At first sight, this year's MacBook Pro looks identical to last year's, with the same impeccably designed unibody shell that, as always, exudes elegance, quality and strength. There's one minor difference, though: it's slightly thinner and lighter, going from 1.9 cm to 1.8 cm thick and from 1.62 kg to 1.57 kg.
The keyboard is just as nice to use as always, with chiclet keys that have a relatively short stroke and comfortable rebound. The 17 levels of the keyboard's backlighting are adjustable using the shortcut keys. It has all the same shortcuts; there's more or less everything you need, with perhaps the exception of airplane mode.
The touchpad is just like those on most of Apple's laptops: large, precise, enjoyable to use. It recognises the Mac OS one- to five-finger touch gestures, which always come in handy. The left and right clicks are integrated into the touchpad along the lower strip.
The ports are the same (two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a headphone/microphone combo jack and an SD card reader), except this time there's no RJ45/Ethernet port. As usual, it's really a shame there are only two USB ports, especially considering that there are still so few uses for the Thunderbolt port.
The wireless connectivity consists of Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11ac a/b/g/n. The Wi-Fi is stable; we measured the signal at -45 dBm from both 5 and 10 metres away, and -53 dBm from 20 metres away.
The heat stays in check, hitting 43°C in just one spot. Plus, since the hot air is expelled along the hinge between the chassis and the screen, it doesn't blow on your lap. And despite the switch from two fans to one, the noise stays just as reasonable at 34 dB(A).
The 13" MacBook Pro has 2560 x 1600 resolution. The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus and Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro both have higher resolution of 3200 x 1800 pixels, but in every other way the MacBook Pro's display wins the competition. The brightness goes up to 370 cd/m², which makes it visible outdoors in the sunlight, and it has a good contrast ratio of 830:1. The only drawback, as always on the MacBooks, is the glossy surface, which causes reflections and glare.
Grey colour temperature
Last year's 13" MacBook Pro had excellent colour fidelity with a Delta E of 3, but this year's is even better, with a Delta E of 2. That's the best figure we've seen on a laptop yet. The colour temperature is also just right at 6700 K. Anyone who wants or needs a detailed screen that accurately reproduces images will be in heaven here.
We found the Intel Core i5-4258U processor to be 5% slower than the Core i5-3210M that equipped the 2012 MacBook Pro 13". But that's not a problem, it's still a very fast processor, and who would even notice a 5% difference? It's also a bit slower than the Ativ Book 9 Plus and IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro, but again, we're splitting hairs here.
The CPU's integrated graphics chipset, an Intel Iris Graphics 5100, is more powerful than the HD Graphics 4400 usually found in computers that feature a Core i5-4200U. You won't be able to play any big 3D games like Crysis 3 or BioShock Infinite, but smaller games that don't require much power will run fine with okay graphics.
A couple things have changed since last year, most likely because of the smaller frame. Like on the MacBook Air, the speakers here are located on the underside of the keyboard, but they have higher volume and deliver perfectly respectable sound quality that's clean and has no saturation or chassis vibrations.
The sound through the headphone/microphone combo jack is just as good. Any saturation or other flaws are confined to inaudible frequencies. The stereo image isn't quite as balanced this year, with 60 dB separating both channels, but it's still better than most laptops.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
Apple is the all-time record holder for battery life on a laptop: the 13" MacBook Air holds out a full 15 hours. The 13" MacBook Pro lasts 9 hours and 10 minutes in the same conditions (non-stop video playback in airplane mode with the screen brightness at 100 cd/m², headphones plugged in and the keyboard backlighting turned off), which is far less, but it's still the second best battery life we've seen on a laptop!
At 1.57 kg, the 13" MacBook Pro is light enough to go anywhere with you.