back to article Apple MacBook 13in with Retina display

It’s been quite some time since I looked at a new MacBook Pro. However, I spend a lot of my time looking at an old one. I’ve a first generation Unibody model. What a great idea that was. Just unscrew the back for easy access to the RAM and the drive. The battery wasn’t easily swappable, but hey, you could whip the HDD out with …


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  1. sad_loser

    Where's the matt screen?

    I have got the money ready but until I can get a non reflective screen, am sticking with my 2010 15" MBP with a 512 SSD.

    C'mon apple, some of earn our living with this kit. We aren't all sitting round in shoreditch being Nathan Barley.

    1. Mondo the Magnificent

      Re: Where's the matt screen?

      This question regularly seems to come up when ElReg reviews Macs of any shape or form. (Mac Mini excluded)

      Matt screens suit some, but not most. I've seen some 3rd party screen covers that take the glare of the MacBook's monitor, they're not cheap, or in my case, that easy to install without the screen looking like bubble wrap.

      TBH I don't believe Apple would offer a "Matt Retina Display" option, so this question will be raised by many and unanswered by Apple.

      All in a good review and kudos for doing the Bootcamp thing too, as most (naïve/new) Mac users still scramble off to Parallels Desktop for Mac as a solution to get the "all in one OS X/Windows experience"

      Sure Bootcamp allows you to run one or the other, but it works for me.

      I too run a late 2010 MBP and like the "upgradability" that it offers, however I've still not broken the seal or replaced any internals, three years on.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where's the matt screen?

        Any proof it doesn't suit most or is that just conjecture?

        I'd be very surprised if most people do want reflective screens.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where's the matt screen?

          Any proof that it does?

        2. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Where's the matt screen?

          I have a 27" iMac and the glossy screen is annoying, but I put up with it, because of the screen real estate - it is either that or a 5 year old PC with a cheapo 24" matt screen.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Where's the matt screen? Health and Safety

        Over here, you are not allowed to give employees glossy screens, they have to be matt...

        That said, many employees seem to be happy signing a waiver, if they can get a tablet or a Mac...

      3. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: Where's the matt screen?

        PC Pro did a survey on that a year or two back and around 80% of people who responded claimed they preferred matte screens. Sure that means some that like glossy screens, but you'd be surprised how few do. Problem with matte is that you lose some of the "Look at the shiny shiny" effect from it, which is probably why Apple aren't doing one.

        Personally, although I love the 16:10 aspect ratio, the lack of a matte option combined with being utterly unable to upgrade any part of it would be enough for me to say "No". I can understand lack of upgradability on a tablet or ultrabook, but on a proper laptop there's no excuse for it.

        1. Dave K Silver badge

          Re: Where's the matt screen?

          In fact I've found it:

          Scores seem to be 75% preference for matte, 13% for glossy and 13% for "undecided". I don't expect it to be completely impartial as a lot of those who responded will be matte screen fans that are annoyed by the abundance of glossy screens out there, but it seems to debunk the claim that a majority of users prefer glossy screens!

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Where's the matt screen?

        That's the reality - most do not. They have fitted PCIe flash - not even standard SSDs on a SATA bus - proper PCIe flash that is up to double the speed of many standard SSDs. The have added memory compression in Maverics so 8Gb is more like 12Gb.

        On my old Macbook I did upgrade the drive but only from a rotational one to a SSD (actually dropping in capacity). People talk about not being upgradable - suspect 90%+ of users never did and the new ones are smaller, lighter, retina screen and 9+ hours battery life. It's a hell of an upgrade for loss of a few features that most never used.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where's the matt screen?

      1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper should fix that up for you

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where's the matt screen?

      Who's Matt?

      1. sad_loser

        Re: Where's the matt screen?

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. BigAndos

    Upgrades on laptops

    Most laptops are a pig to upgrade these days, especially ultrabooks. I think the dell I had a few years ago gave you easy access to put more RAM in but that was about it. I guess Apple do take it to extremes though!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Upgrades on laptops

      My old Dell (a Vostro) was the same: you had to half-dismantle the thing to get to the hard disk!

      Which is why went it came to upgrade time I spent twice as much and bought a Lenovo ThinkPad: not particularly pretty or flashy, but properly upgradeable/reparable like a business machine ought to be!

