Notebookcheck

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 Late 2013 Notebook Review

Nino Ricchizzi (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 07/07/2014

All quiet on the western front. Apple introduced its reworked 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina last autumn. Although the entry-level price dropped a bit, we still expect a maximum amount of quality and performance for more than 2,000 Euros (~$2722).

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 Late 2013

For the original German review, see here.

With the introduction of the Retina-series in 2012, which was equipped with an IPS panel and 2880x1800 pixels, Apple was the first company to integrate ultra high-resolution displays in this notebook category. Thanks to its pixel density of 220 DPI, the human eye could not see individual pixels. The first models with this IPS display had issues with ghosting, but that was fixed very quickly. The price for such a notebook is still very high. However, fans of Mac OS and the Retina resolution can be happy about a positive price development. The cheapest MacBook from this series is currently available for around 2,000 Euros (~$2722), which is 300 Euros (~$408) less compared to the first Retina version from 2012. Our review unit differs from the entry-level configuration with a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics card, twice the amount of flash storage (512 GB) and memory (16 GB) as well as a more powerful Intel Core i7-4850HQ CPU clocked at 2.3 GHz. Thanks to the combination of performance, a sturdy aluminum case and the comparatively low weight, it qualifies for multimedia purposes.

However, the competition does not sleep. We will use notebooks from several price ranges for a comparison with the MacBook Pro Retina. For starters, there is the Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) for around 2,060 Euros (~$2803), which is also equipped with an Nvidia GeForce GT 750M and a slightly less powerful Intel Core i7-4702 CPU. However, it has a higher-resolution touch display with 3200x1800 pixels. Significantly less expensive is the Samsung ATIV Book 8 that uses a standard Full HD display, the similar GPU and an Intel Core i7-4700HQ for 1,300 Euros (~$1769). 300 Euros (~$408) cheaper than the Samsung is Acer's Aspire R7-571G that offers a high-quality IPS panel and multi-touch support.

We are talking about notebooks with graphics cards based on Nvidia's Kepler architecture, which was already replaced by the Maxwell architecture in March 2014, so there is probably going to be an update from Apple and other manufacturers soon. Therefore, we will also use the Asus N550JK and evaluate the performance of the new Nvidia GeForce GT 850M.

Case

Only coated aluminum is used for the case
Only coated aluminum is used for the case
The Apple notebook is simple yet elegant
The Apple notebook is simple yet elegant

The case is manufactured from a single piece of aluminum and this did not change compared to the first Retina model. It can still convince us with its sturdiness and the perfect build quality; only the front edge of the case is somewhat sharp at the corners and was not reworked for this version. Overall, the aluminum leaves a dignified impression and also feels splendid. With a measured weight of 2,012 g (~4.4 pounds), the MacBook is a lightweight in this category of multimedia notebooks. The formerly mentioned Samsung ATIV Book 8 and Acer Aspire R7-571G are noticeably heavier than the Apple notebook weighing 2.4 and 2.5 kg (~5.3 and 5.5 pounds). The Dell on the other hand is on a similar level in terms of weight and dimensions; both notebooks are similarly thin measuring 18 mm (~0.7 inches). The keyboard and trackpad layout of the two devices is very similar as well.

You can open the base unit when you loosen five Pentalobe screws, but all you can do is look at the components, you cannot actually maintain anything. Similar to all Retina models you can neither remove nor replace the battery. This is not necessarily the price of the slim chassis when you look at the Dell XPS 15, which gives you access to all of the important components at this point.

Connectivity

Nothing really changed in this category at a first look, either. The port variety of the MacBook Pro with two USB 3.0 ports is pretty meager, but in return you get the new Thunderbolt port with a transfer rate of up to 20 Gbps. Thanks to the combination of the PCIe and USB architecture you can use Thunderbolt adaptors for pretty much everything. The problem with this is the high price of the corresponding adaptors. Apple offers optional Thunderbolt adaptors when you buy the notebook.

A new feature is the maximum resolution for external displays. You can now drive panels with up to 4096x2160 pixels at 24 Hz via HDMI and 3840x2160 pixels at 30 Hz via Thunderbolt. Only the MacBook Pro Retina 15 as well as the Mac Pro support 60 Hz displays with Multi Stream Transport (MST).

The port layout is convenient in the rear area of the notebook, so there will not be any issues with attached cables. The problem with a slim 18 mm case is that thicker and protruding USB sticks can lift the notebook, which we noticed in the review of the 13-inch version.

MagSafe 2, 2 x Thunderbolt, 1 x USB 3.0, combined stereo jack
MagSafe 2, 2 x Thunderbolt, 1 x USB 3.0, combined stereo jack
SDXC card reader, HDMI-out, 1 x USB 3.0
SDXC card reader, HDMI-out, 1 x USB 3.0

Communication

While the predecessor supported the IEEE 802.11n standard, the new model is equipped with an 802.11ac module. The completely subjective performance during normal web browsing and downloading appears very smooth and fast. The test with iperf uses the Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 from the same series of our review unit. The router was one floor above the review units and we determined a reasonably constant transfer rate of 50 Mbps. 

