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15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

*Est. $2,200 and up
Reviewed
July 2013
by ConsumerSearch
15-inch 2.3 GHz MacBook Pro with Retina Display

High-performance Apple laptop

Pros
  • Stunning high-resolution Retina display
  • Excellent performance
  • Excellent battery life
Cons
  • No optical drive or Ethernet port
  • Apps not optimized for Retina look blurry
  • Difficult to swap parts
Where to Buy
 

Bottom line

Critics fell in love with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display the day it launched, showering it with more accolades and Editors' Choice awards than any other Apple product. Experts say it's a near-perfect blend of power, aesthetics and ergonomics.

Performance

All the computer that most will ever need. Thanks to its 2.4 GHz quad-core Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of speedy flash storage, the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display handles everyday computing needs without breaking a sweat and makes quick work of more demanding tasks, such as video editing and processing. Gaming frame rates are solid and smooth thanks to a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 650M, while the eight hours of battery life outshine lesser-powered competitors. The speakers are also very high quality for a notebook. Despite all of that, the Retina display is what sets this laptop apart from the competition. Every critic who sees the 2,880-by-1,800-pixel screen -- which is more than twice the average resolution for notebooks -- is wowed by just how sharp and beautiful it looks. A step-up model (Est. $2,800 and up) doubles the RAM and flash storage and packs an even more powerful processor, but few other than the highest-end gamers and graphics professionals will need that much horsepower.

Ergonomics

Smooth as glass. Apple products have long been praised for their backlit keyboards and responsive glass trackpads, and the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is no exception. A couple of reviewers note, however, that the keyboard can become hot during prolonged usage. The notebook packs in Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi radios, but there's no way to make a wired connection unless you pick up a separate Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter. The MacBook Pro with Retina Display sports an HDMI connection, and it also includes two speedy USB 3.0 ports and two even quicker Thunderbolt ports.

Design

It's one attractive laptop. Despite its heavy-duty components, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display's all-aluminum body has been shrunk down to almost MacBook Air-like proportions. Cramming the MacBook Pro's heavy firepower into such a compact case requires some compromises, however. While the standard MacBook Pro models have fully swappable and repairable components, iFixit.com reports that it's impossible for the average person to replace the RAM, hard drive or battery of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. In addition, features like an optical drive and Kensington security lock (both found in standard MacBook Pro models) have been left out.

Support and reliability

Apple's build quality and customer service is unsurpassed, but you pay for it. Apple's superb engineering and friendly customer support leaves Amazon.com users raving. As a result, Apple has landed at the top of PCMag.com's Readers' Choice awards several years running. Anybody can bring their notebook to a Genius Bar for expert assistance; the service is free, though you'll need to make an appointment. There's a one-year parts and labor warranty, though technical support over the phone is only provided for 90 days, which is far less than the industry norm, especially for a high-end provider. You can opt to purchase extended Apple Care plans, however, but they are relatively expensive.

Value

A premium laptop at a premium price. If you purchase a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, you're buying it for the eye-popping high-res screen. Windows-based Ultrabooks with comparable components can be found for far less and, if you can live without the Retina display, there are very similar standard 15-inch MacBook Pros that are hundreds of dollars cheaper. Experts say the 13-inch MacBook Air (Est. $1,100 and up) is smaller, lighter and packs more than enough power for typical users. It's been updated with the latest Intel 4th generation Core processor (Haswell), plus it's $1,100 cheaper than the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Est. $1,500 and up) has the highest-resolution screen you can get in a 13-inch laptop, but is less powerful than its 15-inch brand mate.

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Apple MacBook Pro MC976LL/A 15.4-Inch Laptop with Retina Display

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Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

PCMag.com gives the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display a 4.5 rating and an Editors' Choice award, calling it the "king of high-end desktop replacement laptops." The Retina display, slim frame and high-end components win over reviewer Joel Santo Domingo, who finds very little to complain about.

Review: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Retina Display), Joel Santo Domingo, June 13, 2012

2. Macworld

Macworld subjects the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display to a bevy of benchmark tests and awards the laptop 4.5 (out of 5) mice. "It's a bright, shining symbol of excellence," reviewer Roman Loyola writes.

Review: MacBook Pro with Retina Display Redefines the Concept of a 'Pro' Laptop, Roman Loyola, June 15, 2012

3. CNET

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display nabs another Editors' Choice award at CNET. The Retina display and the power and portability of the notebook wow reviewer Dan Ackerman, though he notes that "With a $2,199 entry-level price tag, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display costs more than the typical American mortgage."

Review: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review, Dan Ackerman, June 13, 2012

4. Computer Shopper

ComputerShopper.com knocks the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display for a few "nits to pick" -- its high price, lack of Ethernet or an optical drive, and the way sites that aren't Retina-optimized look on the laptop. However, notes reviewer Eric Grevstad, the rest of the package is of such high quality that it earns a perfect rating and yet another Editors' Choice award.

Review: Apple MacBook Pro (15-Inch Retina Display, 2012 Version), Eric Grevstad, June 14, 2012

5. Laptop Magazine

Laptop Magazine's Mark Spoonauer says the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is very fast, very pretty and very portable and long-lasting en route, earning it a 4.5 (out of 5) rating and an Editors' Choice award.

Review: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review, Mark Spoonauer, June 12, 2012

6. Engadget.com

Engadget.com doesn't hand out ratings or awards, but after reading this lengthy review there's little question that Tim Stevens loves the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Asking if it is the "best Mac ever," he adds that it is "a proper beast that you can throw in your messenger bag and carry around all day without spending all night complaining about an aching back."

Review: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review, Tim Stevens, June 13, 2012

7. Anandtech.com

AnandTech.com's in-depth reviews are famous in the technology world, and this look at the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is no different. After subjecting the notebook to far more testing than any other source, Anand Lal Shimpi gives it an Editor's Choice award -- the first in recent memory for this notoriously reticent site.

Review: The Next-Gen MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review, Anand Lal Shimpi, June 23, 2012

8. AppleInsider.com

"The new MacBook Pro is the best notebook Apple has ever built to date," AppleInsider.com reviewer Neil Hughes says. He thinks the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is a glimpse into the future of Apple products, but says experiencing that future today comes with a price tag that will put off many would-be buyers.

Review: Review: Apple's Next-Gen MacBook Pro with 15" Retina Display, Neil Hughes, June 19, 2012

9. TechRadar.com

TechRadar.com's reviews are normally fairly brief, but the coverage of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display stretches out over four pages of benchmarks and opinions. TechRadar.com reviewer Ian Osborne writes that the15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is "truly an object of desire. It packs incredible power, and its screen puts other notebook displays to shame."

Review: MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display Review, Ian Osborne, June 22, 2012

10. Arstechnica.com

Chris Foresman's review of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display rivals AnandTech.com's in length and detail. After pages' worth of photos and benchmark tests, Foresman says the Retina display, port selection and high-powered performance make it one of the most capable notebooks around, though he concedes most people don't need that kind of power and can't afford the price.

Review: Pixelpalooza: 15" Retina MacBook Pro Reviewed, Chris Foresman, June 23, 2012

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