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What are all the differences between the "Mid-2012" regular MacBook Pro and 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro? Which is best for me?
Please note that the "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models were replaced by the similar "Early 2013" Retina Display MacBook Pro models on February 13, 2013. However, the 15-Inch "Mid-2012" and "Early 2013" Retina Display lines are so similar to one another that this Q&A remains quite useful for anyone trying to decide whether to purchase any 15-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro or a "traditional" MacBook Pro model.
At first glance, the "Mid-2012" regular MacBook Pro models -- the MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.5 13-Inch, "Core i7" 2.9 13-Inch, MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.3 15-Inch, and "Core i7" 2.6 15-Inch -- and the "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.3 15" (Retina), "Core i7" 2.6 15" (Retina), and MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.7 15" (Retina) -- look similar.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Retina Display MacBook Pro)
Although the Retina Display MacBook Pro is readily distinguishable as thinner, both lines share a similar overall design ethos and both are milled from a single piece of aluminum and have black backlit keyboards. However, there are major differences that go well beyond dimensions.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc.(Regular Mid-2012 MacBook Pro Models)
The regular "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models use essentially the same, but not identical, general black and silver design as earlier "Unibody" MacBook Pro lines. The Retina Display MacBook Pro model is clearly inspired by the same, but it is thinner and lacks battery and sleep indicator lights. It also is only branded "MacBook Pro" on the bottom unlike the regular models which are branded under the display. All of these models have a backlit keyboard, a "no button" glass multi-touch trackpad with support for "inertial scrolling" and a 720p "FaceTime HD" webcam as well.
The Retina Display MacBook Pro models are 0.71 of an inch thick and weigh a little less than 4.5 pounds. The regular MacBook Pro models are 0.95 of an inch thick and weigh either 4.5 pounds or 5.6 pounds, for the 13" and 15" models, respectively.
The regular MacBook Pro models have either a 13.3" or a 15.4" glossy display at native resolutions of 1280x800 or 1440x900, respectively, although the 15-Inch models also are offered with a high-resolution 1680x1050 display in either a glossy or anti-glare finish for an additional US$100. As a minor point worth noting, when configured with an anti-glare display, the system will have a silver "frame" around the display rather than a black one.
The Retina Display MacBook Pro models, by contrast, have a 15.4" widescreen 2880x1800 (220 ppi) "retina" display. It is a glossy display, although Apple does not cover it with glass, which gives it a less glossy appearance than the display on the regular models.
Connectivity on these models is quite different from one another. All of these models include 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 ports and an SDXC-capable SD card slot.
The regular MacBook Pro models, however, have Gigabit Ethernet, a single Firewire "800" port, and one "Thunderbolt" port. The regular 13-Inch models have a single "audio line in/out" port, whereas the regular 15-Inch models have an independent audio line in minijack (digital/analog) and an independent audio line out/headphone minijack (digital/analog).
The Retina Display MacBook Pro models have two "Thunderbolt" ports, an HDMI port, a single "audio line in/out" port, and a thinner "MagSafe 2" power connector port. They lack Gigabit Ethernet and Firewire "800."
None of these models have an ExpressCard/34 expansion slot.
The regular "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models only can be externally differentiated by the last four characters of the serial number courtesy of EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature or the the EveryMac app. The "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models can be identified externally by a unique EMC number -- 2512 -- as well as the last four characters of the serial number. As always, EveryMac.com has painstakingly hand documented these details for your convenience.
In software, the regular "Mid-2012" 13-Inch and 15-Inch MacBook Pro also can be uniquely spotted by the MacBookPro9,2 and MacBookPro9,1 model identifiers, respectively. The 15-Inch Retina Display models can be pinpointed by MacBookPro10,1.
Regardless of the identifier that is most convenient for you, EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Lookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app -- can be helpful to identify these MacBook Pro models and all other G3 and later Macs.
Internally, there are some similarities between these models -- all use "Ivy Bridge" architectures with a 5 GT/s Direct Media Interface (DMI) and the regular 15-Inch models and Retina Display models use the same processors -- but otherwise the lines are quite different.
