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MacBook Pro Retina vs MacBook Pro: Key Differences



For those looking to buy a new MacBook Pro, Apple has two different versions to choose from, and it’s important to know the differences between these two models when it comes time to buy.

If you’re in the market for a new MacBook Pro, or if you’ve decided to buy your first-ever MacBook, upgradeability might be an important factor to you, so it’s vital that you know whether or not a MacBook you’re thinking about buying can be upgraded in the future, as not all models that Apple sells can be easily upgraded.

Performance specs in general are also something to be aware of when purchasing a new MacBook Pro, and weight and thinness is also a factor with Apple laptops. The cheapest MacBook Pro that Apple sells costs $1,100, but don’t think that the cheapest option will be the best deal.

Here are some key differences between the newer Retina-equipped MacBook Pro and the regular MacBook Pro.


Over the years, Apple has constantly changed what exactly can be replaced and upgraded in the MacBook and what cannot be replaced and upgraded. Many of the older MacBooks made before 2012 come with the ability to easily upgrade the RAM/memory and the storage drive. However, once Apple introduced the new Retina MacBook Pros in 2012, upgradeability became a thing of the past.


These new MacBooks are thinner and lighter than ever before, and that’s mostly thanks to several design changes that occurred on the inside. Apple transitioned over to using flash storage in the MacBook Pro, just like with the MacBook Air. This allowed for a much lighter machine by far.

The company also decided to solder RAM/memory directly onto the logic board, meaning that it was permanent and could not be replaced or upgraded. This allowed Apple to create a much thinner case for the MacBook Pro at the expense of upgradeability.

So if you’re thinking about getting a MacBook Pro, you may want to be aware of what model you’re getting, that way if you ever want to make upgrades, you know if you’ll be able to or not.


The $1,100 MacBook Pro is able to be upgraded, and that’s one nice plus that it has going for itself. The newer Retina-equipped MacBook Pros can’t be tampered with, unfortunately, so this is something to be aware of.

Performance Specs

The cheapest Retina MacBook Pro costs $1,299, which is only $200 more than the non-Retina model. Looking at the specs, you might not think you need to spend that extra $200 to get the Retina model, but it’s important to note the difference between the specs of the non-Retina MacBook Pro and its newer Retina brethren.

From the listing, it looks as if the processors are essentially neck-and-neck, with the non-Retina MacBook Pro only have 100MHz less speed, but that’s not all. The newer Retina MacBook Pro comes with Intel’s Haswell processor, which provides better performance and longer battery life than the non-Retina MacBook Pro.

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As for memory, the difference is quite clear. The Retina model comes with 8GB of memory, while the non-Retina version only comes with 4GB. Based on my experience with both models, 8GB of memory can make a world of difference in performance.

Lastly, while the non-Retina MacBook Pro comes with 500GB of storage, it’s just a regular hard drive with slower speeds compared to the 128GB of flash storage on the Retina MacBook Pro. Frankly, we think the $200 price difference between the two MacBooks is worth the upgrade to flash storage alone, as the performance gains are huge there.

What’s Important to You?

If you’re looking to buy a new MacBook Pro, you have to decide what is more important to you: The latest and greatest processor and graphics, or the ability to upgrade your storage drive and memory whenever you see fit and a lower overall cost.


If upgradeability and price are more important, then the $1,100 MacBook Pro that Apple sells will be a good buy for you. Plus, you can tear it open and upgrade it at will. Of course, it won’t have the best processor on the market, but you plan on using it for casual browsing and light usage overall, it will do the trick.

If you’re looking to save even more money on a MacBook Pro, we actually have a handy guide on how to buy a cheap MacBook Pro, full of tips on where to look and what to look for in a MacBook Pro in order to save you lots of cash.

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