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13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display (early 2015)

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating starrating star
Where to Buy

What's Hot: Faster CPU and graphics than the Ultrabook competition, same lovely Retina display, excellent Force Touch trackpad.

What's Not: If you want a touch screen, you won't find it in Mac land.


Reviewed March 16, 2015 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

2015 13" Retina MacBook Pro

October 2016: read and watch our review of the late 2016 13" MacBook Pro that replaces this model.

The 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display is new (again). And it looks pretty much the same as when Apple released the design in 2012. Is that a bad thing? Not really since it's still one heck of an attractive and well-made unibody aluminum laptop that somehow still looks fresh. The lines are clean, there are no visible seams, and it's curvy in the right places and straight on the sides to make it look sturdy and elegant. The display bezel isn't overly large, unlike the MacBook Air, and the keyboard is as ever excellent. So if it looks the same as last year's model, what's new? It has the latest Intel Broadwell 5th generation CPUs and Intel Iris 6100 graphics for a speed boost. The mini DisplayPorts can drive a 4K monitor at 60Hz rather than the old model's 30Hz. SSD storage speed has doubled and there's the new Force Touch trackpad. That's a decent improvement list, and the price remains the same throughout the range of configurations. The 2650 x 1600 IPS "Retina" display with 310 nits of brightness and 94% sRGB coverage is the same as previous models and there's dual band WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth for wireless. All configurations have at least 8 gigs of RAM and you can get it with a variety of SSD capacities. As ever, this isn't a laptop that's easy to open up and upgrade (only the SSD is somewhat easy to service), so keep that in mind if you're a tinkerer.

Ports, Force Touch Trackpad and keyboard

The port arrangement is the same as the 2014 model, with two USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2/mini Display Ports, full size HDMI, 3.5mm audio and an SD card slot. It uses the same MagSafe magnetic charging connector and lacks the new MacBook's USB-C port (not that we see a need for it at this point). It has a healthy selection of ports for a 13.3", 3.48 lb. Ultrabook class machine and the only thing you might need to add is Ethernet via Apple's Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter or USB to Ethernet adapter (both sold separately and we recommend the Thunderbolt option since few folks need two Thunderbolt ports and the Thunderbolt adapter offers faster data transfer speeds).

2015 13" MacBook Pro Retina 2015

Apple makes perhaps the best trackpad on a laptop, regardless of OS platform. Somehow they've managed to make it even better with the Force Touch trackpad. It might sound like a gimmick, but it's actually more accurate and efficient. On normal trackpads just the bottom edge moves. For large trackpads, it's easy to have the hand and fingers wander higher, where it will do no good because the top half doesn't register clicks (unless you enable tap to click). With the Force Touch trackpad, you can click in any corner and there are four spring-like mechanisms under each spot. Yes, the trackpad actually does move just a little, and your mind will tell you it moves quite a bit thanks to the force feedback that creates the sensation of a tactile click (what Apple calls their Taptic engine--a cross between tap and haptic). You can even adjust the force setting in trackpad settings for a light, medium or heavy touch and feedback. The end result is a trackpad that feels even more responsive and precise. I generally hate clicking trackpads because it slows me down and the required force causes my pointing finger to wander, resulting in errors. Problem solved with the Force Touch trackpad. I've stopped using tap to click in fact, which was my old preferred method even though it wasn't very precise and sometimes resulted in accidental clicks.

Even more interesting, there's a secondary deeper click if you continue to press down with some force. That can bring up a word definition in quite a few programs and in Safari force-clicking on a link brings up a small preview of the web page. I'm sure Apple and third party developers will come up with even more uses. Trivia: when the laptop is turned off, the trackpad doesn't move at all; it's locked in the up position.

The keyboard is unchanged, and that's fine with us: it's one of the better backlit keyboards on the market with good tactile feel, dampened keys that don't clatter and a completely normal layout (by Mac standards).

