Buyer’s Guide: MacBook Pro Versus MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Buyer’s Guide: MacBook Pro Versus MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Choosing a new Mac can be a confusing and frustrating process, especially if you don’t necessarily keep up with Apple’s frequent updates and changes to their computers.

But let’s say you’ve narrowed it down to two models: the MacBook Pro or the MacBook Pro with Retina Display.

This article will help point out the key differences between the two models in order to help shoppers decide what’s best for them.

Display

The 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro has a native screen resolution of 1280 x 800. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display features a 2560 x 1600 screen resolution.

What you need to know: On a Retina Display, the individual pixels shown on the screen are almost invisible. This gives text, photos and videos a lot more clarity compared to standard displays.

The Retina MacBook Pro is also capable of achieving a scaled resolution of 1920 x 1200, which gives the user more space on the screen by making windows appear smaller.


Hard Drive and Memory

The non-Retina MacBook Pro that can be purchased from the Apple online store comes with 500GB of 5400-rpm storage (upgradable to 1TB standard ATA or up to 512GB flash storage) and 4GB of RAM, standard.

The entry-level MacBook Pro with Retina Display ships with a 256GB PCIe-based flash drive (also available with up to 512GB flash storage) and 4GB of RAM.

What you need to know: At its starting price of $1,199.00 ($100 less than the cheapest Retina model), the non-Retina MacBook Pro comes with a bigger hard drive. This mean it can store more music, photos, movies, apps, etcetera, without the need of an external storage device.

However, flash-storage drives, which come standard in the Retina MacBook Pro, are faster and more difficult to damage (they have no moving parts).

Both models come with the same standard memory configuration of 4GB, and both are upgradable to 8GB. In this way, the two computers are tied.


Processor and Battery Life

Both the non-Retina MacBook Pro and the MacBook Pro with Retina Display are made with duel-core Intel Core i5 processors, the former running at 2.5GHz (Ivy Bridge chip, upgradable to 2.9GHz) with up to 7 hours of battery life, and the latter running at 2.4GHz (Haswell chip, upgradable to 2.8GHz on the 13-inch model) with up to 9 hours of battery life.

What you need to know: Although the non-Retina MacBook Pro has a slightly higher ‘clock rate’ than the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, its processor is a generation older. These days, processing power is determined less by the number before the ‘GHz’, and more by the efficiency of its processing chip. In other words, the Retina MacBook Pro will open and run applications more smoothly than the non-Retina model.

Due to the efficiency of its newer processor, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display with last up to two hours longer than the non-Retina model on its built-in battery.


Physical Specifications (size, weight, etc.)

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is 0.95 inches thin and weighs approximately 4.5 pounds. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is 0.71 inches thin and weighs approximately 3.46 pounds.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is also 0.71 inches thin, but weighs approximately 4.46 pounds.

What you need to know: The non-Retina MacBook Pro is significantly bulkier and heavier than the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. This is due to the fact that is contains an optical (CD-drive), while the Retina version does not.

To some, having an optical drive is important, while to others alternatives to reading discs have been found.


The Verdict

The non-Retina MacBook Pro has three advantages over the MacBook Pro with Retina Display: a faster processor, greater storage capacity, and an optical drive.

However, the bigger hard drive and the optical drive can be compensated for using external equipment (either at home or on the go), and the processor is less advanced.

If the purpose of a laptop is portability and dependability, then the benefits of the Retina MacBook Pro far outweigh those of the non-Retina model.

The MacBook Pro with Retina Display is lighter, thinner, longer-lasting between charges, and features superior image quality compared to the standard MacBook Pro.

If the purpose of a laptop is only performance and having a place to store large amounts of data, then the non-Retina MacBook Pro might be better.

Given the facts, it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide what laptop best suits his or her needs.


Both the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Pro with Retina Display can be purchased from the Apple online store, an official Apple retail store, or any authorized Apple retailer, including Best Buy, Amazon.com and B&H Photo.

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Amitabha is a freelance writer and editor. He studies Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology at New York University. His primary focus as part of the News for Shoppers writing team is on Apple-related news, announcements, tips and rumors. He can be found and followed on Google+ at https://plus.google.com/+AmitabhaSarfati/.