Is the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro Really More Expensive than the Non-Retina Model?

You'd assume the answer to my question would be "of course." And in this case, you'd be right. But I had to ask, because a funny thing happened on the way to the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro released in June.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Apple

You’d assume the answer to my question would be “of course.” And in this case, you’d be right. But I had to ask, because a funny thing happened on the way to the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro released in June: Apple was actually charging less for its new super-resolutionary darling than a similarly configured 15-inch MacBook Pro without the new Retina screen. I’m not exaggerating or making that up.

And the company’s still doing so. The entry-level 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.3GHz i7 processor, 8GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage runs $2,199. A 15-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro built to the same specs (the display notwithstanding) runs $2,399 — $2,499 if you bump the resolution up to 1680 x 1050. That’s a $200-$300 markup, all for a laptop with a boring old non-Retina screen. What madness is this?

Maybe it’s because rolling-your-own MacBook Pro requires Apple to manually touch the system before passing it along. I don’t know. Maybe it’s Apple’s cost for a standalone 500GB flash drive. But $200-$300 markup? It seems Apple wants you to either (a) buy the default 15-inch non-Retina Pro, or (b) dive into full-on Retina glory. And those who do choose to build out a system, thinking they’re saving money by foregoing the Retina display and not paying careful attention could end up paying more for less, all around.

You’ll be pleased to know Apple’s not doing this with the 13-inch Retina Pro. The entry-level 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro with a 2.5GHz i5 processor, 8GB of memory and 128GB of flash storage runs $1,699. A 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro built to the same specs (again, the display aside) runs $1,499. If, for whatever reason, you don’t need or want the Retina display or you don’t want to give up the integrated optical drive, you can still get the other bells and whistles while saving a bit of money (though, of course, you’ll forfeit the Retina model’s elegant new slimline, lightweight design).

That doesn’t explain the ongoing price disparity in the 15-inch column, but then I can’t imagine why, if you have over $2,000 to burn on an Apple laptop, that you wouldn’t want the Retina model. Back in June, many app-makers had yet to update their apps to support the laptop’s native 2880 x 1880 display, but speaking as a 15-inch Retina Pro owner, most of that’s behind us (even TIME’s own website is now fully Retina-friendly).

Should you pick up a 13-inch Retina Pro? Who am I to say? What I can tell you is that the reason Apple may have waited until October to unveil the 13-inch model was to gets its ducks in a row. When the 15-inch Retina Pro launched, the wait time in stores or online extended out as much as three weeks. With the 13-inch Pro, Apple’s online store indicates the laptop is “in stock” as I’m typing this, and thus available right now, wait-free.

No doubt there’s a negative reactionary write-up coming from iFixit about the new 13-inch Retina Pro. iFixit has repeatedly laid into Apple’s 15-inch Retina Pro, accusing it of being “the least repairable laptop” on the planet because of design choices like soldered-on memory and a battery that’s glued-in. Judging from the bottom-off photos Apple marketing VP Phil Schiller showed at the Apple event on Tuesday — identical to those of the 15-inch model — I predict we’ll see another iFixit screed shortly. I can’t say I disagree with the site in principle, but I do wish another full-contact tech site without such a glaring conflict of interest would take up the issue — iFixit makes its bones off aftermarket computer upgrades, after all.

Sidenote: I’ve seen a few sites resurfacing criticism of Apple’s removal of the Ethernet jack, as if that removal were somehow robbing you of Ethernet connectivity. Apparently these people haven’t heard that Apple sells an official external USB-to-RJ45 part for $29. It’s been around for ages. Apple hasn’t “done away” with Ethernet, it’s just externalized it, like the DVD optical drive. And while an external optical drive can be a pain to tote around in a purse or backpack, the USB-to-RJ45 cable is tiny, easily folding into a small cable bag.

5 comments
ChristianWilliamson
ChristianWilliamson

you know.  any technician that makes money off repairing macs is biased by the same logic.  bias is not always a bad thing.

by your logic, anyone that makes money off of repairing macs shoudnt bring these issues to light.  however, those are the ONLY people qualified to really make that assessment.  think about it like expert testimony.  

mikechee15
mikechee15

As an owner of an entry level Retina MBP 15, I found this piece balanced. iFixit has a conflict of interest that I had not been aware of. The build quality is exceptional and the product experience positive. This counts at the end of the day. 

Apple does have a vested interest in getting people to upgrade frequently but having said that, their hardware is generally of good quality and can last longer (as innatech alludes to) than they would like. Most users are happy and if choice is so important then one can surely go to other vendors. Apple makes calculated guesses on product configurations - won't please everyone but enough to make them the worlds #1 company. 

abelinone
abelinone

Who is this apologist clown?

innatetech
innatetech

There's no mystery to this. Apple wants its users to stop buying computers with upgradable components. That way they can sell them a new machine on the same cycle as their mobile devices. I still use an old 2006/2007 dual core macbook (blackbook), which with upgraded RAM and an SSD still performs adequately. The non-Retina MBP is the last with user upgradable RAM and HDD. The markup is Apple's premium on longevity, mirrored by their refusal to offer an upgradable Retina model.