Two years ago, Apple released its first Retina display-equipped 15" MacBook Pro. That machine saw a brand new and thinner design, high-resolution 2880 x 1800 display, but no internal optical DVD/CD drive.
Since then, Apple has released a 13" Retina MacBook Pro and gone through a number of upgrade cycles. Just last week, Apple released its newest versions of the both the 13" and 15" MacBook Pros.
The new MacBook Pro models include larger amounts of standard RAM — 8 GB in the 13" version and 16 GB in the 15" — plus faster Intel Haswell processors.
The 13" model includes 2.6 GHz Intel dual-core Core i5 Haswell processors on the low end, with 2.8 and 3.0 GHz dual-core i5's available as options.
For the 15" model, 2.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 Haswell units are standard, with 2.5 and 2.8 GHz quad-core i7 processors available as step-up units.
What this means is that the new machines are moderately faster than the old versions and at a better value. Most of the machines are the same price as the older versions, and the high-end 15-inch model saw a $100 price cut, dropping from $2600 to $2500 (USD).
Taking a deeper look at the internals, Other World Computing ran some benchmarks on the SSD drives of the 13- and 15-inch, seeing read performance averaging 788 MB/s and writes around 704 MB/s on the 15-inch version.
The 13-inch version saw read speeds of 734 MB/s but considerably slower write speeds, averaging 320 MB/s.
As with the prior versions, the larger machine is the powerhouse. In addition to a 15.4-inch screen, the more expensive MacBook Pro includes a non-upgradable 16 GB of RAM vs. just 8 GB on the 13-inch model, as well as a discrete graphics card on the 2.5 and 2.8 GHz processor models, adding Nvidia's GeForce GT750M GPU with 2 GB of VRAM.
For graphics professionals — those doing video or photo editing — or power users, the 15-inch is the machine to get. Business users who mainly use their notebooks for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations may consider Apple's MacBook Air series, which are more than powerful enough, but the MacBook Pro's huge 15-inch Retina display could push many users onto the bigger and badder machine.
It's likely that there won't be a significant upgrade to the MacBook Pro series until next year at the earliest, when Intel's Broadwell chip architecture is released. For users looking for a pro-level notebook, now is a great time to buy, thanks to the new update — and for users looking for a deal, many third-party Apple retailers may have the just-discontinued versions for a discount.
The new 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models are available now from Apple's Online and Retail Stores.
What do you think of Apple's new machines? Are you planning to purchase one? Let us know in the comments below.
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Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.