      The Vostro now runs Linux Mint from an 8GB SD card as the internal hard disk interface is iffy - or will properly once I can source some wireless drivers...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, that has never been said before

    "Windows 8.1... is pretty nifty"

    1. tirk

      Re: Well, that has never been said before

      Freudian slip - I read that as "niffy".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think he was comparing it to Windows 8.0

      Which is about the only flattering comparison I can think of.

      But seriously now, this is insane. You buy a nice MacBook Pro and install Windows 8 on it?

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    The lack of upgrade option is slightly ironic

    Given that the original Apple II was a runaway success precisely because it could be upgraded and extended so easily.

    Having said that, I have never yet upgraded my laptop. My desktop is another matter. That has had its guts removed frequently, and between complete rebuilds has had many graphics card, memory, and disk upgrades. Most people expect to replace laptops every 2 or 3 years, which is why they wonder why I still use my battered old VAIO SZ (8.5 years old). The reason is probably that I am cheap and/or too lazy to get another one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The lack of upgrade option is slightly ironic

      Slapping some more RAM in to a computer to keep it 'competitive' is a very common upgrade I'd say. I've done it on all of my own computers (desktop and laptop) and also quite a few friends' laptops. RAM gets cheaper over the lifetime of the machine, and often the bottleneck to a more responsive system is memory capacity rather than CPU. Also I think a lot of older systems were sold with a miserly amount of RAM as standard as at the time CPU speed was the bigger selling point.

      I've got a desktop running an AMD Athlon 1.8GHz single core CPU, still perfectly fine for web surfing and Office stuff 'cos it's also got 4GB of RAM.

      Another friend is still using her 2007 MacBook, thanks to a new 500GB hard disk and 4GB of RAM I installed for her 2 years ago.

      1. Steven Raith

        Re: The lack of upgrade option is slightly ironic

        I have a 2008 non-Pro unibody Macbook with 8gb Ram and a 265gb SSD in it - it's *plenty* quick for everyday stuff and is happily ticking away with six desktops, (Opera- six tabs, Firefox- faaar too many tabs, Mail - two accounts, 10,000+ messages, Safari- Logmein, Chrome- for google apps, VirtualBox running Windows 7 with two cores, 85% cap and 2gb RAM) without any real problems.

        It's the SSD that's made that truly usable, though - storage is the bottleneck on anything with more than two cores, 2ghz, and 4gb RAM IMHO. RAM can help, but storage is the key.

        Steven R

      2. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: The lack of upgrade option is slightly ironic

        Agreed. I have a Lenovo X201 laptop from 2010. Core i5 with 2GB of RAM and an slow 160GB hard drive. It was definitely showing its age and ran rather sluggishly.

        Now, it's got 6GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD and it boots in a flash and runs very fast and snappy. I've bought a good 2 or 3 years of extra life out of it and all for around £100. Plus it took less than 5 minutes to install both components. THAT is why I like a bit of basic upgradability in my laptops!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The lack of upgrade option is slightly ironic

          Best to fit a bit more ram in the first place - although the memory compression they just added is a nice touch. As for upgradability - PCIe flash is super fast and will still be super fast in 3-5 years time - certainly to match the processor. I agree some people may like to be able to fit a larger PCIe flash but not sure you would be doing it for performance reasons.

    2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Re: The lack of upgrade option is slightly ironic

      Michael, I’ll take your word for it on the ironic aspect. ;*)

      I’ve just started on the long process of retiring my 13-year old ThinkPad X20 (bought new), having recently purchased a 2010 MacBook Pro (and a SSD, and a MBP-suitable set of screwdrivers) as its replacement. The X20’s only upgrades over the years were maximizing its RAM (from 128 MiB to 320 MiB), getting a larger hard drive (from 20 GB to 100 GB), and buying a PCMCIA card to provide two USB 2.0 ports (its built-in USB ports are 1.1). I wouldn’t have considered replacing the X20 with a laptop with non-upgradable memory and storage.

  5. otoh

    This sort of thing is one of the many reasons I switched to Linux almost a year ago. My 13" HP laptop is not as nicely built as the MBP it replaced... but it was half the price and has easy and quick access to the HDD, RAM and network card; 4xUSB; Ethernet and HDMI/VGA (the latter so I can plug it into a projector without the adapter which is generally never to be found). And a matte screen.