Accessories

Apple does not only save money on the box, but also in terms of accessories. Neither an Ethernet nor a VGA/DVI adaptor is provided. Apart from a microfiber cloth and the extension cord for the MagSafe 2 you do not get anything. The optional adaptors are available for 30 Euros (~$41).

Maintenance

We already mentioned the bad maintainability of the Retina-series because of non-removable components in the Case section. Our colleagues from iFixit only rate the notebook with 1 of 10 possible points as a result.

Warranty

As usual for Apple devices, you just get a one-year manufacturer's warranty with all support features after the purchase. An extension of this service retails for a hefty price of 350 Euros (~$476) and includes the support for all questions in terms of hardware and software.

Input Devices

Similar trackpad and keyboard for the 13 and 15-inch models
Similar trackpad and keyboard for the 13 and 15-inch models

Keyboard

The black chiclet keyboard with a 16-stage background illumination can convince us in every respect with precise pressure points and convenient feedback. Clattering noise from the keys is minimal, which results in a pleasant noise during typing. The keyboards of all MacBooks are similar, so there are no size differences between the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook. Unfortunately, this also means there are no special keys or shortcuts, even though the space is available. Instead of special keys, you get microphone and speaker grills on both sides of the keyboard.

Touchpad

Apple is essentially the pioneer concerning the trackpad when you are looking for a mouse replacement and multi-touch. Gestures like wiping or zooming are very smooth and no problem with up to four fingers. The trackpad reacts very precisely and directly. We could not determine any issues in the peripheral areas, either. Primary and secondary clicks can either be executed with one and two-finger taps, respectively, or in the lower corners with a mechanical feedback. All in all the glass trackpad can still convince us and allows, depending on the scenario, a similar working speed as with an external mouse. Under Windows via Boot Camp, you cannot use most multi-touch gestures and the overall operation is noticeably slower compared to Mac OS. Unfortunately, there are no settings for the gestures at all.

Familiar work environment with a high quality: Keyboard
Familiar work environment with a high quality: Keyboard

Display

You can only see individual pixels in a close-up
You can only see individual pixels in a close-up

Apple still uses a high-quality IPS panel with a maximum resolution of 2880x1800 pixels. The display got more anti-reflective over the years, which is actually clearly visible with light sources from behind. However, this is still a glossy display, which results in brilliant colors, but it creates problems in certain environments. The first versions of the Retina model used an IPS panel from LG, which had issues with ghosting where objects burned into the display. This is fortunately not the case anymore.

The comparison between Windows and Mac OS still shows that the high resolution creates compatibility problems under Windows. Application windows, symbols and some games have scaling issues. Some buttons can easily disappear in deformed windows. High resolutions have become established under Mac OS by now. Applications and symbols are displayed without visible pixels and without issues. Most manufacturers also updated their software with high resolutions since the introduction of the Retina-series, so there are no problems during operation.

298
cd/m²
306
cd/m²
302
cd/m²
306
cd/m²
332
cd/m²
310
cd/m²
275
cd/m²
301
cd/m²
285
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 332 cd/m²
Average: 301.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 83 %
Black: 0.3326 cd/m²
Contrast: 998:1

The presentation under Windows and Mac OS can vary due to the use of different color profiles. Under Mac OS we can measure a contrast of 998:1 and an almost perfect color temperature of 6,489 K. The resulting black value of 0.33 cd/m² appears very natural and is better than the average of multimedia notebooks. This means the MacBook manages much better results than the IPS panel of the Dell XPS 15, for instance. However, the MacBook Retina is clearly beaten in terms of maximum brightness. The Dell manages an unbelievable 440 cd/m² and therefore 110 cd/m² more than the Apple notebook. Compared to the Acer R7, the MacBook falls behind in the contrast and black value. A contrast of almost 1,100:1 and a slightly lower average brightness of 286.7 cd/m² result in an even better black value of 0.28 cd/m².

The analysis of the color presentation reveals above-average results. Multimedia notebooks from the last couple of years had an average DeltaE deviation of 9 for the grayscale. The MacBook clearly beats this result even without calibration: Grayscale DeltaE of 2.11. This result is similar for the colors with a DeltaE deviation of 1.95, which is once again clearly below the average of 8.3. We can actually see almost perfect values close to zero after the calibration (CalMAN, compared to sRGB).

