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Review Tuesday, October 30, 2012, 04:08 pm PT (07:08 pm ET)

Review: Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display brings Apple's much-heralded high-resolution screen to its most popular notebook model. It's a beautiful, powerful machine, but does it justify its $500 premium over the price of the legacy 13-inch MacBook Pro?

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13-inch Retina Pro vs. the rest of the MacBook Pro lineup

The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is $1,699 with a 2.5 gigahertz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of RAM, 128 gigabytes of flash storage, and Intel HD 4000 graphics. A high-end model with double the capacity but identical RAM and CPU is $300 more, at $1,999.

Our test machine featured an upgraded 2.9 gigahertz dual-core Core i7 processor with 8 gigabytes of RAM and 256 gigabytes of flash storage. The build-to-order machine has a suggested price of $2,199, which is actually the same price as Apple's entry-level 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

At the $2,199 price, the 15-inch model has a slower clock speed of 2.3 gigahertz, but it's a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, compared to the dual-core i7 in our test machine. And for the same price, the 15-inch model also has a Nvidia GeForce GT 650M graphics card with a gigabyte of GDDR5 memory.


While the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro offers more portability than the 15-inch variety, it makes a number of sacrifices in order to achieve its smaller size. Most notably, the 13-inch model is restricted to a dual-core processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM, with no ability to expand the RAM and no quad-core processor options.

What the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display lacks in specs, it makes up for in size. It has a width of 12.35 inches, a depth of 8.62 inches, and weighs just 3.57 pounds — nearly a full pound lighter than the 15-inch model. The 13-inch model is slightly thicker than the 15-inch variety, at three-quarters of an inch versus 0.71 inch.


Meanwhile, the older MacBook Pro design, which is still available starting at $1,199 with the same 2.5 gigahertz dual-core Intel Core i5, weighs 4.5 pounds. The legacy model has a height of 0.95 inches, a width of 12.78 inches, and a depth of 8.94 inches.