Apple Macbook Pro 13-inch 2020 Hands-On Review: Back to the beginning

Apple Macbook Pro 13-inch 2020 Hands-On Review: Back to the beginning
Good Things
Industry-leading display
Thin and light design
Excellent new keyboard
Hard-as-rock build quality
Bad Things
Confusing processor choices
Average battery life

The Macbook Pro 13-inch plays a typical role in the Macbook lineup. It’s not a Pro laptop as you see Macbook Pro 16. It’s amateur and the aspiring. The people who need professional-level performance are relatively small in numbers. While hobbyists graphic designers, music producers, YouTubers, and photographers are relatively more of users, this data contains some of Apple’s biggest fans, and the MacBook Pro 13 shows why.

Price and Configuration –

The way apple sets the prices for Macbook Pro reflects that it’s going to stick to its same price form. It’s expensive, in fact, more costly than before. The base model starts at $1,299, which seems a fair price until you could realise a thing. Where Apple is selling old hardware on a new laptop. Except for the new Keyboard, everything is the same as the one which was selling a year ago.

It is not something that other laptop manufacturers do. You can get the latest 10th generation processor in Dell XPS 13, Surface Laptop 3 or HP Spectre x360. All of these 10th series processor laptops start from $1200 or less. The apple tends to update its Mac as slower rate than other companies. But whenever a new model comes out, it often has the latest upgrades.

Old Hardware in new laptop with new Improved Price

I can’t imagine Apple releasing any new iPhone or iPad this year with the last year’s processor. Instead of so, Apple releasing old design with a new processor, just like the new iPhone SE.

That makes configuring a Macbook Pro a complete mess. Good luck from choosing between the 8th-gen Core i7 and the 10th-gen Core i5. If you upgrade for 8th generation processor variant, it costs $100 more. If you switch from 8th generation to 10th generation Intel processor apple upcharges you $200. Apple also charges more for faster memory, to make it more perfect deal; it turns towards high-end models.

If there’s something that Apple has genuinely upgraded, then it’s storage. The base model starts from the 256GB variant rather than the 128GB model, where you get 512GB option for $1,799. That’s pretty standard for other laptops, and I’m happy to see that Apple is trying to make themselves fit in it.

MacBook Pro 2020: Performance –

One thing that could change our Macbook Pro 13’s hardware option impressions to positive one’s. Performance. Maybe apple prepared something special. It’s not possible, 10th generation chips are used in more expensive configurations are specific to the MacBook Pro.

Our review unit has, Core i5-1038NG7, a 25-watt processor with four cores and eight threads. It’s similar to Intel’s Core i5-1035G7. A 15-watt processor which is featured is n many 13-inch laptops, which includes Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre x360 and Microsoft Surface Laptop 3.

In new Macbook Pro, those extra 10 watts adds some extra performance. The Macbook Pro smoothly beats other 13-inch laptops in term of Cinebench R20 and Geekbench 5. Those laptops which don’t push CPU hard can be easily crushed with this 13-inch Mac-like Spectre x360 or Razor Blade Stealth. In terms of performance, the Dell XPS 13 is an exception where it uses thermal tricks to push the processor. Despite having a lower-wattage chip, it beats Macbook Pro 13-inch in the most benchmark.

But in real-life usage, Macbook Pro 13 pushes back. Where encoding 4K H264 video took us 3 minutes, and it’s nearly 10 seconds faster than Dell XPS 13. This is the best video encoding I’ve ever noted in 13-in laptop. Not to forget it comes with 10th-gen Core i5, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. It comes with a price tag of $1,799.

This ability doesn’t make this featured content creating machine yet. To export the 4K 2-minutes clip to ProRes 422 tool long 16 minutes. Where the 16 inches Macbook Pro can do the same work in half of the time. Thanks to more processor cores and a discrete graphics card. The problem is that it starts from $2,499, which is doubled than the entry-level Macbook Pro. The 13-inch variant comes for $1,799, which sits in between the two in terms of price but not end of the performance.

The Mac lovers will quickly get their new 13-in Macbook Pro though. If you do music production, use Adobe Lightroom or use Final Cut, the 13-inch Macbook won’t be an issue. As far as you start to push the machine to it’s extreme with highest resolution or codecs. If you don’t use your computers for these kinds of professional work then paying a hefty amount like $2,499 or more isn’t feasible. In that case, dealing with some minor issues or longer render times is remains as your only choice.

Of course 13-inch MacBook Pro can easily handle multiple Chrome tabs, Slack, streaming and Spotify videos. If its all you wanted to do then the more affordable MacBook Air will be much better of choice.

MacBook Pro 2020: Design –

Apple has carried their old 13-inch MacBook Pro’s four-year-old design to 2020’s variant. That’s not something new neither its a bad thing. There are still certain areas where MacBook Pro even take the lead. You can open your Mac with one finger and screen isn’t that shaky. The speakers are still unparallel, which still blows us every rest 13-inch laptops. Speakers again feature more bass and rich stereo experience which pulls out details in songs, which you have never heard in a laptop.

But still, there are some spaces which still needs to be improved. With MacBook Pro 16-inch, Apple has trimmed down its bezels to make the screen larger. Now it has less wasted space and more Screen area. However, MacBook Pro 13-inch still sticks with its chubby bezels. Rumours are heard as new MacBook Pro 14-inch is in work with a similar approach. It seems like it’s not about to launch in 2020.