Grayscale Mac OS X pre calibration
Grayscale Mac OS X pre calibration
ColorChecker Mac OS X pre calibration
ColorChecker Mac OS X pre calibration
Saturation Sweeps Mac OS X pre calibration
Saturation Sweeps Mac OS X pre calibration
Grayscale Mac OS X calibrated
Grayscale Mac OS X calibrated
ColorChecker Mac OS X calibrated
ColorChecker Mac OS X calibrated
 


Grayscale Windows pre-calibration
Grayscale Windows pre-calibration
Saturation Sweeps Windows pre-calibration
Saturation Sweeps Windows pre-calibration
ColorChecker Windows pre-calibration
ColorChecker Windows pre-calibration
Working under direct sunlight is hardly possible
Working under direct sunlight is hardly possible

Even though the Apple display is anti-reflective for direct light sources, it is still far away from a matte panel. The contrast and the brightness are sufficient to work in the shade. However, you should look for an alternative if you frequently work outdoors, especially in brighter environments, since Apple waived the matte display option with the launch of the Retina-series. One of these alternatives would be the rival Samsung ATIV Book 8, which has a display with a similar contrast and brightness, but only the Full HD resolution. 

Thanks to the IPS display, the viewing angle stability is perfect in any direction. Colors and the brightness are hardly distorted, or not at all. Even extreme angles from the sides are no problem for the display. The maximum opening angle could be a bit bigger, but it is sufficient for use on your lap.

IPS display of the Apple MacBook with wide viewing angles
IPS display of the Apple MacBook with wide viewing angles

Performance

The 15-inch Retina-series is divided into two sub categories. One with an integrated graphics card, and the other with an additional dedicated graphics card from Nvidia. Our review unit is from the second category and represents the "cheapest" version at 2,600 Euros (~$3538).

MacBook Pro Retina 15Configuration IConfiguration II
CPUIntel Core i7-4750HQ-
Intel Core i7-4850HQ (+ 100 Euros)Intel Core i7-4850HQ
Intel Core i7-4960HQ (+ 300 Euros)Intel Core i7-4960HQ (+ 200 Euros)
GPU (integrated)Intel Iris ProIntel Iris Pro
GPU (dedicated)-Nvidia GeForce GT 750M 
Memory8 GB-
16 GB (+ 200 Euros)16 GB
Storage (SSD)256 GB-
512 GB (+ 300 Euros)512 GB
1 TB (+ 800 Euros)1 TB (+ 500 Euros)
Base Price1,999 Euros2,599 Euros

Processor

Comparison: Openbenchmarking.org
Comparison: Openbenchmarking.org

The Intel Core i7-4850HQ is a high-end notebook CPU with its four cores and a nominal clock of 2.3 GHz.  Intel specifies the maximum Turbo Boost with 3.5 GHz and a TDP of 47 Watts, which is similar to the CPU of the Samsung ATIV 8, but higher than the 37 Watts chip inside the Dell XPS and also higher than the 17 Watts of the Acer processor. We will check the effect on the battery runtimes later in this review.

Now we compare and analyze the benchmark results. The Cinebench benchmarks show that there is no appreciable performance difference between Windows and Mac OS. The small differences are a result of the variance of these benchmarks. The MacBook does not have an advantage over its rivals, but it is on the same level. The Samsung ATIV Book 8 has a small advantage in Cinebench R15 as well as R11.5, despite the slightly less powerful CPU. The Acer Aspire R7-571G only manages 60 % of the points in Cinebench R11.5 because of the ULV architecture of the CPU.

We could not determine any throttling under Mac OS, despite our continuous stress test with a Terminal process, a Cinebench loop and the Unigine benchmark. The Turbo Boost is immediately activated again as soon as the CPU cooled down after a period at the nominal clock. It seems that the utilization of the Turbo is good, but the average temperature of the CPU under continuous load is pretty high at 90 °C (194 °F). The throttling behavior changes dramatically under Windows. The clock is 500 MHz under the base frequency in our stress test with Prime95 and FurMark. The CPU temperature is lower at 83 °C (181.4 °F) on average because of the throttling.

The CPU performance is not affected on battery power according to the Multi-Core test of Cinebench R15 and the results do not differ from mains power. There were significant differences in the Single-Core test, where we got 97 instead of 133 points (-28%).

Cinebench R10 under Mac OS
Cinebench R10 under Mac OS
Cinebench R11.5 under Mac OS
Cinebench R11.5 under Mac OS
Cinebench R15 under Mac OS
Cinebench R15 under Mac OS
Cinebench R10 under Windows
Cinebench R10 under Windows
Cinebench R11.5 under Windows
Cinebench R11.5 under Windows
Cinebench R15 under Windows
Cinebench R15 under Windows
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
6.17 Points ∼35%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
5.52 Points ∼31% -11%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
6.29 Points ∼36% +2%
Samsung 870Z5G
6.57 Points ∼37% +6%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
2.48 Points ∼14% -60%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
3.15 Points ∼18% -49%
Asus N550JV-CN201H
6.68 Points ∼38% +8%
Asus N550JK-CN109H
3.55 Points ∼20% -42%
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
1.48 Points ∼74%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
1.32 Points ∼66% -11%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
1.38 Points ∼69% -7%
Samsung 870Z5G
1.5 Points ∼75% +1%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
1.12 Points ∼56% -24%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
1.27 Points ∼64% -14%
Asus N550JV-CN201H
1.52 Points ∼76% +3%
Asus N550JK-CN109H
1.47 Points ∼74% -1%
Cinebench R15
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
578 Points ∼37%
Samsung 870Z5G
627 Points ∼40% +8%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
291 Points ∼19% -50%
Asus N550JK-CN109H
321 Points ∼21% -44%
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
133 Points ∼76%
Samsung 870Z5G
134 Points ∼76% +1%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
113 Points ∼64% -15%
Asus N550JK-CN109H
130 Points ∼74% -2%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i7-4850HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Apple SSD SM0512F
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06 Intel Core i7-3615QM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M, Apple SSD SM256E (Samsung)
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
 
