Updated on October 22, 2013
At a Glance
Apple's 13 and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros are the company's top-tier portable machines with Haswell/Crystal Well processors.
- Haswell/Crystal Well processors
- PCIe flash storage
- 8+ hour battery life
- 802.11ac Wi-Fi
- 0.71 inches thin
13.3-inch with 2560 x 1600 Display:
- $1,299: 2.4 Ghz Core i5 & 128 GB
- $1,499: 2.4 Ghz Core i5 & 256 GB
- $1,799: 2.6 Ghz Core i5 & 512 GB
15.4-inch with 2880 x 1800 Display:
- $1,999 2.0 Ghz Core i7 & 256 GB
- $2,599 2.3 Ghz Core i7 & 512 GB
Retina MacBook Pro
Apple's 13 and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros were updated on October 22 with new Intel processors, designed to improve battery life and overall performance. While the 13-inch model gained a Haswell processor, the 15-inch version was updated with a Crystal Well processor, a variation of the Haswell.
With the new processors, the 15-inch model now offers eight hours of battery life while the 13-inch version offers nine hours of battery life, an overall increase from the seven hours of battery life of the previous generation.
The new 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro retains the same form factor as its predecessor, but the 13-inch version has been slightly redesigned with a slimmer chassis to match the thickness of the 15-inch model. Both Retina MacBook Pros are now 0.71 inches thin.
Along with new processors, the Retina MacBook Pros feature Intel's "Iris" integrated graphics, which are a big improvement over the previous Intel HD Graphics 4000. According to Apple, Intel's Iris graphics deliver 90 percent faster performance. While the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro features Intel's Iris 5100 graphics, the 15-inch model incorporates Iris "Pro" HD 5200 graphics. An NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M discrete graphics card with 2GB of video memory can also be added to the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro.
Both versions of the Retina MacBook Pro have also been updated with faster 802.11ac Wi-Fi, PCIe-based flash storage that offers 60 percent faster read speeds than the previous generation, and dual Thunderbolt 2 ports to allow users to connect multiple displays.
Apple's Retina MacBook Pros are available starting at $1,299 for the 13-inch version and $1,999 for the 15-inch model, a $200 price drop compared to previous pricing. The Retina MacBook Pros can be purchased today, both online and in retail stores.
Non-Retina MacBook Pro
Apple did not update 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.
As the Retina MacBook Pro has reached near pricing parity with the non-Retina version with the most recent price drops, rumors have suggested Apple will discontinue its standard models in favor of an all Retina MacBook Pro lineup in 2014.
The entry level 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro can be upgraded with a 2.8 Ghz dual core Intel Core i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM. The mid-level version has the same upgrade options as does the most expensive model, though the high-end version can also be upgraded to add 1 TB of PCIe-based flash storage. With all upgrades selected, the ultimate 13-inch RMBP is priced at $2,699.
The entry level 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro can be upgraded with a 2.6 Ghz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 1 TB of PCIe-based flash storage. The high-end version includes the same upgrade options, but it also comes equipped with NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M graphics. With all upgrades selected, the ultimate 15-inch RMBP is priced at $3,299.
It should be noted that it is not worthwhile to choose to fully upgrade the lower end model over the higher end model, as the upgrades are priced the same even though the low end version lacks the NVIDIA graphics card.
Initial hands-on reviews of the Retina MacBook Pros have noted that the size decrease of the 13-inch model is highly noticeable as is its new Haswell processor and Iris graphics. The 15-inch version also seemed both speedier and more responsive, but additional benchmarks and tests should surface over the next few days to give a clearer picture of the performance enhancements the Crystal Well processor brings.
According to early benchmarks, the new Retina MacBook Pros offer a modest improvement over their predecessors. Geekbench 3 scores have shown a four to 10 percent improvement over the previous generation.
Several GPU tests conducted on the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro have revealed impressive performance gains with the new Intel Iris graphics, demonstrating a 45 to 50 percent frame rate improvement in the CineBench r15 OpenGL test and the Unigine Valley Benchmark, along with a 65 percent improvement using the Unigine Heaven Benchmark.
The Operating System
Apple's updated Retina MacBook Pros ship with OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple's newest operating system. Mavericks is all about saving power and introduces a number of new features that are designed to conserve battery life.
App Nap, Compressed Memory, and Timer Coalescing, for example, are all designed to reduce CPU utilization and cut down on unnecessary battery usage.
Mavericks also includes improvements to Finder, which will gain tabs and tags for easier file management, and better support for multiple displays, allowing full-screen apps to be used on individual displays for the first time.
Safari improvements are included, as well as apps for both Maps and iBooks. In all, Mavericks offers more than 200 new features that provide an unprecedented level of integration between OS X and iOS.
Some 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro owners have had problems with the keyboard and trackpad on the machine becoming unresponsive. Apple has addressed this issue with an EFI update that was released on November 7. An EFI update for the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro has also been made available, fixing an issue that limited the performance of the discrete graphics processor following a system wake or boot.
How to Buy
The MacBook Pro can be purchased from the online Apple Store, from an Apple retail location, or from select Apple Authorized Resellers. Currently, all models of the MacBook Pro ship within 24 hours from the online Apple Store.
Apple has also begun offering the newest 13 and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros in its online store for refurbished products. While available content in the store varies, purchasing a refurbished Retina MacBook Pro can offer a discount of up to $450.
Though details on the next-generation Retina MacBook Pro are scarce, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple will update the notebooks during the third quarter of 2014, alongside a revamped ultra thin 12-inch MacBook Air.