Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display Review



  • Superb high-res screen
  • Excellent build quality
  • Attractive design
  • Powerful specs (aside from graphics)


  • Expensive
  • No dedicated graphics
  • No Touch
  • Decent but not great battery life

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £1449.00
  • Aluminium unibody chassis
  • 13in 2560 x 1600 IPS ‘Retina’ screen
  • Up to Core i7, 8GB RAM, 768GB SSD
  • Thunderbolt x 2, USB 3.0 x 2

MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display – Introduction

The Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display is a superb laptop, but for some it’s just a little too big and heavy. Until recently Apple didn’t offer a solution, but now the iPad is not the only thing it’s shrinking: welcome to the MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display.

It made sense to introduce a 15-inch laptop with its by now signature high-res IPS displays first, as that is still the most popular laptop size. However, 13-inch ultraportables are on the rise, and the new MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina should satisfy the cravings of those who prefer the MacBook Air’s portability yet want more power and a better screen than it can deliver.

SEE ALSO: Best Laptops, Ultrabooks and Hybrids

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Like its bigger brother, the MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina sports a third-gen Intel processor backed by 8GB of RAM and several SSD options. It does notch the resolution down just a tad, to a still awesome 2,560 x 1,600, which is more than professional 27-inch monitors like the ViewSonic VP2770-LED offer, and you can’t go quad-core for the CPU – but for many, neither of these will be issues.

The only thing you’re really missing out on compared to this MacBook’s larger sibling is Nvidia’s 600-series dedicated graphics, which you would definitely expect as an option to drive all those pixels. As Intel’s HD 4000 can barely cope with 3D gaming at standard resolutions, there’s little hope of running anything remotely demanding in Retina goodness, while GPU acceleration in programs like Photoshop won’t make much of an impression either – and when you’re paying over £1,400 for a laptop, you might reasonably expect its graphics to be at least decent.

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

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina Design

Apple’s MacBook Pro range has always been attractive, but the fruity company took things a step further with the Pro 15-inch with Retina, slimming its relatively chunky professional laptop line down further and giving it a more streamlined, unibody design – though this does mean that upgrading and battery swapping are now off the menu.

The MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina is essentially a smaller version of the 15-inch Retina MacBook, and that’s no bad thing. Despite powerful rivals like the Dell XPS 14 looking pretty swank in their own right, there’s still little that can touch the MacBook with Retina for sheer minimalist style.

Build quality is concurrently excellent. The Pro’s unibody aluminium chassis is as solid as they come, the hinge is strong yet offers smooth action, and nowhere is there a hint of flex or creak.

The devil is in the details, and Apple can afford to engineer the heck out of its laptops. Even little touches like the revised MagSafe 2 magnetic charging plug which you can insert either way around (downside up or upside down) add to the feeling of overall quality.
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Though it’s no tapering Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro still manages to be reasonably light at 1.6kg (compared to 2kg for the 15-inch model, and 1.35kg for the Air). Bizarrely though, the larger MacBook Pro is actually thinner, at 18mm compared to the 13-inch version’s 19mm.

MacBook Pro 13-inch Retina Connectivity

Apple upped the connectivity ante on its latest ultraportable laptops with the MacBook Air 13-inch 2012, by finally including USB 3.0 along with the cutting-edge – but not yet widely supported – Thunderbolt port.

The 13-inch Pro with Retina goes one better by maintaining the dual Thunderbolt and dual USB 3.0 connections that the 15-inch version sports. This makes it, quite simply, the best-connected 13-inch laptop in the world bar none. The notable absentees here are 3G/4G and an Ethernet jack, though of course (as with every laptop) adapters are available that will add both.

So on the left you’ll find the MagSafe 2 socket, dual Thunderbolt ports which share a connector with the mini DisplayPort standard, a single USB 3.0 socket, and a headphone/microphone jack. The right houses an SDXC card slot, full-size HDMI port, and the second USB 3.0 port. On the wireless front, meanwhile, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are present but, as mentioned, mobile broadband is not an option.

Prefer a Windows 8 laptop or convertible with touch? Have a read of our Best Windows 8 Laptops, Tablets, Convertibles and PCs Roundup

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