Samsung 870Z5G Intel Core i7-4700HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
 
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass Intel Core i5-3337U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD7500BPVX-22JC3T0
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i5-4258U, Intel Iris Graphics 5100, Apple SSD SM0256F
 
Asus N550JV-CN201H Intel Core i7-4700HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
Asus N550JK-CN109H Intel Core i5-4200H, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
6640
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
22559
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.48 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
6.17 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
57.35 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
133 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
578 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
67.67 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Help

System Performance

NovaBench in Mac OS
NovaBench in Mac OS

What can you say about the system performance of a notebook with a high-end CPU and a fast SSD? Subjectively, the system performance and the reaction times in particular are very fast. This is also confirmed by the PCMark 7 score under Windows. With 5,842 points, the MacBook is pretty much on the same level with the Dell XPS 15 and the first Retina from 2012 is also pretty close with 5,545 points. The slowest device is the Samsung ATIV Book 8 with less than half of the points from the Apple MacBook Pro Retina because of the slow conventional hard drive.

Under Mac OS, we test and compare the benchmarks of the website OpenBenchmark.org. The test suite consists of applications that stress the CPU as well as the GPU. The MacBook Pro Retina 15 has a clear advantage over its smaller 13-inch sibling. The CPU of the reviewed 13-inch version is an Intel Core i5-4258U dual-core processor. Depending on the test environment, we can see advantages between 20 and 70%. Especially impressive is the OpenSSL test, where the 15-inch MacBook gets roughly three times the points. The differences are even bigger compared to the MacBook Air. Another interesting aspect is the comparison with the Dell S413, which ran this test suite under Ubuntu. Thanks to the Intel Core i7-4750HQ, it is a real rival in terms of CPU performance, but it is beaten in the majority of tests.

PCMark 7 - Score (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
5842 Points ∼88%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
5937 Points ∼90% +2%
Samsung 870Z5G
2764 Points ∼42% -53%
Samsung 870Z5G
2764 Points ∼42% -53%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
5545 Points ∼84% -5%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i7-4850HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Apple SSD SM0512F
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
 
Samsung 870Z5G Intel Core i7-4700HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
 
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass Intel Core i5-3337U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD7500BPVX-22JC3T0
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06 Intel Core i7-3615QM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M, Apple SSD SM256E (Samsung)
PC Mark
PCMark 75842 points
PCMark 8 Home3245 points
PCMark 8 Creative3307 points
PCMark 8 Work4012 points
Help

Storage Devices

Blackmagic test under Mac OS
Blackmagic test under Mac OS

One reason for the high system performance of the MacBook is the integrated storage solution. Similar to the MacBook Pro Retina 13 you now get a faster PCIe interface instead of SATA. With transfer rates of around 730 MB/s (reading) and 600 MB/s (writing) under Windows and up to 700 MB/s under Mac OS, the storage is extremely fast. The Dell XPS 15 falls behind by up to 200 MB/s compared to the Apple notebook. Far behind are the Acer Aspire R7-571G and Samsung ATIV Book 8 with their conventional hard drives. However, the situation changes in the 4K test, where the MacBook only manages half of the Dell in the AS SSD benchmark with 15.56 MB/s (read) and 27.86 MB/s (write). We know this problem since the change to the PCIe interface.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0
Read Seq (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
698.6 MB/s ∼47%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
511.9 MB/s ∼35% -27%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
474.9 MB/s ∼32% -32%
Samsung 870Z5G
92.36 MB/s ∼6% -87%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
104.6 MB/s ∼7% -85%
Write Seq (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
647.3 MB/s ∼59%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
412.9 MB/s ∼37% -36%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
416.3 MB/s ∼38% -36%
Samsung 870Z5G
74.43 MB/s ∼7% -89%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
103.5 MB/s ∼9% -84%
Read 4k (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
15.48 MB/s ∼36%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
24.57 MB/s ∼57% +59%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
13.82 MB/s ∼32% -11%
Samsung 870Z5G
0.389 MB/s ∼1% -97%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
0.395 MB/s ∼1% -97%
Write 4k (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
28.08 MB/s ∼17%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
66.07 MB/s ∼41% +135%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
29.26 MB/s ∼18% +4%
Samsung 870Z5G
1.336 MB/s ∼1% -95%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
0.917 MB/s ∼1% -97%
AS SSD
Seq Read (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
730.53 MB/s ∼54%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
498.51 MB/s ∼37% -32%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
464.71 MB/s ∼35% -36%
Seq Write (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
592.2 MB/s ∼58%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
404.87 MB/s ∼40% -32%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
405.91 MB/s ∼40% -31%
4K Read (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
15.56 MB/s ∼20%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
23.83 MB/s ∼30% +53%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
13.09 MB/s ∼17% -16%
4K Write (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
27.86 MB/s ∼21%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
59.57 MB/s ∼45% +114%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
28.73 MB/s ∼22% +3%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i7-4850HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Apple SSD SM0512F
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06 Intel Core i7-3615QM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M, Apple SSD SM256E (Samsung)
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i5-4258U, Intel Iris Graphics 5100, Apple SSD SM0256F
 
