Our Score


User Score


  • Gorgeous, unrivalled IPS screen
  • Superb, class-leading connectivity
  • Sleek, attractive design
  • Relatively slim and light
  • Powerful, balanced specifications


  • Very expensive
  • Not upgradeable
  • No Gigabit Ethernet
  • Non-standard screen resolution

Review Price £1,799.00

Key Features: 15.4in glass-fronted 2,880 x 1,800 IPS screen; Aluminium unibody chassis, relatively slim and light; Quad-core Core i7 ‘Ivy Bridge’, 8GB RAM, 768GB SSD; Nvidia GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of RAM; Twin Thunderbolt, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0

Manufacturer: Apple

Updated: now with Diablo 3 results, the first game optimised for Retina.

Retina MacBook Pro Intro

Until now, Apple laptops have been gorgeous and well-built options, but they certainly weren’t always at the cutting edge. In fact, you could usually get machines that were just as good if not better for a lot less, as evinced by comparing the Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A to Apple’s previous MacBook Pro 15in. However, now the maker of everyone’s favourite tablet has caught up, and then some.

The MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display, as it’s awkwardly called, is in some ways the best laptop money can buy, doing more to justify its premium than any MacBook Pro before it. If you want to know exactly what, have a read of our MacBook Retina Rising – is Apple's new MacBook Pro the Best Laptop Ever? piece. However, while it may be unmatched in certain areas, how does it hold up overall – especially when its rather steep £1,800 price is taken into account?

Let’s start off with what you get for that money. The highlight, of course, is its Retina Display, which is a 15.4in IPS affair with a stunning resolution of 2,880 x 1,800 – that’s 220ppi. It’s fitted in an anodised aluminium chassis that’s slimmer than previous models, thanks in part to the omission of an optical drive. The backlit chiclet keyboard and glass touchpad remain much as before. Specs-wise you get a choice of Ivy Bridge Core i7 processors, 8GB of RAM as standard, up to 768GB of SSD storage and Nvidia GeForce GT 650M dedicated graphics. Meanwhile for connectivity Apple provides both USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.

SEE ALSO: Best Laptops, Ultrabooks and Hybrids

Retina MacBook Pro Design

From a design point of view, Apple hasn’t fixed what wasn’t broken. Its unibody, milled aluminium chassis are still cutting edge (not literally, despite a few edges that are sharper than we would ideally like) for both aesthetics and the feeling of sublime build quality they convey. Anodised aluminium throughout, the latest MacBook Pro 15 inch looks and feels every bit a premium product.

What Apple has done is slim things down significantly, while shaving quite a bit of weight off too. In fact, if you put the Air 13in and the MacBook Pro 15 inch with Retina Display side by side, you’ll notice they’re the same height at the Air’s thickest point (thanks in part to slightly deeper feet on the Air, the chassis is actually 1mm thinner). As it’s not a tapering design, the Pro is 1.8cm thick throughout.

It also weighs just a feather over 2kg, compared to more than 2.5kg for its predecessor. Considering you’re getting more powerful internals that’s a not unimpressive achievement, though those who like watching DVDs may lament the only way to do so now is with an external drive. Still, for anyone carrying one of these around all day, the weight reduction will be a Godsend.

While we’re on the topic of design, Apple’s modular power adapter deserves a mention of its own. The fruity company is one of the only ones that lets you choose between a two-part power cable with brick in the middle, or a sleek single solution terminating in the power brick – either way you get the kind of adapter you prefer.

We also adore MagSafe, which is the easiest to plug in of any power connector ever. And though we’re not sure it was necessary to update the standard, the slimmer MagSafe 2 is a thing of elegant beauty that can be used with older attachments through an adapter.

Next page


June 14, 2012, 7:18 pm

@ Edward

"there are plenty of SSD configurations"

Not on the Apple Store there aren't. If you want the base £1799 model with the 2.3GHz i7, your options are 256GB and....256GB. So no possibility to get that one, up the SSD size, add 8GB more RAM and come in under the cost of the 2.7GHz model (which is best, an extra 8GB RAM or the extra 400MHz? - considering neither can be upgraded after purchase, so what you buy on day 1 is what you keep)

And the 2.7GHz gives you the choice of 512GB for £2299, or up that to 268GB for another £400. No 256GB choice.

So pretty limited config options.

How much space would be needed to run a bootcamped install of Windows 7? 256GB on that 2.3GHz model could seem cramped quite quickly, surely...and that processor is more than fast enough for most, surely, so giving the option of increasing the storage capacity would seem reasonable.

Or maybe Apple are yet to update their site with those options....(or maybe they just want us to spend the extra £500)


June 14, 2012, 9:04 pm

Right you are. Got my wires crossed between the normal Pro and this Pro. There are indeed very few options, which is definitely one of its downsides, as is the general lack of a standard hard drive bay.


June 15, 2012, 3:57 pm

It's a shame they don't offer the 512GB option with the 2.3GHz processor...that would bring it in under £2k, a total bargain! ;o)

I'd like to know why they are not offering the option, if I am preparing to drop that kind of cash, I would expect more flexibility in what I can get.


