New Apple MacBook Pro Retina 2013 hands-on review

  • Price When Reviewed: £1699

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How do you improve arguably the finest notebook computer money can buy? Aside from reducing the price to bring it more in reach, you increase its battery life; and its wireless connection range too.

We had a little hands-on time with the new Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display at its London launch, both the revised 13-inch and the 15-inch models.

As expected the Retina notebooks have received an update to 4th-generation Intel Core series processors, otherwise known by their codename of Haswell, as well as faster Wi-Fi in the form of 802.11ac wireless connectivity.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (Late 2013): 13-inch improvements

For the 13-inch model, there are three models available ready to go, different in their processor, storage and memory, and ranging in price from £1099 to £1499. The cheapest option includes a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor with 4GB of memory and 128GB; middle has the same processor and 8GB memory and 256GB SSD for £1249, while the top MacBook Pro doubles storage again and has a 2.6GHz Core i5.

All three feature PCIe-connected flash storage which should confer useful boosts in storage performance over the former SATA drives.

Along with the new Haswell chips comes new graphics processors, dubbed Intel Iris, and if the step-up in graphics speed is anything like that on the 21.5-inch iMac (Late 2013), this will prove a real benefit.

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch (Late 2013) 02

Intel Iris graphics now available to power the Retina display of the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Late 2013)

Picking up the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (Late 2013) we could appreciate a small reduction in weight. Last year’s model was 1.62 kg – this has been pared back to 1.57 kg, perhaps due to a small downsize in battery capacity, from 74Wh to 71.8Wh.

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch (Late 2013 01

The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro has had 50 g shed from its overall weight, now 1.57 kg

Yet overall battery runtime is specified as 9 hours now, up from the original’s 7 hour spec, perhaps thanks to the more efficient processor as well as the revised storage connection which does away with an intermediary SATA bridge.

It’s not the same clear lead we saw from this year’s MacBook Air upgrade to 12 hours, but we look forward to seeing if this spec is also beaten in real-world use.

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (Late 2013): 15-inch revisions

For the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (Late 2013), a smaller increase in battery life is promised, although the weight – and 95Wh battery capacity – remains the same at 2.02 kg. Last year’s model was listed with 7 hours wireless web duration; now it should have 8 hours.

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch (Late 2013) 01

Dual switching Intel and nVidia graphics are still offered on the £2199 model of MacBook Pro with Retina display 15-inch

Two configuration of 15-inch Retina MacBook are available: starting with an Intel Core i7 quad-core running at 2.0 GHz, 8 GB of memory and 256 GB SSD for £1699. This has a single graphics solution of Intel Iris Pro, while the second model adds a switchable nVidia GeForce GT 750M, now with 2 GB of video memory, for £2199.

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch (Late 2013) 02

Wi-Fi has been upgraded to the faster 11ac 'gigabit wireless' using a revised Broadcom wireless chipset on the 2013 Retina MacBook

In look and feel, both MacBook Pro models are identical to earlier versions, excepting the 13-inch’s small weight loss.

One new change not immediately obvious though is the revision to Thunderbolt 2, with two ports again on the 15-inch and one on the 13-inch.

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