MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display review

Apple's incredible Retina screen comes to its smaller MacBook Pro

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Following the success of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, it was inevitable that Apple would bring out a 13-inch version.

And if you're familiar with the mid-2012 15-inch notebook, the new late 2012 13-inch model is exactly what you'd expect.

The optical drive has been dropped and the hard drive replaced with solid state storage, saving both space and weight.

The Retina display packs in an incredible 2560x1600 pixels, which is more than any other notebook except the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. That's over two million pixels more than an HDTV.

Despite there being no room for discrete graphics, this screen has not taken a toll on the notebook's performance, which matches that of the similarly-specced 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro.

We liked

The screen is amazing. It's really, really gorgeous, reproducing both images and text with crystal clarity.

With 29% better contrast, a 75% reduction in reflections and a 178 degree viewing angle, it looks lovely from anywhere you look at it.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is very light and portable too. Swapping the hard drive for caseless SSD storage and dropping the optical drive has allowed for a much slimmer, lighter design.

At three quarters of an inch thick and weighing 3.57 pounds, it's 20% thinner and almost a pound lighter than the regular 13-inch MacBook Pro. And with the latest Intel Core processors, featuring HD Graphics 4000, it's as powerful as it is portable.

We disliked

The only obvious drawback here is the price.

At almost one and a half thousand pounds for the cheaper of the two models, it's definitely not for those on a budget.

Even the professional visual artists, graphic designers and photographers whom the Retina range is aimed at should ask themselves whether they really want a 13-inch model, or should spend a little more and get the better-spec15-inch version.

The missing Ethernet and FireWire 800 ports are no great loss as if you really need these ports, there are Thunderbolt adapters.

The optical drive is also gone, but you can buy an external drive such as the Apple USB SuperDrive if this is an issue for you.

Final verdict

Apple's late 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display isn't for everyone. Many will baulk at the price, and even those who are willing to pay it should ask themselves whether the small saving and slightly smaller size is enough to recommend the 13-inch Retina notebook over its 15-inch counterpart.

But there's no denying its quality.

The Retina screen takes notebook displays to new heights; its Ivy Bridge processors are very powerful and the new form factor makes it the most portable 13-inch MacBook yet.

If you're not yet ready to leave behind legacy technologies such as the optical drive, FireWire 800 and Ethernet connectivity, there are options to get around their absence.

Some might find the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display prohibitively expensive, but it's ideal for graphic artists, photographers, video professionals or indeed anyone who benefits from its incredible screen.

Tech Specs

Product TypeNotebook
Green CompliantYes
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 4000
Wireless LANYes
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time7 Hour
Solid State Drive Capacity128 GB
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyMacBook Pro
Keyboard BacklightYes
Keyboard LocalizationEnglish (US)
Operating SystemMac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Brand NameApple
Processor Speed2.50 GHz
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size33.8 cm (13.3")
Screen Resolution2560 x 1600
Standard Memory8 GB
Weight (Approximate)1.62 kg
Cache3 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR 5.2, EPEAT Gold
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyRetina Display, In-plane Switching (IPS) Technology
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Total Number of USB Ports2
Memory StandardDDR3-1600/PC3-12800
Height19.1 mm
Width313.7 mm
Depth218.9 mm
Screen ModeWQXGA
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
ManufacturerApple, Inc
Product ModelMD212B/A
Product Name13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
Pointing Device TypeTrack Pad
Product LineMacBook Pro
Aspect Ratio16:10
Manufacturer Part NumberMD212B/A
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing InformationWith great power comes great capability.

MacBook Pro with Retina display changes the entire notebook experience. What you see onscreen is unbelievably sharp. Everything you do is lightning fast. And if you can imagine it, you can create it. Welcome to the future of pro performance.

Faster than the sum of its parts.

The latest dual-core and quad-core processors help you power through the most complicated technical computing tasks. Next-generation graphics let you take on GPU-intensive rendering. State-of-the-art I/O like Thunderbolt and USB 3 makes it possible to expand your workspace in a matter of seconds. And at the center of it all is an entirely flash-based architecture that makes everything you do incredibly fast and responsive. Specs like these define a whole new standard for notebook computing.

Battery ChemistryLithium Polymer (Li-Polymer)
Package Contents
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
  • Lithium Polymer Battery
  • 60W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter
  • AC Wall Plug
  • Power Cord
  • Accessory Kit
Limited Warranty1 Year