MacBook Pro 13″ Review

For my money, investing in Apple products is well-worth it. Especially if you are a solo attorney with a tight budget, the longevity of Apple devices justifies the higher upfront cost.

The 13″ MacBook Pro (non-retina display) is a solid laptop that should provide years of usage.

What I like about the Macbook Pro 13″ (non-retina display)

If you’re reading a post by me involving an Apple product, it’s going to be a love fest, and this post is no exception.

To me, the number one most important feature for a laptop is that it runs fast, like really fast (and it’s an Apple). I cannot compare this computer to every computer out there, but I can tell you it is lightyears faster than my 2009 MacMini. If you are a nerd, this model has a 2.9 Ghz dual-core Intel Core i7, with 8 gigs of RAM. I don’t really know what any of that means, but I can tell you it is very fast. Noticeably faster than a three-year old MacMini (which also has 8 gigs of RAM).

When I say fast, it boots within about 2-3 minutes (and that includes Dropbox slowdown). Turn off Dropbox and it boot within about 1 minute. I usually have about 5-10 programs open and running, and there is no noticeable drag—which is a huge problem with my MacMini. It also has a ginormous hard drive—I ordered the 750 gigabyte, but it came with a terrabyte. I’m not complaining—although there is no way I would use either amount of space. The bottom line is that the guts are impressive.

Physically, it has the new MagSafe connector, an ethernet jack, two USB ports, Thunderbolt, and a headphone jack. It also has a Superdrive, which is one reason why it is noticeably bigger than a MacBook Air. I don’t plan on using the Superdrive, but I wanted the bigger hard drive at a lower price. The battery indicator has been moved to the side, which is way more convenient than the bottom of the computer (which is what my other MacBook Pro has).

Perhaps most importantly, Apple has made great strides in their cooling elements. I can type all night on my laptop without sweating, getting hot flashes, or putting some weird laptop cover on my legs. In other words: even when doing high powered processing, the computer only gets slightly warm.

In terms of battery life, when it’s fully charged, it usually lasts a good 4-5 hours. I know Apple claims longer than that, but 4-5 hours is what I consistently get. For days when I work from home, I usually can make it through the entire business day without charging it. Pretty sweet.

I’m obsessed with crystal clear resolution, so it was tough to not get a retina display. That said, the non-retina display is more than serviceable. I use a Thunderbolt display at my office, so I can notice a difference when I’m working from home. That said, I notice the screen size (13″ vs. 27″) more than the resolution.

What I don’t like about the MacBook Pro 13″

It’s a really good sign when you have to sit and stare at a wall to come up with negatives. Honestly, the biggest negative is that it’s not a retina display with a solid state drive.

I have a MacBook Air with a solid state drive, and I don’t notice any major differences. That said, there is a five year difference in the computers, so it’s not a very accurate comparison. I do miss the slim feel of my MacBook Air, but in some ways I prefer the thicker feel of the Pro.

Frankly, the biggest negative in my book is the price. I don’t shop for PC’s, so I have no clue what a comparable PC laptop would cost, but I’m quite certain a PC is cheaper.

A new fully-loaded MacBook Pro 13″ with a terrabyte hard drive is $1,599. I purchased mine refurbished through Apple for about $1,350. I have had no issues to this point, and refurbished Apple’s have the same warranty—so I would strongly advise trying to buy a refurbished one and saving that cash. You can also shop around at Amazon and other sites, which will usually save you around 6% off the retail price.

Compared to the new MacBook Pro 13″ with a retina display, I would still choose the non-retina display. The retina version has a solid state drive, but a slightly slower processor. If you need a big hard drive, you will end up paying through the roof. Don’t get me wrong, the retina displays are gorgeous, but a retina version of my MacBook is double the price—$2,999.

If you want to spend that kind of money, my advice would be what I did: buy the best non-retina 13″ MacBook Pro, and then buy a 27″ Thunderbolt monitor. Together, it still costs hundreds of dollars less than a maxed-out 13″ MacBook Pro with retina display.

Who should buy it

Anyone who likes Macs. Even if you don’t like Macs but want a rock solid laptop—this is for you.

