Just how similar is the 13-inch MacBook Pro? Well, it has the same Retina display screen, the same 720p FaceTime webcam, and even the same Touch Bar instead of a traditional row of function keys like every other one of Apple’s recent computers has reverted back to. As innovations go, the Touch Bar’s contextual controls for volume, spelling suggestions, and the like are useful some of the time and a minor annoyance on other occasions. It ranks somewhere alongside Sega’s Dreamcast, Google Glass, and the actual glass on a Tesla Cybertruck as good ideas that didn’t quite work out at the time. As with many of the other holdovers here, it’s by no means a dealbreaker.
Enter the M2
As much as this all doesn’t sound especially inspiring, in practice, this 13-inch MacBook Pro remains a killer laptop. It’s familiar but pretty much classic at this point, kind of like the all-white dress code at Wimbledon. If you can get over the chunky black bezels around its screen, you’re treated to some crisp, punchy, and accurate visuals whether you’re video-editing, chomping through your inbox, or kicking back with Ms. Marvel. A delightful Magic Keyboard and trackpad combo gives you the tactile responsiveness you need while cranking out work on a deadline, and weighing at 3 pounds and less than an inch slim, this machine is light enough to chuck in a backpack without having to dig out all your belongings beforehand. Basically, this Pro is able to get the job done, whatever you throw at it.
Speaking of which, the new M2 chip that powers everything takes no prisoners whatsoever. Apple claims it delivers “nearly 40 per cent faster video-editing performance” than its M1 predecessor, but how apparent those gains turn out to be will depend on what you do with this laptop—it’s gonna take a lot more than 20 open Chrome tabs to make this thing pause for breath. Having run some proper benchmarking tests with it, we can definitively say that the 13-inch MacBook Pro was already one of the fastest laptops out there and now it’s even further ahead of the competition. When a laptop is capable of playing up to 11 simultaneous streams of 4K ProRes 422 video at 30 frames per second, you know that it won’t suffer fools gladly.
Having used the Pro for a week now, we’d say its battery life is actually the most immediately impressive thing about it. We used this laptop on and off on a five-hour train journey from London to deepest, darkest Wales, and then followed that with a full working day of Zoom, Slack, and Google Docs, and still ended a healthy chunk of stamina left in the tank. That is ridiculously good going any laptop and gives decent credence to Apple’s claim of up to 20 hours of battery life given the right conditions.
What about the Air?
Given this M2-powered MacBook Pro was announced alongside an all-new MacBook Air earlier this month—one that costs just $100 less and comes with a bigger display, better webcam, the same M2 chip and MagSafe charging—you’d be crazy to not at least consider opting for the alternative. Should you actually spring for the shiny new thing instead? Having spent the best part of ten minutes with the Air whilst mired in a media scrum, we’re not exactly in a position to give you a definitive verdict beyond the fact that it looks cool as hell.