With most of the attention from Apple's hardware refresh event centered around iOS 6 and the new Retina MacBook Pro, the updated 2012 edition of the regular MacBook Pro has flown a little bit under the radar. Basically, it’s just an Ivy Bridge-infused version of the venerable unibody MacBook Pro chassis that we’ve known and loved for the last few years. The details don’t bring any particularly earth-shattering revelations, with 13” retaining the dual-core processor and integrated graphics, while the 15” makes the switch from AMD to Nvidia’s new Kepler-based GT 650M dedicated graphics. Along with Ivy Bridge, the 2012 MBP line gets HD 4000 graphics and USB 3.0 across the board, plus a free update to Mountain Lion when it releases later this summer. Naturally, it doesn’t generate the same kind of excitement that the all-new, all-awesome Retina MacBook Pro does. But is a less headline-worthy computer necessarily a worse one?

It’s pretty difficult to find things to write about the 2012 MacBook Pro hardware. You can essentially sum it up in one paragraph, or even one sentence if you try hard enough. The 2012 MBP looks exactly like the 2011 MBP, which looked exactly like the 2010 MBP, which looked exactly like the post-April 2009 MBP. It’s likely to be the last iteration of the original unibody MBP, giving this body style a 4.5 year run as one of the most instantly recognizable notebook computers on the market. I’m not going to go too far in depth with analyzing the design, because we’ve gone over it a few times over the years (here, here, here, here, here, and here. Oh and here too, just for good measure.)

It’s a solid notebook, that much is certain. From an SKU standpoint, Apple has kept things relatively straightforward, with a high end and a low end for both the 13” and 15” models. Starting at $1199, the MBP13 comes with a 2.5GHz Core i5-3210M, 4GB DDR3, and a 500GB HDD, while the higher end SKU bumps that to a 2.9GHz i5-3520M, 8GB DDR3, a 750GB HDD, and a $1499 pricetag. Other than the updated processor/integrated graphics and the addition of USB 3.0, the 13” is identical to the previous model that we covered in depth last year.

The 15” is a bit more interesting. The base $1799 SKU comes with a quad-core i7-3615QM (2.3GHz) and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M dGPU, but makes do with a paltry 4GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive. The standard memory and storage configuration in a nearly-$2000 notebook is pretty unacceptable. This being Apple, upgrade pricing is still a hair away from being highway robbery, but at least the matte WSXGA+ screen upgrade costs a reasonable $100. Thankfully, unlike the rMBP and MacBook Air, you can always opt to buy RAM and storage upgrades on your own.

2012 MacBook Pro Lineup Comparison
  15-inch Mid 2012 MacBook Pro MacBook Pro with Retina Display
Dimensions 0.95 H x 14.35 W x 9.82" D 0.71 H x 14.13 W x 9.73" D
Weight 5.6 lbs (2.54 kg) 4.46 lbs (2.02 kg)
CPU Core i7-3615QM Core i7-3720QM Core i7-3615QM
L3 Cache 6MB 6MB 6MB
Base CPU Clock 2.3GHz 2.6GHz 2.3GHz
Max CPU Turbo 3.3GHz 3.6GHz 3.3GHz
GPU Intel HD 4000 + NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
GPU Memory 512MB GDDR5 1GB GDDR5
System Memory 4GB DDR3-1600 8GB DDR3-1600 8GB DDR3L-1600
Primary Storage 500GB 5400RPM HDD 750GB 5400RPM HDD 256GB SSD
Optical Drive Y Y N
Display Size 15.4-inches
Display Resolution 1440 x 900 2880 x 1800
Thunderbolt Ports 1 2
USB Ports 2 x USB 3.0
Other Ports 1 x Firewire 800, 1 x Audio Line in, 1 x Audio Line out, SDXC reader, Kensington Lock slot SDXC reader, HDMI out, headphone out
Battery Capacity 77.5 Wh 95 Wh
Price $1799 $2199 $2199

The unit we’re looking at here is the high-end 15” SKU, with a 2.6GHz i7-3720QM and a 1GB version of the GT 650M, plus 8GB memory and a 750GB HDD. It rings up at $2199, which interestingly is the same as the base rMBP (i7-3615QM/8GB/256GB SSD/1GB GT 650M). I’m mostly certain that it’s not the configuration to get - you’re better served by getting a base 2.3GHz 15”, adding the $100 high-res screen, and grabbing a 256GB SSD (~$250) and an 8GB RAM upgrade (~$50) separately from Newegg or Amazon. Boom. You spend roughly the same $400, depending on your SSD choice (I would go Samsung SSD 830), and end up with a system with a better screen that’s faster in most day to day situations. Unless you have a really specific need for the extra 512MB vRAM or 300MHz clock speed increase, I’d recommend against it.

