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‘Two Laptops, One Keyboard’ — Jason Snell Reviews the New 13-Inch MacBook Pro

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

Since 2016, there have really been two different laptops living under the name “13-inch MacBook Pro.” There’s a lower-end model with two Thunderbolt 3 ports (on the left side), and a higher-end model with four ports (two on either side). Originally the lower-end model didn’t have a Touch Bar, but Apple added it to the low-end model last year.

There’s a big difference between the two models, one that’s been heightened with this set of updates. The low-end laptops start at $1299 and are powered by 8th-generation Intel processors. The high-end models start at $1799 and have received a boost to 10th-generation “Ice Lake” Intel processors. The low-end models are closer in base price to the $999 MacBook Air than to the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro. […]

In any event, if you’re shopping for a new Apple laptop and you’re wary of the $1799 starting price of the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, you should consider the MacBook Air as well as the low-end Pro. They’re more alike than you might imagine, the Air is lighter and cheaper, and if you have no use for the Touch Bar, all the better.

Great review, and helps fill in the missing context that Apple’s “two laptops with one name” marketing inherently leaves out. Apple can’t really emphasize the differences between the two 13-inch MacBook Pros without making the low-end variant look bad. The high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro is the professional model. Faster and more modern processors, double the ports, up to 32 GB of RAM (and the RAM is faster too). The low-end models are something else altogether. They’re not bad MacBooks in any sense — but I genuinely wonder who they’re for. Most people who want a 13-inch MacBook should definitely get the new Air; those who want or need more performance should get the high-end MacBook Pro. I’m not sure who the people in the middle are, other than those who feel they should buy a MacBook with “Pro” in the name because that sounds better.

Fire up Apple’s excellent comparison page with all three 13-inch MacBooks: the Air, the 2-port Pro, and the 4-port Pro. Yes, the 2-port Pro has faster CPUs than the Air, but not by much. