Apple MacBook Pro Review (Three years later)

Three years in use and still going strong, here is my Apple MacBook Pro Review of the Retina, 15-Inch Late 2013, long term use review.

MacBook Pro Retina Mid 2012

I have used this computer as a daily driver for almost three years now and in this review I will try to focus on what I like and dislike about this computer. You never truly know how a computer performs until you have used it daily for an extended period of time.

First Impressions

The first impressions you get from a product like this is when you unbox it. Apple care a great deal about things like that, for some it may seem foolish to spend so much time on packaging but nevertheless Apple wants everything to be perfect and an experience right from the unboxing part. Needless to say you get everything you need in that box, power cable. Some light documentation etc.

Two USB3 ports, one on each side. Two thunderbolt / displayport ports, HDMI, SD Card slot and the MagSafe 2 connector. The only thing I miss are the ethernet port but it isnt possible to have it on this computer because of the size so when I wanted very fast networking I had to buy an extra thunderbolt to ethernet adapter. Not ideal but I could live with it.

Design

retina macbook pro closed

Aluminum all the way, this is something we have come to expect from Apple. They have all of their laptops made in this material at the moment. It makes the computer light but still very sturdy and strong. It is because of the unibody enclosure carved out from a single piece of aluminum. After a few years of use I have dented and dropped the computer a few times but it still performs and works just like it was new.

The model I got had a squeaky sound from the bottom cover if I carried it in a certain way. I had to tighten up some of the screws using the proprietary pentalobe screwdriver from Apple.

Retina Display

If you had the original iPhone or iPad and upgraded to a new model with better display (retina model) the difference was pretty good wouldn’t you say? Well, it is the same for the new MacBook Pro. Text looks really sharp, system icons and graphics is of a clarity I have yet to see on any PC display. It is hard to describe it in words. You really should see it for yourself to judge it.

I do some photo editing in my spare time, nothing professional but still. Its a hobby of mine for many years and it is a pleasure to do this kind of work on this display.

It is not possible to configure this new Apple Laptop with an anti-glare option. The display is glossy but they have managed to reduce it some compared to the previous models. If I compare my computer with my wife’s white MacBook the glare is noticeably higher on her model. It is not completely gone on the model I have but considerably lower than before.

When I am talking about the display, some issues have surfaced on some of the models namely: Anti-Reflective Coating Issues. The coating on the display may wear off during normal use. If that happens on your model you should contact Apple and ask them if this is covered under their Quality Program for MacBook Pro Anti-Reflective Coating Issues. You may get the display replaced free of charge. Even if your warranty is gone.

Performance

Remember, I come from a breed that like to build their own custom gaming PC rigs and I know what performance is. It is impressive what this thin laptop is able to do.

In day to day use everything is snappy, loads fast and almost no waiting. This is thanks to the SSD this computer have. The hard drive have always been one of the last bottle-necks performance wise in computing and now almost no computers are sold without SSDs. The drawback here is smaller storage size and if you want something bigger its expensive. The speed increase you get compared to an old platter based disk makes it all worth it though. Speed is what SSD is all about and the one in this retina MacBook Pro is fast! If you need storage buy an external drive and use that.

For number crunching work my experience with this computer is limited. However I have pushed it to its limits by encoding some video. It utilized all 8 (4) cores and made the CPU extremely hot. When the fans ramped up the temperature stayed between 95 – 100 degrees Celsius. For my taste this is too hot, even though Apple says its within spec I disagree with that statement. It worked fine though and if by chance it would get too hot the safety feature will kick in and downclock (throttle) the CPU making it slower to get the temperature down. I didn’t notice anything myself after a few successful encodes.

Yes, the computer gets hot. Dont expect anything else from it. Also remember that it is designed to handle the stress. No worries! I did a thermal paste replacement but it didnt help that much.

What About Gaming Performance?

We all know that a laptop cant replace a dedicated gaming rig, right? Okay, so why is it that people put up YouTube videos of this machine, playing Diablo 3 in full resolution with.. 20 – 30 fps, all settings to low and says its great!? Come on, its just not that fantastic. Yes I know you are happy about having a rMBP but please, don’t make people disappointed. This is not mainly a gaming computer, if you want to play games it is certainly possible! Just be sure to know what to expect..

I am not saying that The NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M in this Apple Laptop is a bad graphics card with low performance, its actually quite good and it will run most new games great in lower (1920×1200) res with low – mid settings. As always if you want the most performance install Windows in Bootcamp and do the gaming from there.

I did some testing in Windows with gaming and noticed that the graphics began to lag and get choppy after a while. After some more testing I noticed that the graphic card throttled. Meaning it lowers the voltage and speed to keep it within a certain temperature. This behavior is annoying because it can ruin an otherwise good gaming experience. For me, the reason for this throttling was my external display and the fact I used the computer in clamshell mode (display closed). If I disconnected the external display and used the MacBook Pro Retina display instead the throttling didn’t occur anymore.

Yes, it is certainly possible to game on this computer but it is not fantastic in 2880 x 1800. You have to lower the resolution to get good gameplay with todays modern games.

With that said, some early testing with World of Warcraft Legion using the new Metal API the framerate is noticeably higher compared to OpenGL. I have hopes, but as for today. This computer is only good for casual gaming as it stands now.

Conclusion

For me this computer is almost everything I need and more. It is extremely fast in all aspects considering its size. Battery life is good with 6 – 7 hours on wi-fi and practically noise free when doing light work.

The drawback is the serviceability. It is not possible to upgrade anything on this machine so make sure you configure it accordingly.

Can I recommend it? Yes, if you can afford it, get it.

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