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Upgrades make Retina MacBook Pro a better bargain

James Galbraith | Feb. 22, 2013
In the latest update to the Retina MacBook Pro, some models got price cuts, some received slightly faster processors, and some got a healthy bump in the amount of RAM. Anyone who purchased a Retina MacBook Pro prior to this refresh shouldn't kick themselves for making the leap, but the reduced cost for the 13-inch models and faster performance for the 15-inch models make these thin, light, and fast laptops a better deal than ever.

The new 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros have 2880-by-1800-pixel resolution, with a slightly lower pixel density--220 ppi--than the 13-inch Retina model. The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro is actually 0.04 inch thinner than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, and weighs in at 4.46 pounds, about the same as the non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro.

The new 15-inch models cost the same as their predecessors ($2199 and $2799), but the base model now has a faster, 2.4GHz Core i7 quad-core processor and supports both Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost. It also features the same 8GB of 1600MHz memory (upgradable to 16GB for $200 more, but only at the point of purchase) and 256GB of flash storage as before, as well as both integrated and discrete graphics in the form of Intel's HD Graphics 4000 and Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M with 1GB of GDDR5 memory. The high-end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro has a faster 2.7GHz Core i7 quad-core processor, a whopping 16GB of 1600MHz memory, and the same 500GB of flash storage and dual integrated/discrete graphics as the previous high-end standard-configuration Retina MacBook Pro.

All about performance

To see how these new updates affect performance, we ran our Speedmark 8 overall system performance benchmark suite, which helps us compare the new system's results to those of previous systems and other Apple portables. The new 13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pro earned a Speedmark 8 score of 190, about 3 percent faster than the 13-inch base model with its 2.5GHz Core i5 processor. With both systems sharing so many specifications (graphics, flash storage, RAM), its not surprising that most tests results were very close, and some were even identical.

The high-end 13-inch 2.6GHz Core i5 Retina MacBook Pro's Speedmark 8 score was 24 percent higher than that of the high-end 13-inch 2.9GHz Core i7 standard MacBook Pro, due almost entirely to the Retina MacBook Pro's faster flash storage. The 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro was faster in seven tests, including a file duplication test that took five times longer to complete on the non-Retina MacBook Pro's standard 5400-rpm hard drive. The standard MacBook Pro, with its discrete graphics and speedier Core i7 processor, was faster in seven tests, including MathematicaMark 8, Portal 2, and Cinebench's OpenGL and CPU tests.

If you're trying to decide between a MacBook Air and a Retina MacBook Pro, you'll be interested to know that the Retina MacBook Pro was 14 percent faster overall, with processor-intensive tests showing the biggest differences. The Retina MacBook Pro was 40 percent faster than the MacBook Air in our Handbrake test, 17 percent faster in the Cinebench CPU test, and 7 percent faster in the MathematicaMark 8 test. The extra RAM in the MacBook Pro helped it earn a 34 percent higher productivity score in PCMark running on Windows 7 using VMWare Fusion.


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