Samsung 870Z5G Intel Core i7-4700HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
 
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass Intel Core i5-3337U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD7500BPVX-22JC3T0
Apple SSD SM0512F
Sequential Read: 698.6 MB/s
Sequential Write: 647.3 MB/s
512K Read: 448.8 MB/s
512K Write: 591.2 MB/s
4K Read: 15.48 MB/s
4K Write: 28.08 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 256.5 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 248.3 MB/s

Graphics

Because of the Intel Core i7-4850HQ CPU, our Apple MacBook Retina has two graphics cards: The integrated Intel Iris Pro 5200 Graphics for basic and less demanding tasks and the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M, which offers the compromise of good performance and compact dimensions of a dedicated graphics card. The Nvidia GPU is familiar since it is used for many multimedia notebooks. The Kepler architecture of the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M was replaced by the Maxwell architecture of the new Nvidia 800-series. Apple will probably use the new Nvidia chips in the upcoming MacBook-series.
Our GT 750M uses 2 GB GDDR5 memory instead of the popular DDR3 memory. This means the GPU of our review unit uses the maximum amount of memory, so the GPU should have an advantage over other versions of this chip in the benchmarks. We will also use the Asus N550JK, which is equipped with a new Nvidia GeForce GT 850M, for the comparison.

We can see a dynamic switching of the two graphics cards under Mac OS X Mavericks depending on the application. This is not the case for the Windows installation via Boot Camp, the Device Manager only shows the Nvidia GT 750M. This also means that the power consumption under Windows will be much higher because the switchable graphics does not work, and that the battery runtimes are shorter compared to Mac OS.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
2692 Points ∼19%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
1270 Points ∼9% -53%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
2384 Points ∼17% -11%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
2974 Points ∼21% +10%
Samsung 870Z5G
2427 Points ∼17% -10%
Asus N550JK-CN109H
4289 Points ∼30% +59%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i7-4850HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Apple SSD SM0512F
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i5-4258U, Intel Iris Graphics 5100, Apple SSD SM0256F
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06 Intel Core i7-3615QM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M, Apple SSD SM256E (Samsung)
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
 
Samsung 870Z5G Intel Core i7-4700HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
 
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass Intel Core i5-3337U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD7500BPVX-22JC3T0
 
Asus N550JK-CN109H Intel Core i5-4200H, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
15845 points
3DMark Vantage11504 points
3DMark 112692 points
3DMark Ice Storm72048 points
3DMark Cloud Gate10275 points
3DMark Fire Strike1800 points
Help

Gaming Performance

The variety of games under Mac OS was improved significantly over the last couple of years, thanks to services like Steam and Origin. Still, most games are just ports that usually result in lower performance. We managed around 60 fps with Tomb Raider on the lowest settings, which is roughly half of the frame rate that we measured under Windows.

As a result, we focus on Windows in terms of gaming and test some interesting titles. The most current games can be played smoothly with medium or even high details. For instance, Titanfall that was released this year runs with 43 fps and high settingsWolfenstein was no problem either with 60 fps and medium details. Compared to its rivals, the MacBook is usually on the same level or even a bit faster. Only the Dell XPS 15 manages a few more frames per second in almost every title.

The comparison with the new 800-series is interesting and, as we already assumed, it offers significantly more performance. The very complex game Company of Heroes 2 can be played with 37.5 fps on the Asus N550JK and therefore 10 fps more with medium details. We recommend our FAQ section "Computer Games on Laptop Graphics Cards" for a comparison with other graphics cards.