    1. Spiracle

      Yep, Linux on a £300 eBay ThinkPad corporate refurb. Comes apart with one screwdriver, Lenovo handily give you a free Haynes-style manual with it and the bits are easily available and relatively cheap. I had to change the screen on my last one after a teenager left a couple of thumb bruises in the original. It took me about half an hour including tea-making time.

      These days I shall be spending the close-to-a-grand saved on heating and food. The only downside is that people in coffee bars assume that I'm an accountant.

      1. Allonymous Coward

        You pretty much described my laptop. Used to have a Mac, which had some nice features (OS X, everything well integrated) and some annoyances (glossy screen, chiclet keyboard).

        Replaced that with a ThinkPad off eBay. Many nice features, including matte screen and the best laptop keyboard I've ever used. Another £100 or so for an SSD and RAM upgrade a year or so later. It doesn't have the wow factor, and Linux isn't as polished as OS X, but I can live with that.

        Macs are nice enough but they're not my cuppa. Maybe if I did video editing or lots of Photoshop or something.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      umming and erring about that myself. Or going for a MacBook Air. Most of the time my MBP is hooked up to external keyboard, screen and tablet. This is partly because the ergonomics on the desktop are poor: max screen tilt angle and position of hands over the razor sharp front edge, but also because I don't need to travel as much for work as I once did.

      I guess that the biggest weight saving over my venerable 2009er was removing the DVD drive. In practice upgrading notebooks is not something I think a lot of people do nowadays but being able to swap the drive easily is important in case needs change. Apple's pricing on the issue is another matter. I'd like to be able to beef up the RAM or disk without having to have a faster processor.

      I think I'll stick with the current machine as long as it runs and I can still get some use out of the battery.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This sort of thing is one of the many reasons I switched to Linux almost a year ago. My 13" HP laptop is not as nicely built as the MBP it replaced... but it was half the price and has easy and quick access to the HDD, RAM and network card; 4xUSB; Ethernet and HDMI/VGA (the latter so I can plug it into a projector without the adapter which is generally never to be found). And a matte screen.

      We are talking about the Retina Macbook Pro here. Yes your HP machine maybe half the price or more, but the resolution on this machine is it's USP and while the HP laptop may be more upgradable than the Apple laptop the only thing you will be regularly upgrading on a HP is the battery and the power pack

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The new Dell XPS 15 has a multitouch 3200 x 1800 display so hardly a USP - it would be interesting to read a review of the XPS comparing features with the more expensive Retina MBP.

      2. otoh

        Fair points

        You make good points - the MBP is a well-made, premium machine and it's not entirely fair to compare. In fact, even after ditching the Mac (after 25 years, no less), I still defend their prices - search around for a similar spec - and build quality - PC and a) you won't actually get one with a comparable display and, b) it will cost as much or more than the MBP.

        What I don't like now is that with Apple you have no option but to buy exotic, premium hardware; and as a (Mac) sysadmin, I do regularly swap out memory, storage etc to keep them going a bit longer and don't want something I can't do that with. And despite it's not-quite-as-nice-ness, my HP is still more practical, at least for an IT person; I use all the ports on it that Apple deem unnecessary.

        I therefore agree with the reviewer that 'Pro' may not quite apply to this (and note the ambivalance about the retina display, although maybe that's just sour grapes!). The non-retina MBP is still a good option - but Apple seem to be downplaying it and I imagine it will be dropped before long.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You forgot the obligatory 85% score (which is always the score apple stuff gets here).

    But I agree, pro pricing for a x86 tablet computer (with no touch screen).

    I'm really confused as to what to do when I get an new laptop. Apple really needs some decent competition. If Windows 8 wasn't so crap then I might go back to Windows, it's certainly an easier life when it comes to finding obscure applications for use with old 8-bit machines.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There is almost zero competition. Where are all the PCIe flash based laptops with retina screens and 9+ hours battery life??

  7. jason 7


    I guess you can give up caring about that when 85% of your business/income is from the disposable world of phones.

    Take it or leave it I guess.

  8. thomanski

    "PCMark 8 score of 3184 in Home mode and 3684 in Work mode"

    Would be nice to give a bit of context, e.g. how does the previous generation's MacBook Pro 13" fare, what does an i7 MacBook Pro 15" give, how does that compare to, say, a Dell XPS 13" etc.

