Silicon: Dual-Core Only

The biggest disappointment to me personally with the 13-inch rMBP announcement was the lack of any quad-core CPU options. Although they carry the same Core i5/i7 branding as the chips offered in the 15-inch rMBP, these parts are strictly dual-core. With a smaller chassis, the amount of heat Apple's cooling solution can effectively dissipate goes down. While the thermal budget in the 15-inch rMBP was 45W, the move to a 13-inch chassis drops it to 35W. Thankfully, Intel does offer 35W quad-core CPUs, a first for Intel starting with the Ivy Bridge introduction. Unfortunately Apple didn't seem keen on using them. For starters, having a quad-core upgrade option would likely add complexity to the lineup, and secondly the 35W quad-core parts are cost prohibitive. At almost 70% more expensive than the dual-core Core i5 Apple used in the standard configuration 13-inch rMBP, I can see why Apple wouldn't want to throw a 35W quad-core CPU in for free. At the same time, I would've at least liked to see a build-to-order quad-core option.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display CPU Comparison
  2.5GHz dual-core 2.9GHz dual-core
Standard On 13-inch rMBP Optional Upgrade
Intel Model Core i5-3210M Core i7-3520M
Base Clock Speed 2.5GHz 2.9GHz
Max SC Turbo 3.1GHz 3.6GHz
Max DC Turbo 2.9GHz 3.4GHz
L3 Cache 3MB 4MB
AES-NI Yes Yes
TXT No Yes
VT-x Yes Yes
VT-d Yes Yes
TDP 35W 35W
Processor Graphics Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000
GPU Clock (Base/Max) 650/1100MHz 650/1250MHz

By default both configurations of the 13-inch rMBP come with an Intel Core i5 3210M. That puts base clock at 2.5GHz with max single core turbo at 3.1GHz. Max turbo with both cores active is 2.9GHz. Hyper Threading is enabled on the chip, which presents OS X with the ability to schedule to four logical cores despite there only being two physical cores on the CPU.

Apple offers a single BTO CPU upgrade to a Core i7 3520M. Frequencies go up with the i7 upgrade (2.9GHz base, 3.6GHz max), which can definitely come in handy in keeping the system feeling as snappy as possible. The shared L3 cache is also a bit larger on the 3520M (4MB vs. 3MB).

Both CPU options integrate Intel's HD 4000 graphics core. Base and turbo GPU clocks are nearly identical to the HD 4000 in the 15-inch model (650/1100MHz).


The 13-inch rMBP, image courtesy iFixit

The move to the smaller chassis also meant ditching the discrete GPU. Although Apple could have technically included a discrete GPU, it would've come at the cost of a smaller battery (dGPU needs more PCB area which would take real estate away from the battery). The loss of the discrete GPU isn't actually as big of a deal as you'd normally think. Intel's HD 4000, the only processor graphics option on the 13-inch rMBP, is clearly capable of driving a 5MP display since it does just that in the 15-inch rMBP. That very same GPU, running at similar clocks (1.1GHz vs. 1.25GHz max GPU turbo), only has to drive 4MP with the 13-inch rMBP.

The bigger issue with ditching the discrete GPU is gaming performance. Although Intel's processor graphics have come a long way since the days when it was unusable, we're still roughly two years out from Intel's graphics being what I'd consider desirable. Although it's possible to game on the 13-inch rMBP, most modern titles won't be able to post good frame rates on any reasonable resolution. Although the GeForce GT 650M in the 15-inch rMBP could actually drive some titles at the display's native resolution, the same really can't be said for Intel's HD 4000 in the 13-inch system.

I firmly believe that Apple designed the rMBPs with Haswell in mind, and the 13-inch model is the embodiment of that. With Haswell, the lack of a discrete GPU shouldn't matter as much although if you're not a gamer I'm not sure the lack of a dGPU is really an issue today either.

Introduction & Form Factor Perfection? Achieving Retina - Redux
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  • TEAMSWITCHER - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - link

    I'm not so sure....

    If you take a 13" MacBook Air and upgrade the specs with a 2.0GHz processor, 8 GB of ram, and a 256 GB Flash, you''ll spend $1699. You can order the entry level 13" MacBook Pro with Retina display from Mac Mall for $1630. Yes, the MacBook Air would have twice the flash storage, but the 13" Pro would have a Retina Display and slightly faster processor - plus an extra Thunderbolt port and HDMI port . If you consider the trade-offs, the 13" MacBook Pro is actually priced more-or-less the same.