Tomb Raider
1366x768 Normal Preset AA:FX AF:4x (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
79.8 fps ∼20%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
76.3 fps ∼19% -4%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
82.7 fps ∼21% +4%
Asus N550JV-CN201H
67.2 fps ∼17% -16%
1366x768 High Preset AA:FX AF:8x (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
56.6 fps ∼17%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
58.2 fps ∼18% +3%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
55.6 fps ∼17% -2%
Asus N550JV-CN201H
38.9 fps ∼12% -31%
BioShock Infinite
1366x768 Medium Preset (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
68.4 fps ∼28%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
76.1 fps ∼31% +11%
Samsung 870Z5G
52 fps ∼22% -24%
1366x768 High Preset (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
59.8 fps ∼27%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
61.08 fps ∼27% +2%
Samsung 870Z5G
43.3 fps ∼19% -28%
Metro: Last Light
1366x768 Medium (DX10) AF:4x (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
53.3 fps ∼37%
Samsung 870Z5G
33.9 fps ∼24% -36%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
38.7 fps ∼27% -27%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
38.7 fps ∼27% -27%
Asus N550JV-CN201H
33.6 fps ∼23% -37%
1366x768 High (DX11) AF:16x (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
28.3 fps ∼22%
Samsung 870Z5G
20.23 fps ∼16% -29%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
24.1 fps ∼19% -15%
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass
24.1 fps ∼19% -15%
Asus N550JV-CN201H
20.2 fps ∼16% -29%
Company of Heroes 2
1366x768 Medium AA:Off (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
25.6 fps ∼43%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
27.71 fps ∼47% +8%
Samsung 870Z5G
23 fps ∼39% -10%
Asus N550JK-CN109H
37.58 fps ∼64% +47%
1366x768 High AA:Medium (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
15.6 fps ∼27%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
17.42 fps ∼30% +12%
Samsung 870Z5G
14.4 fps ∼25% -8%
Asus N550JK-CN109H
29.7 fps ∼51% +90%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i7-4850HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Apple SSD SM0512F
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
 
Samsung 870Z5G Intel Core i7-4700HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
 
Acer Aspire R7-571G-53338G75ass Intel Core i5-3337U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD7500BPVX-22JC3T0
 
Asus N550JV-CN201H Intel Core i7-4700HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
Asus N550JK-CN109H Intel Core i5-4200H, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 850M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
low med.high ultra
Tomb Raider (2013) 141.779.856.623.5fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 81.768.459.821.9fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 67.953.328.314.13fps
Company of Heroes 2 (2013) 31.325.615.66.9fps
Titanfall (2014) 6052.742.825.5fps
Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) 59.959.828.128.6fps

Emissions

System Noise

The MacBook Pro Retina is quiet, very quiet. We can hardly hear anything during idle and with light workloads like office tasks. This impression is confirmed by our measurements. As soon as you stress the Apple device, the fans slowly start to increase their rpm levels. The resulting noise is, however, always pleasant and does not include any annoying frequencies. The notebook stays very quiet under Mac OS thanks to the activated switchable graphics and the sophisticated fan control. We can see that the rpm level of the fans always slowly increases to the maximum level under Windows, even with light workloads. In this load scenario or with the maximum rpm level of the fans, respectively, we can measure 35.8 dB(A) on average, which is around 7 dB(A) quieter than the Dell XPS 15, but it can also be significantly louder with up to 45.8 dB(A).

The following picture shows the noise characteristics of the MacBook Pro 15 Retina 2013 in our review configuration. Both fans are spinning at 2000 rpm while idling. While a slight rpm increase (dark green: 2500 rpm/1.6 Sone, blue: 3000 rpm/1.7 Sone) hardly results in more noise, the noise characteristics are shifted towards higher frequencies with an increased system noise up to the maximum (6.0 Sone).

Noise characteristics MacBook Pro 2013: black: idle, dark green 2500 rpm, blue: 3000 rpm, red: 3500 rpm, purple: 4000 rpm, gray: 4500 rpm, brown: 5000 rpm, green: 6000 rpm
Noise characteristics MacBook Pro 2013: black: idle, dark green 2500 rpm, blue: 3000 rpm, red: 3500 rpm, purple: 4000 rpm, gray: 4500 rpm, brown: 5000 rpm, green: 6000 rpm

Noise Level

Idle 28 / 28 / 28 dB(A)
Load 35.8 / 45.8 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-300 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Aluminum has the advantage of a stylish design and the distribution of local hot spots. The problem is that this material warms up somewhat quickly and, because of the thin construction of the device, it can result in unpleasant temperatures. Especially striking is that the hot spot of the heat development is on top of the keyboard. However, the Dell XPS 15, which has even bigger cooling issues with its 18 mm (~0.7 in) thin chassis, shows that this problem is not limited to Apple devices. Dell's hot spot of 64.6 °C (148.28 °F) is at the bottom, but the 46 °C (114.8 °F) at the top of the MacBook is slightly surpassed by the XPS as well. Still, the heat development is subjectively always fine in practice.

