When Apple whacked its super high-definition retina display into its 13-inch MacBook Pro last year, it also managed to make it much thinner. It brought it closer in size to the MacBook Air, and made it a far more viable option for people requiring more power than the Air, but unwilling to lug around a big lump of metal all day.
The 2013 version is almost identical physically, but packs the latest Intel processors and comes preloaded with the latest OS X Mavericks software.
The base model starts at £1,099, for which you'll get a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The top model (reviewed here) offers as standard a 2.6GHz Core i5 chip, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, setting you back £1,499. Apple lets you tweak that up to a 2.8GHz Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for a total of £2,239.
Those are some seriously beefy numbers, but they've actually been knocked down slightly from last year's model. The previous top configuration with a 768GB SSD cost a whopping £2,660.
All models are available now from the Apple Store.
Design and build quality
If you whipped out your calipers you'd find that the new Pro is slightly thinner at 17mm than its 18mm predecessor. At 1.57kg, it's also marginally lighter. The retina Pro was already about 5mm thinner than the non-retina model, so the fact that it's shrunk even more -- even by such a tiny amount -- is commendable.
While it still hasn't got the MacBook Air's razor-thin body, its footprint is smaller, thanks to much narrower bezels around the screen. It'll slide easily into most backpacks, and you won't struggle to carry it between your house and your office. If you're on your feet with it all day, you'll probably appreciate the Air's lighter weight.
Aesthetically, there's nothing new to report. That's not a criticism though, as Apple's minimalist laptops always look superb. Build quality is top-notch too. The metal unibody chassis is solid, with zero flex to be found anywhere and the hinge opens without any unpleasant bending of the screen.
The backlit keyboard is every bit as comfortable as before and the large trackpad is probably the best you'll find on any laptop. Around the edges you'll find a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a full-sized HDMI port, a microSD card slot and two Thunderbolt ports. The lack of an Ethernet port means you'll need to splash out on an adaptor if you want a fast, stable wired connection for uploading large files.
The Pro's swan song continues to be its retina display, which crams in a mighty 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution. That vast amount of pixels makes everything pin-sharp, unsurprisingly. App icons, small text in ebooks and high-resolution photos all look stunning on the display.
Some websites will need to upgrade their artwork and icons to a higher-resolution in order to be displayed properly on screen. As it stands, the vast majority of sites have slightly fuzzy-looking logos.
Resolution aside, the screen is as bright and bold as ever. Colours are rich and vibrant but don't look oversaturated. The retina display is a superb choice for photographers to proof and edit their photos.
Power and performance
The new Pro packs the latest Intel chips, in a variety of configurable power options, depending on how much you want to spend. My review model came loaded with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor, along with 8GB of RAM and 500GB of flash-based storage.
I found it to be an extremely nippy bit of kit. Startup from cold was very quick and it resumed from sleep in an instant -- a big comfort if, like me, you often find yourself darting around different places with your computer, working quickly where you can. Anecdotally, I found editing high-resolution RAW photos in Adobe Lightroom 4 to be very responsive and the export times much lower than on my 1.8GHz 13-inch MacBook Air.
The built-in Intel Iris graphics also helped it tackle Borderlands 2. Annoyingly, the game's maximum resolution tops out at 1,440x800 pixels, rather than the full native resolution of the screen, so it's not as demanding as it would otherwise be, but I was still chuffed with the high frame rates and smooth gameplay.
Portal 2 at full 2,560x1,660 pixels didn't play very smoothly, although it did pick up once I knocked the resolution down. If you're keen on games, the 15-inch Pro comes with a dedicated graphics card, which will really help.
My buddy across the pond, Scott Stein, took his model for a spin and found it consistently faster than the previous generation and much nippier than the MacBook Air. It's not pushing the raw power of the 15-inch Pro, so if Full HD video editing is going to be a big part of your life, you might want to consider splashing out on the bigger version.
It comes running the latest version of Apple's desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks. It's visually very similar to the previous version, but brings upgrades like built-in Maps, iBooks, tabbed Finder windows, better compatibility with second monitors
Apple reckons you can squeeze up to 9 hours of use from the battery, which is slightly less than the 12 hours you can apparently get from the new 13-inch MacBook Air. In Scott's testing however, he was able to keep the Pro's battery going for 12 hours when running a looped video.
As always though, battery life will really depend on how demanding you are. If you're connected to Wi-Fi, with screen brightness on max and playing demanding games then don't expect to get a good time. If you're more cautious about what you get up to, there's no reason you shouldn't get through the working day on a charge.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro packs a stunning, high-resolution display, decent battery life and plenty of power into a slender, sturdy body. If you like the portability of the Air, but need more power, it's a solid option to consider. If you're a professional video producer, the extra power and discreet graphics of the 15-inch Pro will be a welcome upgrade.