Review: Apple's late-2013 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited April 2014
Apple's new late 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has a slightly thinner profile and reduced heft from last year's model, along with a smaller price tag. But it's what's on the inside that really makes this notebook a stunner.

13-inch MacBook Pro

Configuration options

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display can be ordered with one of three different CPU options. The base model ships with a 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-4258U Haswell processor with 3 MB of shared L3 cache.

It can be upgraded to either a 2.6 GHz Core i5-4288U version, or a 2.8 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-4558U with 4 MB of shared L3 cache.

All three options provide integrated Intel Iris 5100 Graphics with DDR3L SDRAM shared with main memory.

And while last year's model came by default with 8 gigabytes of RAM, with no upgrade options, this year the systems can be configured in a range from 4 gigabytes to 16 gigabytes.

Our test machine was Apple's entry-level model, which retails for $1,299. It includes with 4 gigabytes of RAM and integrated Intel Iris graphics.

Apple's new Macs all ship with with Mavericks, the company's latest OS X operating system, as well as free copies of the iLife and iWork suites.

13-inch MacBook Pro

Design

The design of this year's 13-inch MacBook Pro has been tweaked, making the new model slightly thinner and lighter. The 2012 model weighed in at 3.57 pounds and was 0.75-inch thick, while the new 2013 design is 3.46 pounds and 0.71-inch thick.

Aside from the new, thinner and lighter form factor, the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro has an exterior identical to last year's. On the left side are a MagSafe 2 charging port, two Thunderbolt 2 inputs, a USB 3.0 port, 3.5-millimeter headphone jack, and two microphone holes. The right side sports another USB 3.0 port, an HDMI out, and a full-size SD card slot.

13-inch MacBook Pro


13-inch MacBook Pro


These are the exact same ports and configuration found on the full-size 15-inch MacBook Pro. So those opting for a smaller screen size won't miss out on any connectivity options.

It's also got the same island-style backlit keys, Apple's industry leading glass trackpad, and the same gorgeous Retina display, which outputs a native 2,560-by-1,600-pixel picture, packing in 227 pixels per inch.

That also means you get IPS technology, for fantastic viewing angles on the screen, as well as the same relatively low-glare glossy display found in last year's model.

13-inch MacBook Pro
Left: 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. Right: 2012 model.


Externally, you'd be hard pressed to tell the new late-2013 13-inch MacBook pro apart from last year's model. In fact, the new, thinner profile is so subtle, you may have difficulty seeing the differences between the two models if they're side by side.

The real difference with Apple's latest MacBook Pro models is what's on the inside. Namely, Intel's latest-generation Haswell processors, which boost performance and battery life.

Internals

Intel's Haswell microarchitecture was first used by Apple this summer for the MacBook Air. Haswell aims to deliver high power efficiency, benefitting from Intel's advanced FinFET transistors built at a 22nm process node.

The chips improve upon the previous Core i5 Ivy Bridge design by incorporating a second branch predictor (used to optimize the flow in the instruction pipeline), a third address generation unit (used in memory access) and a fourth arithmetic and logic unit, along with higher bandwidth cache.

Haswell chips also include new instructions enhancing SIMD vector processing with Advanced Vector Extensions 2 and integrates the Platform Controller Hub and voltage regulator into the chip package itself, rather than being separate components on the logic board.

13-inch MacBook Pro
Left: 2013 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. Right: 2012 model.


Along with a series of other advances and optimizations, Haswell is intended to be much more energy efficient while also being slightly faster even at a lower clock speed.

And it shows. The new MacBook Pros are advertised to offer a full workday's worth of battery life, and they do not disappoint.

In our tests, the battery performance on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro was excellent, and comparable with the more expensive 15-inch model. Both strong enough to easily get through an average workday with Wi-Fi enabled and backlight at a reasonable setting. For its part, Apple advertises that the 13-inch Pro gets 9 hours of use, but our tests suggested it could exceed that amount.

For comparison's sake, we also ran a more extreme battery stress test, with maximum brightness, keyboard backlight on, streaming a high-definition video from YouTube. In this taxing scenario, the MacBook Pro lasted over four hours before warning it needed to be plugged in.

