper but will ultimately lack the awe inspiring Retina display skills.

The backlit soft-touch keyboard and trackpad are still class leaders and the overall user experience of OS X Mountain Lion is still leagues ahead of the fledgeling Windows 8-based system on the latest PC ultrabooks.

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina: Battery

Apple quotes seven hours of battery life and we managed between six and seven with Wi-Fi turned on and apps like Spotify and Dropbox running in the background. We’d like a few more hours for a real working day but the MacBook Pro still beats all rivals in terms of impressive battery life.

It’s not as light as a MacBook Air or ultra thin PC ultrabooks like the Acer S5 but the battery performance is a worthwhile trade. Charging from a flat battery took two and half hours, which isn’t bad - perfect for a quick visit to Starbucks to top up on power and caffeine...

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina: Verdict

The new MacBook Pro is the best MacBook yet but it can’t offer the value of the 2011 version. You’re paying almost 50 percent more for the best laptop screen around and faster flash memory. That saving could get you a new iPad with a Retina display, iPad Mini or an iPhone 5.

Professionals who demand the best will warm to the new MacBook instantly but cautious consumers not purchasing the MacBook on a business account should be more wary of the performance vs price ratio compared to the 2011 model which, crucially, sits just below the £1000 barrier...

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina release date: Available now

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina price: £1449 (128GB) £1699 (256GB)