MacBook Pro Vs. MacBook Pro with Retina Display

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The launch of the new MacBook Pro with Retina display has created some confusion among users, who now have a choice between the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Pro Retina display. Techspirited helps you make the right purchase after stacking up a comparison between the two.

Did You Know?

Retina display refers to a display wherein the individual pixels cannot be discerned by the naked eye. This value differs from product to product, with smaller displays (iPhone) having higher values (326 ppi) and larger displays (MacBooks) having lower values (220 ppi). This is due to the viewing distance, that differs in these products.

Macintosh machines have been gaining ground steadily, thanks in part to their more secure platform, and the good looks they come with. Of course, PCs are no slouch either when it comes to good looks, but one just can’t compete with Apple in the looks department.

And if you’re more inclined to look beyond the looks, as you well should be―you will, after all, be spending upwards of a stack on these―you have nothing to fear. The specs of the current models will satisfy even the most hardcore users. Once you have decided to pick up a Mac, you have to choose one from their extensive family. Apple has models galore, and you can choose one depending your use.

In today’s article, we are going to consider the MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Pro with Retina display. Though it may seem that only the display has changed between the two models, this is far from true. There are many differences in the two models, and in the sections below, we highlight these differences, and guide you to choosing the better of the two.

13-inch MacBook Pro 13-inch Macbook Pro
With Retina Display
13.3-inch LED-Backlit Display 13.3-inch LED-Backlit Retina display
1280 by 800 pixels 2560 by 1600 pixels
2.5 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5 2.4 GHz or 2.5 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5
2.9 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7 2.8 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7
Memory (RAM)
4 GB or 8 GB 1600 MHz Up to 16 GB 1600 MHz
Up to 1 TB 5,400 rpm HDD or Up to 512 GB SSD Up to 1 TB Flash Storage (SSD)
Intel HD Graphics 4000 Intel Iris Graphics
MagSafe Power Port MagSafe 2 Power Port
2× USB 3 Ports 2× USB 3.0 Ports
1× FireWire 800 Port
1× Thunderbolt Port 2× Thunderbolt Port
1× HDMI Port
Superdrive No Optical Drive
Integrated 63.5-watt-hour Lithium-Polymer Integrated 71.8-watt-hour Lithium-Polymer
Up to 7 Hours Wireless Web Up to 9 Hours Wireless Web
60 W MagSafe Power Adapter 60 W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter
.95 inches thick
4.5 pounds
.71 inches thick
3.46 pounds
802.11n Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 4.0
FaceTime HD Camera
Full-size Backlit Keyboard
SDXC Card Slot

If you look at the table above, you can see that almost everything has improved with the new Retina display Mac. Don’t be fooled with the higher clock speeds of the older versions, the latest Haswell processors present in the Retina model, coupled with the Iris and Iris Pro integrated graphics are much, much better than the older processors and Intel 4000 HD graphics.

The breakdown in other parts of the machine as well, should bring you to the same conclusion that we came to, that the Retina display model is far better than the non-retina model. But with a price difference of a hundred bucks, I’m sure you will need more than just a paragraph to be convinced.

Reasons to Buy the MacBook Pro Retina Model

While it is almost a rule of thumb that newer is better, let’s see if it applies in this case. Of course, when it comes to technology, newer is definitely better, but you should also keep the price in mind. New tech can cost a bomb, and you don’t want to sell your house to have a dapper computer. When it comes to the Retina display model of the MacBook Pro, the first thing you would notice is that the price is a hundred dollars more. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? To decide, let’s see what you get for those extra hundred bucks.


Let’s start with the most noticeable factor: The display. You get a much, much better screen. 2560 × 1600 pixels as compared to the older 1280 × 800 pixels. That alone should be worth the extra hundred dollars. The higher resolution makes a huge difference, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Processor, Memory, and Graphics

Moving on from the price, the new Retina display model features Haswell processors, and Intel Iris Pro graphics, again a boost over the older processors, and HD 4000 integrated graphics. Though discrete graphics would have been better, these 13-inch models only come with integrated graphics, and remember that you are only putting in USD 100 more over the older model, and it is definitely worth it. Also, Apple has been more generous with the RAM limitation on the newer model, the Retina display can now take up to 16 gigs of RAM, compared to the maximum of 8 gigs on the older machines.

Storage Space

When it comes to storage, the norm is more the better. You can never really have enough of space. With the world going HD, space is now even more of a problem. We would like to say that so-and-so amount of storage space is enough, but it simply depends from user to user. Luckily, on the newer MacBook Pro, you can choose the amount of storage you need, right up to a gargantuan 1 TB SSD. No doubt, the price will increase accordingly, but the option is nice to have. For those users who don’t need so much space, the base model comes with an ample 128 GB of space, but more importantly, on a SSD. SSDs don’t feature moving parts, and read/write speeds are phenomenally faster that HDDs. If you need more space, and don’t want to shell out the USD 300 to upgrade to a 512 GB SSD, then you have the option of picking up an 500 GB external HHD for your storage needs. However, with the cloud sector booming, this is becoming less and less necessary.


The newer Retina display model also does not feature an optical drive, which counts significantly to its svelte size, shape, and weight. This might be a problem for some, but optical discs are being used lesser and lesser these days, so it should not be too bad. You could also opt for an external optical drive; these are not too expensive, and even the extra 20 bucks that the drive costs make the newer MacBook worth it.

Apart from all this, there are numerous other benefits that the Retina display model has, like the presence of an HDMI port (absent in non-retina models), and the upgrade of the USB ports to USB 3.0. Additionally, there is an extra thunderbolt port as well. The newer model also features Apple’s latest MagSafe 2 technology, which comes on both, the port and the adapter.

Size, Weight, and Battery Life

Thanks to the inclusion of the SSD, and the exclusion of the optical drive, the newer MacBook Pro with Retina display is now even thinner and lighter than its predecessor. At less than 3½ pounds, this is a very light machine indeed, almost a pound lighter that the non-retina model. It is also significantly thinner, at .71 inches, compared to the older model at .91 inches. In all this slimming and trimming, Apple has ensured that the battery life does not suffer; in fact, with the newer model you get up to 9 hours of wireless web surfing, compared to the 7 hours its predecessor offered.


In addition, there are a few miscellaneous features that both laptops share, like the Facetime HD camera in front, the keyboard, the SDXC card slot, and the latest OS Mavericks. These features are already the latest, and hence, were not improved in the new model.

Wi-Fi, though has been improved, and the Retina display models will now feature 802.11ac Wi-Fi, as compared to the older 802.11n Wi-Fi. We can’t really say that this is more beneficial right now, though in the future, it surely will be.

So, if you take a look at the various features that you get with the newer MacBook Pro, it is well worth the extra 100 dollars that you are going to pay for it. Remember the comparisons here are of the base models, these can be configured with better and higher configurations, which will affect the prices. As a product with newer technology, we would have had no qualms recommending the newer version anyway; the price of the older machine just makes it easier to do so. If Apple drops the price of the older version to about USD 700 to USD 800, then there may be a compelling reason to opt for the old. At this price point, however, it’s a no-brainer.

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