Stress test under Mac OS
Stress test under Mac OS
Stress test under Windows
Stress test under Windows
Stress test under Windows
Stress test under Windows

Our stress test with Prime95 and FurMark shows that the CPU in particular reaches very high temperatures, close to 100 °C (212 °F). As we mentioned in the Processor section, we can see a drop below the nominal clock under Windows, but not under Mac OS. A 3DMark 06 run after the stress test did not show any restrictions and resulted in 16,003 points.

Max. Load
 44 °C46 °C41 °C 
 38 °C43 °C32 °C 
 30 °C31 °C30 °C 
Maximum: 46 °C
Average: 37.2 °C
42 °C41 °C40 °C
38 °C40 °C35 °C
33 °C33 °C39 °C
Maximum: 42 °C
Average: 37.9 °C
Room Temperature 21 °C | Raytek Raynger ST

Speakers

The stereo speakers convince with their sound diversity during music playback and the whole sound spectrum is available. Bass could be stronger, but it is okay for a notebook without a subwoofer. Compared to a 13-inch Retina MacBook we can hear a significantly richer sound.

Frequency analysis White noise
Frequency analysis White noise
Frequency analysis Pink noise
Frequency analysis Pink noise

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The Apple MacBook Retina uses an 85-Watt MagSafe 2 power supply unit. The power adaptors from Apple are rather small for the application and get noticeably warm as a result, so you should not cover them with blankets or put them on sofas. The power consumption differs dramatically between Mac OS and Boot Camp Windows. The minimum consumption when idle under Mac OS is 7.6 Watts and therefore almost 10 Watts lower compared to 17.4 Watts under Windows. This is a sign that the integrated Intel Iris Pro 5200 Graphics is not used since Mac OS consumes up to 14 Watts with the integrated GPU and up to 18 Watts with the Nvidia GT 750M when idle. Another interesting aspect is the maximum power consumption, because it surpasses the nominal power output of the PSU. The power adaptor has to deliver 88.5 Watts, but the battery was not drained.

Power Consumption

Idle 7.6 / / 15.6 Watt
Load 80.4 / 88.5 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

The Apple notebook shuts down after 14:13 hours in our idle test, which is two hours shorter than the Dell XPSSamsung's ATIV Book 8 manages 15 minutes more than the MacBook Pro Retina. We determine a more realistic runtime with our WLAN test that simulates web browsing via a script with websites and YouTube videos (a new website every 40 seconds). The situation changes and the Apple notebook can beat the Dell with 9:15 h by around 1:30 hours and the Samsung ATIV Book 8 by almost 2:30 hours. The Acer Aspire R7-571G cannot keep up with its rivals in this scenario and shuts down after 3:30 hours. The load test with Battery Eater (Classic Test) changes the situation once again and the Dell XPS 15 wins the battle by 30 minutes with 3:37 hours instead of 3:01 hoursAcer and Samsung clearly fall behind in this scenario. Overall, the MacBook manages great battery runtimes despite its thin construction and has no problems managing a normal business day. The Dell XPS can keep up with this performance and even beats the MacBook in two of three tests.

Battery Runtime - WiFi (sort by value)
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
551 min ∼20%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06
364 min ∼13%
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013)
530 min ∼20%
Samsung 770Z5E-S01DE
642 min ∼24%
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2013 MD760D/A
623 min ∼23%
Apple MacBook Air 11 inch 2013-06 MD711D/A
620 min ∼23%
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10
569 min ∼21%

Legend

 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i7-4850HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Apple SSD SM0512F
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2012-06 Intel Core i7-3615QM, NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M, Apple SSD SM256E (Samsung)
 
Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013) Intel Core i7-4702HQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Samsung SSD SM841 512GB
 
Samsung 770Z5E-S01DE Intel Core i7-3635QM, AMD Radeon HD 8870M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
 
Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2013 MD760D/A Intel Core i5-4250U, Intel HD Graphics 5000, Apple SSD SM0128F
 
Apple MacBook Air 11 inch 2013-06 MD711D/A Intel Core i5-4250U, Intel HD Graphics 5000, Apple SSD SM0128F
 
Apple MacBook Pro Retina 13 inch 2013-10 Intel Core i5-4258U, Intel Iris Graphics 5100, Apple SSD SM0256F
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
14h 13min
WiFi Surfing
9h 11min
Load (maximum brightness)
3h 01min

Verdict

The Apple MacBook Pro Retina can convince
The Apple MacBook Pro Retina can convince

So what do we get for 2,600 Euros (~$3538) and what not? We want to summarize the key aspects of this review.

The MacBook Pro 15 Retina can convince us with an almost impeccable build quality and the convenient haptics as well as design. The input devices leave nothing to be desired in terms of quality and the trackpad in particular is still one of the best mouse replacements. The keyboard could be improved with some special keys so you would not have to use Fn combinations. In terms of hardware, you get high-performance components that surpass or keep up with most rivals in the benchmarks. One drawback is still the enormous heat development and the poor maintainability of the MacBook. Apple provides excellent battery runtimes and the new 15-inch MacBook Pro Retina is no exception with great results.
Last but not least, we want to mention the most important component when we look at the designation – the display. Apple integrates a high-quality IPS panel with excellent measurement results and the Retina resolution of 2880x1800 pixels. Apple unfortunately does not offer a matte version of the panel. Even though the display is anti-reflective, it is hardly suited for outdoor environments.

