Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (2012, 13.3-inch)

There's absolutely no doubt that the MacBook Pro Retina 13 has a beautiful display. Some will be phased by the weight and go for the MacBook Air, others will deem it to be worth it. We just wish it came with discrete graphics.


8.5
CNET Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


The 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has the same resolution as a 30-inch monitor. That's 2560x1600 for those who are not aware. This makes it a slightly higher PPI than the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro Retina, although the form factor isn't as impressive.

Connectivity

  • USB 3.0: 2
  • Video: 2x Thunderbolt, HDMI
  • Ethernet: no
  • Wireless: dual-band 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0

You don't sacrifice a whole lot dropping from the 15.4 to the 13.3 — at least in terms of connectivity. There are still two USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, an SD card reader, a headset jack and an HDMI port.

Specs are a teensy bit milder. You get a dual core Core i5, rather than a quad core Core i7, and an Intel HD 4000 is left to power the display, as opposed to the 15's GT 650M. We'd have loved to have seen some discrete graphics in the 13 for further flexibility. You still get dual band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 in the mix.

The AU$1899 base model comes with a 2.5GHz Core i5, 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. Knocking up a tier to AU$2199 expands the storage option to a 256GB SSD.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia

Handbrake encoding (in seconds)

  • 346
    Apple MacBook Air 13 Mid 2012 (Core i7 3667U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
  • 347
    Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 (Core i5 3210M, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
  • 383
    Acer Aspire S7 (11.6-inch, Core i7 3517U, 4GB RAM, 2x 128GB SSD RAID 0)
  • 386
    Dell XPS 12 (Core i7 3517U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
  • 397
    Acer Aspire S7 (13.3-inch, Core i7 3517U, 4GB RAM, 2x 64GB SSD RAID 0)
  • 484
    Asus Taichi (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)


It's interesting to see that, for the most part, a dual-core Core i5 part plays in the same ballpark as a low voltage, dual-core Core i7 part. The biggest difference only kicks in where Handbrake is involved.

There's going to be a few people wondering if they should go for the Retina 13.3-inch over the MacBook Air. Weirdly enough, the Core i5 3210M inside the MacBook Pro Retina underperforms the Core i7 3667U inside an upgraded AU$1924 13.3-inch Air, which we've previously reviewed. While we were running on an older set of benchmarks at the time we reviewed the Air, we've included those that can be directly compared here.

Ultimately, the extra AU$275 is getting you a gorgeous screen, an HDMI port, an extra Thunderbolt port and an extra 300g of weight. The latter is the important bit, and those who have gotten used to an Air may find the extra weight hard to work with.

The MacBook Pro Retina can be upgraded to a Core i7 2.9GHz chip for AU$235, although this is still a dual-core, not a quad-core chip.

Battery life

Battery life (time)

  • 5h, 24m
    Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 (Core i5 3210M, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
  • 3h, 21m
    Dell XPS 12 (Core i7 3517U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
  • 2h, 55m
    Acer Aspire S7 (13.3-inch, Core i7 3517U, 4GB RAM, 2x 64GB SSD RAID 0)
  • 2h, 21m
    Asus Taichi (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
  • 2h, 16m
    Acer Aspire S7 (11.6-inch, Core i7 3517U, 4GB RAM, 2x 128GB SSD RAID 0)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Some Windows 7 laptops had gotten around to beating Apple's battery life, but Windows 8 touch laptops have a lot of ground to make up.

Conclusion

There's absolutely no doubt that the MacBook Pro Retina 13 has a beautiful display. Some will be phased by the weight and go for the MacBook Air, others will deem it to be worth it. We just wish it came with discrete graphics.



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