2015 13” MacBook Pro Retina Review

Rating:

Apple is one of the very few companies in the world that manage to continuously build exceedingly beautiful machines that manage to cram insanely good performance under the hood. The update to the MacBook Pro Retina is no exception, sporting the new Intel Broadwell processors, Iris 6100 graphics, faster flash storage, increased battery life, and the vaunted Force Touch trackpad.

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It isn’t often that I will gush about technology, but there are plenty of good reasons that I have chosen to stick with Apple computers for all of my work machines in the past five years: they are well made, they are rock solid performers, and they basically last forever.

The early 2015 13” MacBook Pro Retina, henceforth referred to as the rMBP, is no exception.

Form Factor

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True to form, the outer shell of the 13” rMBP is a very clean and sleek looking aluminum unibody exterior.

At 0.71” in thickness, the rMBP has quite a thin profile. Weighing in at 3.48 pounds, there is a certain heft and solidity to the rMBP that gives it a very “serious business” feeling when holding onto it, albeit not being light enough to hold one-handed for longer than a few minutes at a time. If you have a habit of walking around holding your laptop one-handed, like I do, be sure to re-examine that habit before continuing to do it with the rMBP!

There are also quite a few available ports available on the rMBP: 2x Thunderbolt ports, 2x USB ports, 1x headphone jack, 1x HDMI port, and 1x SD card slot. These ports should cover practically anything that you’d like to connect to your laptop, and then some.

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The 2015 refresh of the rMBP also comes with a nifty new addition with the Force Trackpad. The Force Trackpad is a new kind of trackpad that has sensors that detect the amount of force you’re applying to your clicks to perform a context specific action. You can use it to rename files and folders, do a Quick Look in Finder, or display a preview with links to websites, and that’s just a small sampling of what’s possible. It’s a very welcome addition to the trackpad, and provides some great functionality without really changing your workflow – but a warning to those who used to click hard before the Force Trackpad: it might take some adjustments before you stop renaming files when all you wanted to do was drag it somewhere!

In general, the MacBook Pro Retina is exactly how you want your laptop to look and feel. The aluminum body looks proper and fits in whether being used for leisure or for business. It’s thin enough to fit into almost any medium used for carriage. And, while it’s potentially on the heavier side of Apple laptops, it’s certainly impressive that they packed so much hardware and performance into something that’s under 4 pounds.

Hardware and Performance

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Personally, when it comes to computers, especially those of the laptop variety, I care most about portability and solid performance – nothing worse than a bulky laptop or a non-performant laptop. The portability of the rMBP, as mentioned earlier, is fantastic: lightweight and sturdy, built for being carried around without a propensity of falling apart that lesser laptop bodies might be prone to.

With respect to performance, the rMBP is ridiculously powerful, considering its size and form factor, and even more so considering that the hardware does all this while driving the high resolution retina display on the rMBP. You will find plenty of hard drive space to store all of your files, and a solid amount of memory (RAM) for any of your multitasking needs. The rMBP would only potentially fall short, in terms of memory, when performing heavy video editing tasks, and even then, not by much. In addition, the retina monitor is crisp and beautiful, and it is not a new addition for this round of the rMBP since Apple’s retina displays have been around for years, but if you have not experienced it before, it’s a delightful experience.

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While the MacBook Pro line has had flash storage, or solid state drive storage, as an option since the mid-2012 version, the 2015 version of the MacBook Retina Pro brings an even faster version of SSDs to the table. In the tests performed with the rMBP, I was seeing speeds of 1.1GB/s to 1.4GB/s for both read and write, which is a ridiculous speed for a computer to be able to achieve with its storage, and really puts the rMBP into a league of its own. If you’ve never owned a computer running purely off of SSDs, prepare yourself for really short boot times and apps seeming to load almost instantly.

Last, and definitely not least, the battery on the rMBP is nothing short of incredible. With laptops, having a strong and long-lasting battery is key to both the portability and performance, and the rMBP has battery life in spades.

As a personal example, I spend much of my day with several apps and programs open on my computer: Google Chrome (with too many tabs), Spotify, and Slack. On top of that, I will have a combination of some sort of text editor, or Arduino, or a 3D modelling program, or a 3D model slicing program open at any given moment. If it all sounds like gobbledegook to you, that’s okay. The translation is this: I run quite a few programs that are massive drains on the battery because they are memory and processor hogs. How does the rMBP cope with my day-to-day workload?

I managed to run the rMBP for nine (9!) hours straight during a whole work day from battery alone and with no adjustments, because I managed to forget my charging cord at home.

If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.

In short: the battery on the rMBP is essentially the massive cherry on top of a very well-made and well-designed workhorse, making the hardware and performance of the rMBP almost unbeatable.

The Bottom Line

It’s tough to make a general statement about something that works incredibly well for your own personal wants and needs, especially something like a laptop. However, the bottom line with the MacBook Pro Retina is this: you get a solid laptop that is well-built and will probably last you half a decade with proper care, with powerful performance and fantastically long-lasting battery life.

This product is perfect for: people who need an ultra-portable, ultra-powerful laptop that fits into any environment and is an absolute workhorse.

Key things to be aware of: the MacBook Pro Retina can be a bit on the heavy side, and is quite pricy for a laptop, but will last you a very long time. AppleCare will be your friend.

Final review score: 5. The MacBook Pro Retina is my current work computer for a reason – it performs an absolutely insane level, it looks and feels great, and I intend to use it for several years as my daily work machine.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
2015 13” MacBook Pro Retina
Author Rating
5
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Jon Lim

Jon Lim is a professional developer, writer, and an avid technologist. He has written creatively for the past 16 years, and professionally for 4 years.

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