If you’ve been following the saga of Apple’s troubled butterfly keyboards, you know that the failure-prone typing surface has been the weakest link across all of the company’s laptops since 2016 — including its most popular 13-inch models. Today, Apple is finally addressing that issue by updating the 13-inch MacBook Pro with its “Magic Keyboard” design, a change that will hopefully improve the machine’s reliability going forward, as well as bumping the Intel chip specs inside.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is in Apple’s sweet spot, sitting in the upper-middle tier of both performance and pricing. Starting at $1,299 — or $1,199 for educational customers — the Pro traditionally delivers markedly superior CPU and GPU throughput compared with lower-end MacBooks, such as the MacBook Air, while falling short of the higher-end 16-inch MacBook Pro. However, the latest models appear to bring the new 13-inch Pro closer to the latest MacBook Air on the entry-level side and the higher-end Pro closer to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, though actual performance will become apparent in benchmarks.
Business users will especially appreciate the Magic Keyboard, which uses scissor-style keys like those in Apple’s standalone Magic Keyboard accessories. These mechanisms have slightly more travel (or key depth) than the prior butterfly keys and are believed to be less susceptible to sticking or otherwise failing — a major issue impacting the prior Pro’s usability for work over time. The new “Magic” keys are augmented by an OLED Touch Bar that replaces mechanical function keys with a digital display, notably now leaving both a dedicated physical Escape key to the left and a Touch ID fingerprint scanner to the right.
Apple differentiates entry-level 13-inch models from higher-end versions by leaving cheaper ones with only two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports instead of four, using much slower CPUs, and offering less SSD storage space. That’s once again the case here. While customers can choose from four-core Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, they’re considerably different on the lower and higher ends. On the low end, customers can choose between an 8th-generation 1.4GHz (3.9GHz Turbo Boost) Core i5 default and an upgraded 1.7GHz (4.5GHz Turbo Boost) Core i7 CPU. Higher-end models have 10th-generation 2.0GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost) Core i5 or optional 2.3GHz (4.1GHz Turbo Boost) Core i7 chips.
Unlike the 16-inch Pro, which includes 16GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory and a 512GB SSD standard, the 13-inch model starts at 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM and has 256GB of SSD storage, with the option to upgrade to 16GB plus a 2TB SSD. The higher-end 13-inch Pros have 16GB of 3733MHz LPDDR4X RAM and can upgrade to 32GB with up to 4TB of SSD storage.
Apple claims graphics performance is up to 80% faster in the new models, but the specifics are somewhat fuzzy. The company says the 1.4GHz and 1.7GHz models have Intel’s Iris Plus Graphics 645 chip, while the 2.0 and 2.3GHz models are listed as just the Iris Plus Graphics chip, with no part number. The higher-end models promise 80% better performance in Total War: Three Kingdoms, 60% faster 3D title rendering speed in Final Cut Pro X, and 25% faster image processing in Affinity Photo.
All of the new 13-inch Pros appear to be stuck on the same Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.0 as the 16-inch MacBook Pro, plus the same low-resolution 720p FaceTime HD camera. The 13-inch model again promises 10 hours of battery life from a roughly 58-watt-hour battery, versus the 16-inch model’s 11 hours from a 100-watt-hour cell.
The new MacBook Pro is available to order today on Apple.com. It will begin arriving later this week for online orders; pickup from stores is not yet available in the United States.