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MacBook Pro with Retina display: Performance and Battery Life

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell


Our Score


User Score

Review Price £1,699.00

15-inch MacBook Pro: Performance

There are two basic versions of the 15-inch MacBook Pro: the 2.0GHz version (£1,699) with Intel Iris Pro graphics, a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM; and a 2.3GHz version (£2,199) with an 2GB GeForce GT 750M, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. Our test version was the latter more powerful version, and its performance is a tale of two opposing points.

In general use, it flies. The quad-core CPU and PCI-e SSD ensure there's virtually no delay doing everyday tasks. Geekbench 3 shows this setup is only marginally slower than the top-end 2013 27-inch iMac we reviewed recently, too. The MacBook scores 13,517 in this test compared to 14,462. The next fastest laptop we've tested is the £1,500 Alienware 14, which scored 12,509 in the same test using a similar 2.4GHz quad-core CPU.

MacBook Pro 15-inch 14

By any reasonable measure this makes the 15-inch MacBook Pro a seriously fast laptop, one particularly well-suited to intensive CPU tasks such as video editing and heavy-duty image editing. Indeed, unless you're planning to do these kinds of things on a regular basis then this laptop is overkill for you.

Things aren't quite so impressive on the graphics side, however. Our MacBook Pro pairs its built-in Intel Iris Pro graphics (the standard option) with a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 750M. This is good enough to play many games at decent settings, but a glance at the results from Unigine Heaven benchmark shows the MacBook is only marginally faster than the Asus N550JV, a laptop that costs a cool £1,000 less.

In the 'basic' test at 1,366 x 768 test it average 30.3fps compared to the 26.3fps of the Asus. Putting aside the differences in design, screen quality and other less measurable factors, it's a little disappointing that this £2,000 laptop only performs to a similar level as a laptop at half the price. Even accepting that this isn't a gaming laptop, it feels as if it ought to have a little more graphical grunt for the money.

MacBook Pro 15-inch 18

15-inch MacBook Pro: Heat & Noise

Of course, the flip side to this argument comes when you look at things like heat and noise. Here the MacBook Pro reminds us why it costs so much. Does it make noise under load? Yes, of course it does, but the level of noise and heat is impressively low even under duress. When doing basic tasks, you'll be hard pressed to notice its running at all.

MacBook Pro 15-inch 17

15-inch MacBook Pro: Battery Life

And it's much the same story where battery life is concerned. We can't run the same test on MacBook's as we do Windows laptops, so it's hard for us to compare, but the MacBook Pro lasted 10 hours when left to browse the web overnight, refreshing the same web page every two minutes. This was at 50% brightness, making it a very good result no matter how you look at it -- the 13-inch MacBook Air lasted a similar time in the same test, though that was pre-Mavericks and its power saving features.

We don't expect the MacBook Pro will last 10 hours during general use, particularly when doing the kinds of things a laptop this powerful is best at. But the fact it can last this long is very impressive, especially when you consider it doesn't have a huge, hulking battery to achieve this.

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November 27, 2013, 6:29 pm

15 inch haswell is not thinner than last years model... so the emphasis of this as an upgrade as highlighted in your article is completely incorrect. ... the 13 inch is thinner


November 27, 2013, 6:46 pm

Apple beats Windows boxes yet again..


November 27, 2013, 9:45 pm

£2,199 is outlandish for a machine with a GeForce GT 750M. It's not a workstation class machine for video editing if GPU acceleration is required so what is it? It won't be a capable gaming machine and it's needlessly powerful for the majority of other applications.

So what exactly is it recommended for?


November 27, 2013, 10:17 pm

"Nothing can rival it for power and portability in one"

Can we have a review of the new Dell Precision M3800 which looks like it may well do exactly that and seems to be targeted at the same sort of people who would consider buying one of these.


November 28, 2013, 9:47 am

The problem is no windows laptop exists with the same high end components (graphics aside). No other laptop has a PCIe hard drive (which are about twice the speed of a regular ssd) and the same combination of high resolution 15.4in screen, Haswell cpu, Thunderbolt 2 etc. Most people don't need gaming graphics in this kind of workstation (I am programming and doing music editing on mine). So the best Windows machine is... a Mac.

Gavin Martin

November 28, 2013, 11:33 pm

Bought the top model after a lot of self-persuasion and thought (from John Lewis of course - free 3 year warranty)....quite frankly never spent so much and regretted it so little. Coming from a 4.5kg Dell Studio 17 this thing is an absolute pleasure to use. And I still have my self-built PC for gaming. And no need to get fingerprints on the screen (I asked Dell if I could get their new XPS 15 with W7 instead of 8, and they said no...you'd think they'd be more flexible on a laptop starting at £1699)

As and android-phone owning, Windows 7 using, iPad wielder, I consider myself pretty much platform neutral....find all the online arguments bashing one or the other to be amusing and silly. Buy what you want....and this thing is certainly expensive but you get something really nice for the cash.

Fans do whirr up pretty loud when playing X Com, but my old laptop sounded like a jet turbine just running Firefox, so I can live with it (it's silent the rest of the time). Thanks to Steamplay I got to try the game for free along with Bioshock Infinite and Borderlands, both of which ran absolutely fine at 1440 x 900. It's certainly no substitute for a gaming rig but it's fine for the odd mobile blast or Civ-building - saying it's no good for games is a bit strong.

