Silicon: Dual-Core Only

The biggest disappointment to me personally with the 13-inch rMBP announcement was the lack of any quad-core CPU options. Although they carry the same Core i5/i7 branding as the chips offered in the 15-inch rMBP, these parts are strictly dual-core. With a smaller chassis, the amount of heat Apple's cooling solution can effectively dissipate goes down. While the thermal budget in the 15-inch rMBP was 45W, the move to a 13-inch chassis drops it to 35W. Thankfully, Intel does offer 35W quad-core CPUs, a first for Intel starting with the Ivy Bridge introduction. Unfortunately Apple didn't seem keen on using them. For starters, having a quad-core upgrade option would likely add complexity to the lineup, and secondly the 35W quad-core parts are cost prohibitive. At almost 70% more expensive than the dual-core Core i5 Apple used in the standard configuration 13-inch rMBP, I can see why Apple wouldn't want to throw a 35W quad-core CPU in for free. At the same time, I would've at least liked to see a build-to-order quad-core option.

13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display CPU Comparison
  2.5GHz dual-core 2.9GHz dual-core
Standard On 13-inch rMBP Optional Upgrade
Intel Model Core i5-3210M Core i7-3520M
Base Clock Speed 2.5GHz 2.9GHz
Max SC Turbo 3.1GHz 3.6GHz
Max DC Turbo 2.9GHz 3.4GHz
L3 Cache 3MB 4MB
AES-NI Yes Yes
TXT No Yes
VT-x Yes Yes
VT-d Yes Yes
TDP 35W 35W
Processor Graphics Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000
GPU Clock (Base/Max) 650/1100MHz 650/1250MHz

By default both configurations of the 13-inch rMBP come with an Intel Core i5 3210M. That puts base clock at 2.5GHz with max single core turbo at 3.1GHz. Max turbo with both cores active is 2.9GHz. Hyper Threading is enabled on the chip, which presents OS X with the ability to schedule to four logical cores despite there only being two physical cores on the CPU.

Apple offers a single BTO CPU upgrade to a Core i7 3520M. Frequencies go up with the i7 upgrade (2.9GHz base, 3.6GHz max), which can definitely come in handy in keeping the system feeling as snappy as possible. The shared L3 cache is also a bit larger on the 3520M (4MB vs. 3MB).

Both CPU options integrate Intel's HD 4000 graphics core. Base and turbo GPU clocks are nearly identical to the HD 4000 in the 15-inch model (650/1100MHz).


The 13-inch rMBP, image courtesy iFixit

The move to the smaller chassis also meant ditching the discrete GPU. Although Apple could have technically included a discrete GPU, it would've come at the cost of a smaller battery (dGPU needs more PCB area which would take real estate away from the battery). The loss of the discrete GPU isn't actually as big of a deal as you'd normally think. Intel's HD 4000, the only processor graphics option on the 13-inch rMBP, is clearly capable of driving a 5MP display since it does just that in the 15-inch rMBP. That very same GPU, running at similar clocks (1.1GHz vs. 1.25GHz max GPU turbo), only has to drive 4MP with the 13-inch rMBP.

The bigger issue with ditching the discrete GPU is gaming performance. Although Intel's processor graphics have come a long way since the days when it was unusable, we're still roughly two years out from Intel's graphics being what I'd consider desirable. Although it's possible to game on the 13-inch rMBP, most modern titles won't be able to post good frame rates on any reasonable resolution. Although the GeForce GT 650M in the 15-inch rMBP could actually drive some titles at the display's native resolution, the same really can't be said for Intel's HD 4000 in the 13-inch system.

I firmly believe that Apple designed the rMBPs with Haswell in mind, and the 13-inch model is the embodiment of that. With Haswell, the lack of a discrete GPU shouldn't matter as much although if you're not a gamer I'm not sure the lack of a dGPU is really an issue today either.

Introduction & Form Factor Perfection? Achieving Retina - Redux
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  • KPOM - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    The 13" MacBook Pro always had a dual core processor and never had discrete graphics. The Retina version is no different in that regard. If it isn't a "Pro" than neither is the non-Retina version.

    As an 11" MacBook Air user, the weight difference and extra thickness are more noticeable to me. Hopefully Apple comes out with an 11" MacBook Pro with Retina Display, since it does look very nice (I saw one in the store and it blew away the screen on my Air).
    Reply
  • Arbee - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Agreed. Much as the original Air was basically an engineering placeholder waiting for SNB to make it good, this seems to be a placeholder waiting for at least Haswell, and possibly Broadwell. Reply
  • jeffbui - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Anand, your aspect ratio chart is off. The MBPs are still 16:10 Reply
  • jeffbui - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Oops, looks like you switched the 16:9 chart with the 16:10 chart. Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    I wonder why Apple do not all stick to the same 16:10 ratio. The New iMac is 16:9, while all notebook are 16:10. Reply
  • Aenean144 - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - link

    iMacs have >20 inch screens. When you get that big, there's enough vertical screen space so that wider aspect ratio screens are tolerable.

    For smaller screen laptops, vertical space is at a premium. 16:10 is at best a compromise to me. Going to 16:9 would make it less usable.
    Reply
  • yserr - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    I have a MBP 15" (no Retina). I'm willing to give up GPU or quad, but not both, for portability.
    Do you think haswell will bring quad core to the 13" MBPr.

    I think with the dismiss of the 17" and the trend to smaller, light devices. The 15" will be the new 17" and the 13" will be the new 15".

    The 15" rMBP has two soldered ram banks the 13" rMBP has one.
    Are there 16GB modules which are reasonable priced for one bank (which apple could offer)?

    I will wait for haswell and than decide between 13" and 15".
    My dream machine will be 13" rMBP with 16GB Ram and quad.... so I hope haswell will deliver my dream :-)
    Reply
  • iwod - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Quad Core as standard and 2x Graphics Improvement. That is what i am hoping for as well. But with the 4x increase in Pixel count i doubt even Haswell is even good enough in Graphics Department. I just hope Broadwell will bring at least 3x performance over Haswell. Reply
  • yserr - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    At least you see here (http://bit.ly/PalAfy - Haswell Preview) on the haswell slides that they will support 4k and High Resolution Displays. Lets see if they can deliver the performance needed for that. No question Broadwell will be better than Haswell. I hope Haswell will be fast enough for my needs. Reply
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Actually Ivy Bridge does support 4K displays if they are being driving by two DP.

    Haswell will implement DP 1.2 so it will be able to drive a 4K resolution display over a single cable. The GT3 + eDRAM versions of Haswell should be able to handle accelerated GUI without much issue. Gaming on the other hand at such high resolutions is something even high end GPU's (Radeon 7970, GTX 680) are struggling with.
    Reply

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