13-inch MacBook Pro


Outside of the Haswell chips Apple is using in its new MacBook Pros, Intel also offers its Haswell processors paired with simpler HD Graphics, as well as "ultra low" and "ultra low extreme" versions aimed at the "Ultrabook" and tablet markets.

These other processor packages include significantly inferior Intel HD graphics; Apple is essentially offering only Haswell chips paired with Intel's much improved Iris-branded integrated graphics.

That's not to say that Iris is a true discrete GPU replacement. And unfortunately, Apple doesn't offer the option of a discrete graphics card in its 13-inch MacBook Pro lineup.

Benchmark Comparison


Intel's integrated graphics have come a long way, and this year's Iris GPU represents the best effort yet from the company. The power offered by Iris will be adequate for most users, and can even be used to play 3D games at decent settings. We found titles such as Diablo III running at a moderate resolution had an acceptable framerate.

But still, in an extreme graphics benchmark test with maxed-out settings in Ungine Heaven, Iris struggled. Intel's latest GPU will be enough for most users, but isn't going to make this a go-to rig for hardcore gamers.

Users who want more power from their portable machine in the form of a discrete GPU will be forced to upgrade to Apple's 15-inch model, and even then it's not a standard inclusion.

The entry-level model we tested also comes with a 128-gigabyte solid-state drive, which is speedy and boots quickly, in just a handful of seconds. That capacity frankly may be a little small for many true professional users, but that's why it's an entry-level machine.

Conclusion

Apple's late 2013 13-inch MacBook Pro sports a number of improvements over last year's first-ever 13-inch Retina display model. The inclusion of Haswell alone, with its boost to battery life, makes this a worthy successor.

Though subtle, the thinner design and lighter weight are also welcome improvements.

13-inch MacBook Pro


Apple also addressed a major issue with last year's model by slashing the price, which now starts at just $1,299. Unfortunately, it achieved that by including only 4 gigabytes of RAM on the entry level model.

Bringing the machine to a more acceptable 8 gigabytes is $100, while a 16-gigabyte configuration is an additional $300, which takes some of the shine off of the new pricing.

And there's no option for a discrete graphics card, which is disappointing but understandable given the compact nature of the 13-inch notebook.

13-inch MacBook Pro


For users interested in a powerful notebook with a high-resolution display, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is easy to recommend. It's beautiful, it lasts all day, and it's more portable than the larger 15-inch model.

And for those who may have held off on last year's model because of price or upgrade options, Apple has heard you. This is a good time to buy, and this is a good notebook to choose.

AppleInsider editor Daniel Eran Dilger contributed to this review.

Score: 4 out of 5

image

Pros:

  • Thinner and lighter (but only slightly)
  • Cheaper pricing than last year
  • RAM now upgradeable to 16 gigabytes

Cons:

  • 4 gigabytes of RAM in the entry level model may be too little for some
  • Still no discrete graphics option, though Iris will be enough for many
AppleInsider extends its thanks to Apple Authorized Reseller B&H Photo for sponsoring this year's MacBook Pro Retina review series. The New York-based superstore recently took home top honors in Consumer Reports' 2013 electronic stores rankings for overall customer service and satisfaction.

How to save when buying

Readers looking to purchase up a new MacBook Pro Retina at the absolute lowest prices can turn to our Mac Price Guides, which track the prices of Macs at Apple's largest Authorized Resellers throughout the year. Currently, the AI readers have two exclusive ways to save over Apple's MSRP:

Macs without AppleCare

If you just want to purchase a new MacBook Pro Retina without a 3-year AppleCare protection plan, MacMall exclusively offers AppleInsider readers the lowest prices anywhere on these models, as can be seen in the relevant price guide snippet below. To take advantage of the offer, simply use the MacMall links in the price guide to activate the "Promo Code" field on reseller's website and then apply promo code APPLEINSIDER02

MacMall also only charges tax to residents of CA, NY, IL, WI, MN, CO, TN, NC and GA. This means that -- on most models -- customers outside those states will save at least another $100 from the tax savings, in addition to the 3% exclusive discount.


