Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) review: portable, powerful, pedestrian

The past five years have not been kind to Apple laptops. It all started with the butterfly keyboard switch which debuted in 2015. It was an attempt by Apple to slim down the MacBook further and make the machine much more portable, but the mechanism was so fragile that a single speck of dust could disable a key completely. Apple tweaked the design following the iterations, but the damage to the MacBook’s reputation has been done. Faulty keys eroded consumer confidence and triggered several class action lawsuits; moreover, Apple’s solutions were more like treatments than cures.

This is no longer the case. With the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, the butterfly plague has finally been eradicated. In fact, with the release of this machine, Apple no longer sells a laptop with the butterfly switch keyboard – the company has phased out the design with every new MacBook. And like Goldilocks with the third bowl of porridge, the latest cool-down machine in the MacBook range is my favorite. The 13-inch isn’t as big and bulky as the 16-inch MacBook Pro and has more power (and more ports) than the MacBook Air. But not everything about the new MacBook Pro is rosy. Battery life is decent, the aluminum body heats up quite often, and the machine configurations that are really useful are too expensive.

Convoluted formation

I would be remiss if I didn’t go through the different configurations of this laptop, because it is a bit perplexing. There are two main versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro: one with two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports for $ 1,299 and another with four ports for $ 1,799. The number of ports is not the only difference.

The cheapest MacBook Pro has 256GB base memory (the more expensive one comes with 512GB) and slightly weaker graphics card performance (Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 versus Iris Plus Graphics G7 – and yes, the names are confusing ). It also has slower and less RAM (8 gigabytes of DDR3 at 2133 MHz versus 16 gigabytes of DDR4X at 3733 MHz on the more expensive computer). More importantly, the low-end laptop is equipped with an 8th generation Intel processor, while the $ 1,799 model uses the latest 10th generation chip. The choice of which version to buy is made even more confusing by the fact that the price of the base model is close to that of the MacBook Air.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is the latest model of Apple laptop to get the updated (and improved) keyboard.

Photograph: Apple

I can help you with that decision. If you mostly use the web browser but want an Apple laptop, get the base model MacBook Air ($ 999). If you need a little more oomph for the few dozen browser tabs you’ll have to open for work, grab the basic MacBook Pro ($ 1,299). Why not the $ 1,299 MacBook Air, which we previously recommended? Because the Pro has a brighter, more color-accurate screen and battery life and physical weight differences between the Air and the Pro are negligible. I’d say the only reason to get the $ 1,299 Air is if you hate the digital strip just above the Pro model’s keyboard (the Touch Bar) and would rather have physical keys there, which, right. However, these two options are the way to go for most people.

If you’re like me and you often connect dongles and hubs to your laptop, use it for some video and photo editing, and for some very light gaming, I can recommend the MacBook Pro model I’ve used. Apple lent me the $ 1,799 Core i5 version, which is a much better upgrade overall and not as much as the more powerful (and expensive) 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Reliability above all

The 13-inch MacBook Pro managed to handle almost everything I launched with relative ease. Several rounds of finishing dead last in Counter Strike: Global Offensive? Check. Are you editing a 15 minute 4K video in Adobe Premiere Pro? Check. Are you running 32 Chrome tabs while working on this review? Check. I haven’t seen any major performance issues yet. The fans still make noise during heavy tasks, but they’re nowhere near as loud as the fans on previous MacBooks I’ve used.


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