Once again, Apple hasn’t fixed what wasn’t broken for the 13-inch version of its Retina laptops. Its keyboard and touchpad are basically a smaller version of those found on the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display, and that’s general a good thing.
The Chiclet/isolation keyboard sports a great layout with well-spaced keys. Feedback is also good, with crisp action and plenty of travel. To top things off, the keyboard is nicely backlit in white.
However, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro Retina offers a great typing experience, it’s not without a few minor niggles. First off, all that metal under your palms can be very chilly (read: freezing) if you’ve been carrying the laptop outside in winter weather. This is something Dell gets around by using softer magnesium alloy for the metal palm-rests of its premium laptops.
Secondly – depending on the position of your mitts while typing - the sharp edge of the chassis just under the palm rest may make things a little uncomfortable. Even were these issues addressed, we would still prefer the curved keys and deeper travel of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
We have absolutely no complaints about the button-less touchpad though. Its glass surface feels great under your fingertips, it’s sensitive but doesn’t usually pick up accidental movements, and gestures are beautifully integrated into MacOS (though Windows 8 has finally caught up here).
The one advantage that most premium Windows 8 machines automatically offer over Apple’s laptops is touchscreens. While initially we were sceptical of the utility of touch on a regular laptop, after playing with a few for an extended while we really wouldn’t want to go back, and in fact often found ourselves poking ineffectually at the MacBook’s screen.
It’s ironic that Apple, the company which made touch the main interaction method on mobile devices from phones to tablets, so stubbornly resists it in the laptop space. Windows 8, on the other hand, pretty much requires touch to get the most out of it – something to keep in mind if installing Microsoft’s OS alongside MacOS X.