Apple MacBook Pro 13in

Under the surface, Apple has rung the changes. Gone are the Ivy Bridge CPUs of old, replaced by a trio of Intel Haswell options: two Core i5 parts and a Core i7, the latter being a pricey optional upgrade. Most notably, and unlike the Haswell-powered Windows laptops we’ve seen, Apple has used CPUs equipped with Intel’s Iris Graphics 5100 GPU, which promises a significant advance on the Intel HD Graphics in the last generation. Rounding off the new specification is a range of new PCI Express SSD drives, with capacities in the preconfigured models stretching from 128GB up to 512GB, with 1TB an optional extra.
Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display
Suffice to say, the move to Haswell delivers a whole range of improvements. In our Real World Benchmarks, the improvements were slight: the previous Ivy Bridge model, with its 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M CPU, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD, scored 0.73 overall; our review model, equipped with a 2.6GHz Core i5-4288U CPU, 8GB of RAM and 512GB SSD, edged ahead with 0.76.
Subjectively, it’s the new PCI Express SSD that brings the biggest boost. Whether you’re working in OS X or Windows 8 via Boot Camp, the MacBook Pro feels incredibly light on its feet. Applications bound into view, and boot times are remarkably swift. Put to the test in Windows 8, the 512GB SSD in our review unit blitzed the AS SSD benchmark: it achieved sequential read and write speeds of 723MB/sec and 616MB/sec respectively, well ahead of the fastest 2.5in desktop SSD we’ve reviewed, Samsung’s 840 Pro
The debut of Iris Graphics 5100 addresses another criticism of the previous generation: while the previous HD Graphics 4000 GPU struggled and jerked even while scrolling through web pages, the Iris chipset is much more at ease with the scaling demands of the 13.3in, 2,560 x 1,600 display. Navigating through the OS or flicking through web pages is now smooth and fluid, and gaming performance takes a step forward, too – an average frame rate of 32fps in our Crysis benchmark run at 1,600 x 900 and Medium detail marks a significant 45% improvement on the previous model.
Stamina was never a weakness of the MacBook Pro, but Haswell delivers another shot in the arm all the same. With the screen dimmed to a brightness of 75cd/m2, and both the Bluetooth 4 and 802.11ac radios turned off, the MacBook bested its predecessor by over two hours. It survived for 11hrs 4mins in our light-use battery test, run under a Boot Camp installation of Windows 8 Pro 64-bit.
Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display
Some things haven’t changed a bit, however. The MacBook Pro’s Retina display still stomps all over the opposition. With a maximum brightness of 374cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1,069:1, images and videos burst forth from the glossy panel. Also, while the onscreen colours teem with life and vibrancy, they’re accurate, too: the MacBook Pro’s panel covers, and slightly exceeds, the sRGB colour gamut, and the average Delta E of 2.4 is top-notch by all but high-end monitor standards.

This is as good as laptop displays get, but the 2,560 x 1,600 resolution throws up minor difficulties. DPI scaling is required to keep onscreen elements legible in OS X and Windows 8 alike, but with more apps adding Retina support in OS X, and Windows 8.1 delivering much improved OS-wide scaling, it’s no longer the concern it was. Non-optimised applications such as Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 12 and Photoshop CS5 still throw up tiny, awkward onscreen interfaces, but we still found both usable.
Apple MacBook Pro 13in with Retina display
Connectivity hasn’t changed a great deal – there are still two USB 3 ports, twin Thunderbolt ports, HDMI and a full-sized SD card reader – but the addition of dual-band 802.11ac is welcome. Indeed, while you’ll need to upgrade your home router to get the best from the faster Wi-Fi standard, it’s almost enough for us to forgive Apple’s decision to abandon the Ethernet socket in last year’s redesign.
It’s incredibly tough to find fault with the new MacBook Pro. There’s power aplenty, great battery life, a class-leading display and – thanks to Intel’s Iris GPU – the graphics performance the Retina display always deserved. Gram-for-gram, we can’t think of another laptop that packs this much potential.