June 15, 2012, 4:04 pm

Have to admit that this is the first MacBook I've ever looked at and thought "cool". So that's a big credit to Apple.

Were I looking for such a device then I would have to admit that the price is huge and my main concern would be "is the graphics card really powerful enough" to run at native screen resolution without lowering all the other setting to "low".?

Testing on games like WoW and Diablo 3 is more use to me than using Crysis.


June 15, 2012, 8:20 pm

No doubt... it is a beauty, BUT what you are also paying for is one of the most complicated and dificult laptops on the planet when it comes time to fix..... and they always need fixing don´t they.


June 18, 2012, 8:07 pm

I suppose you could play games at 1440 x 900 and the laptop will pixel-double the image.


June 27, 2012, 8:50 pm

Seems a bit on the expensive side to me. I'd rather have a laptop that runs 1080p (can be got for under £700) and actually has a mobile graphics card capable of running some games.
Retina display is e-peen only, there isn't any content made for that yet so it isn't going to make movies, games (not that a mac can play any other than WoW) or any other content look any sharper.
So definitely a laptop for those with more money than sense imo

Julian Bell

June 28, 2012, 3:26 am

Thanks for a great review as always TR! Just a couple of minor details I picked up on:

Re: The processor speeds, the cheaper Retina model has a 2.3GHz i7 and the more expensive a 2.6GHz with the 2.7GHz a £240 option on the latter.

Re: Graphics card on the regular 15" Pro, the cheaper model only has 512mb Video RAM


June 29, 2012, 10:10 am

They took out the little battery indicator on the left side of the laptop...

I often check the battery level using it to decide whether or not i need to bring along a charger, without having to take the laptop out of my bag. But i guess a reasonable sacrifice for a thinner design. Regardless it was just a nice thing to have.


June 29, 2012, 2:42 pm

Still a real shame they have not just allowed for all upgrade options from the £1799 base model. £2299 just to get the 512GB SSD is a bit too much to stomach.

This is without a doubt a beautifully engineered machine, I've played with it in an Apple store. Just a shame that at this premium price range, there isn't more flexibility with configurations. I'm hoping some of the Windows laptop manufacturers can come up with something remotely close to this by the time my current laptop finally gives up...otherwise I might have to sell some of my current belongings to buy the top model of this!


June 29, 2012, 8:22 pm

I know you were commenting on Ed's preview but just to address a points you raise, 256GB may be enough even for a BootCamp config, considering many premium laptops still only come with 128GB SSDs...

"It's a shame they don't offer the 512GB option with the 2.3GHz processor" - I totally agree.

I'll be running a Diablo 3 test and updating the article with that if I get the chance, as was planning to do one but time constraints prevented it in time for the review.

True, but then that argument applies to Ultrabooks as well :(

Actually, there are quite a few software packages that have promised Retina support including CS6, and even games like Diablo 3.

"not that a mac can play any other than WoW" - not really a justifiable comment. For one thing, its ability to play games has less to do with whether it's a Mac or not than with its hardware and specifically GPU - which by laptop standards is rather good on the new MacBook Pros.


June 29, 2012, 8:30 pm

@Julian Bell:
You're very welcome Julien, glad you liked it!
Thanks for pointing those out, the first was a typo the second a genuine oops :) Corrected now.

It was indeed. RIP battery indicator...

Have you considered the Sony VAIO S I mention in the Value segment of the review?


June 30, 2012, 2:50 pm

@ Ardjuna, firstly thanks for your responses, it's always good to know that you guys read and reply to feedback!

I had considered the Vaio S, and indeed speccing that up towards the high end but without an SSD comes in at a £1300-£1400 mark. What I can't find anywhere is information about whether it's a standard drive bay inside, for installing an SSD myself (I am NOT going to pay Sony £975 for a 512GB SSD, are they on drugs?? Especially as they don't specify what SSD it is, read/write speeds etc). Or if there is more than one bay, for fitting a secondary HDD for storage (I suspect not given the size!).

As far as the 256GB/512GB situation on the cheaper MBPwR, I think what really throws an interesting curve-ball in there, is the fact that now the MB Air can be upgraded to 512GB the "mainstream" cheaper Macbook can get the bigger drive, as far as I know the upgraded non-retina MBP can also get the upgrade, which leaves only the base model of the this Retina MBP as the sole premium laptop they sell which cannot be upgraded to 512GB fair, Apple!!


July 2, 2012, 10:49 pm

Good review, this looks like an amazing piece of kit if money is no object. However, it still concerns me that you need to install bootcamp to take advantage of the retina display, and the fact you would have to purchase the most up to date versions of third party software (whenever they are released) to take full advantage (I may have got it wrong, but I'm sure other reviews have said that Adobe Creative Suite and even Apple's own Logic Pro look awful as it stands - these are key applications for me personally). Then there's the lack of upgrade / flexibility etc.

Another problem I would have is the fact that you would need to purchase an external DVD/CD burner to be able to make your own disks - a very basic but important task imho. Maybe I'm just too 'old school'!

