13-inch Apple MacBook Pro review

The 2012 refresh gives Apple's most portable MacBook Pros an exciting upgrade

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch
Apple's 13" MacBook Pro has been refreshed for 2012

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

A glance at the 13-inch MacBook Pro and its stats might lead you to believe the mid-2012 refresh is a very minor speed bump. You'd be wrong.

Although both the £999/$1,199 notebook's 2.5GHz dual core Intel Core i5 and the £1,249/$1,499 model's 2.9GHz dual core Intel Core i7 are only 0.1GHz quicker than those used in the previous generation, the step up from second-generation Sandy Bridge to third-generation Ivy Bridge chips brings benefits of its own.

The Intel HD Graphics 4000 integrated graphics chipset is up to 60 per cent more powerful than the Intel HD Graphics 3000 chipset used in the last generation's processors, and USB 3.0 makes its Mac debut with the 2012 notebook refresh.

We liked

The improved integrated graphics are especially welcome considering the 13-inch notebook is too small to support a discrete graphics processor. Speedier RAM is appreciated too, as are the new USB 3.0 ports.

The 2012 13-inch MacBook Pro is full of those little touches that make MacBooks so desirable. The keyboard is backlit for easy typing in low light conditions, and the unibody build, whereby the casing of the MacBook Pro is milled from a single block of aluminium, makes the notebook strong and light.

The screen is very good, with rich, vibrant colours and great viewing angles, and although not as light and thin as a MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is very portable.

We disliked

Although a discrete graphics chip was never on the cards, if graphical power is important to you, its absence is definitely a consideration. Upgrade options for those who buy on the Apple Online Store are very sparse. You can add more memory to the entry-level model and upgrade the hard drive in either 13-inch MacBook Pro, but that's it. There's no opportunity to pick a faster processor, for example.

It's a pity the entry-level model only uses a Core i5 too, instead of the more powerful Core i7 processors used in the rest of the MacBook Pro range.

Final verdict

The mid-2012 MacBook Pro is a formidable machine. Like the 15-inch models, the refresh sees it take a significant - if unremarkable - step forwards. The new processors and their improved graphical capabilities give the new releases a considerable power boost over their predecessors, and the USB 3.0 ports makes available a wealth of already-released high-speed storage peripherals.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is ideal for those who need a little more configurability and storage than the MacBook Air can offer, but also need a very portable machine.

Creative professionals and gaming enthusiasts might be better off with the bigger screen and better graphical capabilities of the 15-inch MacBook Pros, but the 13-inch notebooks are ideal for some users. Students, for example, will welcome their portability as they haul their MacBooks to lectures, and also their sizeable hard drives for storing music and movies as well as work. Just remember to invest in external speakers.