Is there an easy way to understand how Macbook pros evolved from 2011 to 2013?

It seems (to me at least) that until the retina display was introduced there were no revolutionary changes in the macbook pro line between 2011 and 2013 (just incremental processor upgrades).

Another way to ask the question would be: would an i7 macbook pro from 2011 be able to hold her own against an i7 2013 model? (By hold her own I mean would say: a java developer notice any real difference).


2 Answers 2


The big difference between the 2011 and non-Retina 2012 models (there are no 2013 models, as of May, 2013) is the move from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge, along with updated discrete graphics in the 15" model.

The Ivy Bridge processors bring a bit more speed, but more importantly for the MBP, they're more power efficient. That equates to improved battery life over the 2011 models, which is probably the most noticeable difference for everyday usage.

Depending on the tasks and specific models of CPU, Ivy bridge will probably yield a 5-10% performance improvement.

The other big addition is USB 3, which is a nice thing to have if you want high-performance external storage without paying the high costs of Thunderbolt drives.

  • thanks for the detailed response ... if we add MacBook Airs to the mix from the same year range -- how do they stack up? Commented May 19, 2013 at 22:32
  • Pretty similarly - the 2012 models got Ivy Bridge and USB 3, as well as MagSafe 2. More significantly, the 11" got bumped to 4 GB of RAM on the base model, and all the Airs got the option of upgrading to 8 GB, which is probably the most substantial improvement.
    – robmathers
    Commented May 20, 2013 at 14:38

I would download the Mactracker app (runs on Mac and/or iOS) to compare the specs. I've compared them briefly and those two models seem pretty similar to me, retina graphics aside. I'm happily using a mid 2009 MacBook Pro for iOS development, although I've upgraded it with 8GB of RAM and an SSD.

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