    My googling hasn't turned up much but at least I found this:

    "... the Retina MacBook Pro 13 ... is basically on the same level with the 2012 Retina MacBook Pro 15 with dedicated graphics." -->

    The Asus Zenbook Infinity UX301LA scores 3075 in home / 4079 in work mode:

  9. Alex Gollner

    Why Apple calls this a 'Pro' Mac

    Their definition is based on how good the better build to order options are.

    In this case the 1TB chaebol SSD option has been measured to read and write at over 1.1 gigabytes per second.

    The HDMI connector can run 3840 by 2160 external screens at up to 30Hz. There's a chance that a HDMI 2.0 firmware upgrade (to 21.6 gigabits/sec - only a little more that Thunderbolt 2) will allow higher refresh rates or higher resolutions.

    Using (currently mythical) Thunderbolt 2-based 4K displays, this MacBook will be able to run 3 4K screens alongside the internal displays.

    Not most people's definition of 'Pro' but probably professional enough for some.


  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Basically if you want the best all-round laptop it's an Apple. Sure there may be luggable bricks that are portable desktops but for a small, light machine that you can use on battery for a full day, has a retina screen, pcie flash and is fast quiet - it's an Apple Macbook.

    I'd even buy a Macbook if I only wanted to run Windows.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If the MacBook does everything you want from a laptop, Apple provide some attractive well thought out designs, albeit expensive. This does not make any of them the 'best all round laptop'.

      The great thing about the PC market, OSX, Linux, or Windows is the amount of choice we have for combinations of price and functionality.

      Incidentally if you want to run Windows and have a generous budget, you'll want a touchscreen and MacBook doesn't offer that option yet.

    2. silent_count

      Perhaps if apple spent their time making good products instead of hiring shills to post positive "opinions", their stuff wouldn't be so ridiculously expensive.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do not buy stock configuration, whatever you do

    The graphics situation I can live with, but shipping 4GB RAM on the entry-level models is a huge blunder. It really hits their capability to handle running lots of browser tabs when more than one wants to have a loaded flash video, and that's something I do every day. It's like that situation a couple of years back when they were pretending 64GB was a serious entry-level SSD capacity. These laptops are born with a short lifespan unless you pay £80 and get a BTO option.

    Frankly, the other issue is price premium-it's a lot over the 2013 Airs, which are trickling down into Apple's refurbished line up very fast now. If you do accept 4GB you can get an 11" Air from this year for £720 right now, so the premium on a vaguely pro Mac is about £300. £400 if you want a Retina display. You might as well save that, sell the Air next year and cash in for whatever shiny they've come up with buy then.

    Personally, my Christmas purchase of a spare laptop looks set to be an old Thinkpad off Gumtree and an extra couple of GB RAM.

    1. Brad Ackerman

      Concur - minimum 8GB RAM

      If you're happy with 8GB of RAM, the 13" Air has substantially longer battery life in addition to being cheaper and lighter. As in, you can take a weekend trip without the charger. I certainly wouldn't do 4GB, RAM compression or no; why risk needing a forklift upgrade on a $1500+ computer?[1]

      (Also, dropping down to 8GB RAM allows in the competition: Dell XPS 13, Sony Vaio Pro 13, etc. But dammit, I want to be able to have a million VMs open locally.)

      [1] Counterargument: don't buy one of the soldered-on-RAM computers. While my wallet would support this course of action, my L5-S1 just wants the thin-and-light.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I spend all day using a laptop - either mobile or as a desktop plugged into a larger screen. I have had MANY over the years and can honestly say the MacBooks are the best. Sure it would be nice to have a user replaceable battery and all sorts of modularity / upgradability but in reality Apple will replace the battery should it need replacing but it would also mean trading some of the useful features (slim, light, long battery).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Upgrade doesn't appear in the user guide?

    Of course not. It appears in the sales guide, p666 upgrade - buy a new one, b**tch.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can't realistically upgrade your car (apart from furry dice) - people appreciate you can't upgrade CPUs and if you want a smaller / faster package here is the time when RAM and storage are also integrated. I'd imagine very few people would need to upgrade pci-e flash for performance reasons and I think upgrades are more a Windows laptop thing where people buy a cheap-ass laptop with 2Gb ram and a slow hard drive and then need to upgrade. With a current Mac 4-8Gb RAM (equivalent of 6-12Gb due to Maverics and memory compression) is already better and you are unlikely to need to upgrade the storage for performance reasons as pci-e flash is already many, many times quicker than rotational drives and even SSDs.

