Hard on the heels of March’s update to the MacBook Air, Apple has updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro, marking the official end of the much-maligned butterfly keyboard. Apple has also doubled the standard amount of flash storage to 256 GB. The new MacBook Pro comes in silver or space gray.
Rumors had suggested that Apple would replace the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a model featuring a 14-inch screen, much the way the 16-inch MacBook Pro replaced the previous 15-inch model. Those rumors proved either to be wishful thinking or to apply to a future, more significant revision to Apple’s smaller MacBook Pro model. It’s not inconceivable that we could see such a product late this year—in 2019, Apple updated the 15-inch MacBook Pro in May before replacing it in November.
Major Changes: Magic Keyboard and Twice the Storage
Most notable among the changes to the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is, of course, the replacement of the butterfly keyboard with the company’s new Magic Keyboard, which has received positive reviews in both the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the 13-inch MacBook Air.
Like the 16-inch MacBook Pro, the new 13-inch model features a physical Escape key, a Touch Bar, and an independent Touch ID sensor. We aren’t huge fans of the Touch Bar, but like that slightly annoying friend-of-a-friend, it seems unlikely to be leaving the party anytime soon.
The second notable change revolves around the size of the internal storage. Previously, the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s storage choices started at 128 GB. Now, the low end begins at 256 GB, and every standard configuration offers twice as much storage for the same price. Build-to-order options for 512 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB remain available. A 4 TB option is also available for the higher-end models—more on those next.
Minor Changes: Faster CPUs, Improved Display Support, and More RAM
Before we get to the minor changes, remember that there are two types of the 13-inch MacBook Pro: lower-end configurations with two Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left side and higher-end models with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on each side. That’s relevant because the first three of these changes apply only to the higher-end models.
- Processors: The lower-end models retain the same 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, running at 1.4 GHz and 1.7 GHz (add $300), respectively. The higher-end models, however, switch to either a 2.0 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 or a 2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 (add $200). It’s hard to know how much faster these processors are since Apple claims “up to 2.8 times faster performance” compared to a 13-inch MacBook Pro with dual-core processors (i.e., not the previous generation).
- Graphics: Apple also says that the 10th-generation processors in the higher-end models, which feature integrated Iris Plus Graphics (currently lacking a version number on the spec page), provide up to 80% faster performance than the previous generation. Plus, the higher-end models can now support the 6K Pro Display XDR, another external 5K display, and two external 4K displays.
- RAM: The higher-end models now sport 16 GB of onboard memory for the same prices as the 8 GB configurations in the previous generation. Also welcome is the fact that the memory in these higher-end models is 3733 MHz LPDDR4X memory, up from 2133 MHz LPDDR3 memory, which should help with performance as well. The lower-end models can jump to 16 GB of RAM for $100, but best of all, the higher-end models can now take up to 32 GB of RAM, although it costs $400.
- Audio: The spec page for all models lists “Wide stereo sound,” “Support for Dolby Atmos playback,” and “Directional beamforming” as changes from the audio support in the previous models. It’s hard to know how important those changes are, but it’s better to have them than not, I suppose.
- Size and weight: Finally, all the new models of the 13-inch MacBook Pro get 0.02 inches (0.7 mm) taller and about 1.3 ounces (30 g) heavier. I can’t imagine anyone will notice in the real world.
Everything else about the 13-inch MacBook Pro remains the same. Same 13-inch Retina display. Same Thunderbolt 3 ports. Same 802.1ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0. Same batteries and 61-watt USB-C power adapters.
And of course, in the spec that I’m sure someone at Apple is embarrassed by in these days of constant video calls, the new models sport the same inferior 720p FaceTime HD camera (see “The 2020 MacBook Air’s FaceTime HD Camera Is Still Lousy,” 8 April 2020).
Pricing and Availability
The low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro with two Thunderbolt 3 ports starts at $1299, and the higher-end model with four Thunderbolt 3 ports starts at $1799. In many ways, these are two completely different products. The lower-end models have barely changed, apart from the new Magic Keyboard and more storage, whereas the higher-end models receive a modest speed and spec bump with faster processors, better graphics, more RAM, more storage options, and so on.
If you want a small, fast MacBook Pro, buy one of the higher-end models today. They’re better than last year’s models and boast improved specs, making them cheaper as well.
Things get complicated when you compare with the recently refreshed MacBook Air (see “New MacBook Air Features Magic Keyboard and Lower Price,” 18 March 2020). For instance, if you wanted a top-of-the-line MacBook Air with a 1.2 GHz quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i7, 16 GB of RAM, and 1 TB SSD ($1849 total), an equivalently equipped lower-end MacBook Pro would cost $1799, or $50 less, albeit with a 1.4 GHz quad-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5. It’s hard to know how the real-world performance would compare. And for just $1999, or $150 more than the MacBook Air, you could get a similarly specced higher-end MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a 2.0 GHz quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5, and a Touch Bar.
Regardless, what’s most important is that the butterfly keyboard is now pushing up daisies, rather than flitting among them. If you’ve been delaying the purchase of a MacBook of any sort until you could see how things sorted out with the Magic Keyboard-equipped models, the possible choices are now clear.
Personally, once I have need for a laptop again, I’m getting a MacBook Air, since I rely heavily on physical function keys to switch between apps.