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 the latest version is even better, delivering faster performance and longer battery life.
All the computer that most will ever need. Even in its base configuration, the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display handles everyday computing needs without breaking a sweat thanks to its fourth-generation Core i7 (Haswell) processor. The rest of the base configuration includes a super-fast 256 GB PCIe flash drive and 8 GB of memory. Some are disappointed that the base version only allows for integrated graphics, but testing shows that the integrated Iris Pro solution is capable enough for anything short of high-end gaming. The step-up version (Est. $2,600 and up) adds discrete Nvidia's GeForce GT 750M graphics with 2 GB of graphics memory, along with a faster Core i7 and double the storage and system memory. That makes the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display a competent though not exceptional gaming rig, but perhaps overkill for anything else, at least in the eyes of some reviewers. Depending on the tester and the task, battery life now stretches to near nine hours, or beyond -- a nice boost to the MacBook's already impressive performance in that regard. The speakers are very high quality for a notebook. The Retina display continues to impress, even though its 2,880-by-1,800 screen is now out-pixeled by some Windows competitors, such as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus (Est. $1,400) and its Quad HD+ (3,200 by 1,800) display. The MacBook's display is also not touch-enabled, but that's not a big concern as neither is most Mac software.
Smooth as glass. Apple products have long been praised for their backlit keyboards and responsive glass trackpads, and the latest 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is no exception. 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 2 ports.
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. One is that very little is user repairable or replaceable -- even less-so than previous models, says iFixit. Its report grouses that everything right down to the headphone jack is now soldered in place. In short, it remains impossible for the average person to replace the RAM, hard drive or battery of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display.
Apple's build quality and customer service is unsurpassed, but you pay for it. Apple's superb engineering and friendly customer support leaves users raving. As a result, Apple has landed at the top of PCMag.com's Readers' Choice awards several years running and rates highly in Laptop Magazine's test of tech-support quality. 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.
A premium laptop at a not-as-premium price. This latest refresh brought more power to the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display, but also a $200 price cut (in the base model). That's certainly moving things in the right direction. Experts won't say that this laptop is a bargain, but many do say that you do get what you pay for with pricing that's largely in line with what competing high-end Windows laptops command. If you want something that's a little more portable and a little less expensive, the 13-inch MacBook Air with Retina Display (Est. $1,300) is a great alternative. You do give up a little on the performance front, but only a little, and experts say that what it can deliver is more than enough to meet the needs of most users.
PCMag.com gives the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display a 5-star rating and an Editors' Choice award. "With an updated Intel processor and speedier Flash Storage, the MacBook Pro 15-inch (2013) leapfrogs over the competition with workstation-class performance and a nine-hour battery life," Santo Domingo says.
Review: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (2013), Joel Santo Domingo, Oct. 25, 2013
Macworld subjects both versions of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display to a bevy of benchmark tests. The base version is a better performer than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display despite some disappointing graphics-related benchmarks. The high-end configuration is a top performer in every way.
Review: 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro Review: A Tale of Two Laptops, James Galbraith, Oct. 31, 2013
The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display nabs a 4-star rating at CNET. Ackerman notes improvements, and a more attractive price, but doesn't think that's enough to entice current owners to upgrade.
Review: Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2013) Review: Apple's High-end Laptop Gets Better Battery Life and a Lower Price, Dan Ackerman, Oct. 25, 2013
4. Computer Shopper
ComputerShopper.com grants the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display a 5-star rating and an Editors' Choice award. "Sure, $1,999 is a lot to ask for a base-model laptop in 2013, but the Retina Pro remains the best all-around laptop we've tested," Safford writes.
Review: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display (15-Inch, 2013 Version) Review and Ratings, Matt Safford, Oct. 31, 2013
5. Laptop Magazine
Laptop Magazine's Mark Spoonauer tests the high-end configuration and says that "the new 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display is the ultimate notebook for power users." Performance, battery life and the Retina display are among the factors that earn it an Editors' Choice award.
Review: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch Retina (2013) Review, Mark Spoonauer, Oct. 24, 2013
"Spending nearly $2,000 on a notebook is no small investment, but we're happy to report that the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is worthy of its price tag," AppleInsider.com reviewer Neil Hughes says. Lauding style and performance, the only significant downside is the lack of discrete graphics on the base version.
Review: Review: Apple's Late-2013 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, Neil Hughes, Nov. 3, 2013
Andrew Cunningham is a little more disappointed with the lack of discrete graphics than most and says that graphics performance is a step back from the previous model. However, he does note that the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is improved in most other ways.
Review: Retina, Round Two: Apple's 15-inch 2013 Retina MacBook Pro Reviewed, Andrew Cunningham, Oct. 26, 2013
8. The Verge
David Pierce says that the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display "is probably the best all-around laptop on the market." He does caution that the high-end configuration he tests is probably "overkill" for most. The laptop earns a 9.1 rating, high for this site.
Review: MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review (15-inch, 2013), David Pierce, Oct. 24, 2013