Compared to a MacBook Air, you can get a faster processor and a bigger hard drive. You don’t get the same sleekness as a MacBook Air, but in my humble opinion, you can get a better computer for the same price.

Score

MacBook Pro 13″

Reviewed by Randall Ryder on .

Summary: The MacBook Pro 13″ is a solid laptop that should provide years of productivity for a solo attorney.

Overall score: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • http://www.richardsonlawoffices.com Steve Richardson

    Randall: I note your comparison to the 2009 Mac Mini. I suspect part of the speed difference to be the quad core CPU in your new MacBook. However, I am thinking about getting a Mac Mini next year to complement my iPod, iPad, and my (and my wife’s) iPhone, and I am concerned that I might be getting something underpowered. I have been a PC guy for a long time, but have been enjoying Apple’s mobile devices. Do you have any further comment about the Mac Mini? Do you think it is still a fair comparison with the new Mac Mini having been launched this fall? Should I rethink this? Thanks!

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I just bought a new Mac Mini. I got the fastest processor and the Fusion drive, and maxed out the memory with a kit from Crucial. It flies. The only thing underpowered about the new Mac mini is the graphics, and that will only matter if you are playing hardcore video games. I only play Minecraft, and it does just fine with my new monitor.

      • http://www.richardsonlawoffices.com Steve Richardson

        Sam: Thanks! The only game I play is World of Warcraft, and I do that on my laptop PC. Not planning on gaming on the Mac, but was thinking of using GarageBand to edit my podcast, and perhaps iMovie for my website video. Do I need to bump up the specs on the Mini or look at another Mac machine to do that?

        • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

          I think you’ll be just fine. I push my computer harder than that, and it’s plenty quick. Definitely boost the memory, though. It’s easy with the Mac mini, so there is no reason to pay Apple’s inflated prices. A 16 GB (!) kit from Crucial was less than $90.

    • http://consumerlawyer.mn/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Randall Ryder

      My Mac Mini worked (and still works) just fine. It’s not as fast as my Pro, but as you noted, I think that can be attributed to the updated processor.

      You never want to live and die by stats, but here is a comparison of the various Macs and processing speeds.

      I haven’t used the new Mac Minis, but statistically they rate near the top for processing speeds. And if Sam gives it a thumbs up, that’s a strong vote of confidence.

  • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

    I just went through this exercise and got myself a 13″ MacBook Air with 8 Gb RAM and a 256 GB solid state drive. The price point was almost the same as the 13″ pro non-retina. I love the Air – I might actually start carrying my laptop with me again.

    I wonder if Apple will keep making the Air. The new 13″ Pros with retina are only a 1/2 pound heavier and a fraction of an inch thicker than the Air. I just didn’t want to pay an extra $400 for a screen I didn’t need.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Right now, at least, the Air is Apple’s low-end computer, as well as it’s ultraportable. If the prices of the Retina MacBooks come down, that could change, but I don’t think that will happen for a while.

      I’m not very interested in the Retina MacBook Pros yet, actually, because even though the resolution density went up, the effective resolution (the number of vertical lines on the screen) went down (on the 15″ Retina MacBook Pro, at least). So you can fit less stuff on the screen, although it looks better. What I think that means is that there will be one more resolution bump until Apple is happy.

  • http://consumerlawyer.mn/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi Randall Ryder

    I definitely miss the feel of my Air, but I wanted something bigger than 250 gigs, and I wanted the faster processor. But for 99% of people, I think the Air is just fine.

  • http://legaltechandfitness.blogspot.com/ Mario Sandoval

    I enjoy my new Air!!
    VERY light and portable. still not sure how I feel about ditching the optical drive.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I would be surprised if you missed it. Not counting the computer in our living room, I can’t remember the last time I needed to use a disc.

      • http://ethicsmaven.com/ Eric Cooperstein

        I use a DVD drive pretty regularly – but I can’t ever remember needing to use it when I wasn’t in my office. I picked up DVD drive to use with my Air for $40. I could take it with me if I ever needed it outside the office, but I doubt that will happen.