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2015 13-inch MacBook Pro review

Andy Vandervell

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2015 MacBook Pro video review
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  • MacBook Pro

Summary

Our Score:

10

Pros

  • Great design and build quality
  • New Force Touch trackpad is brilliant
  • Very good all-round performance
  • Only 200g heavier than MacBook Air
  • Excellent battery life
  • Sharp and colourful retina screen

Cons

  • Not much

What is the 13-inch MacBook Pro (2015)?

The 13-inch MacBook Pro was already a very good laptop. Everyone agreed on that. The 2015 version, which adds the innovative Force Touch trackpad, better battery life and the latest Intel processors, is even better. In fact, it’s arguably the best all-round laptop you can buy.

Why is it so great? Because it combines uncompromised processing power, great battery life and a top-drawer screen in a body that’s genuinely portable. It makes the MacBook Air look kind of pointless and sets a very high bar for rivals to match. It’s a 10 – an easy, no-quibbles 10 at that. It’s as close to laptop perfection as we’ve ever seen.

Related: MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air: Which should you buy?

13-inch MacBook Pro (2015) – Design & Force Touch Trackpad

Aluminium unibody; 1.58kg; 314 x 219 x 18mm (WxDxH)

The current MacBook Pro design is nearly three years old now, but it looks and feels as fresh as the day Apple first unveiled it. It’s remarkably thin and light considering it uses “full-power” processors, as opposed to the low-voltage ones used in the MacBook Air, upcoming 12-inch MacBook, and potential rivals such as the Dell XPS 13 2015.

It weighs just 1.58kg – a shade over 200g heavier than the MacBook Air – and is 18mm thick. It’s not wafer thin by modern standards, but it has a smaller footprint than a MacBook Air. It’s a good 1cm narrower and shallower than the Air, so it’s handier in confined spaces like planes and trains.

Related: 2015 MacBook vs MacBook Air: What's the difference?

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And all that’s before you consider the latest new feature, the Force Touch trackpad. It’s exclusive to the 13-inch MacBook Pro and new 12-inch MacBook at the moment – not even the 15-inch Pro gets it – and it takes the already excellent clickpad concept and makes it a little more refined.

It replaces the standard click mechanism with four force sensors and an electromagnet. Combined, they detect how strongly you press down, which gives you a few extra options in some places – Apple calls it a Force Click.

TrustedReviews Awards 2015: Winners announced

What’s more interesting, however, is how the Force Touch trackpad gives you same “click” sensation wherever you press. You have to press halfway down or lower to get a satisfactory click on the standard clickpad, but the Force Touch trackpad feels the same when you press the top corners as it does in the middle. It’s a subtle piece of engineering you’ll quickly grow to love.

This also means you can choose between three different click strengths – light, medium and heavy. Heavy feels the closest to current mechanical clickpads, medium feels more precise and less clunky, while light is arguably too subtle.

Related: Apple MacBook Pro 2016: Everything you need to know

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The Force Click options are interesting rather than groundbreaking. The best is the ability to seek faster through videos by pressing harder. There are five levels of speed, starting at 2x and ending with 60x, and each is greeted by a subtle yet obvious response. It feels a bit like stepping on a creaking floorboard – the harder you press, the more it gives a little. The Force Click method is more precise and tactile than clunkily jamming at the fast-forward button or guessing using the progress bar.

This is the best example of Force Click, but most Force Click actions use just the two levels – i.e. a normal click and then a little more pressure to activate the Force Click option. Force Clicking on a word brings up a dictionary definition, while clicking on a link or address will bring up a preview window of the page or a map.

None of this is indispensable – not in a way that makes it worth upgrading from a recent MacBook Pro, at least. But the Force Touch trackpad is great all the same, and it’s a persuasive reason to buy a MacBook over alternatives.

Related: Best Laptops, Ultrabooks and Hybrids

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13-inch MacBook Pro (2015) – Screen & Sound


13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 IPS screen with glass front; 227 pixels per inch; 1,000:1 contrast ratio; 60% Adobe RGB

The official name is “13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display”, which gives you a few clues as to what to expect. The 2,560 x 1,600 resolution equates to 227 pixels per inch, which is plenty for a screen you don’t inspect that closely. It’s razor sharp.

Mac OS handles this resolution much better than Windows, too, even if Windows has improved markedly in the last year or so. You can easily choose between “Larger Text” and “More Space” on a slider, and even the most generous option is useable provided your eyesight is up to snuff.

It’s not just sharp, either; the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s screen is also colourful, accurate and rich. Contrast is very good. Blacks have a deep, inky quality that really shines when watching films, and colours pop without appearing oversaturated.

The viewing angle is faultless and reflections are manageable for a non-matte screen. It’s a bright display, but not the brightest we’ve seen – a couple of extra notches would help neuter harsh reflections even better. This is the only real criticism, though, and it’s a trivial one at that.

Related: Best Windows 8 Laptops and Tablets

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The built-in stereo speakers are pleasantly crisp and detailed, with just enough mid-range to prevent them being tinny. There’s only a hint of low-end bass, but that much is expected on a laptop.

Related: Best Headphones

They’re good speakers for casually listening to music and watching TV shows. They’re quite easy block if the MacBook sinks into a soft surface, though, as they’re built into the vents down each side.

