Apple Retina MacBook Pro review (13in, 2.8GHz, mid 2014)

Besides the 15-inch models, Apple updated its 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display in July this year, substituting a slightly faster Intel Core i5 processor, and dropping its price by £50.

When Apple last revised the 13-inch MacBook Pro in the autumn of 2013 with a Haswell-generation Intel CPU, it offered a choice of 2.4 GHz or 2.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processors.

Now from the mid-2014 updates we find essentially the same choice of chips, but bumped up by 0.2 GHz – to 2.6 and 2.8 GHz respectively for the ‘good’ and ‘best’ models.

There’s also a configure-to-order (CTO) version with Intel Core i7 processor, albeit still with two rather than four cores, running at a baseline clock frequency of 3.0 GHz.

Here we test the top off-the-shelf model now with a 2.8 GHz Core i5 processor, the same 512 GB solid-state flash drive as before, and the newly standardised 8 GB of memory. This processor can also briefly overclock itself automatically when required with Intel’s Turbo Boost, up to 3.3 GHz.

Apple MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014): Processor

Geekbench 3 is a cross-platform application that can measure the raw performance of a CPU. Most processors today have two or more processing cores, and the benchmark tests both a single core working and multiple cores working on the same task at once.

Note that we used Geekbench v3.1.6 for better comparison with earlier models; Geekbench v3.2.0 has just launched but found to return slightly different results with the same hardware.

We compared the results of the mid-2014 13-inch model with its predecessor from late 2013. In single-core mode, scores rose from 3313 to 3307 points, indicating a speed increase of 6.2 percent. In multi mode, the result increased from 6719 to 7086 points, giving a 5.5 percent change.

In the Cinebench 11.5 benchmark test the new 13-inch MacBook Pro scored 1.38 points with a single processor core, and 3.15 points in multi-core mode. These number compare well with the ‘best’ version of the previous generation, with its 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5 (i5-4288U), which scored 1.30 and 3.13 points respectively, indicating new speed increases of 6.2 and 7.0 percent.

In the Cinebench 15 benchmark test we saw a similar change. Last year’s model with 113 and 281 points for single and multi modes moved up to 120 and 299 points, positive increases of 6.2 and 6.4 percent.

Apple MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014): Graphics

Nothing has changed in the graphics specification since the late-2013 13-inch MacBook Pro. Both use Intel Iris graphics, also known as Intel Iris Graphics 5100. Consequently there’s no reason to expect any change in graphics performance.

You may also have heard of Iris Pro graphics as found in the entry-level 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. The difference here is the non-Pro Iris graphics processor does not have the added video memory cache within the same die to accelerate performance.

This Iris Pro graphics processor is still integrated into the same die as the main CPU, and can adjust its speed depending on dynamic requirements – between 200 MHz and 1.2 GHz.

The OpenGL section of Maxon’s Cinebench test showed that graphics performance between last year’s 2.6 GHz model and this year’s 2.8 GHz model are effectively the same.

In Cinebench 11 we saw a result of 26 fps for both models; and both scored 22 fps in the later Cinebench 15 test.

Turning to some action games, when we tried Batman: Arkham City we found the almost identical just-playable framerate when set to 1280 x 800 pixels and Medium detail, 31 fps for last year’s 2.6 GHz MacBook Pro and 32 fps for this 2014 model.

We tried the more graphically challenging new Tomb Raider (2013) game. This proved the undoing of the Intel Iris Graphics 5100 in this laptop. Set to 1280 x 800 pixel resolution, and with Normal detail settings, it averaged only 14 fps. Turning down detail level to Low bumped up the framerate slightly to 17 fps, but this is still too slow to enjoy playing the game.

There is a way play the Mac version of Tomb Raider on this laptop though – select Legacy OpenGL from the game’s Advanced settings. Exact differences in version of OpenGL are not specified, but we did find framerates of 33 fps were possible with the same resolution and Normal detail.

Next section: Apple MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Mid 2014): Display