Worth the upgrade?
As we’ve seen with other recent MacBook releases, Apple hasn’t changed much at all about the basic design of the 13-inch MacBook Pro – when the laptop’s closed, at least. It comes in the same Silver or Space Gray color, and dimensions are roughly the same, at 304.1 x 212.4 x 156mm. This is slightly thicker than the previous model, which had a depth of 0149mm. It’s also slightly heavier at 1.4kg, versus 2019’s 1.37kg.
The difference won’t be too noticeable for most people, and it’s still reasonably light for a pro laptop. However, there are plenty of 13-inch laptops out there that are thinner and lighter. The Dell XPS 13 (2020), for example, weighs in at 1.27kg. Ports-wise, you’re again only getting four Thunderbolt 3 ports (or just two in the entry-level model) and an audio jack. For a professional laptop, the lack of ports, especially legacy USB-A ports, will be disappointing (but probably not surprising) and will mean unless you have all USB-C peripherals, you’ll need to buy an adapter.
On opening up the new MacBook Pro 13-inch, however, you’ll see more of a difference. This is because Apple has finally replaced the controversial Butterfly switch keyboard (which was often prone to reliability problems) with the new ‘Magic Keyboard’ which is also used in the MacBook Pro 16-inch and MacBook Air (2020). This is an enormously welcome change. Not only does it eliminate the problems previous models had with the keyboard (such as stuck keys), but it offers a much more tactile and comfortable typing experience. We’ve been a fan of the new keyboard since it debuted on the 16-inch MacBook Pro last year, and are glad to see it turn up in the 13-inch model as well. For anyone who was put off buying a MacBook because of the well-publicised keyboard issues, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch could change your mind.
The Touch Bar, a thin display above the keyboard, is again present, and gives you context sensitive buttons that you can press. Not everyone loves the Touch Bar, but many apps like Photoshop now make good use of it, offering you quick access to tools.
The TouchID button, which also doubles as the power button, has been separated from the Touch Bar, and now sits slightly apart from it. It makes it a bit easier to find, and it again is a reliable way of logging into your MacBook (or paying for things using Apple Pay) using just your fingerprint. We find it works a lot better than many fingerprint scanners included in Windows 10 laptops. It never failed to read a fingerprint correctly in our time using it.
We’ve now spent enough time with the MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) to run our benchmark tests and test out its day-to-day performance, and we remain impressed with the laptop. It runs macOS Catalina with ease, leading to a smooth and responsive experience, and the apps we’ve tried load up nice
and fast. We also used the Chrome web browser with loads of tabs open, which is a notorious hog when it comes to memory, and the MacBook Pro 13-inch continued to perform admirably. Its multi-tasking prowess is thanks to the new Intel CPU, as well as the faster 3,733MHz LPDDR4X RAM, and it means that
the new MacBook Pro 13-inch feels less of a compromise compared to the powerful 16-inch model.
It’s important to note that this is with the mid-range MacBook Pro 13-inch, which comes with a 10th generation Ice Lake Core i5 processor. The low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro with an older CPU and slower RAM won’t perform as well as the one we got in.
Not only does the new 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor offer better compute performance than its predecessor, but it also has improved integrated graphics as well. This is crucial, as unlike the larger MacBook Pro 16-inch, the MacBook Pro 13-inch doesn’t have a dedicated GPU. So, if you’re going to be using the new MacBook Pro for graphically-intensive work, such as video editing and 3D rendering, then you’ll be relying on the Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Integrated GPUs can’t offer the same performance as a dedicated graphics card, so if you really need a graphical powerhouse, you’re going to need to get the MacBook Pro 16-inch with its AMD Radeon Pro 5300M GPU.
Battery life has been an area where MacBooks have traditionally fared a lot better than their Windows 10 competitors, and the 2020 model of the MacBook Pro 13-inch doesn’t disappoint. It has a 58 watt-hour battery (and a slightly larger 58.2 watt-hour in the entry-level model). This should offer 10 hours of battery life, which is around the same that the previous model promised. In our battery life benchmark test, which involved playing a looped 1080p video, the battery lasted a respectable eight and a half hours. For a workstation laptop, that’s certainly impressive, and means unless you do some very intensive tasks, like video editing and rendering, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch should last around an entire work day without needing a charge. It’s also excellent at holding its
battery life as well. That means you can close the lid, leave it a few days and the laptop will still have battery left. That’s often not the case with Windows 10 laptops, which seem to bleed battery life even when not in use.
The MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) brings new Intel processors and improved RAM speeds for better performance, but only if you’re willing to pay the price. The entry-level model misses out on some of those new toys, which is a shame.
New Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD Storage, Magic Keyboard) - Space Grey