Apple MacBook Pro 13in review (mid-2014)

The all-conquering 13in MacBook Pro receives a processor bump and now starts at £999

Reviews
28 Aug, 2014
4
Price 
£999 inc VAT (as reviewed)
Pros 
Solid design; Good performance; Retina Display; 10-hour battery life
Cons 
Non-upgradeable memory; Difficult to repair
Verdict 
A minor specification boost is coupled with a £100 price cut to make the 13in MacBook Pro (2014) the best all-round laptop on the market.

Apple’s high prices often restrict Macs to graphics and design departments rather than wide scale enterprise deployment. Throughout 2014, Apple has implemented a strategy to make its products more affordable and the 13in MacBook Pro laptop is the latest device to receive a £100 price cut.

Now starting at £999, the MacBook Pro is comparable to high-end Windows 8.1 Ultrabooks in terms of price. We take a look to see whether it's still got the performance to outmuscle rival devices.

What’s new?

Our £999 review unit shipped with a dual-core i5 processor running at 2.6GHz, 8GB RAM and a 128GB SSD. Essentially Apple is shipping devices with the latest batch of Haswell chips for a reduced price because the Intel Broadwell refresh is imminent. 

Upgrades can be made at the time of purchase but the cost of a device will escalate rapidly. You'll need to spend £200 to double the storage to 256GB. If money is no barrier, £400 will buy 512GB of storage and a 2.8GHz processor. And a dual-core i7 running at 3GHz is available for £240 if you need the maximum speed.

Our review unit posted a small performance improvement over the late-2013 model, despite the two devices having the same clock speed and RAM. This was down to Intel making incremental improvements to the latest batch of Haswell chips.

Running our benchmarks to simulate office and multimedia work on Windows 7 via Apple’s Bootcamp feature - the 2014 MacBook returned an overall score of 81 out of 100 (up from 76). Performance was consistent across a variety of apps used in our benchmarks, and the MacBook Pro only stumbled when it came to demanding 3D rendering. It's acceptable for a laptop costing £999, and the MacBook Pro will be more than adequate for web browsing, running Office or graphics apps such as Photoshop.

The 2014 model lasted 10 hours 20 minutes when running our video playback test at 75 per cent brightness. This was near-on identical to the 2013 model. When you use Wi-Fi, expect uptime to drop by a couple of hours.

And what’s the same…

The design of the MacBook Pro hasn’t changed with Apple sticking with the sturdy, attractive aluminium chassis. It’s 18mm thick and weighs 1.6kg, so it's portable.

It’s got the same port selection with 2 x USB 3 and 2 x Thunderbolt 2 connections. The lack of Ethernet remains troublesome for business users, so you’ll need to pay £25 for a Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adaptor if you need to connect the laptop to a wired office network.


The lack of upgradeability remains a weakness. The memory in the MacBook Pro is soldered onto the motherboard, so choosing the amount at purchase is critical. The base of the laptop is also sealed with multiple pentalobe screws, which means that storage upgrades, repairs or battery replacements are difficult – and may also void the laptop’s warranty.

Retina Display

With the mid-2014 model being a minor refresh, no changes have been made to the display either. Apple continues to use the 13.3in IPS panel with a 2560 x 1600 resolution.  This produces a bright (374cd/m2) and detailed image that is well suited to tasks such as photo- or video-editing. All Macs also include Apple’s Keynote presentation software free of charge, so it’s ready to create slick business presentations without having to install Microsoft Office.

On paper the Retina Display doesn’t have as many pixels as Windows laptops like Toshiba’s P50T, which has a 4k display. But, Windows 8.1 isn’t able to scale third-party apps properly so the hardware advantage is lost.

In contrast, OS X provides scaling options for the Retina Display that simulate lower resolutions so that you can choose a setting depending on the app you are using. This means that the MacBook Pro works better with graphics applications such as Adobe Photoshop, even if it can’t quite match the higher resolution of some of its Windows rivals.

Overall

There may be Windows alternatives that provide greater performance or screen resolution, but 13in MacBook Pro With Retina Display combines screen quality performance, portability and battery life into a package that is unmatched.

The £999 starting price makes it more attractive to businesses who may be considering deployment.

Specifications 

Operating System: OS X Mavericks (10.9)

Processor: 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-4278U (3.1GHz Turboboost)

GPU: Intel Iris 5100 (integrated)

Display: 13.3-inch IPS display, 2560x1600 resolution

Memory: 8GB DDR3L

Storage: 128GB solid-state storage

Optical: N/A

Connectivity: dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Ports: 2 x USB 3, 2x Thunderbolt 2, 1x HDMI, SD card reader, 1 x headphone Dimensions: 314 x 219 x 18 mm (WxDxH)

Weight: 1.6kg

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