Buying a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is a pricey proposition. But, provided you can afford it, the beauty and adaptability the hardware affords is more than worth it.
In the month that I used this device as the main computer in my life, I can say without hesitation that its the best laptop display I've ever laid eyes on. The Retina display boasts over four million pixels and at a 2560 x 1600 resolution: Photos, video and applications look ultra-sharp and text is more crisp and easier to read than I've ever encountered working on a computer. It is also one of the hardiest laptops short of a Panasonic Toughbook on the market today thanks to its machined aluminum body.
Priced at $1,349 for a base model that comes equipped with a 2.4 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 128GB solid state drive, Intel Iris graphics and a battery that offers up to nine hours of run-time, the latest iteration of Apple's MacBook Pro with Retina Display can be decked out with extras like a higher capacity solid state drive, additional RAM or a zippier 2.6 GHz processor that'll push the computer's price up as high as $2,749 (the computer loaned to me for this review shipped with 128GB solid state drive, 8GB of RAM and a 2.5GHz processor).
I found it more than adequate for any productivity task I threw at it. Running word processing applications like Pages, Scrivener or Microsoft Excel was a seamless experience, with no noticeable interface lag. I was also satisfied with how it handled resource-heavy applications like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 and iTunes: two notorious system-slowing applications that draw the ire of most power users. I found it handled some middle-of-the road gaming well too: Civilization V, StarCraft II and World of Warcraft all performed smoothly on their medium settings. But those wishing to play graphic intensive games like Borderlands 2 or Batman Arkham City would likely be better served by investing in a Windows-based gaming laptop.
The laptop was no slouch when it comes to connectivity options either. Featuring two Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI port, a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a SDXC card slot, headphone port (of course,) Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi‑Fi wireless networking, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is capable of connecting to just about any modern network, peripheral or piece of legacy hardware under the sun (with the right port adapter).
You'll note there's no built-in DVD drive. Excluding it from the computer's design allowed Apple to cut down on the laptop's heft and power consumption. As most Mac software is downloadable these days, you likely won't miss it. Those who do may opt to buy an external drive to use when needs be.
But there is one gigantic drawback we can't ignore:
It's wicked expensive.
$1,349 is a lot of money, especially in this economy, to invest in anything. But the laptop's name says it all: This is a product aimed at professionals (although regular folks will love it too.) Most people, myself included, will be perfectly content to spend less money on a Windows PC or if you're a Mac user, a MacBook Air, or even a plain-vanilla MacBook Pro.
It goes without saying that having a MacBook Pro with Retina Display pimped out with a maximum amount of RAM and storage can be even more prohibitively expensive. However, if you're willing to deke around Apple's warranty policy, additional RAM and internal storage can be purchased after the fact, for considerably cheaper from retailers like Other World Computing, who specialize in such upgrades.
But if cost is no object you'll be thrilled to own one of these things – unless you're a hardcore PC gamer or have a hate on for Apple. The 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display is proof positive that 30 years after the arrival of the first Mac computer, Apple's unique take on integrated hardware and software design is still a force to be reckoned with.