Macs bundled with AppleCare

Alternatively, if you'd like to bundle a 3-year AppleCare Extended Protection Plan with your new MacBook Pro Retina, AppleInsider also maintains a Mac+AppleCare Price Guide listing the combined prices for each new Mac model along with 3 years of AppleCare. As can be seen in the relevant portion below, the lowest prices on these bundles sometimes come from MacMall, but are more often available at B&H.

For its part, B&H exclusively offers readers instant savings of between $70 (13-inch models) and $105 (15-inch models) on AppleCare protection plans for the MacBook Pro. In addition, B&H only charges sales tax to residents of its home state of New York.


An easy 5-step help guide is also available to show precisely how to pair an AppleCare protection plan to your new Mac at B&H's reduced pricing.

Other options include Amazon, which only charges sales tax to residents of AZ, CA, KS, KY, NJ, NY, ND, PA, TX, and WA; and BestBuy, which sometimes offers in-store pickup of online orders.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 126
    Loving my rMBP 15" .. As I sit here, in a Thai restaurant, it's showing just under 10 hours. and I've been going for over an hour; even though Apple says 8 hours. I love that they work with ACTUAL usable estimates.

    Brightness is a little under half.. just browsing / chatting / and reading. Amazing screen.

    Apple's engineers are second to none in this regard. They took a great chip from Intel, obsessed about going even further, and did it.. Not only did it, but did this in such a compact, portable package..

    For me, lugging my 15" is no where as bad as my old HP 15" laptop. Ok, back to my food! :D
  • Reply 2 of 126
    cash907cash907 Posts: 893member
    If you're going to pick one up, splurge and get the 512GB model. The bump in processor speed is meaningless, but trying to juggle a standard load of apps and media on only 256GB without constantly running into that capacity wall gets old, fast. Even with my iPhoto library offloaded to an external drive, I'm usually sitting at 20-25GB of free space, which slows everything down. With SSD prices being what they are, 256 should be the baseline, not 512. Then again, it's ridiculous that the base model only comes with 4GB of RAM. 15 bucks. That's what they would realistically have to add to the price tag to justify 8 instead of 4 gigs. Ridiculous.
  • Reply 3 of 126
    winterwinter Posts: 1,238member
    Get 8 GB of memory minimum. Iris takes 1 GB of memory for the graphics. I do not disagree with doubling the storage to 512 GB though.
  • Reply 4 of 126
    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

    15 bucks. That's what they would realistically have to add to the price tag to justify 8 instead of 4 gigs. Ridiculous.

     

    Or maybe you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.

  • Reply 5 of 126
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,085member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post



    Even with my iPhoto library offloaded to an external drive, I'm usually sitting at 20-25GB of free space, which slows everything down.

     

    You're joking, right? There's no way in hell 20-25GB of free space is going to cause anything to slow down. That's way, way more cushioning than the OS needs. That alot of free space, and what I typically have free on my Macbook Air, on which I haven't noticed a shred of slowdown. I think you're exaggerating just a tad. For most people, 256GB is more than enough space. I manage with that, I'm a designer, and I do ALL my work on my Macbook Air, including all my project folders which contain thousands upon thousands of large files. Once in a while I archive media and older projects to an external drive, which I would do anyway in order to keep things somewhat clean and my daily backups at a reasonable size. 

  • Reply 6 of 126
    Or maybe you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.
    Well, the late 2013 Retinabooks are using 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM. Let's see how much that costs on the consumer market. The 4 GB model is using two 2 GB modules. How much do packs of 2 x 2 GB modules cost?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007609 600006178 600000410 600000403&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&Order=PRICE&PageSize=20

    $50 bucks, for the cheap no-name G.Skill brand (since the decent brands don't seem to sell 2 GB modules, at least not on Newegg).