Overall, we get a sophisticated notebook, which combines high-quality components in all areas. There are certainly less expensive alternatives for customers that can waive certain usage scenarios. For example, the Samsung ATIV Book 8 has similar hardware and costs half of the Apple notebook without an SSD and IPS display. The Dell XPS 15 in particular is an interesting rival with Windows for almost 600 Euros (~$817) less. The new MacBook Pro Retina does not show any innovations, but it is still an excellent notebook.

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In Review: Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 Late 2013
In Review: Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 Late 2013

Specifications

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM87 (Lynx Point)
:: Memory
16384 MB, DDR3L 1600MHz Dual Channel
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M - 2048 MB, Core: 926 MHz, Memory: 1254 MHz, GDDR5, nvlddmkm 9.18.13.3788 (ForceWare 337.88), Switchable graphics under Mac OS Mavericks
:: Display
15.4 inch 16:10, 2880x1800 pixel, Apple APPA022, IPS, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
Apple SSD SM0512F, 512 GB
:: Soundcard
Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
2 USB 3.0, 2 Thunderbolt, 1 HDMI, Audio Connections: combined stereo jack, Card Reader: SDXC, Sensors: Brightness sensor,
:: Networking
Broadcom 802.11ac (a b g n ac)
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 18 x 359 x 247
:: Weight
2.012 kg
:: Battery
84.4 Wh Lithium-Polymer
:: Price
2600 Euro
:: Operating System
Apple OS X 10.9 Mavericks
:: Additional features
Webcam: 720p, Speakers: Stereo speakers, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, Extension for power supply, Microfiber cloth, 12 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The illuminated Apple logo on the back
The illuminated Apple logo on the back
Rounded corners and impressive build quality
Rounded corners and impressive build quality
Unfortunately small arrow keys
Unfortunately small arrow keys
The keyboard illumination with 16 settings
The keyboard illumination with 16 settings
Slightly sharp edges
Slightly sharp edges
Large trackpad and perfect mouse replacement thanks to gestures
Large trackpad and perfect mouse replacement thanks to gestures
Perfect viewing angle stability
Perfect viewing angle stability
Outdoor use in the shade
Outdoor use in the shade
It can be used in the shade if necessary
It can be used in the shade if necessary
Identical port variety
Identical port variety
Several tests from OpenBenchmarking.org in comparison
Several tests from OpenBenchmarking.org in comparison
Heat development during the stress test
Heat development during the stress test

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» Review Samsung ATIV Book 8 870Z5G Notebook
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» Review Gigabyte U24T Notebook
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» Review Dell XPS 15 (9530, Late 2013) Notebook
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» Review HP Envy 17-j110eg Leap Motion Notebook
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» Review Dell Inspiron 7737 CN77304 Notebook
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» Review Dell Inspiron 15-7537 Notebook
Core i7 4500U, 15.6", 2.6 kg

Links

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Pro

+Build quality and haptics
+Robust aluminum case
+High-resolution display with wide viewing angles
+System and gaming performance
+Battery runtime
+Sound from the stereo speakers
+Input devices
 

Cons

-Heat development
-Only 12 months warranty from Apple
-No maintainability of the components
-Clearly audible under load
-Limited port variety
-Prices for Thunderbolt adaptors

Shortcut

What we like

The MacBook not only looks very nice, it is also a very capable device. It can compete and convince in all areas.

What we miss

Some innovations, a better webcam and more ports or cheaper Thunderbolt adaptors, respectively.

What surprises us

High battery runtime and great performance in a very slim notebook. 

The competition

A rival with similar performance and size is the Dell XPS 15 (Late 2013), or the similarly equipped Samsung ATIV Book 8. The Acer Aspire R7-571G is interesting thanks to its IPS panel and the inexpensive price. Last but not least, there is the Asus N550JK, which can convince with good GPU performance.

Rating

Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 inch 2013-10
07/04/2014 v4
Nino Ricchizzi

Chassis
92 / 98 → 94%
Keyboard
87%
Pointing Device
97%
Connectivity
65 / 95 → 68%
Weight
63 / 67 → 91%
Battery
91%
Display
90%
Games Performance
88 / 93 → 95%
Application Performance
93%
Temperature
87%
Noise
91 / 95 → 96%
Audio
75%
Camera
63 / 85 → 74%
Average
83%
89%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Apple MacBook Pro Retina 15 Late 2013 Notebook Review
Author: Nino Ricchizzi, 2014-07- 7 (Update: 2014-07- 8)