MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display review

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

MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display
MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display, 2.5GHz Core i5, late 2012

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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.