Editorial

There are only a few good reasons to buy the new 13-inch MacBook Pro

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The 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 chipset occupies a weird space in Apple's current Mac lineup — and there's little reason for most users to buy it.

During its WWDC 2022 keynote on Monday, Apple unveiled its M2 chipset that powers a newly redesigned MacBook Air. Alongside a wealth of new features, the 2022 MacBook Air has also received what is the most significant design overhaul to the model in years.

Weirdly, Apple also debuted a new 13-inch MacBook Pro model with the upgraded Apple Silicon. Unlike the MacBook Air, however, the new MacBook Pro doesn't feature really any changes from its predecessor.

Here's why the new MacBook Pro is a bit of a head-scratcher, and why you're probably better off choosing another Mac.

What you're missing on the 13-inch MacBook Pro

Both the new 13-inch MacBook Pro and the redesigned MacBook Air sport Apple's newest M2 chip, which is an incremental upgrade over the M1.

When it comes to the updates each model received, that's where the similarities end.

The new MacBook Air has an revamped design that's much thinner than its processors. It has an upgraded 1080p HD webcam, an upgraded four-speaker sound system, a MagSafe charging port, a larger 13.6-inch display, and new color options.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, has none of those features. It retains a design first introduced in 2016, it has no MagSafe charging port, and its display is 0.3 inches smaller than the MacBook Air's.

The MacBook Air has a new design and other significant features. The 13-inch MacBook Pro does not.
The MacBook Air has a new design and other significant features. The 13-inch MacBook Pro does not.

Besides the old version of the MacBook Air with an M1 chip that's still being sold, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the only current Mac that has an aging 720p FaceTime camera. Even the entry-level iPad has a nicer camera built in.

Oh, it also happens to be the only Mac in Apple's current lineup to keep the Touch Bar.

To put it another way, there's a much larger list of "missing" features on the new 13-inch MacBook Pro than new features. The device has an M2 chip, ProRes encoding and decoding, and a bit of extra battery life. That's it.

Why did Apple release a virtually unchanged 13-inch MacBook Pro?

Apple hasn't revealed why it's kept the 13-inch MacBook Pro — with an upgraded chip — on the roster. It's likely that the company won't ever confirm why.

Many Apple watchers took to Twitter after the Monday keynote to theorize about the curious device. Potential theories ranged from Apple getting rid of old parts that were sitting in warehouses to making a consistent device for IT departments.

More than that, the 13-inch MacBook Pro officially becomes available to order on June 17, while the new M2-equipped MacBook Air is still nowhere to be seen. Given the lack of changes, it makes sense that the MacBook Pro would be ready to go sooner, but it lends credence to the theory that Apple is offloading older parts.

The new MacBook Pro is virtually identical to the old one.
The new MacBook Pro is virtually identical to the old one.

Of course, the 13-inch MacBook Pro continues to have active cooling, which means it could sustain high performance workflows for longer than the fanless MacBook Air. That's the MacBook Pro's only advantage over the MacBook Air, and it might not even matter to most users.

Keeping the MacBook Pro virtually unchanged would actually make sense if it received a price drop. However, the 13-inch MacBook Pro retails for $1,299 — the same exact price as its predecessor. That's also $100 more expensive than the MacBook Air, which has enough new features to justify the cost.

Who is this device for?

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 is coming sooner than we thought. It's available for pre-order on June 17, with deliveries the following week.

This is surprising. Other than AirPower which completely missed that mark and was cancelled, when Apple says "by the end" of a time period, it means the last week and sometimes the last day in very small quantities.

Such are the perils of pre-recorded keynotes, we guess. Apple probably knew the day-of that the MacBook Pro was just about ready, and just decided to wait a week to capture media attention again.

And we expect that the "by the end" rule will apply for the new MacBook Air, given the state of the supply chain. Expect well into July, if not the very end for that.

But, that wait will be rewarded. Both the 13-inch MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro retail for $2,499 with maxed-out RAM and SSD specifications.

For the majority of users and in the majority of cases, that money is undoubtedly better spent on the MacBook Air. There could be a few exceptions to that, however.

If you work with heavy editing or CPU-intensive tasks, then the 13-inch MacBook Pro could provide sustained performance with its active cooling system. The addition of ProRes encoding and decoding also hints at the fact that the MacBook Pro is meant to be a portable field workstation.

There might be a few reasons to get the new M2-equipped model, but most users should go for another device.
There might be a few reasons to get the new M2-equipped model, but most users should go for another device.

The device also has the best battery life of any current Mac portable with an estimated 20-hour lifespan. If you frequently use your Mac away from a charger or outlet, then the 13-inch MacBook Pro's additional battery hours could prove useful.

And then there's the aforementioned enterprise customer, which typically thrives on consistency. If an IT department already manages a fleet of 13-inch MacBook Pro units, then the slight spec bump on the new model might make sense for increased performance.

And the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the only Mac to still feature a Touch Bar. If you're a fan of the small and customizable user interface — or you need one on an updated Mac for some reason — then the model might be for you.

Otherwise, get the new MacBook Air. You won't be sorry.