Apple Retina MacBook Pro (mid-2014)

James Galbraith
5 August, 2014
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MacBook Pro, apple, reviews, macworld australiaLast week, Apple updated its Retina MacBook Pro line, and while the new models are identical on the outside to their 13in and 15in predecessors, released late last year, the ‘mid-2014′ models feature processors that are just a little bit faster. As modest as these internal improvements are, they do provide more performance bang for the buck.

The new lineup includes five standard configurations. The $1599 system has a 13in Retina display, a 2.6GHz dual-core Core i5 processor (up from 2.4GHz in the previous $1599 model), 128GB of PCIe-based flash storage, and 8GB of RAM (up from 4GB). For $1849, you get the same system, but with 256GB of flash storage. The high-end 13in model, at $2199, includes a 2.8GHz dual-core Core i5 processor (up from 2.6GHz in the previous high-end 13in model), 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of fast flash storage.

The new 15in models come in two flavours. There’s a $2499 system with a 2.2GHz quad-core Core i7 processor (up from 2.0GHz in the previous $2499 model), 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of flash storage. At $2999, the high-end 15in MacBook Pro is $200 less than the previous high-end model and has a 2.5GHz quad-core Core i7 processor (compared to 2.3GHz previously), 16GB of RAM and 512GB of flash storage. Unlike the rest of the mid-2014 models, which use integrated graphics (Intel Iris in the 13in models and Intel Iris Pro in the 15in), the high-end 15in MacBook Pro adds discrete graphics in the form of an nVidia GeForce GT 750M GPU with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory.

 

Design features

Aside from the minor boosts in processor speed, and the low-end 13in model’s additional RAM, the latest MacBook Pros with Retina display stick with the design introduced in late 2013. The late-2013 13in MacBook Pros were slightly lighter and thinner than previous models, and all late-2013 models introduced Intel’s Haswell processors, Thunderbolt 2 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi to the MacBook Pro line.

As with the late-2013 models, the 13in and 15in mid-2014 models include two USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt 2 ports, an SDXC card slot, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack that supports the microphone and remote on headphones with an Apple-style inline remote/mic module.

The Retina MacBook Pro isn’t built with upgradability in mind. If fact, you’ll need a special Pentalobe screwdriver just to get the back cover off. RAM is soldered to the motherboard, so if you think you might ever need more than the stock amount, it’s important to configure your MacBook Pro with that extra RAM at the time of purchase. The 13in models all come standard with a healthy 8GB of RAM, while the 15in models come with a very generous 16GB; configuring the 13in model with 16GB costs an additional $240. Processor upgrades and flash-storage upgrades (up to 1TB) are also available at the time of purchase.

The 13in Retina MacBook Pro has a glossy 13.3in (diagonal) IPS screen with LED backlighting and a native resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels. The 15in MacBook Pro with Retina display sports a 15.4in IPS LED screen with a 2880-by-1800 resolution. By default, both displays are set to pixel-doubled mode: 1280 by 800 for the 13in models, and 1440 by 900 on the 15in laptops.

As mentioned in previous reviews, the Retina displays look great. Icons and user-interface elements are so sharp and clear that I sometimes find myself just admiring the contents of the Dock and menu bar. If you want to change the resolution to fit more windows, images and documents on-screen, OS X’s Displays System Preferences allow you to choose between one of five available resolutions. The Best for Display setting is the default pixel-doubled resolution. Interestingly, the highest resolution setting on the 13in is 1680 by 1050; on the 15in, the highest available resolution setting is 1920 by 1280. To use these displays at their native resolutions you’ll need to turn to a third-party utility such as EasyRes. However, icons and text are terribly small when using these screens at native resolution – I assume Apple doesn’t think anyone in their right mind would want that kind of user experience.

 

Performance

Given such modest internal changes, we didn’t expect, or find, significant speed differences between the mid-2014 MacBook Pros and their late-2013 predecessors.

 

Speedmark 9 scores

Mac model Score
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 158
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 174
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 246
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 280
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 155
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 177
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 241
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 282
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (mid-2014) 138

 

All results are scores. Higher scores are better. Stock configurations tested. Best result in bold. Reference models unitalics. – Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith and Albert Filice

 

Each of the newer models was faster than its corresponding predecessor in our application tests, including Photoshop, Aperture, iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie and Handbrake. Unfortunately, all of the newer models were also slower than their predecessors in our copy, zip and unzip tests. In fact, only on the entry-level 13in and 15in mid-2014 models were the processor gains enough to keep the new systems’ overall Speedmark 9 score above the scores of the late-2013 systems.

Comparing the 13in and 15in models’ performance, you can see that the quad-core processors used in the larger laptops helped the low- and high-end 15in MacBook Pros post around 60 percent higher Speedmark 9 scores than their 13in counterparts.