    Now, let's see how much I'd pay for a pack of two 4 GB modules, for a total of 8 GB:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007609 600006178 600000410 600000401&IsNodeId=1&name=4GB (2 x 2GB)&Order=PRICE&Pagesize=20

    Oh, look at this, I can get Crucial (a good brand!) for $68, a difference of $18.

    If you consider the fact that Apple can get much better deals in the huge bulk quantities they order than the consumer price, and the fact that Apple's probably using the same brand instead of upgrading to something better for the higher capacity model, I'd say that $15 is a generous estimate.

    P.S. You could have found a less rude way to make your "point", couldn't you? I'm frankly surprised that you haven't been banned from this board, given your consistently belligerent behavior.
  • Reply 7 of 126
    zoolookzoolook Posts: 657member

    Those benchmark scores on Nova look incredibly low. My 2010 MBP (i7 @2.66ghz, 8GB RAM and GT330m) has both of them beaten. I score 732, RAM score 159 (despite being 600mhz slower), CPU scores 440 despite being 4 generations older, graphics score 100 with 259 fps despite being effectively pre-CUDA technology. The only thing slower is my SSD scoring 33 with 126 MB/s.

     

    A 3 year old MBP (4 generations ago) should not beat these new machines. In fact, I think there must be a typo, because you have the 15" CPU score the same as the 13", despite ALL of the sub-scores being higher.

     

    Geekbench shows the 15" multi-core score being more than twice as fast as my machine (I score 4395).

  • Reply 8 of 126
    Not to mention bringing up some random PC parts from newegg is totally not a counter argument. The ram used on the new Macbook Pros are soldered onto the board, we also have zero idea on the quality of the ram chips used. It could be similar to the ram used in servers which has an extreme stress test for errors. I Imagine it would be since soldering on bad ram would essentially ruin the entire motherboard. 

     

    The price of ram can change drastically depending on quality and type, and just showing us some random cheap 8 gigabyte sets from newegg proves nothing. Don't get me wrong am sure Apple is making a nice mark up, but saying the price should only be a 15 USD difference for an extra 4 gig of soldered "hopefully" quality ram seems a fairly questionable statement to myself.

  • Reply 9 of 126
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Durandal1707 View Post



    P.S. You could have found a less rude way to make your "point", couldn't you? I'm frankly surprised that you haven't been banned from this board, given your consistently belligerent behavior.

     

    PS, maybe you could be a little less of a sensitive little solider. I'm frankly surprised you have managed to survive on the internet if you think a comment like should be punishable via ban.   

     

    Not to mention bringing up some random PC parts from newegg is totally not a counter argument. The ram used on the new Macbook Pros are soldered onto the board, we also have zero idea on the quality of the ram chips used. It could be similar to the ram used in servers which has an extreme stress test for errors. I Imagine it would be since soldering on bad ram would essentially ruin the entire motherboard. 

     

    The price of ram can change drastically depending on quality and type, and just showing us some random cheap 8 gigabyte sets from newegg proves nothing. Don't get me wrong am sure Apple is making a nice mark up, but saying the price should only be a 15 USD difference for an extra 4 gig of soldered "hopefully" quality ram seems a fairly questionable statement to myself.

  • Reply 10 of 126
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,316member

    I have the original Macbook Pro Retina 15" and had to send it in for repairs to the screen. Because I need a computer to continue to work, my company purchased a replacement 2013 Macbook Air 13".  Apple fixed the 15" rMBP, but I still use the Macbook Air and love it.  It's slower on somethings (Photoshop and video editing are most noticeable), but otherwise, this thing is awesome.  The battery lasts FOREVER. OK, maybe not actually forever, but the whole work day is not unheard of.  I imagine the new rMBP with the same battery power would be absolutely awesome, although I still love how lightweight and portable the MBA is.

  • Reply 11 of 126
    Originally Posted by Durandal1707 View Post

    The 4 GB model is using two 2 GB modules. How much do packs of 2 x 2 GB modules cost?

     

    Doesn’t matter. Because the MacBook Pro doesn’t use RAM sticks anymore. So this comparison is utterly useless. We’ve been doing this for years. If people don’t understand what the rMBPs are by now, will you ever, really?