LeeTronix

April 15, 2015, 2:10 pm

It sounds impressive and the spec's seem good. Considering as well this must be a hard pill for apple to swallow making a device sub £1000 in this area! I think the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 would be also a consideration considering it is more flexible in many other ways as well as providing processing power etc. Would also be good to see apple bring back the 17"...

Paul

April 15, 2015, 4:33 pm

smells like another lustful apple victory

Jon Souter

April 16, 2015, 10:17 am

The Surface 4 is coming soon - expect to see some news in May. Really hoping the £109 keyboard case gets rolled into the price this time around! Failing that - I might be making the jump to my first ever Apple laptop.

ElectricSheep

April 16, 2015, 1:21 pm

Beautiful laptop, was considering getting the Dell XPS 13 but after reading about all the (unfixed) ongoing issues with coil whine, this is looking like the best option, running W7.

TR states there are 'two USB 2.0 ports' - Thought they were USB3?

christianpoynter

April 16, 2015, 3:52 pm

They are definitely 3.0

LeeTronix

April 16, 2015, 3:54 pm

I actually own a mac book pro and surface pro 3 and also a google pixel chrome. Weirdly enough the pixel is my favourite but if I was to decide on the mac against the pro 3 then the pro 3 wins without question in my opinion.

Whichever you purchase it will be a nice piece of kit :)

MikeL

April 16, 2015, 10:22 pm

hmmmm...this or a new MacBook air that is much slower..........

andyvan

April 17, 2015, 9:38 am

Yup, my bad. They're 3.0. We have the XPS 13 in for review at the moment, incidentally. Should be live next week.

Ben

April 19, 2015, 4:47 am

I was originally going to get the XPS13 and ended up getting the 2015 MBP. The XPS is smaller but I find this machine to be small enough and I appreciate the 28W CPU along with the ultra fast SSD.

Julien Dufour

September 19, 2015, 11:11 am

3 months ago, I bought the last macbook pro 13" retina, best configuration they have. I am a professional photographer and need a top operating computer. 3 mon

I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND TO AVOID THIS PRODUCT!

It's been 2 x 15 days in repair, still not operating well.

Sent an email to Tim Cook to explain how bad Apple is managing the problem. I am stuck with a non operating laptop (programs crashing, laptop freezing, very slow taks processing etc., impossible to complete anything on photoshop which needs calculation capacity), a lady called from Tim Cook office saying she'll "fix the problem" but then nothing!

Apple is not what it used to be: extremely reliable products with an excellent level of service.

It became a cash machine with poorly designed products, a huge marketing budget and an enormous margin in their products.

This laptop is worth 3000 USD, I am gonna sell it and switch back to a good old PC. Such a bad experience from June until today, Apple was incapable to fix the problem.

Mike Dewhirst

October 4, 2015, 6:53 pm

I've had a number of 13" MacBook Pro's. They're all superb. Powerhouses in a small package, with a long lasting battery.. if you manage it right. Forget to turn down screen brightness, keyboard backlight etc and it drains quickly. I got fed up and decided to develop an app for it.

https://www.kickstarter.com/pr...

Lucas

October 10, 2015, 3:55 pm

LOL. You sent an email to Tim Cook! He'll be right on that....SMH

beamerman

December 4, 2015, 4:38 pm

Agree that it is a great machine and probably the laptop I would buy if making a purchase just now. It is a bit of an ugly beast though when compared with the styling of the Macbook Air and a number of windows machines.

Jessika S.

January 5, 2016, 11:53 pm

I have to completely disagree with you on a Mac Pro's beauty to me it is leaps and bounds more beautiful then a Mac Air. The Mac Air was a beautiful laptop back in it's day but it now looks dated. The bezels and just it's look over all look like mid 2000's. I think the a new Mac Air with the look of a Macbook 12" inch would be a nice edition.

Kvally

January 22, 2016, 12:58 pm

He would have been better off sending it to Steve Jobs....

Travis Matthews

February 28, 2016, 10:29 pm

Apple Macbook is now on sale only on BestTopRatedLaptops .com

Selcuk Inan

March 14, 2016, 10:11 pm

I am completely agree with you and can not explain how much disappointed me this extremely expensive NETBOOK. ıts not a MACPRO like turtle. I am working simple excel work sheet and even copying one cell I need to wait this stupid coloured circle and longer for paste. Screen is ok, battery excellent but its not worth when I can not use it. This laptop waste my life. I will give it to my child to watch cartoon.

niico100

March 24, 2016, 10:36 pm

What impact does the additional 8gb have on battery life?

Angela Miller

April 2, 2016, 2:48 pm

It's easy to get a longer battery! WWW.DETOXMAC.ORG will speed up your Mac if it starts going slowly. It is the same software that Apple employees use if customers come in saying their Mac is going too slow or that they are seeing the rainbow wheel too often. It's great for extending battery life too.

Rellyyc

April 3, 2016, 5:34 am

Yeah, right. You paid 1300$ for a machine to use for cartoons?
If you have an issue with word/excel go to Microsoft forum and complain there, it is not Apple's fault. Office 2016 is known for it's laggy behaviour both on Windows and Mac. That is why I also installed OpenOffice for moments Word or Excel stuck. Learn how to use a Mac and afterwards come back and share your opinions. For the moment, neither your comment nor that of Julien stand.

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