Apple Laptop Battle: MacBook Pro vs MacBook Pro with Retina

By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

After months of rumors, Apple has finally given its MacBook Pro line a fresh coat of paint. However, at Monday's press conference, two distinct laptops were branded with the "Pro" name. One, the original MacBook Pro, features all the standard hardware upgrades and specs. The other, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, is a hybrid, blending elements from the MacBook Air and original MacBook Pro. It also crams more pixels in its 15.4" screen than any laptop in the world.

Here's how both machines stack up side-by-side:

MacBook Pro 15" 2012
MacBook Pro 15" w/ Retina Display
Starting Price*
2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB L3 cache
2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB shared L3 cache
15.4" LED-backlit 1440x900
15.4" LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2880x1800
Intel HD Graphics 4000
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 512MB GDDR5
Intel HD Graphics 4000
4GB 1600MHz DDR3
8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L
500GB HDD (5400 rpm)
5.6 lbs.
4.4 lbs.
Mac OS X
Lion (10.7)
Lion (10.7)
Other features
Optical drive, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire 800, two USB 3.0 ports, Thunderbolt, SDXC card slot, 802.11n, backlit keyboard, 720p FaceTime camera, MagSafe
Bluetooth 4.0, two USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, SDXC card slot, HDMI, 802.11n, backlit keyboard, 720p FaceTime camera, MagSafe 2
Rated Battery
up to 7 hours
up to 7 hours, 30 days standby
*Manufacturer price

New Screen, New Design, New Connections

At $2,199, the MacBook Pro is an expensive machine. However, it's a laptop of many firsts. It's Apple's first laptop to sport a 2880x1800 resolution, first to feature a full-size HDMI port, and first "Pro" machine to ditch the optical drive. It's essentially the future of the MacBook Pro line.

Powering this new machine is none other than Intel's latest Core i7 quad-core Ivy Bridge processor coupled with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and an NVIDIA Kepler GeForce GT 650M 1GB video card. Yet despite the high-octane components, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display still manages to be the thinnest (0.71" thick) and lightest (4.4 lbs.) MacBook Pro ever. Needless to say, this laptop doesn't miss a beat. It's an extreme machine for customers with extreme budgets.

But Should You Splurge, or Save on the Original?

Despite the advanced features on the Retina model, the $1,799 MacBook Pro is by no means a has-been. It packs the same Ivy Bridge CPU and NVIDIA graphics card as its pricier sibling (albeit with a pared down 512MB GT 650M). But hardware geeks might be disappointed to learn that it uses the same 1440x900 screen as the previous generation and it still features a 500GB (5400 rpm) hard drive.

So does that make the MacBook Pro with Retina Display the new go-to workhorse for Apple fans? Or is $2,199 too high a bid for your computing needs? Sound off below and let us know your thoughts. And remember, whether you decide on the original MacBook Pro or the new Retina model, be sure to shop carefully for a deal from a reseller.

Front page photo credit: Pocket-lint

An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez.

Follow @dealnewsfeature on Twitter for the latest roundups, price trend info, and stories. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


Leave a comment!

or Register
The $1,799 can also be upgraded to 16GB, it's just not an upgrade supported in Apple's Store, but I can verify even 2011 models can be upgraded to 16GB.

Also, the price for Apple upgrades are also exponentially higher than a 3rd party, when they use nearly the same items. A 240GB SSD will run you approximates $250, and 16GB of ram is only about $150 these days as long as you don't purchase them through Apple who are well known for their high upgrade prices.
Although optical drives are quickly becoming the new 3.5" drives, a lot of programs still rely on the disc prior to booting for verification. To me, it seems having to carry an external optical drive outweighs the benefits of the new smaller slimmer design with the tack sharp display.

Another negative is the lack of upgradability of the new Retina Display MacBook Pro. The RAM and Hard Drive are both soldered into place with proprietary parts, making upgrading anything about this laptop improbably. Where as with the $1,799 model the RAM and Hard Drive can both be upgraded eventually allowing the consumer to have 16GB of RAM and an SSD drive that will perform just as efficiently as the Retina Display model.

Apple has definitely given us a glimpse into the future of portable computing, but until developers work out a way to not require DVD verification, and slim laptops can have user friendly upgrades, I don't see higher pixel density winning this battle.
Looking at to compare them you can see just by making the memory and hard drives the same the retina model is $300 cheaper; add the high-res screen (1680x1050) to the regular pro and the retina model is $400 cheaper.  This is true at either the 2.3Ghz model or 2.6Ghz model, and only the retina model can go up to 16GB memory.  That is all without factoring in the standard benefits of the retina model (lighter, thinner, new magsafe 2, etc...)