Product Notes: Apple MacBook Pro (Ivy Bridge)

June 11, 2012

On June 11, 2012, Apple announced updates to its MacBook Pro notebook line and the addition of a MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch. Specific changes to existing models include the transition to Intel's Ivy Bridge platform, the return of NVIDIA discrete video cards to the 15-inch, and the discontinuation of the MacBook Pro 17-inch.

Notable in what is not included in any new MacBook Pro models are 16:9 displays, integrated WWAN capability, or Blu-ray drives. The likelihood of these last two features appearing on any OS X system appears quite low.

Also, there is still no matte screen option for the MacBook Pro 13-inch, which matters to some users for both color precision and ergonomic reasons. Finally, the 13-inch display remains at 1280 x 800 pixels, unlike the MacBook Air 13-inch's 1440 x 900 resolution.

This moderate update (except for the MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch) follows previous updates to the MacBook Pro line in October 2011.

Design and Changes

MacBook Pro Retina 15-inchThe MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch (pictured) marks a major change from the rest of the MacBook Pro line. It is more than a pound lighter than the "classic" MacBook Pro 15-inch and, at slightly less than 4.5 pounds, is one of the lightest 15-inch notebooks on the market. Removing the optical drive and moving to a MacBook Air-like chassis gets most of the credit for the weight savings.

In addition to the lack of an optical drive, the Retina 15-inch also has neither a FireWire port nor an Ethernet port - traditional hallmarks of a MacBook Pro system. Apple expects to deliver Thunderbolt to FireWire and Thunderbolt to Ethernet adaptors in July.

In contrast to the Retina 15-inch, the updated MacBook Pros closely resemble the previous generation 13-inch and 15-inch.

The biggest single internal change for the all the new MacBook Pros is the move to Intel's Ivy Bridge platform, which brings improved general performance, significantly improved HD 4000 integrated graphics, improved battery life, and integrated USB 3.0.

Base RAM on all MacBook Pros is at least 4.0 GB, so no MacBook Pro needs to be upgraded to meet the RAM specifications in the Notebook Purchasing Guide.

All MacBook Pro models are Energy Star 5.2-certified.

Configuration and Ordering Notes

Several notes when ordering a MacBook Pro:

  1. The MacBook Pro 13-inch and 15-inch are available with Intel's current Core i5 and Core i7 processors. Information Systems & Computing (ISC) sees the 2.3 GHz Core i5 (13-inch) and 2.3 GHz Core i7 (15-inch and 15-inch Retina) processors as the best choices - for many users the more powerful processors available will not show enough speed improvement to justify the extra cost.
  2. Though 128 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB solid state drives are available with the MacBook Pro 13-inch and 15-inch, ISC does not believe that they are currently an appropriate choice for many users because the cost trade-offs are too great (solid state drives are the only drives available on the Retina 15-inch).
  3. The MacBook Pro 15-inch offers an "antiglare" (matte) display at extra cost. This display is appropriate for some users for both color precision and ergonomic reasons. The MacBook Pro 15-inch also offers a high resolution display that increases pixels per inch from 110 to 129. ISC believes that most users will be well served by the higher resolution display.
  4. ISC strongly recommends choosing AppleCare when purchasing any Apple notebook.

See ISC's Notebook Purchasing Guide for more configuration hints. As of June 2012, a MacBook Pro 15-inch can be configured to the Mid-Weight Notebook specification for approximately $1,950 to $2,100 while a MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina can be configured for approximately $2,250. A MacBook Pro 13-inch can be built to the Lightweight Notebook specification for approximately $1,300. The University's Computer Connection will have multiple MacBook Pro configurations available to order shortly.


ISC sees the new MacBook Pros as being a solid choice among notebooks available in mid 2012. The 13-inch and 15-inch remain Apple's only choice for OS X notebook users who require significant peripheral connectivity capabilities, while the 15-inch and the new Retina 15-inch are the only choice for OS X notebook users who require discrete graphics cards.

The debut of the Retina 15-inch and the continuation of the "classic" 13-inch and 15-inch shows that Apple lacks confidence that it can bring all of its mainstream users to a premium-priced system that has no built-in optical drive, Ethernet, or FireWire.

MacBook Pro Retina 15-inch graphic courtesy of Apple

--John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services (June 11, 2012)


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Date Posted: May 25, 2013

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