Apple MacBook Pro (Retina) Late 2013 Product Notes

On October 22, 2013, Apple significantly updated their "MacBook Pro with Retina display" product line. Both the 13-inch and 15-inch models received an upgrade to Haswell, Intel's current-generation chipset, as well as 802.11ac, new graphics options, and price reductions. The new MacBook Pro Retina models meet Energy Star 6 requirements and are rated EPEAT Gold.

Design and changes

MacBook Pro 13-inch

Notably different in the new version of the MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch are an integrated Intel Iris 5100 GPU (a significant step up from the previous Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, and newly differentiated from the MacBook Airs), and 802.11ac capability. It also has gained Thunderbolt 2 and a slightly thinned chassis with a quarter pound drop in weight.

Base prices have been lowered to $1,200, $1,400, or $1,700 depending on configuration of memory, storage, and processor. However, base RAM on the MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch has been reduced from 8.0 GB to 4.0 GB, which meets only the low end of the range of RAM specifications in the Notebook Purchasing Guide. Purchasers should consider configuring the machine to 8.0 GB when ordering if they expect to use the machine effectively for its full 3-year lifecycle.

MacBook Pro 15-inch

The MacBook Pro 15-inch has received similar updates to the 13-inch. The base version includes Intel's capable Iris Pro 5200 integrated graphics with optional Nvidia GeForce GT 750m discrete graphics. They also have 802.11ac and Thunderbolt 2 newly included. Aside from these bumps, the new generation is very similar, and physically identical, to the previous models.

The new base prices are $1,900 and $2,400 depending on selection of memory, storage, processor, and discrete graphics. The discontinuation of the “classic” MacBook Pro 15-inch raises the minimum entry price for a 15-inch OS X system.

Configuration and ordering notes

Several notes when ordering a MacBook Pro with Retina:

  • The MacBook Pro with Retina is available with Intel's current Core i5 and i7 processors (Core i7 standard in the 15-inch model). Information Systems & Computing (ISC) sees the base processors as the best choices: 2.4 GHz Core i5 in the 13-inch, 2.0 GHz Core i7 in the 15-inch. For most users, the more powerful processors will not show enough speed improvement to justify the extra cost.
  • Purchasers of the 13-inch model should strongly consider configuring the base model with at least 8.0 GB of RAM, or purchasing one of the versions that come standard with at least 8.0 GB of RAM.
  • These new MacBook Pro models ship with, and require OS X Mavericks
  • ISC strongly recommends choosing AppleCare when purchasing any Apple notebook.

See ISC's Notebook Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. As of October 2013, a MacBook Pro Retina 13-inch can be configured to the Lightweight Notebook specification for approximately $1,400 to $1,500, while a MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch can be configured to the Midweight Notebook specification for approximately $2,150 to $2,650. The University's Computer Connection has multiple current Retina 13- and 15-inch configurations available for order.

Analysis

ISC sees the new MacBook Pro Retina models as being solid choices among notebooks available in late 2013. The move to Haswell processors, Iris/Iris Pro integrated graphics, and 802.11ac are all welcome changes, particularly with Haswell's promise of increased battery life. These models also demonstrate Apple's confidence that it can offer systems with no built-in optical drive, Ethernet, or FireWire to mainstream users.

When deciding to purchase a MacBook Pro versus a MacBook Air, users' connectivity preferences must be taken into account. Both Retina and non-Retina MacBook Pro models have superior connectivity options compared to the MacBook Air line, but the Retina models omit Ethernet and Firewire 800 ports in favor of HDMI and an extra Thunderbolt 2 port. With the price drops of the Retina MacBook Pros, the choice in the 13-inch category often can be driven less by cost and more by use case and user preference.

Just as notable as the improvements to the MacBook Pro with Retina line is the continued existence of one, but only one, non-Retina "classic" MacBook Pro 13-inch model, which remains unchanged. Apple clearly considers the non-Retina MacBook Pro worth keeping around (at least for now): it remains the lowest-priced 13-inch notebook in Apple's lineup, providing Apple's best facsimile of a value system and their only notebook with a built-in optical drive in the line. Its presence buys Apple time to continue increasing 13-inch Retina production, and lowering costs for the likely eventual replacement of non-Retina with Retina models at the low end of the Apple notebook spectrum.

--Michael McLaughlin, John Mulhern III, and Vern Yoneyama, ISC Technology Support Services (October 25, 2013)

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Date Posted: October 22, 2013 Tags: Notebook, Hardware, Apple

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