  15. bytejunkie

    misguided review

    i varely rarely comment on el reg, cos the reviews are usually on the money, but this one.... not so much.

    im a 2011MBP user and my 2013 13" retina MBP is on its way, so i was looking forward to this review.

    so disappointed.

    i consider myself a pro user. thats because i

    spend the money up front to get a machine thats going to last.

    chose os x over windows due to its resource management. i.e. i dont need to close apps to free up RAM every two minutes.

    run parallels so that i don't need to be in windows or os x. seriously, its not 2005 anymore, you can use coda at the same time as autocad.

    i stopped tinkering with the insides of computers when i realised that i made more money when a computer sat in front of me was running, not in bits. IMO a pro user is either reliant on a working computer to make their wage, or reliant on people bringing them broken computers to make their wage. wanting to upgrade RAM in 2 years time doesn't make you a pro user.

  16. GotThumbs

    "we also discover just how nicely it plays with Windows"


    Wipe the drive on any macbook today and you can easily run windows because.....

    It's a PC to the core. Ever since Apple switched to Intel've been able to run windows on them...though not legally as Apple forbids it.....just as they forbid running thier OS on less expensive hardware......known as Hackintoshes.

    While I do think Apple makes very fashionable hardware....its still way overpriced and does nothing more than any Windows/Ubuntu PC can do. It' just costs way more.

    In the end, buy what you want, becuase that's your right/choice.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are you sure it isn't upgradeable?

    A quick look at the iFixit teardown shows that the SSD can be accessed and removed/replaced by simply unscrewing the bottom panel. If you have a pentalobe screwdriver and an appropriate replacement drive, I expect that upgrading the drive is as easy, or easier, than upgrading almost any PC laptop's drive. (And I'm sure replacement drives are available through Apple repair channels and will be available from 3rd parties in short order, if they aren't already.)

    Aside from that, the only thing you can't upgrade with this MacBook that is usually upgradeable in other laptops is the RAM. Lots of RAM was important a few years ago because it meant fewer trips to a crunchy and slow hard drive to access virtual memory. But now that we have SSDs with random access times measured in microseconds, I wonder why having more than 4GB of RAM really matters to anybody... unless you're running VMs that require large amounts of contiguous physical memory. In which case you already know you need a lot of RAM and will purchase a laptop accordingly.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hits the sweet spot

    A friend of mine is looking for a laptop. I have suggested the following criteria for a good, average all-around laptop: bigger than 12" (too small) and less than 15" (too big). Core i5 CPU (i3s don't have turbo boost and are thus either slow or consume power unnecessarily). No optical drive (fragile, infrequently used component that adds bulk and weight). Either all-SSD or a hard drive with a non-trivial amount of SSD cache, maybe 32GB (why buy anything else in 2013?).

    I have searched Amazon and Newegg and the only PC laptops that satisfy these criteria are well over $1000, except for some Acer Aspires which cost around $700 and get mediocre reviews. For as much flack as they take for being needlessly expensive, Apple might actually be a pretty good choice for the value/price-conscious.

  19. Sean Timarco Baggaley

    There's a good reason why Apple kit tends not to have much upgradeability: eBay.

    Apple hardware tends to hold its price very well – especially at the "pro" end. My 17" MBP (2010 model) has 8GB RAM and a 512 GB SSD. It screams. And it's still worth over £600+ on eBay, despite being closer to its 4th birthday than its 3rd.

    I've yet to see the HP, Dell or Lenovo laptop that can boast the same.

    Many owners of Apple kit are well aware of this and tend to effectively trade-in their old model for a new one every couple of years. Why the hell would they waste their time going through all the bother of upgrading?

    (Before you reply: being a reader of The Register does not define you as a professional computer user, any more than being able to strip down and rebuild a V8 engine makes you a "professional" car driver.)

  20. David Cantrell

    > do pros really want to buy into something that’s about as upgradeable as a mobile phone

    I use a Macbook Pro made out of Chinese slaves' retinas, utterly un-upgradeable, every day for my job, so the answer is clearly "yes". I've been mainly working on laptops for nearly 15 years, and have only once felt the urge to replace any of the bits - that one time being to upgrade a hard disk immediately after buying a device where the manufacturer didn't sell it with anything reasonable. Apple *do* sell a version with something reasonable, so that's moot.

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