The Bottom Line
Mar 1 2012 - Apple's venerable MacBook Pro 13 design still holds up well in a number of areas including battery life and durability but the limited number of upgrades in the fall 2011 refresh make the system feel tired especially when compared to the recently updated MacBook Air 13 that costs just $100 more. Still, the new ultrathin systems do sacrifice storage space and a DVD drive which means that their still is a place for this 13-inch laptop. It just doesn't have the same relevance as it did when it was first released.
- Stylish And Sturdy Design
- Excellent Keyboard
- Long Battery Life
- Display Panel Offers Below Average Resolution
- Glossy Screen Hard To Use In Certain Light
- Thunderbolt Adapters Not Included
- Intel Core i5-2430M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x DVD+/-RW Dual Layer Burner
- 13.3" WXGA (1280x800) LED Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 3000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 2.0, FireWire 800, Thunderbolt, SDXC Card Slot
- 12.8" x 8.9" x 1" @ 4.5 lbs.
- Mac OS X 10.7, iLife
Review - Apple Fall 2011 MacBook Pro 13-inch
Mar 1 2012 - Apple's MacBook Pro 13 feels very dated now that the company has refreshed it's MacBook Air 13 to be the newer Sandy Bridge based processors. While the 13-inch MacBook Pro is likely to be redesigned later this year with the release of the Ivy Bridge processors, the minor upgrades in the fall of 2011 didn't really help make the system feel all that improved.
During these updates, Apple gave the processor a minor boost from the previous Core i5-2410M to a slightly faster Core i5-2430M dual core processor. Memory has remained the same at 4GB which is fairly typical in this smaller laptop segment but still feels a bit limited given how inexpensive memory is. In terms of processing power, it will do fine for most tasks and is even capable of desktop video work which is something the most of the new sleek ultrabooks and even the MacBook Air will struggle at. There is very little difference however between the performance of this version and the model that I reviewed a year ago.
The other big upgrade for the MacBook Pro 13 is the hard drive. Apple has typically been fairly low on the storage capacity of their laptops. The previous model came with a 320GB drive. The updated version features a 500GB drive giving it roughly 50% more storage. This is also four times the capacity of the solid state drive found in the MacBook Air 13. Now, the drive does spin at a more traditional 5400rpm spin rate that gives it modest performance but it trails behind faster 7200rpm drive laptops and is much slower to boot than the MacBook Air with its solid state drives. Of course, it does come with a dual layer DVD burner which is becoming a rarity among ultraportables these days. External storage upgrade options are a bit better than the Air though thanks to the inclusion of both a FireWire and the new Thunderbolt port.
The graphics system is where the MacBook Pro 13 really suffers. The 13.3-inch panel has a fairly limited 1280x800 resolution that is below what most 13-inch laptops have in their 1366x768 resolution. In addition, the MacBook Air 13's panel offers a higher 1440x900 resolution for a larger work area. While the larger MacBook Pro's feature dedicated graphics processors, the 13-inch model relies solely on the Intel HD Graphics 3000 that is built into the Core i5 processor. This really prevents it from even being used as a casual 3D gaming platform and provides very limited ability to accelerate non-3D programs.
One advantage that the MacBook Pro 13 does have over many other full ultraportable laptops is its battery life. With the internal 63.5 WHr battery, the system is able to last an amazing five and a quarter ours of DVD playback before going into standby mode. This is unchanged from the previous model and beats out much of the competition including the MacBook Air 13 which has a smaller batter pack due to its limited dimensions.
The overall problem though is the pricing. At $1199, it is just one hundred less than the MacBook Air 13. For just a hundred dollars more, you get a system that is more compact, lighter, boots faster, comes with a better display and has nearly as good of a running time. Of course, you will have to sacrifice storage space and an optical drive which can be a major factor in deciding between the two.