13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display review
Is this the MacBook Pro we’ve been waiting for?
A review of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display so closely following a review of the 15-inch model has many layers. In isolation, the 13-inch Pro is just a smaller version of its well-regarded bigger brother, and so it’s easy to set expectations. But more broadly, the new 13-inch Pro is much more than that: it’s a logical endpoint for a number of Apple and tech industry trend lines and the start of a new wave altogether. It’s a mainstream laptop that uses all the space-saving tricks and techniques Apple learned building the MacBook Air to be as thin and light as possible, but still offers up a powerful Intel processor and a seven-hour battery life. The design language follows right along with the recently-introduced 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro, which itself was a subtle iteration on the MacBook Pro before it. And it has that Retina display — a technology that remains unmatched in the PC market.
None of this is surprising, but that’s not a bad thing: the 13-inch Pro is a predictable product in the same way that opening a present and receiving exactly the thing you’d wished for is a predictable experience. Apple has a playbook, and the new 13-inch Pro follows it closely. And as Apple’s most popular Mac, the 13-inch Pro tells us a lot about what Apple thinks mainstream computers should look like — which usually tells us a lot about what other PC manufacturers will think mainstream computers should look like.
But now that we’ve unwrapped this thing, does it live up to all these expectations? Can its relatively midrange internals handle the burden of that beautiful display? Is the $1,699 13-inch Pro worth the upgrade over the $1,199 13-inch Air, until now the laptop we’ve most often recommended? Most importantly, is this your next laptop? Read on to find out.
Design and features
Everything’s just a little bit tighter than before
Unlike the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, the size and weight reduction of the 13-inch Pro isn’t nearly as shocking in person — the older 13-inch Pro already felt quite small, and the ubiquitous 13-inch Air is just slightly thinner at its thickest point. And the Air is actually a little bigger in terms of height and width. Basically, you’re used to Apple making laptops of about this size, and the Retina 13 is a nice midpoint between the old Pro and the Air.
|Dimensions (in.)||Thickness (in.)||Weight (lbs)|
|MacBook Pro with Retina display (13-inch)||12.35 x 8.62||0.75||3.57|
|MacBook Pro with Retina display (15-inch)||14.13 x 9.73||0.71||4.46|
|MacBook Pro (2012, 13-inch)||12.78 x 8.94||0.95||4.5|
|MacBook Air (2012, 13-inch)||12.8 x 8.94||0.11-0.68||2.96|
You’ll notice an improvement in Apple’s already industry-leading fit and finish, though: the 13 uses the same new riff on unibody MacBook design as the 15-inch Retina, and it’s an extremely stiff, solid machine. It’s also extremely clean, with no branding on it apart from the Apple logo on the lid and the regulatory stuff on the bottom — even the “MacBook Pro” insignia under the screen has been done away with. And the little indent in front of the trackpad has been slightly smoothed out and made less concave. Everything’s just a little tighter than before.
The backlit keyboard and glass multitouch trackpad are up to Apple’s usual high standards, although if you’re coming to the Pro from an Air you’ll notice the increased key travel Apple employs on Pro machines. Around the left side you’ll find the new thinner MagSafe 2 power connector, two Thunderbolt ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a headphone jack. On the right, there’s another USB 3.0 port, an HDMI port, and an SD card slot. It’s a nice improvement over the previous arrangement that had all the ports crammed up on one side, and the HDMI jack is particularly welcome — it’s the first industry-standard video connector Apple’s built into a laptop in years, and I’m hoping it supplants VGA… sometime. And you can obviously still use mini DisplayPort cables and adapters with the Thunderbolt ports if you have an existing display or projector.
Do keep in mind that the reduced size means you’re losing Ethernet, FireWire, and an optical drive. The vast majority of people probably won’t miss them, but if you’re a traveler you’ll probably want to spring for the $29.99 Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter in case of emergencies.
More times than not, the Verge score is based on the average of the subscores below. However, since this is a non-weighted average, we reserve the right to tweak the overall score if we feel it doesn't reflect our overall assessment and price of the product.