Apple still maintains the most favourite unibody aluminium chassis. However, many have attempted to duplicate the same body as Apple’s machines have. I can’t complain about the size either. The 13-inch Macbook Pro is neither the thinnest or smallest device, but it still feels slim. The unibody design gives 13-inch Mac Pro the super-sleep profile, which dozens of other laptops have failed to replicate.

Left side of the MacBook Pro
Right Side of MacBook Pro

The Thunderbolt 3 ports set the trend in the market when they first came with the 13-inch Macbook Pro. But today they stand reasonably standard. The $1,799 model comes with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, while the $1,299 model has just two. On the cheaper model, apple has placed both the ports on the left side, which is inconvenient for charging purpose.

MacBook Pro 2020: Display –

The MacBook Pro series has always been a leader in display quality, though the picture is changing over the last couple of years. It comes with 2,560 x 1,600 screen resolution with a crisp display, especially for the 13-inch variant. If you’ve used 1080p screens, you will notice the difference in sharpness right away.

Competitors like XPS 13 or Spectre x360 now offers 4K screen options which have more dense pixels. Where they still have every bit of screen the same bright, vibrant and colour accurate. The 4K Spectre x360 is $500 cheaper, while the XPS 13 is $140 cheaper. HP starts to offer OLED display options features unbelievable black levels. Which is a traditional LED displays can’t match. These days these displays are better-equipped for photo-editing purpose than the Macbook Pro. Rumours are coming that Apple involves more in next-generation display technology, mini-LED. But it looks like we’ll have to wait for it.

The Magic Keyboard and Touchbar –

Beyond the internal updates, MacBook Pro stands out as it comes with the most crucial feature, Magic Keyboard. I’m not convinced that it’s Apple’s last attempt to reinvent the keyboard. But for now, it’s retreated to its traditional design. Each key has a scissor-switch, a rubber dome, and a full millimetre of travel.

Its not a time travel to the year 2015 in terms of MacBook Pro though. The keycaps are sturdier and less shaky, and the keypresses have a sharper click. It’s great, quiet, a comfortable keyboard which makes you feel it at home. The inverted T shaped arrow keys are back along with the Esc key. All of these came to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 16-inch first, but I’m happy nonetheless.

The trackpad is the same, which should remain the same as usual. A lot of engineering changes took place in 2016, and it still stands as the best trackpad on a laptop. The touch bar is placed on a function row. It again freezes occasionally, which leaves them unable to turn down my music or screen brightness. It is rarely useful, and sometimes I don’t even know that it’s there. I was very excited when Apple launch this in 2016, what a fantastic innovation! But since then, Apple has done very little to develop it into a feature that feels necessary.

Touch ID still sits at the top right corner of the touch bar, offering quick sign-in and Apple Pay purchases. I still miss the face ID, which Mac remains the primary OS not to implement facial recognition.

Battery Life –

The current MacBook Pro has not possessed extraordinary battery life. You can expect around 6 to 7 hours of battery backup in a single charge depending upon how hard you push. I averaged about 6.5 hours on my typical workflow of web apps. When you compare it with the XPS 13 or Spectre x360, the MacBook Pro can’t defeat them. The XPS 13 should give you an extra 4 hours of battery life. Which makes the MacBook Pro look relatively weak by comparison. I haven’t reviewed the latest 4K model of the XPS 13 but in previous generations. It lasts 45 minutes less than the MacBook Pro in the same web-browsing battery test.

MacBook Pro 2020 (13-inch) Comparison:

CPU1.4-GHz quad core 8th gen1.4 GHz quad-core 8th gen2 GHz quad-core 10th gen2 GHz quad-core 10th gen
RAM8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
GraphicsIntel Iris Plus 645Intel Iris Plus 645Intel Iris PlusIntel Iris Plus
Display13-inch Retina Display (2560 x 1600)13 inch Retina Display (2560 x 1600)13 inch Retina Display (2560 x 1600)13 inch Retina Display (2560 x 1600)
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3Two Thunderbolt 3Four Thunderbolt 3Four Thunderbolt 3
Size11.97 x 8.36 x 061 inches11.97 x 8.36 x 061 inches11.97 x 8.36 x 061 inches11.97 x 8.36 x 061 inches
Weight3.1 pounds3.1 pounds3.1 pounds3.1 pounds

Final Verdict –

The MacBook Pro 13-inch is a mixed update. It fixed the issue with the troubled keyboard, but still sticks with older hardware for entry-level configurations is a big problem. The design is slowly ageing in some aspects, but remains sleek and compares well to most alternates. The MacBook Pro offers you the feeling that you can do anything. You’ll only have the right tools if you opt for the most expensive configurations which are very expensive indeed.

What are the alternatives?

The best 13-inch laptop is Dell XPS 13. It beats MacBook Pro in some of the aspects and also looks good too. Even the 4K model undercuts the MacBook Pro in terms of a price. If you’ve decided to buy options from Mac series only then you’re left with only two options. MacBook Air and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Both offer better value than the MacBook Pro 13, configured with the quad-core Core i5. The MacBook Air is ideal for students and anyone who runs easier applications. MacBook Pro 16 is the best choice for serious creative professionals.

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