Most notably, the regular MacBook Pro models have two RAM slots that support 204-pin 1600 MHz PC3-12800 DDR3L SDRAM SO-DIMMs (and officially support up to 8 GB of RAM, but third-parties like site sponsor Other World Computing have discovered that they actually support 16 GB), support for a Serial ATA (6 Gb/s) 2.5" hard drive or SSD, and an internal 8X DL "SuperDrive" (as well as support for aftermarket options to install a second hard drive or SSD in place of the optical drive). They are easy to upgrade.
The Retina Display MacBook Pro models, by contrast, have internal upgrades severely limited. They have onboard 1600 MHz DDR3L SDRAM that is soldered in place and cannot be upgraded after purchase (8 GB standard with a 16 GB option, but only if configured at the time of purchase). They also have internal flash storage rather than a hard drive and this storage is not intended to be upgraded after purchase, but as first discovered by site sponsor OWC, it is mounted on a removable module, so upgrades to larger storage capacities than those provided by default is possible. They do not have an internal optical drive, either.
The regular 13-Inch models only have "integrated" Intel HD Graphics 4000 graphics processors that share memory with the system, whereas the regular 15-Inch models and Retina Display models all have dual graphics systems -- dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics in addition to the same integrated graphics as the lower-end models.
All have a built-in non-swappable battery design, and this battery is not designed to be removed or serviced by end users, although the battery in the regular models is straightforward to replace whereas the Retina Display models unfortunately have the battery glued in place. Apple estimates that all of these models provide seven hours of battery life based on an Apple "wireless web" test.
The major differences between the standard configurations of the regular 13-Inch and 15-Inch "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro and the Retina Display MacBook Pro models are summarized below:
|Speed:||2.3 GHz, 2.9 GHz||2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz||2.3 GHz, 2.6 GHz|
|Turbo Boost:||3.1 GHz, 3.6 GHz||3.3 GHz, 3.6 GHz||3.3 GHz, 3.6 GHz|
|L3 Cache:||3 MB, 4 MB||6 MB||6 MB|
|Storage Capacity:||500 GB, 750 GB||500 GB, 750 GB||256 GB, 512 GB|
|Storage Type:||Hard Drive||Hard Drive||SSD|
|Optical:||8X DL||8X DL||None|
|Std RAM:||4 GB, 8 GB||4 GB, 8 GB||8 GB|
|GDDR5:||Integrated Only||512 MB, 1 GB||1 GB|
|Standard Res:||1280x800||1440x900||2880x1800 (220 ppi)|
|Battery Life:||7 Hours||7 Hours||7 Hours|
|Weight:||4.5 lbs||5.6 lbs||4.46 lbs|
|Original Price:||US$1199, US$1499||US$1799, US$2199||US$2199, US$2799|
So, which "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro is best for me?
Ultimately, the regular "Mid-2012" and Retina Display MacBook Pro models provide very different advantages and disadvantages and only you can decide which set is most important to you.
If you place high priority on an amazing high-quality display, excellent performance, and advanced connectivity in a relatively compact package -- and are not concerned by meager upgrade options, poor repair prospects, limited legacy connectivity, and/or a high price tag -- a Retina Display MacBook Pro could be perfect for you.
Alternately, if you place higher priority on excellent performance (essentially equal performance for the 15" models on tasks that are not drive-related) and extensive upgrade and repair options, diverse legacy connectivity, and/or a potentially lower price tag -- but are not concerned by a much lower resolution display and/or a modestly larger and heavier housing -- a regular MacBook Pro could be a better choice.
For those interested in saving money, a used MacBook Pro always is worth considering, too.
Site sponsor PowerMax has new and used configurations of the MacBook Pro models available free of sales tax. MegaMacs has inexpensive used MacBook Pro models. Finally, OWC sells SSD upgrades both for the traditional and Retina Display "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro lines at affordable prices.
Please refer to EveryMac.com's Ultimate Mac Comparison feature to dynamically compare any MacBook Pro model to any other Mac.