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Retina Display MacBook Pro Q&A - Published March 16, 2013

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How fast are the 13-Inch and 15-Inch "Early 2013" MacBook Pro models compared to one another? How fast are they compared to the models replaced? How fast are they compared to the MacBook Air?

Please note that the "Early 2013" MacBook Pro models have been discontinued. However, this Q&A is up-to-date and can be quite useful for anyone buying or selling one of these models on the used market.

In the official press release, Apple noted that the "Early 2013" MacBook Pro models -- the stock configurations of which are the MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.6 13", "Core i7" 2.4 15", and "Core i7" 2.7 15" -- have updated processors and are "faster and more affordable" than their 15-Inch "Mid-2012" and 13-Inch "Late 2012" predecessors. It also is worth noting that Apple dropped the price of the stock "Late 2012" MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.5 13" but continued to offer it as a new model alongside the "Early 2013" line.

In other promotional materials, Apple continued to emphasize the performance difference between the flash storage-equipped Retina Display MacBook Pro and the slower hard drive-equipped "pre-Retina" MacBook Pro series (which can be upgraded to use fast flash storage, too). However, the company does not compare the "Early 2013" MacBook Pro models to each other or to the models immediately replaced, or supplemented, as the case may be for the 13-Inch systems.

As the clockspeed differences between these lines are minor, and Apple marketing chose to not tout specific performance improvement, it is a safe bet that the speed difference between the "Early 2013" MacBook Pro models and their immediate predecessors of the same type is modest. However, compared to one another, as the 13-Inch models have dual core processors and slower integrated graphics whereas the 15-Inch models have quad core processors and faster dedicated graphics, one would expect the 15-Inch models to pummel their smaller brethren.

Exactly how modest and how pummeling the performance difference specifically, however, requires benchmarks and real-world testing. Comparing the performance of the 13-Inch Retina Display MacBook Pro to the "Mid-2012" MacBook Air models can be useful for those considering one or the other, too.


Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Retina Display MacBook Pro - 15" Left, 13" Right)

General Performance Overview

For a solid overview of the performance difference between the "Early 2013" Retina Display MacBook Pro models, EveryMac.com's own Ultimate Mac Comparison makes it quick to compare side-by-side 32-bit-and 64-bit Geekbench benchmark averages with all other G3 and later Macs for thousands of possible performance comparisons.

The Geekbench benchmark shows that the stock MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.6 13" (Early 2013) is a mere 3% faster than the MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.5 13" (Late 2012) it supplemented. Likewise, the "Early 2013" MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.4 15" and "Core i7" 2.7 15" are just 4% and 3% faster, respectively, than the "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.3 15" and "Core i7" 2.6 15" that each replaced.

The performance difference between the "Early 2013" 15-Inch models is more significant, but still modest, as well. Specifically, the stock high-end MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.7 15" is roughly 7% faster than the entry-level MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.4 15".

However, the performance difference between the "Early 2013" 13-Inch and 15-Inch models is substantial. The entry-level MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.4 15" and high-end stock MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.7 15" are a staggering 64% and 76% faster, respectively, than the MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.6 13".

Finally, the stock MacBook Pro "Core i5" 2.5 13" (Late 2012) and "Core i5" 2.6 13" (Early 2013) are roughly 9.5% and 12% faster, respectively, than the standard MacBook Air "Core i5" 1.8 13" (Mid-2012).

Other Performance Test Results

As the "Early 2013" Retina Display MacBook Pro models were a minor update, they did not receive a great deal of detailed attention across the blogosphere. However, the venerable MacWorld did put the systems through their paces with the publication's Speedmark 8 testing suite and reported results similar to those provided by the Geekbench benchmark:

The new 13-inch 2.6 GHz Retina MacBook Pro earned a Speedmark 8 score of 190, about 3 percent faster than the 13-inch [Late 2012] base model with its 2.5 GHz Core i5 processor. . .
If you're trying to decide between a MacBook Air and a Retina MacBook Pro, you'll be interested to know that the Retina MacBook Pro was 14 percent faster overall, with processor-intensive tests showing the biggest differences. . .
Despite having twice the amount of RAM and a slightly faster processor, the new high-end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro was just 3 percent faster than the previous high-end 15-inch model that had the same graphics and flash storage. The new high-end model was 5 percent faster overall than the new base 15-inch Retina model. When comparing the performance of the new low-end 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro and the new high-end 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, you see a very large difference between the two, with the 15-inch model being 47 percent faster overall.

Performance Summary

Ultimately, the 15-Inch "Early 2013" Retina Display MacBook Pro models are substantially faster than their 13-Inch counterparts.

The "Early 2013" Retina Display MacBook Pro line also provides a modest performance boost over the earlier Retina Display MacBook Pro models replaced or supplemented. Nevertheless, any additional speed always is welcomed by those who place emphasis on performance. For those who place more importance on price, older Retina Display MacBook Pro models remain well worth consideration, too.

In the US, 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. OWC sells SSD upgrades that improve performance -- both for the traditional and Retina Display MacBook Pro lines -- at affordable prices.


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