New 15-inch Retina models with Force Touch trackpad released May 19.
At a Glance
Apple's 13 and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros are the company's top-tier portable machines. The 13-inch model received an update featuring a new Force Touch trackpad on March 9, 2015, while the 15-inch model followed suit on May 19.
- Haswell/Crystal Well processors on 15-inch, Broadwell processors on 13-inch
- Force Touch trackpad
- PCIe flash storage
- 9+ hour battery life
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- 0.71 inches thin
13.3-inch with 2560 x 1600 Display:
- $1,299: 2.7 GHz Core i5 & 128 GB
- $1,499: 2.7 GHz Core i5 & 256 GB
- $1,799: 2.9 GHz Core i5 & 512 GB
15.4-inch with 2880 x 1800 Display:
- $1,999 2.2 GHz Core i7 & 256 GB
- $2,499 2.5 GHz Core i7 & 512 GB
At its "Spring Forward" media event on March 9, 2015, Apple released an updated 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. The new machine offers several improvements over the 2014 model, including a Broadwell processor, improved Intel graphics, a "Force Touch" trackpad, faster flash storage, and improved battery life. Apple followed up with an update to the 15-inch lineup on May 19, incorporating the Force Touch trackpad, faster flash storage and graphics, and longer battery life.
While the 13-inch models moved to Intel's latest Broadwell processors, the 15-inch models continue to use the same Haswell processors from the previous generation, as Intel has yet to release quad-core Broadwell processors suitable for the larger model.
13-Inch Retina MacBook Pro
The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is currently the only notebook in the MacBook Pro family to run Intel's new Broadwell processors, offering increased performance and battery life compared to the previous generation. Though there were many other internal upgrades, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro continues to have the same design as the previous-generation versions, with a 2560 x 1600, 227 pixels-per-inch Retina Display. It weighs 3.48 pounds and is 0.71 inches thick, as it is focused on performance over portability. Three base configurations are available, priced at $1,299, $1,499, and $1,799 depending on processor and storage space.
With the new Broadwell processors, the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro offers an impressive battery life of up to 10 hours of wireless web browsing or 12 hours of iTunes movie playback.
Processor and Graphics
Geekbench benchmarks have revealed that the new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro's Broadwell chips offer only small gains over their predecessors, which is not surprising as Broadwell focuses on improved efficiency and better battery life over raw processing power. In general, performance improvements of 3-7 percent are seen in various benchmark tests.
Along with a Broadwell processor, the new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro comes equipped with upgraded Intel Iris Graphics 6100, estimated to be slightly faster than a dedicated GeForce 820M.
There is no option to add a discrete graphics card to the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro as there is in the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
According to Apple, the new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro features upgraded flash storage that is two times faster than the flash storage in the previous-generation machine. The 13-inch MacBook Air received the same update, and benchmarks conducted on that machine suggest that Apple's estimate is accurate.
The flash storage in the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is indeed much faster than the flash storage in previous models.
Force Touch Trackpad
The major new feature in the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro is a revamped "Force Touch" trackpad, which was also added to the new Retina MacBook. The trackpad's Force Touch capabilities allow it to distinguish between a hard press and a soft press, enabling new gestures.
For example, while a light press is a regular click, a deeper press on a highlighted word while browsing Safari might bring up a Wikipedia entry, much as a control + click does now. There are a number of new built-in gestures, and Apple's also allowing developers to access Force Touch APIs to build pressure sensitivity into Mac apps.
The trackpad works using four Force Sensors, which allow users to click anywhere on the trackpad. This is an improvement over previous-generation trackpads that were difficult to click near the top portion adjacent to the keyboard.
The Force Sensors that detect presses work in conjunction with a magnet-powered Taptic Engine, giving users tactile feedback on the actions they make. This combination of Force Touch and haptic feedback means the actual trackpad no longer moves -- there is no actual physical clicking -- but it continues to feel largely the same as the previous trackpad.
Essentially, when the trackpad on the new Retina MacBook Pro is pressed with enough force to "click," the trackpad vibrates against the fingers to let users know they've performed the action. According to reviews of the Force Touch trackpad, the haptic feedback feels very much like a physical click.
The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro also includes faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, dual Thunderbolt 2 ports to allow users to connect multiple displays, dual mics, stereo speakers, two USB 3 ports, an SDXC card slot, an HDMI port, a headphone port, and a MagSafe 2 power port.
The new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro models no longer support Windows 7 in Boot Camp.
The two middle-tier Retina MacBook Pro options can be configured with a 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, while the high-end model can be configured with a 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor.
The maximum amount of RAM available for the machines is 16GB, and the high-end 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro can be configured to have 1TB of flash storage. Lower-end models ship with 128GB or 256GB.
15-Inch Retina MacBook Pro
Apple updated the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro on May 19, 2015, and while it does not include Broadwell processors because of Intel's delays, the new machine does offer many of the same improvements introduced with the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
Among the improvements are the same Force Touch trackpad as the 13-inch model, improved discrete graphics from AMD, faster flash storage, and a bump in battery life from 8 hours to 9 hours, enabled in part by the thinner Force Touch trackpad making room for a slightly larger battery.
The solid state drive in the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is the fastest notebook drive Apple has debuted yet, reaching throughput speeds up to 2GB/s. It is 2.5 times faster than the SSD in the previous-generation 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
The new 15-inch MacBook Pro still offers a quad-core Crystal Well processor, a variation of the Haswell, and it includes Intel's Iris Pro HD 5200 graphics. The high-end model now features AMD Radeon R9 M370X discrete graphics with 2 GB of memory, an upgrade over the NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics from the previous generation.
Like the 13-inch model, the 15-inch MacBook Pro offers faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi and PCIe-based flash storage, as well as dual Thunderbolt 2 ports to allow users to connect multiple displays.
The entry level 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro can be upgraded to a maximum 2.8 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and 1 TB of PCIe-based flash storage. The high-end version includes the same upgrade options, but it also comes equipped with AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics. With all upgrades selected, the ultimate 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is priced at $3,199.
Non-Retina MacBook Pro
Apple has not updated its non-Retina MacBook Pros with Haswell processors and has ceased offering the non-Retina 15-inch MacBook Pro. While Apple is still selling the non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro, it has not been refreshed since June of 2012. The stock configuration did receive a $100 price cut to $1099 on July 29, 2014.
As the Retina MacBook Pro has reached near pricing parity with the non-Retina version with recent price drops, Apple will likely discontinue its non-Retina model in favor of an all Retina MacBook Pro lineup at some point.
MacBook Buyer's Guide
With the addition of the new MacBook to Apple's notebook lineup, it's harder than ever to figure out which Apple laptop will best meet your needs. If you're planning on purchasing a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or MacBook and aren't sure which one to get, make sure to check out our MacBook Buyer's Guide before making a decision.
It'll walk you through all of the options that are available and all the different features of each MacBook to help you make the right decision.
How to Buy
All of Apple's MacBook Pro models can be purchased from the online Apple Store, from an Apple retail location, or from select Apple Authorized Resellers. Currently, all models of the 13-inch MacBook Pro ship within 24 hours from the online Apple Store, while the new 15-inch models are seeing a day or two of delay as Apple gears up distribution of the updated models.
Quad-core Broadwell processors appropriate for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro are still expected in the July-August timeframe, meaning Apple could go with a fairly short update cycle and release new models perhaps around its usual October iPad and Mac event. Alternatively, Apple could wait a bit longer and jump directly to Skylake chips, but we've yet to see detailed timelines of Intel's release schedule for the appropriate chips.