Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Retina Display Review

Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Retina Display Review

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Category-leading battery life keeps you working up to 12 hours.


The Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display is a capable business laptop, with great processing and graphics performance and all-day battery life.

The Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display is the smaller sibling to the Silver Award-winning MacBook Pro 15, and like the larger version, it’s a highly capable business laptop. Unlike the larger model, that workhorse performance is paired with good portability and superb battery life.

The standard model of the MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina comes equipped with an Intel Core i5-5257U processor, a dual-core 2.7GHz CPU. It’s paired with a healthy 8GB of memory. Because it’s a fifth-generation processor from early 2015, it is older than the current sixth-generation processors used by the competition, but it doesn’t lag behind in terms of performance – it actually leads with a solid A rating. In Geekbench 3, the laptop scored 7,113 points, ahead of most competing systems. It completed the Laptop Mag Spreadsheet test in a three minutes 28 seconds, faster than every other business notebook in our review.


On the outside, it’s business as usual. The 13-inch Macbook Pro hasn’t had a radical redesign, and its shape, dimensions, weight and port configurations are identical to the outgoing model. That means two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack and a MagSafe 2 port on the left, and a second USB 3.0 port, SDXC card slot and HDMI 1.4 port on the right.

The unibody aluminum frame and edge-to-edge glass display are familiar but still-welcome design touches, and that glass overlay look is coming to the new 12-inch MacBook as well. Still, it’s not as tight-looking as the barely there bezel on the Dell XPS 13, which really does move the needle on design.

The island-style keyboard is the same as seen on the last several generations of MacBook. Other laptops have matched, but not surpassed, the backlit Apple keyboard, with the possible exception of Lenovo, a company as involved with keyboard R&D as any. The first real break with the current Apple keyboard standard is coming up in that 12-inch MacBook , which lowers the key height and and changes the underlying mechanism to reduce key wobble.


Looks familiar? The external design is unchanged from the 2014 model.
The screen resolution is 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, but you actually get the screen real-estate of a 1,280 x 800 pixel-resolution display due to the pixel-doubled effect that provides Retina-like sharpness. Apps like SwitchResX allow you to access even higher resolutions than OS X allows, stretching all the way up to 3,360 x 2,100.

Text is too tiny to be legible at that setting, but opting for one in-between, such as 1,920 x 1,200, lets you fit much more of spreadsheets and other apps into the display than any of the default screen resolutions at the expensive of clarity.

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Feel the force

The only external change is something you can’t see: the way the trackpad works. The MacBook Pro has a new, non-mechanical Force Touch trackpad, which provides tactile feedback and can detect various levels of force. For example, you might press to fast-forward a video and press harder to speed it up more.


The new Force Touch trackpad made the new MacBook thinner, but not the MacBook Pro.
For now, the haptic feedback simply replicates the feeling of clicking a mechanical trackpad (something it does perfectly – you really feel like you’re pressing a real button), but over time Apple is likely to find other uses for the pressure sensitive technology. You can adjust the sensitivity of the trackpad and the strength of its feedback in System Preferences, and while you’re there you might want to re-enable the three-finger drag; it’s switched off by default now.


  • Cinebench R15 Single Core: 124 cb; Multi Core: 310 cb
  • Geekbench 3 Single Core: 3287; Multi Core 7107
  • Xbench (CPU and disk): 491.26
  • NovaBench Overall: 41; Graphics: 95;
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0 FPS: 21.3; Overall: 41
  • Battery, streaming 1080p video via Wi-Fi: 12 hours 4 minutes

The MacBook Pro with Retina comfortably beat the equivalent 13-inch model from 2014 in all benchmarked areas. In Xbench, which provides an indication of a Mac’s overall performance, it came in at 9% faster than the 2014 model’s Haswell variant. Geekbench, which tests the CPU, saw the new MacBook score 7,107 points on the multi-core test compared to its predecessor’s 6,852.

The new MacBook has seen an upgrade from Intel Iris Graphics 5100 to Iris Graphics 6100, which includes an increased number of execution units (48 to 40) but sees clock speed reduced from 1200 to 1100MHz. In NovaBench, it scored 95 in the Graphics test versus lat year’s 79, signalling an 18% improvement.

The biggest surprise was the battery, which was still happily streaming 1080p video over Wi-Fi after more than twelve hours. It finally ran out of puff after a truly impressive twelve hours and four minutes. Not everybody is happy with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro’s performance, however. Some users have reported UI lag and significant battery drain.

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7-Bundled software

As with all new Macs the MacBook Pro comes with Apple’s own iWork and iLife apps, including:

  • iMovie
  • Garageband
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
  • Safari
  • Mail
  • Messages
  • FaceTime
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • App Store
  • iTunes
  • iBooks
  • Maps
  • Photo Booth
  • Time Machine

13-inch MacBook Pro (2015) 8– Screen & Sound

Mac OS handles this resolution much better than Windows, too, even if Windows has improved markedly in the last year or so. You can easily choose between “Larger Text” and “More Space” on a slider, and even the most generous option is useable provided your eyesight is up to snuff.

It’s not just sharp, either; the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s screen is also colourful, accurate and rich. Contrast is very good. Blacks have a deep, inky quality that really shines when watching films, and colours pop without appearing oversaturated.

The viewing angle is faultless and reflections are manageable for a non-matte screen. It’s a bright display, but not the brightest we’ve seen – a couple of extra notches would help neuter harsh reflections even better. This is the only real criticism, though, and it’s a trivial one at that.


 The Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display is found in offices across the country and for good reason. This compact laptop is well suited to professional use, and with its portable design, 12-hour battery life and solid performance, it’s a smart investment for your small business.

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