MacBook Pro 13-inch review: A solid upgrade but we were hoping for more

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is one of Apple’s most popular laptops and it’s not hard to see why. This mighty machine offers the ultimate performance and power in a device that is perfectly proportioned and supremely portable. Now the 13-inch Pro has had a refresh with the 2020 model getting a number of important upgrades aimed at improving the overall experience. has been putting this laptop to the test and here’s our thoughts on Apple’s latest MacBook.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty about the MacBook Pro it’s important to understand the differences between all the latest machines – as they’re not all made equally. Apple has launched a number of options with prices starting from £1,299. That entry-level 13-inch Pro gets the new Magic Keyboard and 256GB of storage (up from 128GB) but one of the headline upgrades is missing. Under the hood, you’ll find the same 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor found in the 13-inch MacBook Pro from last year so if you want the best of the best this laptop isn’t really worth considering.

For this review, we’ve taken delivery of the much pricier £1,799 model which comes with the same new keyboard, storage boost, but the latest 10th-generation 2.0Ghz Intel Core i5 chipset.

If you can afford it, this is definitely the MacBook Pro model we’d recommend as you’ll not only see improved performance and efficiency from the latest and greatest silicon from Intel, but you’ll also get four USB-C ports rather than the two found on the base model. Worse still, Apple puts the two ports on the £1,299 model on the same side, so you won’t be able to charge using either side.

With power in mind let’s talk about the new processor as it’s certainly a big upgrade over the previous generation with it offering a performance that’s almost three times faster in certain tasks, like video rendering. With the 10th-generation chip inside, the 13-inch Pro feels like a highly capable machine and offers plenty of performance for editing 4K video and adjusting images.

All of the daily tasks we’ve put it through have been performed without a hint of a stutter and we’ve had no issues using the 13-inch MacBook Pro as our primary machine.

Apple says that these next-generation graphics deliver up to 80 percent faster performance for graphics-intensive activities, from rendering 3D titles in Final Cut Pro X to playing graphics-intensive video games. We’ve not pushed the Pro to the max, but there’s no question that the performance will be welcome to anyone who needs a powerful machine on the move.

The other big update which arrives on every variant of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the new Magic Keyboard. This finally means Apple doesn’t sell any laptops with its hugely troublesome Butterfly keys. These keyboards were introduced to slim down the laptop line but – apart from offering a controversial typing experience – were notoriously unreliable, forcing Apple to add every model with the keyboard to an extended hardware warranty to repair the inevitable broken keys.

Thankfully, the Magic Keyboard is leaps ahead of the Butterfly design. Unlike those buttons found on the 2019 model, the Magic Keyboard is more comfortable to bash out emails and documents with more travel in the keys.

It’s nice to see the new Magic keyboard has now arrived on Apple’s lowest-priced MacBook Pro and it’s undeniably better than before. You also get the “T” arrangement back on the arrow keys, which makes it easier for your fingers to find these useful buttons without having to take your eyes off the screen.

One final thing to note about the keyboard is you’ll now get a physical Escape button – as Apple has removed the digital-only version from the Touch Bar. It’s a small modification but those who use this vital key every day will appreciate the change.

Away from the keyboard, another bonus of buying the new Pro is that it comes with more storage than before with the base model getting 256GB and the more expensive 10th-gen machines starting with 512GB. This can be upgraded to a whopping 4TB but make sure you do this when you first buy the machine on the Apple Store as adding extra storage at a later date isn’t easy.

Along with those new features, there’s all the usual treats that has made the MacBook Pro so popular including the stunning aluminium design, colour accurate 500-nit display, market-leading Force Touch trackpad and the Touch Bar which magically changes depending on the application you happen to be using.

If you’re hoping to use this laptop on the move then battery life is reasonable although usage will depend on exactly what you are doing on the screen. For example, set the screen to 70 percent and play movies on this laptop and you’ll easily get eight or nine hours of playback.

However, pump up display, load Photoshop, Safari, Pages and Chrome and things drop to as little as three hours. Given that this machine is aimed at professionals, you’re more likely to spend the day doing the latter rather than bingeing movies, so make sure you pack the charging cable with you when you leave the house.

Thankfully, refilling the 13-inch MacBook Pro back to 100% is fast and, if you opt for the more expensive model with four USB-C ports you can charge the laptop from either side.

Apple still hasn’t brought back the little battery light indicator found on the older MagSafe chargers so make sure to open the lid and check it’s being boosted before heading to bed or else you may face a stressful morning when hitting the road with no power in the tank.

There’s clearly plenty of things to love about the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, but at the end of the day, we can’t help feeling a little disappointed by it.

We were hoping this popular laptop might get the same treatment as the recently refreshed 16-inch MacBook Pro – with smaller bezels around the screen, “studio quality” in-built microphones and breathtaking speakers that sound like you’re sat in the cinema when cranked to full volume.

Sadly, those blockbuster additions haven’t made it to the smaller MacBook Pro (yet) and that’s a real shame.

That means when you unwrap the 13-inch MacBook Pro, you’ll get chunky bezels around the 13-inch Retina screen and although the audio is good from the stereo speakers it’s not a patch on what the 16-inch can produce.

And although we haven’t tested the entry-level laptop, it’s disappointing that Apple has left an older processor in its lower priced machine. We’re guessing the less powerful brains have been left inside to help keep costs down and make sure there is a Pro machine suitable for all budgets.

If you’re looking for a truly worthwhile upgrade and can afford it, we’d definitely recommend paying a few hundred pounds more for the 10th-gen option as it will future-proof your laptop and mean it will cope with more things you throw at it including the next macOS updates that Apple will push out later in the year.

MacBook Pro 13-inch review: Final Verdict

The new MacBook Pro 13-inch makes some much-needed tweaks but isn’t the transformative upgrade we saw to the larger 16-inch MacBook Pro last year. Bringing the brilliant Magic keyboard to all MacBook Pro models was long overdue and offering more storage will be popular. Not to mention the faster processor, in the configurations lucky enough to get the speed upgrade, means this smaller laptop becomes way more capable.

You also get that brilliant trackpad, stunning Retina display, and a design built to survive years on the road. The only main issue we have with this new laptop is you’ll need to spend at least £1,799 to get all these upgrades – as the entry-level Pro continues to be powered by a processor from last year.

It’s also a shame that this update doesn’t include the slimmer bezels, booming speakers and dramatically improved microphones which made the MacBook Pro 16-inch so exciting when it was announced last year.

All in all, it’s a solid update but, just remember, you’ll need to spend more than the £1,299 starting price if you want the best of the new features. And if you were holding out for a smaller version of the all-new MacBook Pro 16-inch, you might need to wait for the next refresh from Apple.

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