Apple MacBook Pro 13in Retina Display review

5 stars
Has the eye-watering price put you off the 15in Retina Display MacBook Pro? Well, the new 13in model is cheaper – and just as impressive

The 15in MacBook Pro with Retina Display won us over with its awesome power, beautiful body and hi-res screen. The only hitch? Its wallet-shattering price.

So say hello to the new 13in MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It’s more affordable, portable... and may just be one our favourite laptops ever. 

screen and resolution 

Apple MacBook Pro 13in Retina Display - screen and resolution  2Apple MacBook Pro 13in Retina Display - screen and resolution  3Apple MacBook Pro 13in Retina Display - screen and resolution  4

This new 13in Macbook Pro lowers the price of owning a Retina Display laptop, while still squeezing almost as many pixels into a frame that's lighter and easier to carry than its 15in brother.

The stunning 2560x1600 display is arguably a more useful size than that of the 15in model, and although the larger model retains its title of highest-res laptop display (at 2880x1800), the 13-incher steals the pixels-per-inch prize with 227ppi (compared with the 15in model’s 220ppi).

What does this mean when you have your nose pressed up against the screen? Text looks simply incredible - sharper than anything you've seen on a laptop display before.

The experience of typing or reading long articles now becomes a wonderful massage for your eyes. Everything from hi-res photos to icons to notifications are mesmerizing, with vibrant colours that put previous MacBooks to shame. Oh, and the screen also has excellent viewing angles (Apple claims a 178-degree viewing angle, and we have no reason to doubt them). 

That said, a Retina MacBook cannot magically improve the resolution of today's web images. The Internet is still crammed with images that have been produced using PhotoShop's 'Save for the web', so don't expect everything to look 4x more glorious than it does on a 1440x900 display.

It will take a while for the web to play catch-up (and if you run your own site, here's Apple's guide to fixing your own images to look great on hi-res displays).

design and build 

Apple MacBook Pro 13in Retina Display - design and build  2Apple MacBook Pro 13in Retina Display - design and build  3

Like the MacBook Air, the 13in Retina Macbook Pro has no optical drive. While this may be a pain from time to time, leaving out the drive has enabled Apple to craft a beautiful, sleek design that should be enough compensation the next time you need to insert an installation disc. 

Otherwise, there’s no radical overhaul to MacBook styling. The sexy aluminium body is still present and correct, albeit slimmer (19mm) and lighter (1.6kg). While other manufacturers go for light and skinny from the off, Apple has always won the build battle by making something desirable first, and then concentrating on making it smaller and lighter. It’s a tactic that seems to be working again.

The keyboard and trackpad are as subtly responsive and easy to use as ever - attributes not to be sniffed at when so many Ultrabooks get it so horribly wrong.

Your new Macbook can deal with the world around it via two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI output, an SD card reader and Bluetooth 4.0. However, there's no ethernet socket - another occasional annoyance, particularly when travelling.

More after the break...

processing power and gaming 

It may not be as portable as a MacBook Air, but with a 2.5GHz dual-core Core i5 running the show, the 13in Retina has been built to be the only laptop you’ll ever need.

It may not be able to match the sheer horsepower of the 15in models (thanks to their quad-core Core i7 chips and NVIDIA GeForce 650M graphics), but the 13in Pro is still very impressive. You won't ever see the spinning-wheel-of-death, even when editing 1080p videos or playing Portal 2 at 2560x1660 (don’t panic when the settings menu text becomes very, very small). 

The new 13in Pro is available with 128GB and 256GB (flash) storage options, the latter will costing an extra £250. Just don't expect to be able to open up the Retina Display MacBook Pro and slot in your own SSD. 

If you’re serious about playing Mac games in ultra-hi-res at speedy framerates, or spending a good chunk of your life editing massive video files, we’d guide you toward the 15in version. But for the rest of us, the 13in size is more practical for on-the-go computing. 

battery life 

In common with its 15in brother, the 13in Retina Display MacBook Pro is not the longest-lasting of laptops away from a wall socket.

Battery life is slightly improved over the 15in. Apple claims around seven hours, but we found we could run for up to four-and-a-half hours of constant web surfing, image editing, gaming and watching movies between charges.

With all those pixels to push around that amazing display, that kind of battery performance is hardly a big surprise. Just make sure that newly redesigned MagSafe power connector is never too far from reach.


Until the next crop of Ultrabooks (or Chromebooks?) arrive with better-than-Retina displays, this is the laptop we’d choose if money were no object.

Yes, the 15in Retina Display MacBook Pro offers more processing power. But the 13in model's more compact form factor and lighter weight mean you can take this eye-popping laptop anywhere without a second thought. 

Although £1450 can hardly be described as cheap, we think the Pro actually represents excellent value for money. Ultrabook rivals such as the Asus Taichi, Dell XPS 13 and HP Envy 14 Spectre aren’t shy of crossing the £1000 threshold. And in the case of this Apple, you can spend safe in the knowledge that you’ve got a fairly future-proof resolution on your hands. 

The 13in Retina MacBook Pro is the way to go if you want a taste of the laptop future today.

Review by Sophie Charara


Apple MacBook Pro 13in Retina Display

What could be the best laptop ever just became truly portable. Expect hi-res-tops galore in 2013. 

Retina Display Apple MacBook Pro 13in
5 stars
Crystal clear, accurate display
Even more handsome
No ethernet connection
No optical drive
You have to login or register to comment.