Read the full MacBook Pro with Retina display 15-inch (2013) review

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is one of the more specialised machines in Apple's product line-up. With prices starting at £1,699 it never comes cheap, while its 15-inch frame means it's not the most portable MacBook. Yet, at 2kg it's a lot more portable than most laptops this size, which is important if you need the kind of power its quad-core Intel Core i7 processor provides in as portable a body as possible. There are other attractions, too, the screen being the most obvious. The 2,800 x 1,800 resolution screen is ultra-sharp, but is also accurate, bright and colourful. Its extra resolution is particularly useful for photo and video editing, reinforcing the point that this more of a specialist tool than a general purpose computer like the smaller, 13-inch MacBook Pro. Its design plays to these strengths. As ever its beautifully engineered, a fact strengthened by the effortlessly smooth glass touchpad that's become some integral to the MacBook's appeal. It's so good that's it's one of the only touchpad's we've used that we prefer to an actual mouse. Of course, this being Apple connectivity isn't prodigious, but what's here is well-chosen. There are just two USB 3 ports, though they're on separate sides so they can't block each other. The right-hand one is joined by an HDMI output and an SDXC memory card slot. The HDMI port is an unusual one for any MacBook, but a vital one for anyone looking to use the MacBook Pro for video editing. The left side, meanwhile, includes the alternative to HDMI: two Thunderbolt ports. These do double service as mini DisplayPort outputs, which mean you could in theory have two 2,560 x 1,600 external displays alongside the built-in screen, or you can daisy-chain up to six peripherals on each port. There's a single headphone/mic jack, too, and dual-microphones built-in for active noise cancelling. On the inside there's 802.11ac Wi-Fi (a notable omission on the most recent iPads) and Bluetooth 4.0. There's no space for built-in Ethernet, of course, but Gigabit Ethernet is available via an adapter if you need it. In general use, the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro flies. The quad-core CPU and PCI-e SSD ensure there's virtually delay doing everyday tasks, and it's fast enough to deal with image and video editing tasks at a good speed. Gaming performance isn't as impressive, however. Most come with Intel's Iris Pro graphics, and the only dedicated graphics option is a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 750M that doesn't really have the gumption to handle games to a level we'd hope for a laptop at this price. This is a disappointing, but the battery life is a reminder of why this is. Despite weighing just 2kg, Apple claims eight hours of mixed used from a full-charge and we managed ten hours of light web browsing. These are fantastic results for a laptop this size. It's also a very cool and quiet machine. It will get noisy under load, but during general use you'll rarely know it has a fan to keep things cool. Overall, this isn't a great desktop replacement if you want to play games, but that isn’t such a big deal if you’re more interested in doing video and graphics work using GPU acceleration and need the portability. If you’re in the latter camp then the MacBook Pro remains a very good choice. Nothing can rival it for power and portability in one, even if it comes with a chunky price tag attached. For that reason alone we recommend it, but you have to need what it provides to make it worth it.

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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'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 blames the user and refuses to do anything!!!


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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