i am writing this Above a tray table on my fifth flight in 3 weeks. That’s a lot of cross-country travel after 2 years of largely not leaving my one-bedroom apartment. When it rains, it rains, I think. Up until this flight, the 14-inch MacBook Pro has been a constant travel companion, rarely leaving my sight, lest the Find My app send panic signals.
Given how stagnant the pandemic has struck most of us, portability likely hasn’t entered many of our gadget-buying decisions — certainly not in the way it used to be. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro sheds half a pound from its bigger, older brother, which weighs 3 pounds on the nose. The change in my bag is immediately apparent, and my back is thanking me for it.
The new model is as thick as 14-inches (in fact, it’s exactly 0.01cm thick), but the overall footprint is more compact due to the smaller screen. As someone who always finds herself working on flights, I can tell you that airplane seats are one of those places in the world where a centimeter here or there is a really good difference (I’m comfortable). don’t make + upgrade money, guys)
There are standard trade-offs, of course. If you’ve ever shopped for a laptop, you know the mental math—screen size and portability are inversely proportional. On my part, the March 2020 conversation looked very different than today. Get on half a dozen flights and suddenly you’re reminded why you were so worried about such things in the first place.
The thing is, much of what I just wrote will become largely controversial a few weeks from now. Of course, Apple’s new chip is the real selling point of this new Pro, but with the M2 the laptop’s exclusivity is going to increase in just a few weeks, when the new Air arrives. As far as moments of glory go, it’s pretty short-lived — and honestly, it’s no surprise that the company didn’t stick to this model very long during its WWDC keynote. Above all, the new Pro feels like a stopgap—and not a particularly long one, at that.
Bring your mind back to November 2020, when Apple launched a trio of Macs: a MacBook Pro, an Air, and a Mini. At the time, the new silicon was likely good enough for super-charged sales. The company has had several great quarters of PC revenue since then. What the devices lacked, however, was any way of meaningful redesign for external hardware.
The prospect of “holding a while” for the next update is a tricky one, especially with a notoriously tight company like Apple. When you’re not 100% sure what’s around the corner, sometimes you bite the bullet and buy new equipment that you really need right now. But in the case of the 13-inch Pro — which, like its late 2020 model, features new silicon in an older chassis — we can say with 100% certainty that we know exactly what’s around the bend. Is. Not only that, but we have a pretty good impression that it’s going to get better in the most important ways.
In this case we have a strange artifact. In evolutionary science, this is known as a “transitional form”—a link between two species. In this case, it has moved up the evolutionary ladder in the brain department, while its body has yet to follow. It’s a form that comes with a few vestigial organs. For the time being, at least, reports of the Touch Bar’s death were moderately exaggerated. If you’ve fallen in love with that input device over the years (I’ve learned through my stories in recent weeks that such people really do exist), buy now or keep your peace forever. However, you’ll be trading many of the new MacBook’s best features for peripherals.
Before we go any further, let’s break down the relatively similar models. This is a review of the Pro, so will have to go through it first.
- touch bar
- Better audio capture—especially the same three-mic array you get with the 14-inch . but will get
- A built-in fan-based cooling system for those occasions that you really push the M2 to its limits (which, Apple will happily tell you, are few and far between for most users)
- You’re Devin and you just, like, really hate hate, man
- Longer battery (20 hours versus 18 stated), courtesy of the 58.2-watt-hour battery (the Air’s is 52.6%)
- You can buy it now.
Alright, it’s time for the wind. let’s watch:
- Larger screen (13.6 inches vs. 13.3) with new display technology (Liquid Retina vs. Retina)
- new design and color
- MagSafe (I’ll trade the Touch Bar for the new MagSafe in a sec, but that’s just me)
- 0.3 pounds lighter
- 0.17 inch thin
- Advanced Camera (1080 to Pro K780)
- function keys
Oh, and with a starting price of $1,119, it’s also $100 cheaper (though it’s worth noting here that both are still worth more than the 2020 Air’s $999 starting price). Beyond the above, the products are largely similar in terms of specifications. Both have an 8-core M2, along with a GPU configurable with up to 10 cores (as I’m currently using to write this story). Memory is configurable up to 24GB and storage up to 2TB.
Of course, I have to caution by saying that I haven’t touched the M2 Air beyond a few cursory impressions and photos at WWDC a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how factors such as the cooling system affect the performance of the new chip face-to-face. For now, though, I can say with confidence—barring any major laptop-related emergency—I’d wait a couple of weeks for the Air to arrive if you’re on the fence between the two. Ultimately, I doubt I’d recommend the Air for frequent travelers and the 14-inch Pro for those with more resource-intensive work demands.
