MacBook Pro laptops have a sleek aluminum unibody case, edge-to-edge glass display and flush trackpad, and they're available in 13- and 15-inch versions. All MacBook Pro notebooks, including the Retina display models, offer battery life of 5.5 to 7 hours -- above average for laptops, especially performance laptops. The backlit keyboard and glass trackpad found on Mac laptops are likewise considered second to none. New last year was the addition of USB 3.0 ports, which are much speedier than USB 2.0. An upgrade to the latest-generation Intel Haswell Core processors is expected before the end of 2013.
The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (*Est. $2,200 and up) is Apple's flagship MacBook Pro and one of the best performance notebooks around. The component lineup includes a 2.4 GHz quad-core third-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, a Nvidia GPU with 1 GB of its own RAM and a 256 GB SSD. The Nvidia GPU includes Optimus switching technology that only activates the discrete GPU when it's needed, leaving lighter tasks to the Ivy Bridge CPU's integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics and saving battery life in the process.
Late in 2012, Apple also introduced a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (Est. $1,500 and up) . It's less expensive than the 15-inch version, but also a bit less powerful. Its internals include a 2.5 GHz dual-core third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics and a 128 GB SSD. However, while performance can't quite keep up with its 15-inch sibling, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display offers plenty of horsepower for everyday computing, making it a good value choice.
By now, the Retina display probably needs no introduction. It is without a doubt stunning, with resolution so high that the human eye can't pick out individual pixels at typical viewing distances. But it also adds a bit to the laptop's bottom line. If a very nice screen rather than a spectacular one will do, the entry level MacBook Pro laptops still bear lots of consideration.
The 15-inch MacBook Pro (Est. $1,800 and up) sports a 2.3 GHz quad-core third-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 4 GB of RAM, a Nvidia GPU with 512 MB of its own RAM and a 500 GB traditional hard drive. The 1,600-by-900-pixel screen is outclassed by the 2,880-by-1,800 native resolution found in the MacBook Pro laptops with the Retina display, but is still very nice.
The 13-inch MacBook Pros don't attract the same level of enthusiasm as their 15-inch counterparts, but reviewers say that they offer good bang for the buck. Two configurations are available. The most inexpensive option (Est. $1,200 and up) comes with a 2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. The step-up model (Est. $1,500 and up) sports a 2.9 GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU with 8 GB of RAM and a 750 GB hard drive. Although both 13-inch MacBook Pros lack discrete graphics, they do include a Thunderbolt port, Bluetooth 4.0, an optical drive and a FaceTime HD webcam.
Though in many ways the 13-inch MacBook Pro is simply a smaller version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, there are some key differences, reviewers say. The configuration is clearly a step behind the Core i7-equipped 15-inch version when it comes to performance, though the 13-inch Apple laptop will still handle most everyday computing with ease. In addition, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has a lower screen resolution (1,280 by 800 versus 1,440 by 90) than the 15-inch model, and Macworld says its on-screen colors are more muted.