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Apple updates 13-inch MacBook Pro, adding Retina Display, for $1,699

It's a new, thinner, high-res version of Apple's 13-inch workhorse.

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Editor's note: We've updated this First Take with hands-on impressions from Scott Stein at the Apple press event.

The 13-inch Retina Display Pro feels thin and very compact, nearly the same as an Air at the back, but also like a 13-inch thicker Pro with half of the bottom cut out. It's heavier than most ultrabooks, but not by much.

It feels good, which isn't surprising: this is the same inner design for the most part as the 15-inch Pro, and similar in spirit to the Pro and Air. The display looks every bit as excellent as its 15-inch brother, even though the pixel count is a tiny bit lower here: it's still miles beyond other 13-inch laptops, and it shows. However, like the other Retina Pro, you’ll have to get close to appreciate the fine detail. Based on my very brief time with the 13-inch Retina Pro after Apple's event, I admired its compactness even more than the display.

At the $1,699 price, this is a premium product. You probably won’t escape buying it without some addition flash storage bump-ups, unless you enjoy living with 128GB of storage. I don't. But, even then, this could be the ideal MacBook, provided you could somehow afford it. The Air is a more affordable thin Mac, and the thicker Pro is the value play. Nevertheless, this is the 13-incher I'd want to buy.

Apple has announced a 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, which joins the 15-inch version introduced in June. The new 13-inch MacBook is thinner, measuring 0.75 inch, and lighter than previous models at 3.57 pounds, with a much higher screen resolution.

The 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro immediately became the high-end flagship of Apple's laptop line. This left the current 13-inch Pro a bit of an odd man out, with mainstream consumers flocking to the MacBook Air, and power users better served by the Retina and non-Retina 15-inch Pro. It was getting hard to figure out exactly who the 13-inch MacBook Pro was aimed at, besides users who still needed an optical drive in a 13-inch OS X laptop.

James Martin/CNET

Unlike the late, great 17-inch MacBook Pro, the 13-inch model held on. Still, it was too thick, compared with a year's worth of 13-inch ultrabooks, and its low screen resolution didn't help justify the $1,199 price.

For $1,699, the new 13-inch Retina Pro won't make a believer out of anyone who already thinks MacBooks are too expensive. For the extra $500, you do get a plethora of additional features, however.

The 13-inch display now has a native resolution of 2,560x1,600 pixels, which is only slightly less than the 15-inch Pro's 2,880x1,800-pixel resolution -- and both are miles beyond the 1,280x800-pixel screen found in the previous, non-Retina 13-inch Pro.

Previously leaked photos have already hinted at this, so it's little surprise that the 13-inch Retina Pro has a similar expanded port layout to the 15-inch version's, with dual Thunderbolt/DisplayPort jacks and an HDMI out.

James Martin/CNET

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display will be available in two base models, starting at $1,699 and $1,999. Again, both have a 2,560x1,600-pixel native resolution. The specs for each are as follows:

$1,699, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

  • 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 8GB 1,600MHz RAM
  • 128GB solid-state drive (SSD)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000

$1,999, 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

  • 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
  • 8GB 1,600MHz RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
James Martin/CNET

Going up from the base model, you can add a dual-core 2.9GHZ Core i7 CPU for $200 and a 512GB or 768GB SSD for $500 or $1,000, respectively.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display will be available starting now.

The non-Retina Display 13-inch MacBook Pro will remain in the lineup starting at $1,199 alongside the 15-inch version at $1,799.

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