REVIEW / Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display 13" (2012)

Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display 13" (2012)

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Alexandre Botella Published on November 23, 2012
Translated by Hugh Ehreth
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  • CPU Intel Core i5-3210M
  • Graphics chipset Intel HD 4000
  • RAM 8 GB
  • Screen 13 inches, 2560 x 1600 pixels
  • Storage space 128 GB
  • Optical drive NA


The 13" MacBook Pro is back, this time with a Retina Display. But like this year's 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, Apple has updated more than just the screen...


The standard MacBook Pro design hasn't changed. The aluminium unibody has the same impeccable finishing as ever. However, the borders of the glossy black screen will require a certain amount of care if you don't want them covered in smudges.

13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) - keyboard

Nothing much has changed with the keyboard and touchpad, either. The backlit chiclet keys are soft and quiet, and there are even shortcut keys to vary the intensity of the backlighting. The touchpad offers smooth, precise movements and recognises all the common multitouch commands (zoom, rotate, two-finger scrolling...).

13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) - connectivity R

This 13" MacBook Pro has the exact same connectivity as the 15": HDMI, one USB 3.0 and a card reader on the right, MagSafe 2 magnetised power port (a great idea—it just snaps out when you tug on it), two Thunderbolt ports (video out/data transferring), a second USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack on the left. All that's missing is an RJ45 (Ethernet) port.

13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) - connectivity L

To make up for the lack of Ethernet you'll have to buy an adapter from the Apple Online Store for £25. Like we said with the 15", given the computer's sale price we find it a little messed up not to include the adapter. There's also no DVD burner, but that's less of a problem considering that nowadays most software and drivers are available online and operating systems can be installed on USB keys. Apple sells a SuperDrive external CD/DVD burner separately for £65.

13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) - heat
Heat readings for the 13" Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display with the components under stress.
Images captured with a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.

If there's one thing the 2012 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display does flawlessly—and I mean flawlessly—it's keeping the fan noise down to a minimum. Whether at rest or in the heat of action the fan always stays entirely inaudible, never exceeding 33 dB(A)—which is the same level we detect in our testing room when it's empty! And the heat stays reasonable, too.


13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) - Delta E

The Retina Display is an IPS screen with 2550 x 1440 resolution. On top of the wide-open viewing angles and four times higher resolution than the "regular" 13-inch MacBook Pro, it also has accurate colours (Delta E = 3) and contrast that ranges from 860:1 to 960:1, depending on the brightness. The only major issues remains the glossy surface that causes a lot of glare outside, despite brightness of up to 320 cd/m².


Like the other MacBook Pros, the speakers are located underneath the keyboard and offer quality sound. The only slight flaw is a touch of sibilance that makes "s" sounds hiss when the volume's high. And like the 2012 13" MacBook Air, the headphone output is perfect. The sound is accurate and the volume goes higher than most of its competitors, with no adverse effects such as distortion. Bravo.

Our Model:

The model we were sent for review features an Intel Core i5-3210M processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB solid-state drive. Whereas the comments above refer to all versions of the 2012 13" Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display, the observations below apply to the configuration we tested only, as each model has different specifications. Individual components may also vary depending on the country/region you live in (see inset).


The Intel Core i5-3210M processor offers a comfortable amount of processing power. Compared to the i5-3427U found in this year's 13" MacBook Air, it takes 35% less time on average to execute complex tasks such as 3D modelling and mass data archiving, which means that productivity and other everyday tasks run without any lags.

The 8 GB of RAM and, especially, the 256 GB solid-state drive make this a highly responsive machine. The startup time is just 15 seconds and shutdown take 5 seconds. The downside is that the storage is limited to 256 GB (minus the space needed for the OS), so the space available for personal files and software is relatively limited.


The Intel HD 4000 chipset simply isn't enough for hardcore (or even medium-core) gaming. It's too bad Apple isn't selling an optional video card. We figure the choice was probably made to prevent overheating.


The size (31.4 x 21.9 x 1.9 cm) and battery life (6 1/2 hours during continuous video playback with headphones plugged in, the screen at 100 cd/m² and Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off) are perfectly suited for life on the go. It isn't the lightest laptop out there (1.6 kg), but it shouldn't throw your back out, either.

Different models, different specs
The standard 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display has an Intel Core i5-3210M processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 128 GB solid-state drive, and runs for £1,449. You can also boost the processing power with an Intel Core i7 (+ £160) and the storage capacity to 256 GB (+ £250), 512 GB (+ £650) or 768 (+ £1,050). Given the price hike with the added SSDs, we recommend simply getting the minimum storage capacity and buying an external HDD to go with it.


  • Impeccable finishing
  • Quality IPS display
  • CPU, RAM & SSD make for a high-performance combo
  • Quick startup and shutdown
  • Zero noise


  • Glossy screen
  • Not for gamers
  • No Ethernet


After the stellar 15" version, this year's 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display won us over with its impeccable finishing, quality screen, silent fan, battery life and processing power. All Apple has to do to reach perfection is add Ethernet and lower the price... Hey, you can always dream, right?
5 Apple 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) DigitalVersus 2012-11-23 15:00:00
Compare: Apple 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (2012) to its competitors


Store Available Price £ 850.00 See offer  
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