Apple has completed the Magic Keyboard transition with a confusing update to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. There are now essentially two new versions: a low- and high-end. So, is the 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) for you?
What’s New on the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro?
While Apple isn’t pitching it as such, it helps to think of the 2020, 13-inch MacBook Pro as two different versions.
The low-end version starts at $1,299 and has the same processor and internals as the outgoing 2018 model, except for double the storage (256 GB). All models get the new scissor mechanism Magic Keyboard, with a physical Escape key and inverted “T” arrow keys. R.I.P. flaky Butterfly keys; you won’t be missed.
This is a big deal! People have been waiting for the beloved keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro to finally make its way to the 13-inch models.
The high-end version starts at $1,799 and features the latest 10th generation Core i5 and Core i7 processors. It also has the latest Intel Iris Plus graphics, 512 GB storage, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a faster, 16 GB, 3,733 MHz, LPDDR4X memory.
Both models are customizable, but individually. For example, you can’t add faster memory to the low-end version.
You can upgrade the MacBook Pro with up to 32 GB LPDDDR4X RAM, 4 TB of storage space, and a 2.3 GHz quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i7 processor.
If you were waiting for a 14-inch MacBook Pro refresh with similar internals as the 16-inch version, this isn’t it. The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro is an update that was clearly designed to offer the new Magic Keyboard with more storage space as standard.
8th vs. 10th Generation Intel CPUs
You might be wondering why the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro is still using an 8th generation CPU from 2018. Well, it has more to do with Intel than Apple.
First of all, Intel’s 10th generation chips are made using 10nm architecture. They’re a bit faster and have better onboard graphics. However, they’re also way more expensive. Laptops with 10th generation Intel chips adds around $150. That could be why the 10th generation Core i5 chip is only available in the more expensive, $1,799 configuration.
According to YouTuber, Dave Lee, there isn’t much of a performance increase in the Intel 10th generation chips. Intel has focused on the new 10nm process and improving the onboard graphics performance. Graphics (GPU) speed on the 10th generation chips is about 50 to 60 percent faster than the 8th generation chips.
For CPU performance, an 8th generation, Core i5 processor gets a 936 single- and 3,978 multi-core score. The 10th generation Core i5 chip gets a 1,092 single- and 4,109 multi-core score. That’s not even a 10 percent bump in performance when compared to a two-year-old chip.
Based on the benchmark and real-world tests Dave Lee ran on similar 8th and 10th generation laptop CPUs, you won’t notice much difference in performance—unless, of course, you’re doing a graphics-intensive task.
Who Should Buy the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro?
If you’ve been waiting for a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a Magic Keyboard, it’s here! Get the $1,299 version, and you’ll get 256 GB of storage by default.
It still has a capable 1.4 GHz quad-core Core i5 CPU which should be good for some intensive tasks. You get a brighter Retina screen, with 500 nits brightness and P3 color gamut. The processor can run hard and fast for much longer than the MacBook Air.
If you plan to use professional apps, like Logic Pro, Final Cut Pro X, Photoshop, Xcode, or Illustrator, the new MacBook Pro will run it all just fine—but not great.
If you don’t have your heart set on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, we recommend you take a good look at the competition—the 2020 MacBook Air or the 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Based on the pricing, the low-end version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is very close to the MacBook Air, while the high-end version is close to the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Should You Buy the MacBook Air Instead?
MacBook Air is a great package at just $999, but it has one big problem—it’s not built for processor-intensive tasks. If you push it even slightly (especially the base Core i3 version), it’s going to start lagging.
The MacBook Air gets you similar specs in a cheaper package. If you won’t be performing any CPU intensive tasks—like even editing a 1080p video in iMovie—you can go with the MacBook Air. It can handle the regular duties of web browsing and work tasks just fine.
Plus, the $1,299 version gets you 512 GB of storage space (double that of the MacBook Pro), a 10th generation Core i5 processor, DDR4X RAM, and faster Iris Plus graphics. To get these features in the MacBook Pro, you have to spend $1,799.
We think the 2020 MacBook Air is the perfect Apple laptop for everyday use. If you want something more powerful, that’s where the MacBook Pro comes in.
Should You Buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro Instead?
If you’re looking at the $1,799 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, we have to talk about the 16-inch MacBook Pro first. The $2,399 base model gets you a 2.6 GHz, six-core, 9th generation Core i7 processor. You also get AMD Radeon Pro 5300 M graphics with 4 GB of memory, 16 GB DDR4 RAM, and 512 GB of storage. Oh yeah, and the 16-inch Retina display.
For an extra couple of hundred dollars, you get a much more capable machine. With discounts or if you buy a refurbished model, you can get it for even cheaper, bringing the price closer to that of the high-end, 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Should You Buy the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro?
Wondering if the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro is for you? Well, there are some things to consider.
First, are you sure the 2020 MacBook Air wouldn’t be enough for you? If you just want to browse the web and do office work, go with the $1,099 MacBook Air with the Core i5 upgrade.
If you’re sure you’ll hit the MacBook Air’s thermal limits rather quickly, though, check out the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’ll give you a huge performance boost for not much more cash. If you’re okay with spending $2,399 and don’t mind the extra weight, go for the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
However, if you’re somewhere in the middle (like, you’re sure you’ll hit the thermal limit on the MacBook Air, but don’t want to spend $2,399 on a laptop) choose one of the 13-inch MacBook Pro options.
The $1,299 base model will be enough for most professionals. If you plan to do more processor-intensive tasks, though, we recommend the $1,799 version instead of upgrading the components on the base model. The more expensive version gives you a much better GPU and faster RAM.
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