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Friday
Nov162012

My review of the 13" MacBook Pro Retnia (base model) 

I'm reviewing the new 13" MacBook Pro (base model) with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD. I mainly use the machine as my mobile office. My hobby is video editing and use Final Cut Pro X for that. I also have been using some Adobe CS6 applications and Unity but I'm still learning those. 

 

First Impressions:

Weighs just 3.5 pounds and it runs just about everything I have thrown at it so far. The system boots in 12.8 seconds (slightly longer for boot camp at 16.2 seconds)! It runs games (in Windows) at medium-low settings at 20 to 25 FPS (not bad for integrated graphics).

Boot camp was easy to setup and get going, I created a bootable Windows 7 disk on an 8GB flash memory stick. I was able to partition and install Windows 7 in about 25 minutes.

 

Installed and tested the following applications:

 

  • Final Cut Pro X
  • Adobe Illustrator CS6
  • iPhoto
  • MS Office 2011
  • Evernote
  • XCode
  • Tweetdeck
  • World of Warcraft
  • Diablo III
  • Star Wars the Old Republic

 

All of these Apps work fine; Final Cut Pro was able to render about 14 minutes of HD 720p Video in about 60 minutes, not bad considering it’s a laptop. The Mac Pro renders the same video in about 17 minutes. iPhoto looks absolutely beautiful on the Retnia display! Recent photos look awesome, older photos that were taken on a 1.1 or 2 Megapixel camera (Circa 2000) look grainy but that is to be expected. Transferring data is a bit slow since I’m using USB 2, I don’t have any USB or Thunderbolt drives, only Firewire 800 and USB 2. I’m not going to replace 4 TBs of external storage because of Thunderbolt!

 

Retnia Display:

 

The Retnia display on the 13” MBP is nice at 2560x1600 (same as my 30” monitor). In boot camp I can barely ready anything in explorer unless I blow up the size of the icons, etc. Web browsing looks good on both OS X and Windows.

There are several settings for the screen in OS X but the best of Retnia looks like the same (1280x1024) resolution as the previous generation except the text is much crisper. I prefer to work at the highest resolution but in all honesty I usually work on an external monitor at 1920x1080 especially for games. Playing games at the full retnia resolution really sucks (7 to 15 FPS). Games run well at 1920x1080 with an external monitor once I lowered all settings to medium for most settings and low (or off) for anti-aliasing, sunshafts, etc.

 

Performance:

 

The laptop performs about as I would expect for a laptop with a base 2.3Ghz core i5 processor. Applications open in a second or two. I can load a large and complex spreadsheet like the Exchange 2010 Mailbox Role Calculator in about 2 to 3 seconds, takes like 7 or 8 seconds on my work laptop (i.e. Dell Lattitude with Core i5-2520M, & 7200 RPM drive). I typically use about 3 to 4 GB of RAM doing office and research (i.e. having 80 to 90 broswer tabs open), etc. When I need to run Windows applications I use Fusion which takes another 2 to 3 GB of memory for my applications. I cannot run another VM without sacrificing performance. The 8GB of RAM is the bare minimum for me; I need at least 16 to run everything I use on a day-to-day basis.

 

Battery:

 

About 3 hours 45 minutes with heavy internet use, I can get almost 4.5 if I dim the screen a bit. I’m sure I would get about 6 to 7 if I turned off wifi completely.

 

Conclusion:

 

For the road warrior or power user where portability is important but finds the Macbook Air too weak will love this machine. The only downside is the lackluster RAM capacity and non-discrete graphics support. I was very tempted to keep this machine despite being slower than what I’m used too. However, I ultimately decided to take this machine back and order the 15” MBP with 16GB of RAM. I will be posting a review of that machine shortly.

 

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