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How fast are the 15-Inch "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models compared to one another? How fast are they compared to the "regular" Mid-2012 MacBook Pro and the models replaced?
Please note that the "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models have been discontinued. However, this Q&A is up-to-date and can be quite helpful for anyone buying or selling one of these models on the used market.
In Apple's official company press release for the 15-Inch Retina Display "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models -- the stock configurations of which are the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.3 15" (Retina) and "Core i7" 2.6 15" (Retina) -- the company primarily emphasizes the impressive display quality, as one would expect, but also boasts that the line sets a "new standard in performance and portability."
The company continues, but performance-related emphasis is on its "flash architecture" rather than on processors, graphics, or overall performance. However, Apple does note that the notebooks have "the latest processors" and "discrete graphics" as well as "faster" RAM.
Regardless, with a display that is far higher resolution than other MacBook Pro lines -- which naturally requires more "muscle" to push pixels -- as well as a new "Ivy Bridge" architecture, far more detailed performance testing is needed than ever could be provided in a press release.
Photo Credit: Apple, Inc. (Retina Display MacBook Pro)
General Performance Overview
For a solid overview of the performance difference between the Retina Display "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models and earlier 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 entry-level model -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.3 15" (Retina) -- is roughly 8% slower than the higher-end stock model -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.6 15" (Retina).
Compared to the 15-Inch non-Retina Display-equipped "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models -- the MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.3 15" and MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.6 15" -- overall performance is essentially identical, as one would expect from systems with identical processors and architecture. However, the Retina Display models have SSDs that are considerably faster, albeit lower capacity, than the hard drives in the traditional models and Geekbench does not fully exhibit the storage performance difference.
Geekbench benchmarks also demonstrate that the stock "Mid-2012" Retina Display MacBook Pro models, likewise, are around 18% and 13% faster than the models each replaced, respectively.
Other Benchmarks & Real-World Test Results
Geekbench provides a convenient overview of overall performance, but other benchmarks and real-world tests can be worthwhile, particularly for disk-related tasks.
The new [2.3 GHz] MacBook Pro returned a CPU score of 6.12 points. The 13-inch MacBook Air scored just 2.09 points on the CPU test, so we're talking 3X the performance. The last-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro scored 5.41, or about 18 percent slower.
The industry-standard Macworld performed their own Speedmark 7 tests -- which places more emphasis on drive performance -- on both the entry-level and stock high-end model and the results were more dramatic:
The 2.6 GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro isn't just the fastest laptop we've tested, it's the fastest Mac we've tested, posting a remarkable 330 Speedmark 7 score. The 2.3 GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro isn't far behind, with a score of 319. . . Compared to the fastest new 15-inch regular MacBook Pro with a 2.6 GHz Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 5400-rpm 750 GB hard drive, the 2.6 GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is 38 percent faster, and the 2.3 GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is 33 percent faster. If you look at the scores for last year's MacBook Pros, the new 2.6 GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is a whopping 51 percent faster. The comparison with the new 2.3 GHz Core i7 Retina MacBook Pro is just as impressive; it's 46 percent faster.
As a default configuration the $2799 [2.6 GHz] MacBook Pro with Retina Display is easily the fastest notebook Apple has ever shipped. It's only if you had an upgraded 2011 model (perhaps with an aftermarket SSD?) that you'll be unimpressed by the move.
I can't stress enough how much the new SSD improves the overall experience. It's just so much faster than what Apple used to ship.
Performance Test Results Video
For those who prefer video to text and graphs, DetroitBorg also details the performance of the entry-level MacBook Pro "Core i7" 2.3 15" (Retina) with boot tests, read and write tests, Geekbench, and more:
Ultimately, the Retina Display "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models are significantly faster than the models replaced, particularly in tasks that emphasize disk performance thanks to a fast standard SSD.
The non-Retina Display "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models offer essentially identical overall performance but are held back in disk-related tasks by a much slower, but much larger, traditional hard drive. However, the regular "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro models are easy to upgrade with a fast SSD and are just as fast, if not faster, than their Retina-equipped brethren when upgraded accordingly.
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 "Mid-2012" MacBook Pro lines -- at affordable prices.