Hands on: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) review

Hands on: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) review

TechRadar·2020-05-08 02:50

The Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) is the companys refreshed professional laptop, adding improved hardware and a better keyboard to the smallest and most affordable MacBook Pro.The MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 is arguably Apples most important laptop, offering power and performance above regular MacBooks, like the MacBook Air (2020), without demanding quite as high a price tag as the larger flagship 16-inch MacBook Pro. It needs, then, to keep the price accessible, while also offering performance and features that professionals, especially in the creative industry, require.Performance-wise, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch looks promising on paper, with new 10th generation CPUs offering a noticeable boost, and the base model now comes with twice the RAM and twice the storage than the previous model. In our MacBook Pro 2020 (13-inch) vs MacBook Pro 2019 (13-inch) head-to-head, theres a clear upgrade between last years model and the latest version.(Image credit: Future)Price and availabilityThe base model of the MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) starts at $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$1,999, which, commendably, costs the same price as the 2019 model. However, we have to take Apple to task here a bit, as the base model comes with a 1.4GHz quad-core 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor.Thats a two-year-old CPU, and as weve said elsewhere on the site, thats just not good enough for a professional-grade laptop. For the launch of the 2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch, Apple made a big deal about the inclusion of 10th generation Intel processors, and the performance benefits they provide. However, if you buy the cheapest model, youre not getting those benefits.Therefore, we just cant recommend the base model of the 2020 MacBook Pro 13-inch for professionals. While it comes with 256GB of storage up from 128GB with the 2019 model  if you really want a cheap MacBook Pro, youd be better off getting a slightly older MacBook Pro for less money there really won't be a huge difference in performance.So, its actually the mid-range model of the MacBook Pro 13-inch that wed consider to be the absolute minimum configuration to buy. This comes with a 2.0GHz 10th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 512GB of storage and 16GB RAM for $1,799 / £1,799 / AU$2,999.Not only is the leap from 8th generation to 10th generation CPUs going to make a big difference, but this version comes with faster 3,733MHz RAM, compared to the lower-end models 2,133MHz RAM.You can also configure the MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 with a 10th generation Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32GB RAM (for the first time in a 13-inch MacBook Pro) and up to 4TB of SSD storage.So, while we like the fact that Apple has released two new MacBook Pro 13-inch models for the same price as their predecessors launched at, theres now an even bigger gap between the entry-level model and the regular one so much so that its not really worth considering the entry-level model any more. For creatives, then, it means you may end up paying a little bit more than you would have in previous years.(Image credit: Future)DesignAs weve seen with other recent MacBook releases, Apple hasnt changed much at all about the basic design of the 13-inch MacBook Pro when the laptops closed, at least.It comes in the same Silver or Space Gray color, and dimensions are roughly the same, at 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61-inches (304.1 x 212.4 x 156mm). This is slightly thicker than the previous model, which had a depth of 0.59-inches (149mm).Its also slightly heavier at 3.1 pounds (1.4kg), versus 2019s 3.02 pounds (1.37kg). The difference wont be too noticeable for most people, and its 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 2.8 pounds (1.27kg).(Image credit: Future)Ports-wise, youre 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, youll need to buy an adapter.On opening up the new MacBook Pro 13-inch, however, youll 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).(Image credit: Future)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.Weve 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-publicized 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.(Image credit: Future)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.On the other side of the keyboard, the Escape key is now once again a seperate button (rather than included in the Touch Bar), again making it easier to find, and the arrow keys are in an inverted-T arrangement now, like on many laptop keyboards, which is a much more intuitive layout.Meanwhile, the screen remains the same as last years model, which is no bad thing. The Retina resolution (2,560 x 1,600) isnt the highest weve seen in a 13-inch laptop, but to be honest, a 4K resolution on a 13-inch screen is overkill most of the time, and the Retina display of the MacBook Pro 13-inch (2020) is bright and vibrant. Crucially, for creative professionals, it supports the P3 wide color gamut, offering excellent color reproduction.So, not a huge amount of change in the design of the new MacBook Pro 13-inch, but where Apple has made tweaks, they are noticeable and welcome.(Image credit: Future)PerformanceAs this is an early hands-on review, weve not had a chance to run our usual suite of benchmark tests, but in the time weve spent with the MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020), we can say with confidence that this is a good performer. macOS Catalina is fast and responsive, and the apps weve tried load up nice and fast.Its 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 wont 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 doesnt have a dedicated GPU. So, if youre going to be using the new MacBook Pro for graphically-intensive work, such as video editing and 3D rendering, then youll be relying on the Intel Iris Plus Graphics integrated GPU.Integrated GPUs cant offer the same performance as a dedicated graphics card, so if you really need a graphical powerhouse, youre going to need to get the MacBook Pro 16-inch with its AMD Radeon Pro 5300M GPU.(Image credit: Future)However the Intel Iris Plus Graphics that features in Intels 10th generation chips is a big leap over previous generations, with Apple claiming that it offers 80% faster performance when it comes to 4K editing and faster rendering. It also now allows the MacBook Pro 13-inch to connect to Apples Pro Display XDR at full 6K resolution.When we have more time with the new MacBook Pro, well run our extensive suite of benchmark tests to see if these claims are true.Again, we should point out that the improved graphical performance on the Intel Iris Plus Graphics is only available on the MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 models with 10th generation processors.If you go for the entry-level MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 model with the 8th generation Intel processor, youre going to have to make do with the older, and less powerful, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645.Apples decision to stick with the 8th generation chip in the base model is particularly frustrating, then, as it means (along with the slower RAM), that the performance gap between the entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro and its mid and high-end models has never been greater.Battery lifeBattery life has been an area where MacBooks have traditionally fared a lot better than their Windows 10 competitors, and with the 2020 model of the MacBook Pro 13-inch, we expect it to continue to impress us. 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. Weve not had a chance to run our tests just yet, but we found that the previous model got pretty close to the promised 10 hour battery life, so we hope the new model achieves that as well.Early verdictSo, whats our early thoughts on the MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)? Weve got the mid-range model with 10th generation Core i5 processor, and so far, were impressed. The boost in performance from the new processor is very welcome, and while its Intel Iris Plus Graphics cannot compete with a discrete graphics card, it gives the smaller MacBook Pro more flexibility when it comes to graphic-intensive workloads.The boost in RAM speed also helps give the new 13-inch MacBook Pro a noticeable performance increase as long as you get the model that features it. Throw in the improved Magic Keyboard, more storage space and the same launch price as its predecessor, and youve got a very compelling professional laptop. But theres a catch.The catch, unfortunately, is that the entry-level MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) misses out on a lot of these new improvements, being stuck with an older 8th generation CPU and slower RAM. It does still get that new keyboard though.Apple has also doubled the capacity of the entry level MacBook Pro 13-inch, to 256GB. Thats still not a huge amount, especially for photographers and video editors, but at least Apple isnt trying to get away with selling a pro laptop with just 128GB of storage any more.So, if youre looking for a new compact MacBook Pro in 2020, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch is a very compelling device but only if youre willing to spend $1,799 / £1,799 / AU$2,999. Sadly, the we cant recommend the entry-level MacBook Pro considering the performance gap. If youre looking for a more affordable MacBook, check out the MacBook Air 2020 instead.


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