Retina MacBook Pros get faster CPUs, more RAM, and a few price cuts

Apple logo2014 has been a lackluster year for new Mac hardware refreshes—the year is half gone, and all we've gotten is a MacBook Air that's a little cheaper and a tiny bit faster and an iMac that's a little cheaper and a lot slower. Now the Retina MacBook Pro line is getting in on the kind-of-refreshed fun with some mild spec bumps that don't radically change the models released back in 2013.

Let's begin with the 15-inch models. The base prices remain the same across the board for these, but you now get the maximum 16GB of RAM standard with the 15-inch MBP instead of as a $200 add-on. The CPU in the $1,999 model also gets a small bump, from a 2.0GHz (3.2GHz Turbo) quad-core Core i7-4750HQ to a 2.2GHz (3.4GHz Turbo) i7-4770HQ. These CPUs are identical save for their clock speeds—the latter chip is part of Intel's mid-cycle "Haswell refresh" line, which gives OEMs an extra 100 or 200MHz without raising the price.

Retina MacBook Pros get faster CPUs, more RAM, and a few price cuts

The higher-tier model doesn't get as substantial a boost as the entry-level model, but you do get a small price cut from $2,599 to $2,499. You get the same computer as before, except with a 2.5GHz (3.7GHz Turbo) i7-4870HQ instead of a 2.3GHz (3.5GHz Turbo) i7-4850HQ. For another $200 on top of that, you'll get a 2.8GHz (4.0GHz Turbo) i7-4980HQ instead of a 2.4GHz (3.6GHz Turbo) i7-4950HQ. These are decent clock speed bumps, though if you were on the fence about upgrading to the previous 2013 models, they don't really alter the equation.

The 13-inch models are the same price, but they do get similar small spec bumps. The $1,299 base model now includes 8GB of RAM standard instead of 4GB, making 8GB standard across the line; 16GB upgrades remain available for $200. Since users can no longer upgrade the RAM in Apple's laptops, we would generally recommend that you buy as much as you can afford at purchase.

The 13-inch models get some CPU upgrades, too. The $1,299 and $1,499 models step up to a 2.6GHz (3.1GHz Turbo) dual-core i5, with a 2.8GHz (3.3GHz Turbo) chip available as a $100 add-on and a 3.0GHz (3.5GHz Turbo) CPU available for $300. The $1,799 model includes the 2.8GHz chip and can step up to the 3.0GHz chip for $200. Chips matching these specifications don't appear to be listed in Intel's ARK processor database, so we can't get you more specific CPU model numbers as we can for the 15-inch models. SSD upgrades are only an option on the $1,799 model, which can go from 512GB to 1TB for $500; the $1,299 and $1,499 models remain stuck with 128GB and 256GB of storage, respectively.

The computers' high-resolution displays mean that GPU upgrades will be felt more than CPU upgrades, but the graphics chips powering the 13- and 15-inch MacBooks remain the same as they were before: the base 15-inch model includes only an integrated Intel Iris Pro 5200 GPU, while the higher-end model adds a GeForce 750M GT with 2GB of GDDR5 that can be switched on for graphics-intensive activities like gaming or CAD work. All 13-inch models rely on the slower Iris 5100 integrated GPU.

The lone 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro now costs $1,099 instead of $1,199, but it otherwise remains unchanged. It continues to use the 2012-era Ivy Bridge internals instead of faster, more power-efficient Haswell parts.

Those waiting for more significant generational speed bumps can lay the blame mostly at Intel's feet: as we've reported before, its next-generation Broadwell CPUs have been delayed significantly. CEO Bryan Krzanich promised in May that we would see the new chips "for holiday [2014], and not at the last second of holiday," but more recent rumors have suggested that we may be waiting into early 2015 for Broadwell chips suitable for MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and iMacs. As the release nears, Intel will hopefully provide us with more specific information.

Broadwell is just a tweak of the Haswell architecture, a "tick" on Intel's "tick-tock" roadmap. More significant is the move to the new 14nm manufacturing process, which should enable Intel to increase CPU and GPU speeds by a fair amount without increasing overall power usage. These are the kinds of advancements we'll need before something as thin as (say) a MacBook Air could be offered with a Retina screen or 4K display support without suffering from noticeable performance issues. The refreshed Haswell MacBook Pros will get new buyers more for their money and drive down the price of existing refurbished models, but the Broadwell models will be more noteworthy.

Apple just set a new quarterly record for Mac sales despite the lack of exciting new hardware—the availability of cheaper MacBook Airs and iMacs probably has something to do with it. The iPhone is still Apple's biggest revenue source by far, but for the first three quarters of its fiscal 2014, Apple has made $17.46 billion in revenue from Macs alone, about 12.4 percent of its total revenue (iPads account for 17.8 percent, while the iPhone is 55.7 percent). It's possible that Apple will announce more substantial Mac hardware upgrades alongside OS X Yosemite, the redesigned version of the software that will be available this fall.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Apple, MacBook Pro, notebooks

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