Performance and Battery Life - Ivy Bridge and Kepler At Work.
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  • Death666Angel - Friday, July 20, 2012 - link

    Please inform yourself before you make such statements. I don't know how this translates to the rest of Europe, but in Germany, Apple still only offers 1 year warranty (="Garantie"). Warranty is a voluntary service the manufacturer provides. The thing we get 2 years of is "Gewährleistung" which my online dictionary translates as "defects liability"/"guarantee"/"warranty". "Gewährleistung" is something you have with the retailer. However, after 6 months there is a shifting of the burden of proof which means you will have a hard time getting anything after that.
  • repoman27 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Or you could shell out for AppleCare and be covered for 3 years.

    I never go for the extended warranties personally because I fix my own stuff. I reckon that in a couple years eBay will be awash with MBPR parts. The device essentially breaks down into 14 components, making repairs super simple—If you can find a Torx Plus Security screwdriver. Trash your $2199-$3749 laptop? Part it out and you could recoup a good deal of that.

    Apple stuff rarely just gets tossed in the trash. I see beige and black boxes in dumpsters and on the curb all the time, but not usually Macs unless they're more than 10 years old.
  • joos2000 - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link


    Not cheap, but what is nowadays (if you want decent quality gear)?
  • pmhparis - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Not quite the same SSD speed, at present. Anand's numbers show that the SSD in the MBP is faster. Give it a few months & you may be able to get a faster SSD than the rMBP's but not right now.
  • nevertell - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Ethernet is still a lot more reliable than Wi-Fi. Imagine if you have to do some stuff to your router, then there is no other way than using the ethernet port.
    I believe that networking for any kind of a functional computational device is essential nowadays, then again, this isn't a device that is targeted at people who use their laptop for administering other devices or coding.

    Still, I can't wait for the day that lenovo will finaly send you their latest X, T and W series laptops.
    I would just love a X230 with 16 hour battery life and Thunderbolt, so I could just have an external GPU to game on it at home and excellent battery life and portability.
  • Freakie - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    Most routers come with USB ports so it's still manageable with a computer without ethernet. Though I do still think ethernet should stick around. Sometimes you find yourself in a place with crappy WiFi but a readily available ethernet port (office buildings, universities, ect.). Plus if you're doing online gaming on a laptop, getting yourself some CAT6e or CAT7 cables supposedly makes that little bit of difference xP
  • pmhparis - Thursday, July 19, 2012 - link

    What exactly is the point of your comment in an article about the non retina MBP given that it has an integrated ethernet port?

    Even for a rMBP all it takes is a $30 TBolt<>Ethernet cable? That's what make it too hard for you?
  • SongEmu - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Yup, did just that. Got a late 2011 MBP 15", put in an SSD and a hard drive caddy to replace the optical drive. Power button to login screen in 16 seconds, costs less than $1600 with no tax, no shipping. Got Parallels for free with it.
  • olivebranch2006 - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Just purchased a Thinkpad T530 with Full HD 1920x1080 display with 95% color accuracy, not this 67% on the MBP.
    Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor
    NVIDIA NVS 5400M Graphics with Optimus Technology, 1GB DDR3 Memory
    Keyboard Backlit - US English
    720p HD Camera with Microphone
    320GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200rpm
    DVD Recordable
    9 Cell Li-Ion TWL 70++
    Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN
    with 4 year onsite warranty with accidental protection. All this with the carbon fiber-reinforced plastic shell and internal magnesium roll cage the Thinkpad T series is famous for.

    Guess how much? $1,530 total with tax/shipping.

    Beat that apple. The Macbook is purchased for two reasons:

    1. You like OS X. Which is fine, I think OS X is a great OS with low level audio/video optimizations that windows can't beat. I prefer Windows better.
    2. A lifestyle choice.
  • dartox - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - link

    Maybe, but you haven't noticed that the 650m inside the MacBook Pro is far superior to the card you have there in the Thinkpad. In fact, last year's MacBook Pro still has faster graphics than the Thinkpad. Not to mention that (although Thinkpads are known for being durable/reliable), nothing can touch the unibody build quality of these MBPs. For a couple hundred dollars more, a Mac fills in all the (albeit minor) gaps that the Thinkpad has.

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