The main thing I wanted to ask is (display aside), how you arrived at a figure of £620 to bring the non-Retina 15in model up to the spec of the base Retina model. I'm obviously missing something (or a lot of things) here, but 8GB of DDR3 RAM is only £35 or so. Is it the extra connectivity perhaps?

Is it possible to increase the GDDR5 memory in the non-Retina model to 1GB?

I apologise for any dumb questions, but I am looking to upgrade my old (G4 Powerbook!!) in the near future and want to make sure I make the right choice. I'm currently using a Mac Pro, so I'm not stuck in the dark ages, but get a little bewildered with the choice of laptops. It will mainly be used for graphics (Adobe CS), and it absolutely, definitely has to be a Mac!

Thank you.


July 3, 2012, 5:14 pm

Does anyone have a 13" MBP to compare this to size wise and also subjectively comment on how they feel in comparison. My 13" MBP is the ideal size for me and I understand that this 15" retina version is smaller than a normal 15" MBP so was wondering in practice how they compare. Have googled high and low, but everyone seems to compare this either to a 15" MBP or to a 13" Air!


July 4, 2012, 11:37 am


I may be wrong, as it's a few weeks now since I did the price comparison of the regular Pro myself, but I think a big chunk of that £620 difference is upgrading to an SSD instead of HDD (which, as a user of a self-installed SSD in both a W7 laptop and PC, I can say makes a big difference to general performance, application load times etc - very snappy). But Apple's prices for the SSDs are quite high!


July 4, 2012, 3:57 pm

Thanks @bluefingers65, glad you liked it!

RE the external optical drive, it's where laptops are going as the average technology-minded person doesn't seem to use them much anymore. I guess it's better to have the addon for those that do, rather than adding unnecessary weight and cost for the minority that do...

@gdawg304 is absolutely right, the main chunk of that change is due to the SSD upgrade.
It's also RAM, HDMI adapter, and higher-res anti-glare screen.

"Is it possible to increase the GDDR5 memory in the non-Retina model to 1GB?" Yes but only by buying the more expensive model.

Not dumb at all, always glad to help :)


July 4, 2012, 5:50 pm

Thanks for your comment, we should be getting the 13 inch MacBook Pro in soon and will certainly share our thoughts then. Cheers.


July 6, 2012, 4:25 pm

Read all the internet reviews and silly comments about why not to buy one such as the lack of upgrade blah blah blah...what rubbish! Why do you want to upgrade from Ivy Bridge + SSD + 8GB RAM? This kind of system will last you for years to come.

Just got mine and I'm over the moon with it. The highlights are the screen (OMG simply stunning!) / the slimmer form factor (feels more like an air than a pro) / the battery (even better) / the new air vents (even cooler) / the performance (blisteringly fast and I have water-cooled PC so I know a fast set up when I see one).

You can debate and argue all you like cos the bottom line is this: if you are a Mac user and CAN AFFORD a Retina model then you need to upgrade ASAP. Despite the high price the thing that helped sway it for me was the knowledge that all MacBooks have a good resale value so you can sell your current one and recoup most of the price of the Retina model.

So what are you waiting for people? This is the next level of Mac user experience!


July 13, 2012, 5:05 pm


Thanks for your replies. I need to think about this some more - good job I'm in no real rush!


August 1, 2012, 11:44 pm

Well it's nice to see Apple have completely opened up the processor/hard drive etc configuration options on their site so you can configure any way you please! (can I configure the price down by 25% please Apple? :-) )


November 18, 2012, 5:26 pm

A good review apart from the battery section "We ran the same Windows 7-based benchmark" To use that to test against Apple's claim is just daft. Yes a MBP can run Windows, it's not designed and optimised for it though. If you're going to do a battery test then do it in OS X which has been designed for this notebook. Any MBP owner will tell you that the battery life in bootcamp is always worse than OS X.


November 18, 2012, 5:40 pm

@bluefingers65 "However, it still concerns me that you need to install bootcamp to take advantage of the retina display" This is a bit of an unfair comment, whilst the default res in OS X mimics 1440x900 it is not simply a case of using a lower resolution, Apple have done pixel doubling so everything looks crisper and more detailed. In apps like Aperture, the UI will be the same size as a standard MBP but much sharper, however the photos themselves will render in their true resolution so you get to see the details better. As an amateur photographer this is one of the main reasons I'll be getting a Retina MBP.

Also Apple are now offering 512 and 768GB SSD options on the £1800 base model.

Dave Rimmer

January 4, 2013, 9:56 pm

My son has asked me do i want one for my 60th birthday (no it's not to old) i have built a few PCs and love the fact that you can upgrade them, but i must admit that if i was looking else where then i would still like the same standard ie 256 ssd, 8gb memory, usb 3, and a great screen, the only thing that puts me off is the fact that the battery is glued down, ok you should get a few years out of a battery but $199 to change it omfg.


January 19, 2013, 11:45 am

why only 7/10 for value. Frankly, the Retina macbook pro as you pointed out in your comparison with the sony, offers better vfm than anything else, and you are comparing it to screens which are only hd, compared to this which has 5 million pixels.

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