One of the disadvantages of slimming laptops down is that there’s less room for the battery, and in the Retina versions of the MacBook Pros they’re also no longer removable. However, this 13-inch laptop still manages to hold its own.
Running at its native 2,560 x 1,600 resolution, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display lasted 5 hours and 46 minutes away from a socket (keep in mind this figure would have been even higher using our previous, lighter battery benchmark). Turning screen brightness down below the 40 percent test figure would also result in longer battery life, so with careful use Apple’s claimed seven-hour figure should be easy to achieve.
Before we dive deeper into the value this laptop represents, it’s worth pointing out that you are getting a superbly designed and built machine for your money with the best 13-inch screen out there; but at the same time, it’s not without compromises and there are plenty of alternatives for this much cash. Our main complaint is that Apple wasn’t able to fit in a dedicated graphics card, which for many power users will make Apple’s own MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display the better buy.
But let’s compare to a few direct rivals for the £1,450 base configuration of our MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina. First off there’s the Zenbook Prime 13-inch. In its £1,440 incarnation this sleek Ultrabook is thinner and lighter than the Pro, doubles its SSD storage, and comes with a faster Core i7 processor by default. On the other hand, its RAM is halved, its Full HD IPS screen obviously doesn’t sport as many pixels (not that you’d need more in a 13-inch screen, really), and neither connectivity nor battery life measure up. So it’s a case of what your priorities are, but we’d probably go Apple here despite the extra weight.
Another rival is the Sony VAIO S13. For around £1,500, you get the same processor and RAM, double the SSD space, a Blu-ray drive, and dedicated Nvidia GT640M graphics, plus Adobe’s Photoshop Elements software. However, its screen uses an inferior TN panel whose resolution is ‘only’ 1,600 x 900, and it’s nowhere near as stylish.
Either way, it shows that the Retina MacBook Pro 13-inch is not particularly overpriced. That’s not to say you can’t get some pretty great alternatives for this kind of money though, and ever more of them will offer something none of Apple’s laptops do: touch.
For example, the 13-inch version of the Acer Aspire S7 gives you all the specs of the Zenbook Prime including a gorgeous 1080p IPS screen, but also throws in 10-point touch to make the most of Windows 8. Considering it nearly rivals the MacBook Pro for style too, its £1,360-odd price makes it a very interesting alternative.
And soon it will be joined by a whole bunch of Windows 8 laptops and convertibles offering touch, pressure-sensitive styli, tablet functionality, and potentially far longer battery life. Keep an eye on our Best Windows 8 Laptops Tablets Convertibles and PCs Roundup for all the latest.
Apple’s MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display is a worthy smaller sibling to the earlier 15-inch version, bringing the MacBook Pro and Air lines closer together than ever with its gorgeous, sleek chassis. It’s beautifully crafted, offers great ergonomics, and its ‘Retina’ screen is simply superb. Even connectivity is superior to that offered by most ultraportable laptops. However, its battery life is merely on the good side of average; it doesn’t match the power of its other components and that beautiful screen with a decent graphics solution; and its high price means there are plenty of rivals which offer more features – sometimes even for less money. In other words, you probably won’t regret buying it, but make sure an alternative doesn’t suit your needs better.