13-inch MacBook Pro
Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro is the company's entry-level Pro notebook, representing the best combination of price and performance in the range. For $300 more than the MacBook Air, you get faster performance and longer battery life. Maximum SSD storage is 2TB and the MacBook Pro includes a Touch Bar. It has battery life at up to 17 hours, and it still includes the latest Magic Keyboard.
● 2560 x 1600 13.3-inch Retina Display
● Apple M1 chip
● Touch Bar and Touch ID
● Latest Magic Keyboard
● 8GB or 16GB RAM, storage up to 2TB SSD
● Up to 17 hours battery life
● Two Thunderbolt 3 ports
● Starting at $1,299
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The entry-level MacBook Pro, with 256GB of storage and Apple M1 chip, makes a compelling step up from the MacBook Air. You can configure this variant with up to 2TB of storage, though the processor is identical regardless of model.
If you want a bigger screen, more ports, or faster chipsets, the 16-inch MacBook Pro has not received Apple's custom silicon yet. Apple still sells the Intel variants, but they benchmark lower than the M1 editions of the 13-inch model.
13-inch MacBook Pro features
After years powering the iPhone and iPad for years, Apple's custom processors now also power the Mac. The company uses different mobile processors in the new Macs as Apple has a specific system-on-a-chip architecture for desktop-class machines. Apple calls this first custom Mac chip the M1.
The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro uses the Apple-made M1 chip, which improves performance over the 10th-generation Intel chips in the early 2020 equivalents. The version of the M1 in the new MacBook Pro has an eight-core CPU and an eight-core GPU. Apple says the new notebook is up to 2.8x faster with 5x faster graphics than its early 2020 counterpart.
Apple didn't update the higher-end variants with four Thunderbolt 3 ports for late 2020. The company is still selling the early 2020 models with 10th-generation Intel Ice Lake chips for those tiers. The company says it will take two years before completing its transition from Intel to Apple Silicon. Some speculation suggests Apple will introduce a four-port 14-inch MacBook Pro running a higher-powered M1 processor in 2021.
While the newest MacBook Air is completely fan-less, the late 2020 MacBook Pro retains an active cooling system to allow its M1 chip to handle greater workloads.
Apple made its first custom silicon out of necessity because Intel did not want to design chips for the iPhone. Being forced to make its own chips allowed Apple to vertically integrate its processors to optimize performance for its devices and software. The Apple A-series chips became the most powerful and efficient mobile chipsets available, with Qualcomm and Intel struggling to keep up.
Apple says the late 2020 MacBook Pro delivers the longest battery life of any Mac in history. The company estimates the new M1 model will offer up to 17 hours of battery life for wireless web browsing and up to 20 hours for video playback.
Those estimates are up to 10 hours beyond what the early 2020 Intel-based models provided. Early tests and benchmarks show these claims are accurate.
The Magic Keyboard has finally propagated through Apple's product line, with the 13-inch MacBook Pro being the last to receive it in May 2020. Even with multiple revisions, the Butterfly keyboard couldn't shake its issues with sticky keys and higher fail rates.
Apple has balanced travel and stability in the Magic Keyboard, and no reliability issues have surfaced.
Apple revealed its latest keyboard design with the 16-inch MacBook Pro in fall 2019. In 2020, the firm updated the MacBook Air and even iPad Pro with the new keyboard. The pro-level notebook with Magic Keyboard arrived in May.
A few other popular additions accompanied the return of the scissor-switch mechanism. The physical escape key returned, with the Touch ID button flanking the Touch Bar on the other side. The new keyboard also uses inverted-T arrow keys.
The late 2020 model with M1 chip offers improved video-chat capabilities. While the laptop still has a 720p webcam, the M1 uses Apple’s newest image signal processor for improved image quality. The new ISP adds greater dynamic range, better noise reduction, and superior auto white balance and machine-learning-enhanced face detection. This can combine to make you look clearer in FaceTime or Zoom calls.
In addition to the M1 models with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, Apple also still sells 13-inch MacBook Pro variants with Intel processors and four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Those four-port models include a 10th-generation "Ice Lake" Intel processor.
For more performance, users can configure the Intel variants with up to a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 which can turbo boost to 4.1GHz. However, these models still fall short of the M1 variant's benchmarks.
A maxed-out 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 10th-generation Intel quad-core i7 2.3GHz processor, 32GB of RAM, and 4TB of storage will cost $3,599. While this is deep into 16-inch MacBook Pro pricing, or even a good iMac Pro price point, some customers may gravitate towards that balance of portability and power.
The refreshed model's screen has the same 13.3-inch backlit LED with IPS, with 2560 x 1600 resolution. Apple brands the screen as a Retina display with True Tone and P3 color gamut.
Late 2020 vs. Early 2020 MacBook Pro
Comparing the early and late 2020 models, processing is the most significant difference. The late 2020 two-port variant uses Apple Silicon, with its M1 chip offering big speed, graphics, and battery-life boosts.
Apple says the new notebook is up to 2.8x faster with 5x faster graphics. The M1 also boosts battery life, with the company estimating up to 20 hours of video playback. This doubles the 10-hour estimate in the Intel variants. The two Thunderbolt 3 ports also see an upgrade in the M1 model, now supporting USB 4.
