Lab test: 13in Retina MacBook Pro

James Galbraith
27 October, 2012
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Wednesday was a very busy day for Apple and we in the Macworld Lab were ecstatic to see the Mac so well represented. Luckily, our US counterparts didn’t have to wait long to get their hands on a new 13in MacBook Pro with Retina display – here’s how it rated.

We tested the $1899 standard configuration model, which has a 2.5GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, Intel’s integrated HD Graphics 4000, 128GB of flash storage, and 8GB of RAM. Apple offers a second $2199 model that is identical except it has 256GB of flash storage. The 13in Retina display has a 2560 by 1600 native pixel resolution.

Apple still sells non-Retina 13in MacBook Pros that have a 1280 by 800 screen resolution. The $1349 model has the same 2.5GHz dual-core Core i5 processor as the Retina laptop and the same integrated graphics, but it has just 4GB of RAM and a 5400-rpm 500GB hard drive. The $1689 non-Retina model has a 2.9GHz dual-core Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000, and a 5400-rpm 750GB hard drive.

13in Retina MacBook Pro: Speedmark 8 Scores

Speedmark 8 score
13in Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 184
13in MacBook Pro/2.9GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 153
13in MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 121
13in MacBook Air/1.8GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 166
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 275
15in Retina MacBook Pro/ 2.3GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 257

 

All results are scores. Higher scores are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

Retina vs. non-Retina

We used our new Speedmark 8 benchmark to gauge the performance of the new 13in Retina MacBook Pro. It posted a Speedmark 8 score of 184, while the 13in 2.5GHz non-Retina MacBook Pro’s score was 121. If you examine the individual application scores for Speedmark 8 (see the end of this article), you’ll see that the performance differences were mostly due to the fast flash storage in the new Retina laptop. It took roughly 5 times longer for the 5400-rpm hard drive in the non-Retina laptop to complete our file copying and uncompressing tests. As you might expect, results in CPU-intensive tests were very similar. For example, the Retina laptop scored a 1.07 in MathematicaMark; the non-Retina system scored a 1.06.

The 13in non-Retina 2.9GHz MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM closed the performance gap considerably, scoring a 153 in Speedmark 8. It was faster than the 2.5GHz Retina MacBook Pro in CineBench’s CPU and GPU tests, the file compression test, Portal 2, and MathematicaMark. The non-Retina’s 5400-rpm hard drive took 4.5 times as long to complete the file copy test and uncompress file tests.

13in Retina vs. 15in Retina

The new 13in Retina MacBook Pro joins the 15in Retina MacBook Pro, which was released in June. The 15in models start at $2499 with a 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of flash storage, and a 15.4-inch display with a 2560 by 1600 resolution. The 15in models also include discreet nVidia GeForce GT 650M graphics with 1GB of dedicated video memory, as well as integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. The $3199 15in Retina MacBook Pro has the same amount of RAM and the same graphics, but with a 2.6GHz quad-core Core i7 processor and 512GB of flash storage.

When comparing performance between these three Retina MacBook Pros, the benefit of quad-core processors is readily apparent. With a Speedmark 8 score of 257, the $2499 15in Retina MacBook Pro was 40 percent faster overall than the 13in Retina MacBook Pro. MathematicaMark was 78 percent faster, and the Cinebench CPU test took half as long to run on the 15in 2.3GHz quad-core Core i7 laptop than on the 13in 2.5GHz dual-core Core i5 model. The 15in model’s discreet graphics help those laptops perform more than twice as fast in our Portal 2 and Cinebench OpenGL tests. Storage related test results were very similar.

The results from the $3199 15in Retina 2.6GHz quad-core Core i7 MacBook Pro were even more impressive. With an overall Speedmark 8 score of 275, the 15in Retina laptop was nearly 50 percent faster than the 13in Retina laptop, adding a few frames per second to the graphics tests as well as improving each test incrementally.

Retina MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air

With its size, weight and price, it’s worth comparing the new 13in Retina MacBook Pro to a 13-inch MacBook Air. A 13in Air with a 1.8GHz dual-core Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of flash storage, and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 costs $1349 and weighs 270g less than the 13in Retina MacBook Pro.

The 13in Retina MacBook Pro was 11 percent faster overall. Copy File tests, iPhoto import, Cinebench OpenGL and Portal 2 frame rates were very close, while MathematicaMark was 7 percent faster on the Retina laptop and compression a file was 9 percent faster.

Check back soon for the full review of the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros, including battery tests. We’ll also post performance results for the new Mac minis as soon as we receive and test them.

13in Retina MacBook Pro: Individual application scores

Duplicate
2GB Folder
Compress
6GB Folder
Uncompress
6GB Folder
13in Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5
(Late 2012)
40.7 329.1 43.7
13in MacBook Pro/2.9GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 189.9 312.6 187.2
13in MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 225.5 354.5 212.9
13in MacBook Air/1.8GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 41.8 361.8 48.9
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
37.7 286.8 41.2
15in Retina MacBook Pro/ 2.3GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
38.2 312.1 41.9

 

Results are in seconds. Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

 

13in Retina MacBook Pro: Individual application scores

Import
iMovie Archive
iMovie Share
to iTunes
HandBrake
Encode
13in Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5
(Late 2012)
85.1 70.3 108.7
13in MacBook Pro/2.9GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 98.6 67.8 107.3
13in MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 121.9 77.3 113.7
13in MacBook Air/1.8GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 95.1 74.9 177.7
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
45.1 59.3 81.3
15in Retina MacBook Pro/ 2.3GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
48.8 66.9 84.3

 

Results are in seconds. Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

 

13in Retina MacBook Pro: Individual application scores

iPhoto
Import
Aperture
Import
Photoshop
CS5 Action
13in Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5
(Late 2012)
82.3 64.5 108.0
13in MacBook Pro/2.9GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 121.9 85.3 104.3
13in MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 147.6 101.8 154.3
13in MacBook Air/1.8GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 82 72.5 120.7
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
46.1 51.4 89.3
15in Retina MacBook Pro/ 2.3GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
51.4 54.9 90.7

 

Results are in seconds. Lower results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

 

13in Retina MacBook Pro: Individual application scores

iTunes
AAC to MP3
Encode
Cinebench
CPU
VMware
PCMark
Mathe-
maticaMark
8
13in Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5
(Late 2012)
108.7 147.0 3061.7 1.07
13in MacBook Pro/2.9GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 105.7 121.7 3495 1.2
13in MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 119.7 156.3 1079.3 1.06
13in MacBook Air/1.8GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 115.7 170.3 2450 1.0
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
90.7 64.7 4184 2.0
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz Core i7
(Mid 2012)
96.3 73.7 3714.3 1.9

 

iTunes and Cinebench CPU results are in seconds, (lower results are better). VMware PCMark and MathematicaMark 8 are scores (higher results are better). Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

 

13in Retina MacBook Pro: Graphics tests

Cinebench OpenGL Portal 2
13in Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Late 2012) 17.7 49.3
13in MacBook Pro/2.9GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 21.8 61
13in MacBook Pro/2.5GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 18.8 54
13in MacBook Air/1.8GHz Core i5 (Mid 2012) 17.8 52.3
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 39.2 128.6
15in Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz Core i7 (Mid 2012) 36.1 120.8

 

Results are in frames per second. HIgher results are better. Best result in bold. Reference models in italics.

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