     
    P.S. You could have found a less rude way to make your "point", couldn't you?

     

    Maybe… it’s because we’re all a little sick of the anti-Apple morons who come here to lie.

  • Reply 12 of 126
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

     

    Or maybe you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.


    A bit harsh. Get some sleep! :)

  • Reply 13 of 126
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,094member

    Apple prices its RAM as a premium company can.  Don't like the price?  Don't buy it. And don't complain about it.

  • Reply 14 of 126
    doumeki wrote: »
    PS, maybe you could be a little less of a sensitive little solider. I'm frankly surprised you have managed to survive on the internet if you think a comment like should be punishable via ban.   
    It's not just that comment though. He does it Every. Damn. Time. It gets really tiresome after a while.
    Not to mention bringing up some random PC parts from newegg is totally not a counter argument. The ram used on the new Macbook Pros are soldered onto the board, we also have zero idea on the quality of the ram chips used. It could be similar to the ram used in servers which has an extreme stress test for errors. I Imagine it would be since soldering on bad ram would essentially ruin the entire motherboard. 

    The price of ram can change drastically depending on quality and type, and just showing us some random cheap 8 gigabyte sets from newegg proves nothing. Don't get me wrong am sure Apple is making a nice mark up, but saying the price should only be a 15 USD difference for an extra 4 gig of soldered "hopefully" quality ram seems a fairly questionable statement to myself.
    As a matter of fact, we know exactly what RAM Apple's using: it's Micron D9PXV. The specs of it are here. It's not super-special server RAM. It's just RAM. It's the same RAM used in the Wii U and the Chromecast. Do you think they'd put server RAM in those?

    In fact, Micron is the parent company of Crucial, so it's largely the same RAM as that (hint, hint — that's why I chose Crucial for my example). The only difference is that Apple decided to solder it instead of putting it on a socket.
  • Reply 15 of 126
    akqiesakqies Posts: 768member
    If you consider the fact that Apple can get much better deals in the huge bulk quantities they order than the consumer price, and the fact that Apple's probably using the same brand instead of upgrading to something better for the higher capacity model, I'd say that $15 is a generous estimate.

    P.S. You could have found a less rude way to make your "point", couldn't you? I'm frankly surprised that you haven't been banned from this board, given your consistently belligerent behavior.

    It's interesting how people like you can factor one half of the equation that fits their desire for making everything cheap to the point of offering no profit (and even a loss) for a for-profit company, but never factor in other costs that a full PC vendor has to consider. For instance, Apple has to do more testing on the RAM they buy because if they sell a system that doesn't run it's the whole Mac that is faulty but if G.Skill sells bad RAM it's just the RAM. These are completely different businesses. Then there are Apples support structures that are the same. Have you ever and to get your RAM replaced by a RAM vendor and by Apple? With a company like G.Skill you get to go to their site, look for their support pages, find a page on a replacement, fill out the form and submit the request, often print a physical form to ship into them, hunt down your receipt from Newegg, print it out, find a box, transcribe the correct address for a shipping label, PAY FOR THE SHIPPING LABEL, and (oh yeah) remove the RAM from the device which often involves you testing which stick is bad via trail-and-error before you go through all this trouble.

    For some bizarre reason you think that Apple creates their profit margins and price points based on other components, but not BTO options, and you think that Apple doesn't consider their entire product line and what buyers will likely buy when considering average sales across a line. It should be obvious to anyone with any experience in business or even basic classes in economics, but I think it should be self-evident to the average person how pricing structures work and why entry-level pricing gives those buyers a benefit in the pricing margin if such items fit your needs.
  • Reply 16 of 126
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Durandal1707 View Post



    As a matter of fact, we know exactly what RAM Apple's using: it's Micron D9PXV. The specs of it are here. It's not super-special server RAM. It's just RAM. It's the same RAM used in the Wii U and the Chromecast. Do you think they'd put server RAM in those?



    In fact, Micron is the parent company of Crucial, so it's largely the same RAM as that (hint, hint — that's why I chose Crucial for my example). The only difference is that Apple decided to solder it instead of putting it on a socket.

