The mid-2014 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display isn’t a huge leap forward — primarily a processor speed bump and a price drop. But this model, the entry-level release, also benefits from a memory increase. The previous entry-level Retina MacBook Pro had just 4GB of RAM, but this new one has 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L onboard memory. The dual-core Intel Core i5 processor is retained, but it’s now 2.6GHz instead of 2.4GHz.
Being a Retina MacBook Pro, you can’t add more memory after purchase because the chips are soldered onto the motherboard, so a shift to 8GB is an excellent move. The price drop is another welcome change.
But the real story here is what it’s done to the viability of the MacBook Air. At $1,299, it’s only a shade more expensive than the cheapest 13-inch Air, and here you’re getting a lot more notebook for your money. Both use dual-core Intel Core i5 processors, but with a clock speed of 2.6GHz, the Pro is almost twice as fast as the Air’s 1.4GHz CPU. Its 8GB of memory is double the 4GB offered by the entry-level Air, too. The Pro has a better graphics chipset, using Intel Iris Graphics instead of the Air’s Intel HD Graphics 5000, and, of course, it has that gorgeous Retina screen. A native resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels certainly puts the Air’s 1440 x 900 display in the shade.
The Air still has some advantages. At 1.35kg, it’s lighter than the Pro (1.57kg), but is 220 grams such a huge difference? Also, with an advertised 12 hours of wireless web surfing on a single charge, the Air beats the Pro (which offers nine hours of battery life). The Pro’s performance is still excellent in this respect, so if you have specific needs that prioritize lightness and battery life, you might consider the 13-inch MacBook Air. But for the majority of users, this MacBook offers much better value.
The bottom line. A superb release that builds on the success of previous MacBook Pros, while dropping the price.