Gavin Martin

November 28, 2013, 11:40 pm

Have to say too, despite the recommendation in the review that the Macbook Air is a good alternative if you don't need all the horsepower - that's only true as long as you don't mind the smaller screen size and poorer quality screen. Albeit the higher res 15" screen comes at a big premium. Having said that when I priced up a MBA with 512GB, 8GB of RAM and the best CPU, there wasn't much in it price-wise.


November 29, 2013, 8:53 am

Apologies, we had a bit of a moderation backlog. You're totally right. That was meant to read thinner and lighter than the old MacBook Pro, not last year's Retina model. Thanks for the spot.


November 29, 2013, 4:46 pm

Nice review, Andy, but the 5/10 for value is seriously harsh. Literally the only other laptop I've tried that I could conceivably use for my job without crippling myself is a Chromebook Pixel (because POSIX) and that's nothing like as well made. I know the MBP is expensive, but what you get for that money just isn't available anywhere else. It's not an Apple premium, it's a better craftsmanship, better user experience premium. And I say this having owned a lot of expensive laptops (remember the TZ?).


November 30, 2013, 7:17 pm

Wee it might be powerful or even an overkill for most of the users like me, however having said that if I can reduce a kilogram in weight itself has me hooked for life. I am not going to start a drool on the screen, not just yet...


December 3, 2013, 12:19 pm

Would this apple machine not be improved by a touchscreen/pen combo that would deliver a alternative experience for design professionals? In fact would it not be improved by the ability to use as a tablet for on-site work? Oh sorry, then it would be more like the windows 8 machines and that would be the death of apple reviewers who at the heart of it are simply conservative.


December 4, 2013, 10:05 pm

I have the 13" and my thumb hits the track pad and sends me off typing on other parts of the document. HELP??? Can I temporarily turn off the track pad?


December 5, 2013, 6:21 pm

You can turn off the tap-to-click so that it needs a full clicking tap to move the cursor. Go to System Preferences > Trackpad and look on the "Point & Click" tab, it's the top item.

Apples fault

December 28, 2013, 4:14 am

Retina screens fail...due to high heat..apple blames the user and refuses to do anything!!! http://9to5mac.com/2013/03/14/...


January 6, 2014, 2:59 pm

How can you set a value score of 5/10 when the rest scores have an average of 9.5/10 ?!? I can't take this serious, sorry.


January 31, 2014, 8:07 pm

The M3800 is more expensive than the 750M version and the GPU is a fair bit weaker than a 750M. I suppose possibly the K1100M Quadro would be better than a 750M for professional rendering work but I'm not so sure. For straight brute force the 750M wipes the floor with it. For everything else it seems the rMBP 15 is a better bet. The biggest question someone should ask themselves when comparing M3800, XPS 15 and the rMBP 15 is, do I like OS X or Windows. rMBP can run Windows but it takes a huge battery hit.


January 31, 2014, 8:44 pm

I know I'm un-Zombifying this comment thread.. but still to this day we see that the competing windows laptops are basically hardware similar to the rMBP at a similar price. I prefer to use Mac for software development, and the 750M is good enough for most gaming needs. I just did the Global Game Jam with my 2011 MBP 13 (Intel 3000+i5) and even it was good enough to get work done. I have a 17" Samsung laptop with a 675M for gaming, but I would never want to carry that thing around it's 9lb. The display is to die for on it though for a 1080.. I truly love it. I just want something I can carry around with me easily.

The next closest is the Blade Pro 17 at 6.6lb with a 765M (similar to 675M) but it's 7lb and the Razer 14 with a 765M as well but the display in that thing is garbage for anything but gaming. The XPS 15 and M3800 have comparable GPU's with the M3800 lagging behind for games, and they are pretty much price matches. I prefer developing in OS X, and can install Windows just for the Windows exclusive games? I would switch to Windows for developing for the right notebook, but it doesn't exist. Apple's hardware is just better.

I've been looking for a thin and light notebook that I can develop on AND do some gaming. rMBP + 750M would be a step down for me from a gaming perspective but right now I don't see any alternative notebooks that weigh ~4.5 lbs that can compete with it.

Comparing my 675M at 1920x1080 to a 750M running at 1440x900 might not be THAT much of a downgrade. I know it's going to be a little slower gaming but I'm going to have to compromise if I want something thin and light. If the Razer 14 had a better quality panel the decision would be extremely difficult.


February 4, 2014, 12:03 pm

We've got a review coming soon.

Thomas Ng

May 1, 2014, 4:54 pm

It doesn't has a key pad not convenient to insert numbers.


May 31, 2014, 8:37 pm

dude just move your hand a bit


May 31, 2014, 8:39 pm



June 2, 2014, 1:19 am

the Razer blade destroys it

All it needs is a uk release


June 2, 2014, 7:30 pm

I ended up buying a 2014 Blade 14 w/512GB SSD.. they just schooled everyone with that release.

Auros (gigabyte luxury brand) is releasing a spec similar X3 Pro .. 13.9" 870M 1.45kg for.. we shall see..

osynlig fog

June 24, 2014, 4:22 pm

Very happy with my Macbook pro. I bought the top end model as the discrete graphics speeds things up while using Final Cut Pro. I often travel to work which involves working with ProRes video files and plenty of large raw images. I was debating whether to get the cheaper model but decided the GPU was worth the premium for video editing. I think its this kind of use that this laptop is intended for. Its so well designed and built, very quiet and everything screams quality.
If you're a mac user and into gaming it makes more sense to buy the top end iMac.

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