     

    Good use of Google there my friend, still not sure why you keep making silly connections to try back up your faulty argument. Lets be honest earlier you didn't even know the RAM was soldered onto the board, now with 5 minutes Google work your back with a few links that you don't really understand. 

     

    Congrats for finding out that Micron is the parent company of Crucial, that means what now? Audi Volkswagen and Skoda are the same group essentially, does that mean all the cars they produce are of the same quality? The fact that you happened to pick Crucial RAM, that happens to be linked to Micron means honestly nothing to me. 

     

    Audi TT's are produced by the same group that make Skoda Fabia's that means they are of the same quality and production price right? Brilliant logic, how about this, you come back to me with the price of Micron D9PXV per 4GB and we will continue this discussion. 

  • Reply 17 of 126
    bunlobunlo Posts: 28member
    My Friend: what a joke, new MBP doesn't have DVD drive.
    Me: you are right, see, it doesn't have Floppy disk either
    My Friend: .......
  • Reply 18 of 126
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Doumeki View Post

     

     

     I Imagine it would be since soldering on bad ram would essentially ruin the entire motherboard. 

     


    Not to mention the fact that is a permanent installation, which requires it to be insanely durable/reliable.

     

    Its not off the shelf RAM, as so many casual observers would postulate.

  • Reply 19 of 126
    akqiesakqies Posts: 768member
    pmz wrote: »
    Not to mention the fact that is a permanent installation, which requires it to be insanely durable/reliable.

    Its not off the shelf RAM, as so many casual observers would postulate.

    No, no, it's cheap untested RAM because Apple would rather x% of Macs be DOA and another x% fail relatively quickly so they have to replace the entire mother board in millions of Macs under warranty. /s
  • Reply 20 of 126
    drblankdrblank Posts: 3,383member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post



    If you're going to pick one up, splurge and get the 512GB model. The bump in processor speed is meaningless, but trying to juggle a standard load of apps and media on only 256GB without constantly running into that capacity wall gets old, fast. Even with my iPhoto library offloaded to an external drive, I'm usually sitting at 20-25GB of free space, which slows everything down. With SSD prices being what they are, 256 should be the baseline, not 512. Then again, it's ridiculous that the base model only comes with 4GB of RAM. 15 bucks. That's what they would realistically have to add to the price tag to justify 8 instead of 4 gigs. Ridiculous.

     

    So you honestly think that the RAM that Apple buys is only $15 for 4GB of RAM?  Really?  Based on what?  The pricing for the cheap surplus memory that Apple and other top brands reject?



    Here's what some of the reality is. Apple and some others have certain specs that the RAM must pass.  Meaning, the memory has to be put on $1MIllion test machines and be able to pass certain tests that are more stringent than other brands.  If it doesn't meet these specs, the memory gets rejected and then sold off in the surplus market for a LOT less.  I don't know exactly what Apple pays for the RAM that's soldered onto the motherboards of their laptops, but if they pay $15 for 4GB, then that's their raw cost.  But, it actually might cost them more than that because they are buying memory that meets THEIR tests which are more stringent.

     

    So, just because you can find 4GB RAM on eBay or some schlock memory supplier doesn't mean Apple pays the same amount or will pass the same tests.



    I've NEVER had any problems with Apple memory, yet I've had problems with 3rd party memory where it starts to become flaky after about a year.  So, memory isn't universally sold for the same prices to everyone or pass the same tests.

     

    Seriously, you need to calm down about memory prices.    Just for reference, Kingston, which is typically a good memory supplier, charges $79.00 List Price for one 4GB memory module for their memory specific modules which are tested to higher standards than the cheap crap that you are speaking about.   Memory prices fluctuate and when Apple buys memory, they don't always get cost adjustments because a particular is blowing out memory that was rejected.

     

    If you want to know about testing procedures, Kingston has a page that outlines a lot of the testing that they do, and it's VERY close to what Apple does.  What Apple doesn't accept gets thrown out on the open market for less money since it's rejected Apple's approval.

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