Recently, Apple unveiled updates to its line of Retina MacBook Pro laptop computers with enhanced features that provide MacBook fans with better performance for less money. Have these changes made the MacBook Pro a more attractive purchase, or is the competition catching up?
In July 2014, Apple released new models as an update to its already popular Retina MacBook Pro line. The updated model sports an exterior that is nigh-on identical to their 2013 predecessors, however, the main difference in the upgrade is the processor, which provides a faster clock speed than last years models.
The new line of Retina MacBook Pro devices are offered in five different standard configurations. You still get a choice of either the 13-inch or 15-inch Retina displays however, what’s under the hood makes a difference in the performance. The 13-inch models are offered in three different versions that consist of slightly different configurations.
What MacBook Configurations are available?
13″ MacBook Pro.
The standard model of the 13-inch consists of a dual-core i5 processor running at 2.6GHz which is an increase from 2.4GHz for the 2013 model. The standard model is also equipped with 8GB of Random Access Memory (RAM) which is an increase from 4GB in 2013.
For the mid-range model, Apple included the upgrades from the standard model plus, 256GB of flash storage.
Predictably, the high-end model has the added horsepower, offering a dual core i5 processor running at 2.8GHz which is an increase from 2.4GHz in the 2013 model and 512GB of Flash storage.
15″ MacBook Pro.
The 15-inch model is the device we will be covering in this review and is offered in two different versions.
The standard model is equipped with a quad-core i7 processor running at 2.2GHz which is an increase from 2.0GHz in the 2013 model. This model is also equipped with 16GB of Random Access Memory and 256GB of Flash storage.
For the high-end model, the performance has increased with a quad-core i7 processor running at 2.5GHz. This is an increase from 2.3GHz in the previous 15-inch high end model. Like the lower end 15-inch model, the device is equipped with 16GB of Random Access Memory and 256GB of Flash storage. Remember, the new 15-inch model can also be made to order to suit your specifications.
MacBook Pro Design and Aesthetics.
Don’t expect any revolutionary aesthetic changes here, the mid-2014 version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro has a handsome design that is identical to its 2013 predecessor and boasts a strong and durable silver metal unibody that is molded into a slim chassis.
The metal aluminum material that can be prone to scratches, especially if you are heavy handed like me, although to be fair you would be hard pushed to see them. Speaking from experience (unfortunately) the slightest knock on a corner can leave a permanent mark, so don’t be as careless as I am! Although the laptop is slim, it weighs in at just over 2.0 kg, so if portability is a concern then you may wish to consider its smaller 13.3″ cousin, although this would mean technical sacrifices. Personally, I would take a trip down to your nearest Mac Store and decide for yourself!
Keyboard and trackpad.
The keyboard on the new 15-inch mid-2014 model has 78 keys and is backlit to provide you with typing convenience in low lit environments. The large glass trackpad supports multi-touch gestures. Swiping motions using four fingers is a breeze with no lag time when scrolling through your browser. Personally, I still believe that the MacBook Pro track-pad is the best available in an laptop, and I have yet to use one better.
What about the Retina Display?
The 15-inch Retina Display is still a primary selling point for the mid-2014 version of the MacBook Pro. Many users of the MacBook Air are hoping that the Retina display eventually will make its way into the Air devices as well, but to date, there no word from Apple that this will happen.
The Retina screen is generously sized with an impressive 2880 x 1800 display. Videos usually do not surpass a 1080p resolution, but still offer a high quality viewing experience anyway!
The 15-inch version of the mid-2014 MacBook Pro offers an IPS (In-Plane Switching) LED display that measures in at 15.4 inches diagonally. The display is set to double the pixels by default which makes the imaging and coloration stand out, especially when compared to other devices that are not equipped with a Retina display. The aspect ratio is 16:9 with a screen surface that sports a glossy finish. Personally, I find the reflections on the glossy screens vry annoying, but it seems to be the way every manufacturer is going now…
15″ MacBook Pro – Graphical Performance.
The standard model retains the Intel Iris Pro Graphics 2013 model, which is no bad thing. The high end 15-inch model has retained the dual graphics card configuration with Nvidia GeForce GT 750M card, which I would recommend if you are a rare breed of Mac Gamer, or you use very resource intensive applications. Additionally, only one graphics card is used instead of both cards being used simultaneously to enhance the look of images and photos.
The Retina display is also versatile with settings that can be customised. When you access the Settings menu, you can easily work with settings for the icons and onscreen text. The settings can be configured to allow the icons and text to be viewed using a variety of different resolutions. This helps to customise the viewing experience according to individual preferences.
Additionally, the System Preferences feature allows you to change the screen resolution to accommodate more images, documents, and windows on the screen without sacrificing viewing quality. When you access System Preferences there is a choice of five different resolutions with the doubled pixel resolution titled Best for Display.
When you are setting the mode to allow for more documents, windows, and images, the highest resolution you can use is 1920 x 1280. In order to use the display with its native resolution, it is necessary to use an application such as Easy Res. This is a third-party app that is specifically designed for the Retina display and allows you to easily switch between resolutions.
Using EasyRes you can select Retina or non-Retina mode, as well as choose native Retina resolutions that typically do not appear in the system settings. EasyRes remains in the menu bar to make it easily accessible when you want to switch between resolutions.
MacBook Pro 15″ Technical Specifications.
In the beginning of this review, we provided you with a general overview of the difference in performance for the mid-2014 models of the Retina MacBook Pro. The following specifications will provide you with an idea of other specs that are included in the mid-2014 models.
- Operating System: Mac OS Mavericks 10.9 operating system
- Storage: 256GB Solid State hard drive. The Solid State (SSD) drives have less moving parts which means increased data access speeds (wait until you see how quick the laptop boots up!) and a reduced rate of failure.
- Port Connectivity: There are 2 x USB 3.0 ports, mini DisplayPort, and HDMI port for connecting to a big screen television or additional monitor. There is also two Thunderbolt ports to support high performance data devices and high resolution displays, a dual-input 3.5mm audio port for connecting headphones and built-in microphone, plus, a slot to support a SDXC memory card reader.
- Camera and Audio: The MacBook Pro comes equipped with a 720p integrated webcam for using video chat and VoIP calling, and two stereo speakers with stereo audio channels.
- Battery: The battery offers up to 8 hours of life and is a Li-polymer battery that is built-in to the device. This is pretty much the same as the 15-inch 2013 model. The 2.2GHz 15-inch model manages just over 7 hours of battery life when viewing a playlist of shows with the screen brightness set to 200 cd/m2. The same scenario applies to the 2.5GHz model, except the battery life has proven to be just over 6 hours.
- Product Dimensions and Weight: Both models of the 15-inch MacBook Pro mid-2014 have dimensions of 0.71 x 14.13 x 9.73 inches and weigh in at 4.46 pounds.
Additionally, you can have the 15-inch MacBook Pro built to your specifications. When you purchase the 15-inch model you can opt to update the base model to an i7 processor running at 2.5GHz as opposed to the standard 2.2GHz. The difference in cost is about £80 or, £240 if you want to include a quad core processor running at 2.8GHz.
Flash storage options.
Storage options can also be made to order with the option to add a 512GB Flash drive for an additional £240. A 1 terabyte (TB) flash drive is also available for an additional £640. Personally, I used the cloud for most of my storage needs, so I couldn’t justify the additional cost of purchasing additional storage space, but we all work in different ways!
In terms of Random Access memory (RAM), there is no option to upgrade from 16GB RAM.
If you would like to compare specifications for both models of the mid-2014 15-inch MacBook Pro, Engadget offers a convenient chart that provides the specifications side-by side.
I am currently using the Case Logic Neoprene Sleeve to protect my MacBook Pro. Its not the cheapest sleeve out there, but the quality of materials is fantastic, especially the soft suede inner lining. There is also a nice inner pocket for your USB stick aswell. The cheapest place I could find the sleeve online was Amazon, at a cost of £29.33 including delivery. Recommended.
How much does the MacBook cost?
In terms of price, the mid-2014 MacBook Pro models have dropped in price to a range of anywhere from £50 to £100 less depending upon the model you choose. You can now purchase a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro for £1,599 which is £100 less than the 2013 model for £1,699.
The high end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro model can now be purchased for £1,999 which is £200 less than the 2013 model for £2,199. If you have the MacBook Pro built to order with all of the available options, it could set you back as much as £2,549.
What Are the Pros and Cons?
- Better performance at a lower price.
- Strong build with a thin design makes the device more portable despite the heavier weight.
- Retina models run cooler than the non-Retina models.
- Smart power adapter magnetically attaches to the device to allow it to detach if you happen to trip over the cord.
- Razor sharp images thanks to the amazing Retina display.
- Battery life is impressive for a laptop pf this specification, especially when taking the retina screen into consideration.
- Device is not designed to be upgradeable and requires an exclusive Pentalobe screwdriver to remove the back panel.
- Lack of Ethernet port for a wired network connection (although you can buy a dongle)
- Lack of K-slot for locking down the device while on the go.
THE FINAL VERDICT
The price drop is a welcomed addition to the mid-2014 Retina MacBook Pro models, especially with the high end model where the price is now reduced by £200. The MacBook Pro is still quite pricey and may be cost prohibitive for some Apple fans. Although you can purchase an iMac with great specifications for less money, if Flash storage, better performance, and portability is important to you, the additional cost may be well worth it. Overall, if you can afford the Retina MacBook Pro 15-inch model, we think you will be very pleased in terms of performance, portability, and features.
About the author.
Our IT Department is a London-based IT services organisation that provides a comprehensive range of IT Support services and project Management solutions for SMEs that use macs in a business environment. Find out more about our Mac Support services.
Images used are property of their respective owners. We would use our own, but they wouldn’t look as good as this!