Many laptop-makers have come up with thinner and more innovative 13-inch laptops, such as the HP Spectre x360 with a 360-degree hinge and the Dell XPS 13 with a high-resolution display of 3,200 x 1,800 pixels.
But Apple has stuck to its guns.
Its latest 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display offers some useful improvements rather than eye-catching gimmicks, with the latest generation Intel Core "Broadwell" processor, new Intel Iris Graphics 6100 graphics-processing unit, faster flash storage and longer battery life. The Force Touch trackpad is its only new feature.
We reviewed the lowest-priced unit ($1,688), which has an Intel Core i5 2.7GHz dual-core processor, Intel Graphics 6100 graphics processor, 8GB of system memory and 128GB of flash storage.
Other than the upgrades already mentioned, the MacBook Pro design is unchanged, with a sleek unibody aluminium chassis, gorgeous Retina display and springy backlit keyboard.
Unlike the new 12-inch MacBook with its lone USB-C port, the new MacBook Pro has plenty of ports - a USB 3.0, an HDMI and an SD card slot on the right, and two Thunderbolt 2 ports, a USB 3.0 port and a headphone jack on the left.
The Force Touch trackpad can detect different amounts of pressure when you click, press or drag your fingers across its surface. This enables a wider range of responses, including a new gesture that Apple calls Force Click. This means that a simple click can be followed by a deeper press.
For example, you can Force Click on a word or phrase while browsing a Web page to look up its meaning or its background.
For now, the most useful function of Force Click may be to control the fast-forward speed in a video. It will take a while to get the hang of how much force you need to exert for the desired result, but once mastered, it becomes almost second nature.
One hopes that more developers will use Force Touch technology in their software. On my wish list would be the ability to use Force Touch to decide the quantity of dodging or burning in photo editing.
On the GeekBench 3 benchmark test, the new MacBook Pro scored 7,082, easily beating other Intel Core i5 laptops, including the Acer Aspire S7 (5,911) and Dell XPS 13 (5,644).
In the Blackmagic disk test, the MacBook Pro had an average writing speed of 650MB per second and an average reading speed of 1.3GB per second - much faster than most comparable models.
Starting up the OS X Yosemite takes only 13sec and it wakes up from sleep almost immediately. In addition, Adobe Photoshop 2014 CC starts up in only 2sec, with the editing of photos done swiftly. The Apple Final Cut Pro X professional video-editing suite is up and running in 3sec.
Playing the action role-playing game Diablo III at its maximum resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 pixels yields an average of 25 frames per second with all graphics settings switched to High. There is slight lag at times, but the performance is not bad for an integrated graphics processing unit.
In the less graphics-intensive Sim City with all graphics settings set to High, the performance was smooth and the frame rate healthy at 40 frames per second.
The battery life is much better compared with earlier MacBook Pros. It clocked an impressive 6hr 20min in our video loopback test - nearly 40min longer than its 15.4-inch cousin we tested previously.
If you want a really portable Mac, wait for the upcoming 12-inch MacBook. If you want a big, high-resolution screen with great computing power, get the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. If you want something in between, get this 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop.
Price: From $1,688
Display: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels
Processor: Intel Core i5 2.7GHz dual-core (customisable up to 3.1GHz Intel Core i7)
Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100
RAM: From 8GB (customisable up to 16GB)
Storage: From 128GB of flash storage (customisable up to 1TB of flash storage)
Connectivity: 2 x Thunderbolt 2, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x HDMI
Value for money 4/5
Battery life 5/5
This article was first published on Apr 15, 2015.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.