Does this brand new Apple MacBook Pro laptop look familiar? It should. Unlike the redesigned 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros released last fall, this new 13-incher remains mostly the same physically. It even retains the Touch Bar touchscreen strip atop the keyboard ditched by the larger, redesigned MacBook Pros.
The new Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with M2.
The big change in this generation lies inside: This is the first MacBook Pro equipped with Apple’s latest M2 processor (the MacBook Air also now has an M2 processor). Is this upgrade alone enough to buy the 13-inch Mac? Let’s find out.
Price as tested: $1,299 | CPU: Apple M2 | Display: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 pixels, 500 nits Storage: 256GB SSD Memory: 8GB | Battery: Rated up to 20 hours video playback | Dimensions: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight 3 pounds
The familiar design of the MacBook Pro 13-inch.
Talk about déjà vu. This design is identical to the previous MacBook Pro 13-inch. Same display, same shape, same keyboard and same Touch Bar. Does that mean the laptop’s design is bad? Not at all, it was and still is a great design. It’s just that we’ve also seen the even snappier design of the more recent MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch, not to mention the super-thin MacBook Air, which will debut next month.
The latest MacBook Pro 13-inch is Apple’s classic aluminum unibody chassis. The lid is tapered and it continues to include the Touch Bar. The Magic Keyboard has dreamily comfortable keys, as seen in the previous iteration. Read on for more on both the Touch Bar and the keyboard. From the outside, it is identical to its predecessor. This is a handsome laptop, both in its Space Gray and Silver finishes, but some may wish it had been redesigned to match its larger siblings.
The classic look has connectivity limited connectivity, with only two USB-C ports (supporting USB 4 and Thunderbolt 3) and a headphone jack. Effectively, you have just on USB-C port since the second port doubles for your power connector. To connect more stuff you need an extra-cost dongle. Even the new MacBook Air M2 is a step better, since that model adds back the MagSafe power connector, same as on larger MacBook Pro models from late 2021. The larger Pro models also add in an SD card slot, HDMI connector and up to four USB-C slots.
The bright, detailed design of the MacBook Pro 13-inch—with no notch in sight.
The 13.3-inch display is unchanged and remains excellent. It is a perfect rectangle with a bright, detailed screen and no upgrade to the 720p FaceTime HD camera—a disappointment in an age dominated by video communications. By contrast, the larger MacBook Pro models both have a screen that minimizes the bezel and extends into the corners of the laptop. The display reaches so far that the webcam is accommodated in a cut-out in the top edge. The new design looks great, but many will prefer this 13-inch model as it has the classic, no-notch look.
The sumptuous keyboard and Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro 13-inch.
Since the MacBook Pro 13-inch retains everything about the physical design of the previous generation, the MacBook Pro 13-inch has a unique place in Apple’s lineup: It the only MacBook that remains with Apple’s touchscreen Touch Bar. The Touch Bar had been a controversial addition when introduced in earlier MacBook Pro laptops in place of the traditional row of function keys. One difference since its first introduction: Apple refined this touchscreen strip by making it shorter, allowing a physical Esc key to sit at the left-hand side, perhaps because people kept brushing the Touch Bar accidentally.
While not everyone likes the Touch Bar, I love its versatility and intuitive design. The Touch Bar can predict words or email addresses for me in relevant applications or show little thumbnails of all the web pages I have open while you’re in Safari, visual conveniences I appreciate. My favorite Touch Bar assist: If I position the Safari window off to the left and partially obscure the back and forward buttons to change the page, the Touch Bar will show these back and forward arrows for you to tap instead. Sadly, I suspect this may be the last laptop to include it; it remains to be seen if developers will be working on new features that take full advantage of the Touch Bar.
As for the keyboard, the Magic Keyboard is great and is so comfortable you will wish all keyboards were like this. The keyboard has inviting, perfectly-sized keys with plenty of travel and pleasingly responsiveness. The keyboard will serve you well whether you’re writing your magnum opus or a simple snippy email.
The powerful new MacBook Pro 13-inch with M2 processor.
As you’d expect from an upgraded Apple processor, MacBook Pro 13-inch’s performance excels. Of course, the big step-up happened with the arrival of the M1 processor in 2020, leaving previous Mac laptops in the dust.
Even so, the M2 processor represents another leap forward in performance. How much faster is it? A lot. Enough that you’ll notice the change—even when performing everyday tasks. Apple says the M2 runs about 40% faster than the M1, and 6x faster—that’s 600%— than the last Intel-based MacBook Pro released.
The M2 MacBook Pro feels astonishingly fast in use. It whipped through every task I threw at, from opening big files to playing high-resolution video with butter-smoothness, even with dozens of windows open.
What’s more, the MacBook Pro’s fan never engaged. In other words, the power draw was never such that the laptop got the slightest bit warm–which is a big change from the normal experience.
There are two versions of M2 processor, both with eight CPU cores. The faster of the two versions, with 10 GPU cores, is the one on this laptop. A less powerful one, with eight GPUs, is what you’ll find on the upcoming MacBook Air. You can upgrade to the better chip on the Air, but at a price. For comparison, the Air with 256GB storage and the lesser chip costs $1,199, while the Pro with the faster chip and the same storage costs $1,299. If speed is what really matters, this is the one to go for, because to get this chip on the Air costs $1,499 (though you do get 512GB of storage for that price, and the MagSafe connector).
The M2 processor also promises better battery life, and it is indeed sensational. Apple rates the laptop for up to 20 hours of video playback, a full two hours more than the Air can manage. That number is about the same as the M1 generation of the MacBook Pro 13-inch, but for that spec Apple specified 20 hours for Apple TV app movie playback, not simply movies (implying it achieved those heights when using Apple’s video-optimized app). Again, that feels about right from my real-world usage. The battery gets you through a full day of use away from a power outlet, which means you can leave your power brick at home.
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch.
If you want an Apple MacBook Pro, this 13-inch model is the most affordable option. It lacks the new design and larger screen of the 14-inch model, but the price differential is extraordinary: The 14-inch starts from $1,999, that’s $700 more.
While the new design is fantastic, that price difference is a huge chasm. I think many people will be more than happy with the MacBook Pro 13-inch’s classic design with a display just 0.9 inches smaller (and no notch). You get a Pro-tier laptop with the fastest M2 processor available for a price that’s just $100 more than the Air with its lower-speed chip. Fans of the Touch Bar seeking an upgrade will appreciate this model as an easy—and only—choice.
If you’re used to the the performance of a MacBook Pro and intend to do processor-intensive tasks involving video and imaging, the MacBook Pro 13-inch is the real deal and terrific value.