Five reasons to still love the 13-inch MacBook Pro Classic

Need FireWire or an optical drive? Then the last non-Retina MacBook Pro is for you.

One of the footnotes to Apple's recent press event introducing the iPad Air and updating the Retina Display MacBook Pro was the stay of execution given to the other MacBook Pro.

This thick semi-throwback wasn't even mentioned by Apple, but it still exists. Like the cast in an Agatha Christie mystery, however, its ranks are being depleted. First the 17-inch version vanished back in 2011, and immediately after the October 2013 Apple press event, the 15-inch version disappeared from Apple's site, leaving only the $1,199 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro, which we are now referring to as the MacBook Pro Classic.

For only $100 more, you can trade up to the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro, which has a much higher-resolution screen, current-gen Intel Core i5 processor, better integrated graphics, an HDMI output, and twin Thunderbolt 2 ports.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but there are still some reasons why you might want to go with the Classic. Check our list below and see if it's enough to keep you from going with the thinner, lighter Retina version.

Original MagSafe power adapter
Owners of multiple generations of MacBooks found themselves the odd man out with the launch of the 2012 MacBooks, and the switch to a new power connection. If you have a bunch of original MagSafe AC adapters lying around, the MacBook Pro Classic still works with them.

Workaround for Retina MacBook Pro: MagSafe to MagSafe 2 converter ($10)


Ethernet jack
The Ethernet jack is one of the first features ditched in the move to thinner, lighter, ultrabook-like laptops. But Wi-Fi can still be sketchy (in hotel rooms, for example), and sometimes you want to plug in to download a movie or game quickly.

Workaround for Retina MacBook Pro: USB Ethernet adapter ($29)


FireWire 800 port
It's not the most widely used data connection around, and is practically extinct on PCs, but if you really need a FireWire port, there's only one MacBook left that offers it.

Workaround for Retina MacBook Pro: FireWire 800-to-Thunderbolt adapter dongle ($29)


SuperDrive optical drive
The optical drive debate has taken up many an afternoon at the CNET Labs, but the clear trend, at least for laptops with screens under 15 inches, is to drop it, especially now that so much of your movie and game collection is probably downloaded.

Workaround for Retina MacBook Pro: USB SuperDrive ($79)


Battery indicator light
One of my favorite MacBook features was always the tiny button on the side of the system that lit up a row of LED lights when pressed, giving you a rough indication of remaining battery life. That way, you could check on the charge level without opening the lid or even turning on the system. That's sadly missing from all the other MacBooks now, but it lives on the MacBook Pro Classic.

There's no exact workaround for the MacBook Pro or Air, but the 9-to-12-plus battery life scores we've gotten from Apple laptops with fourth-generation Intel Core i-series processors does mean you're able to go a lot longer before checking up on your battery level.

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Laptops
About the author

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.

 

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