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Watch: 2017 13" MacBook Pro vs. 2017 12" Retina MacBook

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Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar and 12-inch Retina MacBook were recently updated with Intel's latest-generation Kaby Lake processors. They both start at a base price of $1,299, but what are the differences, and which one is right for you?

Going by specifications alone, the 12-inch Retina MacBook only tops the 13-inch MacBook Pro in terms of the SSD with twice the amount of base storage. The write speed is also 65 percent faster than the Pro's, but that's not as important as read speed, which is actually 61 percent faster on the MacBook Pro.

If you're interested in style or portability, the 12-inch MacBook is the option for you. It's much thinner and lighter than the MacBook Pro, and comes in additional gold and rose gold color options.

But if horsepower is what you need, the MacBook Pro is the better choice. It matches or beats the Retina MacBook in every benchmark, has a bigger and better screen with 500 nits of brightness and DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut, and the RAM is clocked at a higher 2133MHz speed.

Apple says both models have second-generation butterfly key switches, but in our tests, the keys on the Pro have more travel and a "clickier" feel, making them better suited for touch typists.

The MacBook Pro also gets a larger trackpad and better speakers with a comparatively broad dynamic range. Although the 12-inch MacBook fares well, the sound is dominated by high notes coming from the tweeters, which compares poorly against the full range of audio from the Pro.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro also has a better FaceTime camera, with a high-definition 720p sensor, compared to non-HD 480p on the 12-inch MacBook.

The 12-inch Retina MacBook only has a single USB-C port, while the MacBook Pro boasts two that support Thunderbolt 3. In contrast, the 12-inch MacBook only supports the Gen 1 USB 3.1 protocol, limiting transfer speeds to 5Gbps. That compares to 10Gbps with Gen 2 USB 3.1 on the MacBook Pro. Users can also upgrade to four USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports if they choose the MacBook Pro model with Touch Bar and Touch ID, which aren't options for the 12-inch MacBook.

The 13-inch model also has faster integrated graphics in the Intel Iris Plus 640. The 12-inch MacBook boasts the less capable HD 615 integrated GPU.

Both base models have Intel's latest 7th-generation dual-core processors. The fanless 12-inch MacBook only gets a 1.2GHz core M3 chip, configurable to i5 and i7 silicon, while the Pro gets a 2.3GHz i5 processor that Turbo Boosts up to 3.6GHz. By contrast, the base 12-inch MacBook only boosts to 3.0GHz.

Applying benchmarks to the hardware illustrates the differences. In the popular Cinebench R15 CPU test, the Pro got a 52 percent better score, as well as a 50 percent better score in the graphics test. Geekbench 4 showed a 31 percent higher score in single-core performance, and 40 percent in multi-core for the Pro model. The GPU test also showed a massive improvement of 81 percent over the 12-inch model. In Octane 2.0, a web browser benchmark, the MacBook Pro comes out on top with a 39 percent better overall score. Unigen Heaven also crowned the Pro as the winner with a huge 83 percent improvement over the MacBook.

The base model 13-inch MacBook Pro impressively handles complex computational tasks. For example, we were able to comfortably edit 4K video, as well as large photos in Photoshop and Lightroom. We tried the same tasks on the 12-inch MacBook, but editing was unbearably slow.

Better yet, the 13-inch MacBook Pro stays cooler, mostly due to the fanless design on the 12-inch MacBook.

As expected, all of this extra power comes with extra power draw. We ran a 1440p video on YouTube on both models for one hour, with screen brightness locked in at the highest setting, and found the Pro used 21 percent of battery life compared to 19 percent on the Retina MacBook.

After all these tests, we can clearly see how handily 13-inch MacBook Pro outperforms the 12-inch MacBook, all for the same amount of cash. Some users may feel they don't need the extra power, but are you certain you won't need it a year or two from now? And don't forget the rest of the advantages you get with the 13-inch MacBook Pro: at least two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a better screen, better speakers, bigger trackpad, superior camera, and more.

So if you're deciding on which model to buy, you have to ask yourself whether you value portability over pretty much everything else.

Where to buy

Readers can save $70 at Apple authorized reseller Adorama on both the Mid 2017 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro thanks to our exclusive $50 off promo code APINSIDER on top of a $20 instant discount. Adorama also will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ, offering many shoppers another $100+ in savings. The models retailing for $1,299 can be found below, while a full list of qualifying configurations can be found in our 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro Price Guides.

For instructions on redeeming the code, please visit our guide on how to save $70 to $120 on 2017 MacBook Pros.

Mid 2017 12-inch MacBooks

12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Silver for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)

12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Space Gray for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)

12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Gold for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)

12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Rose Gold for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)

* Price with promo code APINSIDER using the pricing links above. Adorama will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ. Prices in red reflect total savings off MSRP.

Mid 2017 13-inch MacBook Pros

13" (2.3GHz 8GB 128GB) Space Gray for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)

13" (2.3GHz 8GB 128GB) Silver for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ) - In stock & ready to ship

* Price with promo code APINSIDER using the pricing links above. Adorama will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ. Prices in red reflect total savings off MSRP.

Save $50 on boxed AppleCare

Adorama is also closing out remaining stock of boxed AppleCare for 13-inch MacBook Pros with a $50 instant discount, bringing the price down to $199.00.