 

Battery life

Mac model Time
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 10 hours 2 mins
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 9 hours 24 mins
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 7 hours 13 mins
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 6 hours 56 mins
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 9 hours 48 mins
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013)  n/a
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013)  7 hours 18 mins
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 7 hours 32 mins
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 12 hours 13 mins

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

To test the battery life in these new portables, we looped a playlist of shows downloaded from the iTunes store. We turned off Wi-Fi and set the screen brightness to 200 cd/m2. The 2.6GHz 13-inch model lasted just over 10 hours in this test while the 2.8GHz model lasted just under nine and a half hours. The 15-inch models lasted a respectable seven hours. The most recent MacBook Air, for comparison’s sake, lasted over 12 hours in this test.

 

Finder tests

Mac model Copy Zip Unzip
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 39.9 351.1 62.6
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 25.4 342.1 51.2
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 25.9 332.1 44.8
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 22.7 322.5 40.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 35.3 321.4 40.4
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 22.4 301.4 32.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 23.5 297.1 35.4
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 21.4 272.7 33.0
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 38.6 406.3 86.2

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

(Other benchmark-component test results published below.)

 

Bottom line

With beautiful high-resolution screens, fast PCIe-connected flash storage, Thunderbolt 2, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and USB 3.0, Apple’s latest MacBook Pros with Retina display are fantastic machines. And while the changes to the latest models are modest, they do provide higher performance in most applications than previous models, more RAM in the low-end models, and lower prices at the high-end.

 

iMovie 10.0.1 enhance/export

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 209.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 205.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 148.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 62.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 219.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 204.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 151.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 63.0
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 219.0

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

 

iPhoto 9.5.1 import

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 152.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 143.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 76.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 76.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 173.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 158.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 87.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 78.0
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 179.0

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

 

iTunes 11.1 AAC to MP3 encode

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 72.0
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 68.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 64.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 59.0
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 78.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 73.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 69.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 65.7
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 85.0

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

 

HandBrake 0.9.5 encode

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 191.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 178.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 95.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 94.0
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 203.0
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 192.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 103.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 96.3
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 224.7

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

 

Photoshop CC action script

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 137.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 132.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 98.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 97.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 150.0
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 137.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 104.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 102.0
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 157.0

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

 

Aperture 3.5.1 import/process

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 97.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 89.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 77.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 71.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 106.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 96.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 85.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 75.7
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 120.3

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

 

Cinebench R15 CPU

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 148.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 139.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 71.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 70.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 159.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 149.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 76.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 70.0
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 174.0

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

 

MathematicaMark 9

Mac model Results (seconds)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 1.8
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 2.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 4.1
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 4.0
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 1.5
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 1.8
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 3.9
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 4.2
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 1.5

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

 

Parallels 9-PCMark 8 Office

Mac model Score
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 2026.1
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 2299.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 3158.3
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 3586.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 1798.0
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 2389.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 2827.0
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 3294.3
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 2027.0

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

 

Unigine Heaven and Valley 1280-by-720

Mac model Heaven 1280-by-720 Valley 1280-by-720
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 21.4 17.71
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 21.6 17.91
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 35.6 27.37
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 37.3 38.28
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 20.8 16.98
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 22.3 17.97
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 35.6 27.74
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 37.4 38.08
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 19.2 15.15

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

 

Unigine Heaven and Valley 1920-by-1080

Mac model Heaven 1920-by-1080 Valley 1920-by-1080
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 7.9 5.74
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 8.2 5.95
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 11.8 8.31
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 16.5 16.57
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 7.9 5.74
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 8.2 6
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 11.4 8.13
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 16.5 16.56
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) n/a n/a

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

 

Unigine Heaven and Valley 2560-by-1600

Mac model Heaven 2560-by-1600 Valley 2560-by-1600
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 5.6 5.35
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 5.8 5.55
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 8.0 7.77
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 11.9 14.8
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 5.6 5.35
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 5.8 5.59
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 7.7 7.57
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 11.9 14.8
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) n/a n/a

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

 

Cinebench R15 OpenGL

Mac model Results (fps)
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Mid 2014) 21.7
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.8GHz (Mid 2014) 21.8
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.2GHz (Mid 2014) 27.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.5GHz (Mid 2014) 54.3
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.4GHz (Late 2013) 21.2
13″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.6GHz (Late 2013) 21.7
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.0GHz (Late 2013) 27.6
15″ Retina MacBook Pro/2.3GHz (Late 2013) 53.8
13″ MacBook Air/1.4GHz, 256GB flash storage (Mid 2014) 18.6

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

One Comment

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  1. Andy says:

    It is disappointing that the review does not comment directly on wifi capabilities. I had poor wifi experiences with both the 2013 Pro and 2013 Air.

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