The two models' designs are identical, and Apple offers the same RAM and storage options.
2019 MacBook Pro vs. early 2020 MacBook Pro
At a glance, you'll find significant physical differences between the two models. The change from a Butterfly Keyboard to the Magic Keyboard is immediately apparent. The physical escape key and inverted arrow keys are noticeable, and the other differences are evident when typing. The butterfly mechanisms offer less travel and have a "mushy" feel compared to the scissor-switch keys.
After the keyboard, the differences become harder to find. Apple didn't do a full processor revision but did update the top of the line with the latest 10th-generation chipsets. The 2020 model has double the storage for the same price across the board, which means new customers are better off getting the newer model for memory alone.
Early 2020 MacBook Air vs. Early 2020 MacBook Pro
Since these devices have the same keyboard and screen size, it's best to look at design differences and processing power. The MacBook Air is meant to be the smallest and lightest MacBook for sale, which means some sacrifices had to be made for that thinness.
The baseline MacBook Air starts at $999 for the base model, which comes with a 10th-generation Intel i3 at 1.1GHz and 256GB of storage. Any upgrades to this model bring you right into MacBook Pro pricing, so the only advantage such a purchase would provide is thinness and portability.
The $999 price point is the killer feature of the MacBook Air, $300 under the MacBook Pro. Those who need portability or budget above all else already know what they need.
Late 2019 16-inch vs. Early 2020 13-inch
At first glance, physical size is the most noticeable difference between these two. However, there are major tradeoffs between the two MacBook Pro models. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the more powerful model, offering discrete GPU options and massive storage. Video professionals and app developers are two examples of the machine's target audience.
The 13-inch variant wins out for size and weight, giving users a powerful machine that can fit in most situations. The lack of a discrete GPU can be remedied with an external GPU, however, due to the Thunderbolt 3 ports.
You'll be spending nearly double just to get in the door for the 16-inch model. However, professional creators who need this device are likely already prepared to pay the price. Apple didn't update it in 2020, so it doesn't have 10th-generation Intel processors. But with the base configuration including a 6-core Intel i7 processor at 2.6GHz and dedicated GPU, it packs plenty of punch.
13-inch MacBook Pro Review
In AppleInsider's review, we noted the M1 model's unprecedented balance of power, battery life, and price.
On the transition to Apple Silicon
"With its new M1 chip, Apple is introducing an unusually early update to the 13-inch model that it last enhanced in May. The refresh isn't just early, it's radical — delivering an entirely new silicon architecture that's as fundamentally rethought as the new look and feel of the freshly released macOS 11 Big Sur.
"The new architecture draws its lineage from the custom work Apple has been doing over the last dozen years to develop a fast, ultra-power efficient silicon powering its mobile devices. My impression of setting up and using an M1 Mac is very similar to new iPad — everything feels intuitively quick and responsive, from the moment you lift the lid and the machine instantly wakes.
"Until now, Apple Silicon has been constrained by the tight thermal limits of iPhones and iPads. With the larger batteries, and the potential for active cooling with a fan, the efficient M1 architecture can scale up its processing power, without losing its efficient by design nature."
"No matter how great Apple's new M1 Macs are at blazing through benchmarks and remaining alive while playing movies across 14 hours of a transatlantic flight, they are never going to become broadly popular if they are not able to run the software that users want and need to run.
"Previous attempts to compete with conventional Intel PC notebooks, from Linux netbooks to Microsoft's Surface RT, to Google's Chromebook concept, have previously tried to use cheaper or more mobile-efficient chips to cut one of the most expensive PC components: its Intel brain. But while they were indeed much cheaper, their biggest fault was nearly always that they couldn't run enough of the apps users needed. Buyers largely weren't enticed.
"Right out of the gate, Apple has done a tremendous amount of work to translate existing Mac apps written for Intel in real time on M1 Macs. The most obvious component is Rosetta 2, a software feature of Big Sur that adapts apps to run on the M1."
Performance and Efficiency
"It was even more impressive that this new M1 MacBook Pro could scream through such a task even faster than my year-old Intel 16-inch MacBook Pro equipped with an 2.9GHz 6 core Intel i9, and with 32GB of RAM — twice as much as the M1 Mac. Yet the M1 still finished in 4:22 compared to 6:22 on the Intel Mac.
"Even more impressively, the M1 MacBook Pro never got hot enough to kick on its fan, remaining entirely silent through the entire process. The Intel Mac started up its fans after just a couple minutes, and continued to run for several minutes after it finished the task.
"I monitored the surface temperature of the two machines using an infrared thermometer. The M1 MacBook Pro reached a peak surface temperature of 97F (36C), while the i9 MacBook Pro was already at 104F (40C) just sitting at idle, and creeped up to 114F (46C) after 5 minutes into the task.
"That indicates that the new M1 MacBook Pro isn't just more conservative with using its fan than previous Intel Macs. Instead, it actually doesn't need it as much. Apple ships the same chip in its new MacBook Air without a fan at all.
"The result is not only a quieter computing experience, but also a much cooler back surface. Intel MacBooks can quickly get to the point where they are uncomfortably warm on your lap. In most of my testing, the MacBook remained nearly cool to the touch."
13-inch MacBook Pro Pricing
The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299 for a version with M1 chip, 256GB storage, 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage.