Lab tested: Ultimate 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro

In addition to the standard configurations of its Macs, Apple offers a number of build-to-order (BTO) upgrade options that include more RAM, more storage capacity, and faster processors. An "ultimate" configuration is a customized machine with the fastest options available. Weve tested the ultimate configuration of the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro and found that the performanceas well as the price tagwere both considerably higher than the standard high-end configuration.

Our $2699 BTO 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro was loaded for bear. It starts with a fast 2.9GHz dual-core Core i7 processor (a $200 option), which replaces the 2.5GHz dual-core Core i5 processor in the $1999 standard configuration model. A 512GB flash storage drive ($500) replaces the stock 256GB flash storage. Our ultimate system has the same 8GB of RAM and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 as the standard configuration.

To see if these upgrades are worth the significant cost, we put the ultimate 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro through the paces of our new Speedmark 8 system performance benchmark suite.

Overall, the ultimate 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.9GHz dual-core i7 processor was 11 percent faster than the standard 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.5GHz dual-core Core i5 processor. The BTO system was faster in every test, but to varying degrees.

In CPU-intensive test such as MathematicaMark and CineBench CPU, the ultimate Retina MacBook Pro was 13 and 14.5 percent faster, respectively, than the standard system. Our graphics tests also saw a boost, with 9 percent higher frames per second in Portal 2, and 13 percent higher frame rates in the Cinebench OpenGL test. Our iPhoto import test was 19 percent faster on the ultimate model. File copy and file uncompression test results between the ultimate and standard model were close.

The ultimate Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro was a whopping 69 percent faster overall over the standard 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.9GHz dual-core Core i7 processor. The hard drive in the non-Retina MacBook Pro took more than 5 times as long to complete the file copy and unzip tests as the ultimate MacBook Pros zippy flash storage. Photoshop was 35 percent faster on the ultimate system, and MathematicaMark was 14 percent faster. Graphics test results were very similar between the two.

But its not all lollipops and roses for the ultimate 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. The $2199 15-inch Retina MacBook Propriced the same as the high-end 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with the $200 processor upgradewas 25 percent faster overall than the BTO 13-inch MacBook Pro. The 15-inch model has a quad-core 2.3GHz Core i7 processor and discrete nVidia GeForce GT 650M graphics. The 15-inch laptop finished the CineBench CPU test 41 percent faster than the ultimate 13-inch laptop, and displayed more than twice as many frames per second in our Portal 2 timedemo.

The $2799 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro costs just $100 more than our ultimate 13-inch laptop and was 34 percent faster overall. The 15-inch Retina laptop was also 65 percent faster in our MathematicaMark tests.

The Macworld Lab is always hard at work. Check back soon for benchmarks and full reviews of the new Mac minis. As always, test suggestions are encouraged in our comments section.

This story, "Lab tested: Ultimate 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro" was originally published by Macworld.

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