None of this is to say that the 13-inch MacBook is a bad device. It is definitely not. This is effectively the last 13-inch MacBook wrapped around a better processor. It’s hard to be mad about it. It’s just that, in the line with the 14-inch MacBook Pro and the upcoming 13-inch Air, it seems completely unnecessary. It’s not a complaint you can often level against a company like Apple, which has traditionally taken great pains to curate its product lines. And while more choice is generally a good thing, for most consumers in most situations, it’s clearly not a difficult decision.
At first glance, things can get a little confusing even on the chip side. The short version is effectively this: The M2 is a nice upgrade from the M1, but the M1 Max and Pro are still going to outperform the most meaningful metrics. This also means that the company has set the basic release pattern here – the main M line chip first, followed by the Max and Pro variants. The cadence of the release remains a question, though it doesn’t seem likely that the company will be able to keep up on the mobile side.
The M2 gives the MacBook a decent performance as compared to the M1. The system scored 1939 and 8955 in the single and multicore tests, respectively. That’s a nice, healthy bump over the 2020 M1 MacBook’s 1711 and 7549—which boost up by about 13% and 19%, respectively. It also outperformed the MacBook Pro’s M1 Max’s 1781 single-core test, though the device still completely smoked the 8-core M2 at 1267 in the multicore test.
The system performed equally well on Intel testing running through Rosetta 2, at 1485 on single core and 6992 on multicore. Compare that to the 2020 Pro’s 1265 and 5704 and the 2021’s 1348 and 9949, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of where it lands. The system really impresses on single core and does quite well on multicore tasks, although it (presumably) may not touch the max on the latter. However, for day-to-day tasks, you’re looking at a nice upgrade over the M1 here. Apple’s progress in first-party silicon has been impressive to watch.
The GPU gains are pretty impressive here. Apple’s vision of becoming a more serious gaming powerhouse seems much closer than it did only 3 years ago. Of course, much remains to be done on this front.
In the battery rundown (video streaming on Apple TV+), the laptop outperformed last year’s MacBook Air test, adding 30 minutes to its 16 hours. Incidentally, I just got back to the hotel, and after writing, listening to music, and generally multitasking on the plane, the battery is about 80%.
It’s great that Apple upgraded the on-board microphone here. This is a nice touch for those who frequently use their laptops for teleconferencing. But the new mic array finally calls attention to the older 720p camera system. After 2 years of the remote work revolution, there’s no excuse not to have a decent camera on your $1,300 laptop. As we noted with the release of the M1, new ISPs may go the way of improving an image through computational photography—but for the time being, sensors still matter.
The Continuity camera is a clever — and interesting — work-around, but Apple really needs to upgrade the on-board camera in every way possible. That will have to wait until the system gets a complete hardware set for the 14-inch Pro and the new Air.
OK, we’ve been putting this off for quite some time. Let’s talk about Touch Bar. After using the 14-inch MacBook for the past several months, I can’t see myself going back to the Touch Bar. In fact, at several points in flight, I found myself missing the simplicity of the function keys.
Expanding the bar to find music playback keys when writing in Word isn’t nearly as intuitive as having a row of buttons all the time. And besides, Touch ID, the best part of the Touch Bar experience, has been freed from peripherals and is now available solo on the 14-inch and Air. Best of both worlds, if you ask me.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand why Apple was reluctant to avoid giving up on the Touch Bar. A lot of R&D went into what appears to be a promising feature. The visual execution certainly is. This is, effectively, a super long and thin hi-res touch screen. The color pop and scrolling effect is good. Ultimately, though, it was a solution in search of a problem that never found it. Asking people to radically rethink how they interact with their content is a big question – there was never a Touch Bar in its entirety.
So, RIP (probably).
The port situation is similar to that of Air – which is rare to say. You have two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports on one side and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack on the other. I’m glad that Apple is keeping the latter alive on its laptops. I love plugging in for things like editing audio. An additional USB-C port on the side of the headphone jack would be great — and a few extra ports, as usual, can help isolate the device from the air, but again, we’re effectively dealing with the same enclosure as the previous 13. are. -inch model. The 14-inch also puts an HDMI and SD card slot into the mix.
I was fully aware throughout this writing that the tone of this review would have been quite different if Apple hadn’t announced the laptop soon after the Air (or, for that matter, several months after the 14-inch Pro). It’s a good laptop, and the M2 brings some impressive advantages over the standard M1, but a review requires additional context.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro has the new Air Beat in some departments, including battery life, microphone and the inclusion of a cooling system for resource-intensive tasks. However, overall, the Air is shaping up to be the clear face-to-face winner of these two systems. And that alone makes it hard to recommend the system.