2015 13" MacBook Pro Retina 2015


Performance and Horsepower

The 13" Retina Mac's claim to fame is the more powerful 28 watt CPUs and higher tier integrated graphics that are faster than Windows Ultrabooks running on the usual 15 watt U series ULV CPUs and the MacBook Air. For those who intend to use this as their main machine and do more than web, streaming video, email and occasional photo and video editing, the 28 watt CPU is an attractive proposition. It allows for very tolerable speeds when editing/exporting 1080p video, can handle large spreadsheet calculations and program compiles for long programs comprised of 10's of thousands of lines of code. It's also quicker with VMs (virtual machines) than a lower wattage laptop. The Intel Iris 6100 graphics are at the top of the laptop heap for integrated GPUs and it's stronger than the HD 5500 graphics used in Windows Ultrabooks and the HD 5300 used in the 12" MacBook. It boosts game frame rates by 5 to 8 fps compared to the mid 2014 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display, and that was already a stronger than average laptop with last generation Intel Iris 5100 graphics. It's not enough of a change to upgrade if you own that mid-2014 machine, but it has a competitive edge against current Windows Ultrabooks and will be a speed demon if you're upgrading from a 3 year old dual core Mac laptop. Sorry, there's still no dedicated graphics option, and that's a rare feature on 13" laptops.

Apple offers the 13" Retina with 5th generation (Broadwell) Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs. The base model is the 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5-5257U, and there's a 2.9GHz Core i5 option and a 3.1 GHz Core i7. All are dual core, four thread CPUs with Turbo Boost, though the Turbo Boost numbers wildly higher than base speed given the already fast base clock speeds. CPU performance gains are modest with Broadwell since Intel focused on improving battery life and graphics rather than computational prowess. Again, it's probably not enough of a gain if you own the Haswell model unless you love having the newest and fastest stuff, but this machine walks circles around the 15 watt competition and can even keep up with a 2012 15" Retina MacBook Pro in computational tasks.

2015 13" MacBook Pro Retina 2015

The laptop is available with 8 gigs of RAM standard, and you can order it with 16 gigs for $200 more. 16 gigs seems like overkill for a dual core 13" laptop, but the choice is there for those who need it. Given that the Core i5 and i7 CPUs use the same architecture and core count, I don't feel it's worth the money to get the Core i7. If you need that much computing power, consider a larger laptop with a quad core CPU like the 15" MacBook Pro with Retina display (wait until Apple releases the 2015 refresh if you can though). The $1,299 base model has a 128 gig SSD and the $1,499 model has a 256 gig SSD (higher capacity drives are available). As Apple promised, SSD speeds are indeed twice as fast as the last generation model, though the last gen SSDs are quick enough that I'm not sure anyone could perceive the improvement.

Heat and noise weren't a problem with the 2014 model (I know since I use one as my main work machine and push it hard). The same is true here: this is a largely silent machine that gets warm on the bottom thanks to conductive aluminum, but never hot (unless you're playing demanding 3D games like Skyrim). I've swapped it with my personal machine for testing, where it spent 10 hours a day driving both the internal LCD and a 27" Thunderbolt display in a mix of several web browsers, Photoshop CS6, Dreamweaver, Word, Excel, Mail, iMovie and social networking clients and I never heard the fan nor did it get hot to the touch (just toasty warm on the bottom). It never lagged and kept up with everything I threw at it, which is quite impressive for a 0.71", 3.5 lb. laptop.


Deals and Shopping:


Early 2015 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display Video Review


2015 13" MacBook Pro Retina vs. 2015 Dell XPS 13 Comparison


13" Retina MacBook Pro vs. HP Spectre x360 Comparison


15" MacBook Pro Retina vs. 13" Retina MacBook Pro Comparison: Which Should You Buy?


Geekbench 3: 3325, multi-core 7042

Black Magic SSD test:
2015 Mac: 1189 MBps write, 1238 MBps read
2014 Mac: 634 MBps write, 684 MBps read

Geeks3D GPU Test
(Tessmark 8x Open GL 4.0, Windowed 1440 x 900, no AA, Mac set to "best for Retina" default resolution):

2015 Mac: 11,049 (183 fps)
2014 Mac: 7055 (117 fps)

Geekbench 3 Benchmark Comparison Table:

Early 2015 13" MacBook Pro, 2.7GHz Core i5 3325/7042
Mid 2014 13" MacBook Pro, 2.6 GHz Core i5 3125/6880
2015 15" MacBook Pro Retina 3953/15,143
13" MacBook Air (2014, Core i7) 3277/6377
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 3rd Gen (core i5-5300U) 3077/6117
Dell XPS 13 - 2015, 2.2 GHz Core i5-5200U 2810/5515
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Core i5 2908/5695
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro 2557/4600
Asus Zenbook UX303LA 2739/5259


Windows on the Mac

I've said it before and I'll say it again: running Windows using Parallels is a fine experience. But for those of you who want to be 100% Windows all the time and go with Boot Camp, I'd recommend a Windows laptop. The very basic Windows drivers don't offer the same quality experience as do the Mac drivers and the trackpad becomes more pedestrian, battery life drops and you'll run into the same display scaling issues as on any other HiDPI Windows laptop. Sure, it's a great looking and well-made machine, but there are quite a few really lovely Windows Ultrabooks on the market too, like the 2015 Dell XPS 13, the Asus Zenbook UX303, Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

Battery Life

Mac laptops are the Energizer bunnies of the laptop world that serve to make Windows PC designers bang their heads as they try to match Apple's runtimes. Granted, Apple eschews touch screens, and those do use more power, so Apple has an advantage here. The reason the 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display isn't as thin and light as the MacBook Air is the big battery inside. The 74.9 Wh battery is significantly higher capacity than Windows Ultrabooks or the 13" MacBook Air that average 50 Wh. Thus, even with a high resolution display and higher wattage CPU and graphics, it outlasts most laptops except the 13" MacBook Air. Apple claims 10 hours of wireless web and 12 hours of iTunes video playback, and they're one of the few manufacturers to generally underestimate battery life. We've averaged 10.5 hours actual active use time of wireless web use with brightness set to 60% in a mix of streaming video for an hour, MS Office, social networking, email and YouTube short video playback.


It's easy to call many of Apple's products overpriced, and justify the added cost with build quality, excellent tech support and the cost of admission to OS X Yosemite. In the case of the 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display, you're actually getting a good deal for your money: it's faster than competing Ultrabooks and it has better graphics. You're getting one of the better high resolution displays on the market and an OS that handles scaling well so things don't look fuzzy or too tiny on screen. And yes, build quality is excellent, the machine looks really lovely and the backlit keyboard is excellent. The new Force Touch trackpad is a joy to use and even the speakers are better than average for a 13" laptop (though the Dell XPS 13 is even louder and fuller, unlike most Ultrabooks).

Price: starting at $1,299


Related Reviews:

Late 2016 13" MacBook Pro Review

2015 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display Review

13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display vs. 15" Retina MacBook Pro (2015) Comparison

12" MacBook (Retina) Review (2nd gen, 2016)

HP Spectre Review

Microsoft Surface Book Review

Razer Blade Stealth Review

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Spin Review

Dell XPS 13 (2015) Review

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2016) Review

Vaio Z Canvas Review

Asus Zenbook UX303 Review

HP Spectre x360 Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review

13" MacBook Air Review (Haswell, 4th gen)


2015 13" MacBook Pro Retina 2015




2015 13" MacBook Pro Retina 2015

The Dell XPS 13 on top of the 13" Retina MacBook Pro.



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Display: 13.3", 2560 x 1600 IPS display. Intel Iris 6100 integrated graphics. 2 Thunderbolt 2/Mini DisplayPorts and HDMI.

Battery: 74.9 watt-hour Lithium Ion rechargeable for latest generation, not user replaceable. Comes with 60W MagSafe 2 power adapter.

Performance: Fifth generation Intel Broadwell dual core 28 watt CPUs with Intel Iris 6100 integrated graphics, 2.7GHz Core i5 and dual core 2.9GHz Core i5 and 3.1 GHz Core i7 options. 8 to 16 gigs DDR3L RAM (soldered on, not user upgradable).

Drives: 128 gig, 256 gig, 512 or 1TB PCIe SSD drive.

Size: 12.35 x 8.62 x 0.71 inches. Weight: 3.48 pounds.

Camera: 720p FaceTime video chat camera.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Mac OS X Yosemite. Mac Mail, Safari web browser, iLife suite including iMovie, iDVD, Garage Band and iPhoto, FaceTime video chat app and more. iWork suite is a free download.

Expansion and Ports: 1 SDXC card slot. Two USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm headphone jack, Two Thunderbolt 2/mini DisplayPorts and HDMI.



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