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Without an event, Apple quietly announced an updated base model 13-inch MacBook Pro that featured new quad-core processors, Touch Bar with Touch ID, T2 Security Chip, True Tone display, and an updated butterfly keyboard. Is this new $1299 laptop worth it?
We thought that the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, formerly with Function Keys was dead. Last updated in 2017, it had been left behind by several updates to the models with Touch Bar.
But, those function keys are now gone. I'm personally not a fan of the Touch Bar, I much prefer the traditional function keys because they are physical buttons I can press and interact with, but the Touch Bar is what you make of it, though. You can do a lot of the basic functionalities on a https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/07/20/review-apples-2019-13-inch-macbook-pro-is-an-excellent-inexpensive-workhorse like adjust the screen brightness and volume, but you can also quickly pick out an emoji, or scrub through a YouTube video in Safari. If you're using first party pro apps like Final Cut Pro X or Logic, the Touch Bar can give you shortcuts to your editing tools to help you make edits quicker.
The addition of Touch ID is also really convenient for unlocking your MacBook Pro or authenticating passwords for sites or apps. I wouldn't say it's a game changer, but it is nice to have to not type in your password every once in a while.
Bright, colorful, and accurate
The display on the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro is beautiful. It's bright which tops out at 500 nits of brightness, and it supports P3 wide color gamut so it's color-accurate.
We think the MacBook Pro's display is one of the best displays on any laptop out in the market right now. If you're a photographer or a video creator, you'll enjoy using this laptop to edit photos or videos.
The addition of True Tone is also a nice feature that was previously only available on the higher tier MacBook Pros. True Tone essentially adjusts the color temperature of your display based on the environment you're in which helps for a more comfortable viewing experience.
I've turned this feature on maybe once or twice to test it out, and I didn't really find it all that useful since I'm always editing photos or videos when I'm using this computer, and need the color-accuracy. It is a feature that is of more use when color precision isn't strictly necessary, like surfing, gaming, or social media consumption
The updated butterfly keyboard is similar to the refreshed 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro we reviewed a few months ago, our opinions haven't changed much since then. Under these keys are these new key dome metals and membrane materials that are slightly different than the previous versions.
What this will do in the long run, isn't exactly clear right now. But, these materials also the reason why these keys may feel a bit softer than previous iterations. The key travel is almost non-existent, although they are a lot quieter now versus the older 2017 base model MacBook Pro.
The keyboard may start acting up a few months down the road, but for now it's working like it should. But, even if it does end up breaking, Apple will repair your keyboard at no cost for four years from the point of sale.
The speakers on this base model MacBook Pro haven't changed much from 2017. Despite being a hair smaller, it sounds relatively the same as it did in 2017. It sounds great for such a small laptop, and I've watched movies or YouTube videos on here for hours, as well as listen to a few of my Spotify playlists which vary from Hip-Hop, Country, and Pop.
The MacBook Pro speakers continue to be amongst the best laptop speakers, with the difference made more dramatic when comparing to a few Windows laptops that's this small and at this price point.
Impressive for a base model
When it comes to performance, our base model 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 1.4GHz i5 quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and Intel Iris Plus 645 runs really well. In our initial first look, we were surprised how well it did in benchmark tests, and we compared it to the now mid-tier 13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports and the scores between the two were so small.
Geekbench 4 single and multi-core scores
With Geekbench, our base model 13-inch MacBook Pro received a single thread score of 4761 and a multi-core score of 16932. Comparing that score to the $1799 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.4GHz quad-core i5 processor, that machine got a single core score of 4993 and a multi-core score of 18283.
Cinebench R20 CPU score
Moving on to Cinebench R20, in our testing, the 13-inch MacBook Pro posted a CPU score of 1583 which is not bad at all at this price point. For comparison, the $1799 13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports posted a CPU score of 1779.
Unigine Heaven results
With everything set to default, we decided to run Unigine Heaven several times to find out how the Intel Iris Plus 645 graphics performs under load. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro got a score of 784, and an average frames per second of 31.1 with a max frames per second of 66.7.
If you're looking to game on your Mac or if you rely heavily on the graphics card, we recommend picking up an external graphics solution — and we have some suggestions for enclosures if you go this way.
SSD is slower, but not the slowest
Moving on to BlackMagic's Disk Speed Test, the $1299 base model 13-inch MacBook Pro tops out at around 495MB/s for its write speeds and around 1350MB/s for its read speeds. Not the fastest drive the Apple offers, but it's still leagues better than a spinning hard drive, and faster than SATA drives.
Speeds increase a bit with the larger drive because of increased parallelization, and again still on the $1799 13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Final Cut Pro
If you're a video creator and you're curious about Final Cut Pro X's performance, we compiled five minutes of 4K H.264 footage, we then added color grading, and exported the same timeline several times with background rendering on and off. And with it on, we got an exported file at 2 minutes and 45 seconds and with background rendering off, it exported the video at 10 minutes and 26 seconds.
For context, my daily computer, the 2018 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.6GHz 6-core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and Radeon Pro 560X graphics exported the video in 1 minute and 55 seconds with background rendering on, and 8 minutes and 15 seconds with background rendering off. Whether or not the 50 second difference is worth big money, is up to the reader to decide.
The 1.4GHz i5 quad-core processor works like a charm in most scenarios and we haven't run into any issues in real world usage. The T2 chip helps with some encoding jobs. We've discussed this before, but given that the 2017 model has the T1 chip, there will be notable differences in encode times versus the old model.
Battery life on this base model 13-inch MacBook Pro is very good. We were able to use this laptop for nine to ten hours consistently for everyday use, with expectedly less when using Chrome or doing other tasks hitting the processor hard for long periods of time.
Whether we were browsing the web, writing on Google Docs in Safari, watching a few YouTube videos or movies, and doing some light photo editing work, this laptop proved to lasts for hours.
Starting at $1399, it's the best bang for the buck MacBook
For $1399 with the base specs, it's a great entry to Apple's pro line of laptops. Sure, you're not getting super high end specs, but this laptop is more than capable of doing everyday tasks like photo editing, video editing, as well as give you great battery life that will last for hours.
However, if you're looking to upgrade the RAM or SSD, the price can go up quite a bit. If you were to configure the base model 13-inch MacBook Pro with 16GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD you're looking at $1699, which is closing in on the mid-tier, four Thunderbolt 3 Port 13-inch MacBook Pro at $1799 that packs a slightly better processor, two additional Thundetbolt 3 ports, but with only 8GB of RAM.
If you're a student or you're looking for a new laptop for Photoshop work, video editing or something to help you complete your work, this new MacBook Pro is the one you should pick up. Sure, the storage is a miniscule 128GB, but you can always pick up an external SSD, network storage, or a cloud service to aid this issue, and they're also a lot cheaper than upgrading the laptop through Apple.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
How to save on Apple's new MacBook Pro
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Those looking for the lowest price period on a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar should also check out closeout discounts on 2018 13-inch MacBook Pros, potentially saving shoppers hundreds of dollars while supplies last.