    If you're warehousing tons of data on your laptop 256 vs. 128 Gigabytes of flash isn't going to be much of an improvement. But if the Retina Display is more important to you, the 13" Pro is the way to go. It's kind of cool that Apple is offering much more in the way of choices right now than ever before.

    BTW, I have a 13" MacBook Pro with Retina Display and it's easily the best laptop I have ever owned. The scrolling choppiness is noticeable, but far, far from unbearable. The screen really is a vast improvement over anything that has ever been offered in this size of laptop.
    Reply
  • geok1ng - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Apples decision to glue the non-serviciable battery to the chassis has made the retina MBPs the worts case scenario in a long series of impronvingly unrecicleable products by Apple.
    The batterys are rated for 300 charges. That is about 2 years usage.
    Since there is no easy or safe way to replace the abttery, these retina MBPs are destined to remain plugged toa charger for the remaining of their short life.
    And it irks me no end that not a single reviewer outside IFixIt has pointed towards this major "it is not a bug, it is a feature".
    The retina MBPs are the epithome of planned obsolescence, and shame on the reviewers who miss this crucial information.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - link

    "The batterys are rated for 300 charges"

    To be fair Apples batteries are rated to 1000 cycles due to some charging circuitry.
    Reply
  • whiteonline - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    As noted, the machine is a tradeoff.
    I originally purchased a 13 MBP in early 2011. Loved the size, but the screen resolution was unusable for me. So I wound up getting the high-res 15". What I really wanted was a high resolution 13" MacBook Pro.
    And here it is.
    It's not as powerful as the 15", but the portability compensates for that. Price....well, would have loved for it to be less. But I'm not going to find another 13" notebook with a super high 16x10 resolution screen anywhere.
    Reply
  • Zodiark1593 - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Even though this sounds almost blasphemous, I wish both the rMBPs had the option for standard, high capacity HDDs as even a 512 MB SSD is way too small for me. I know there's always the external HDD, but extras like that, in my opinion, defeats the purpose of mobility more so than weight. Reply
  • phexac - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    This actually includes a lot of programs, especially Microsoft office. Text is blurry and boxy at the same time and far inferior to a regular resolution computer. So yes, for the most basic tasks it works great. If you have to use any program not specifically designed for it (really most programs at this point in time) it's quite a poor experience. Go to the Apple store and fire up Office on this or the 15" version. You'll see the difference immediately.

    Due this shortage or properly optimized software, the retina macbooks remain a gimmick. I would actually like to one, but I do not consider them useable just yet. I will probably take a few years for software to fully catch up.
    Reply
  • robco - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6318/office-for-mac-...

    http://retinamacapps.com

    The list just keeps growing. I think most app developers understand HiDPI displays are the future and are working on updates.
    Reply
  • akdj - Thursday, November 15, 2012 - link

    Not sure where you've heard or seen this---I'm using the MS suite; Excel, Word and Power Point. They don't look bad AT ALL!!! In fact, the text in Word/Excel is amazing--the UI isn't 'blurry' or 'boxy' period! I use them all day, everyday. Perhaps one of my latest MS updates fixed an earlier issue...as I've only had my 15" rMBP for about ten weeks
    As well--I use the entire creative suite from Adobe: Premier, After Effects, PS, LR, Illustrator and In Design---Acrobat Pro as well. All. Perfectly. Usable...and unbelievably FAST on these computers!!! This pixelization, fuzzy, blocky/boxy embellishment is ridiculous--I've YET to find a professional app to be 'un-usable' or even bad enough to complain.
    The WWW is a bit different. Lots of 'low rez' photos that're obviously not ready for the high resolution these monitors bring us---but it's coming, as are 'official' updates to premier software like MS & Adobe. In the mean time--I'm sure most will find them 'just fine'

    Jeremy
    Reply
  • just4U - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    I was just looking at the cost of the one there and geez.. $1700 /w a dual core cpu and integrated graphics? That's insane... I don't care how good that 13" screen is.. It's simply not worth the price their asking. Reply
  • mike71 - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    You forgot to mention since June 2012 Apple has quietly dropped the audio line-in from all non-15 inch models. So Macbook Air and 13 inch pro's do not feature the same combi audio input/output that existed in previous models. I can only think Apple did this to save a few pennies and increase profits. Reply

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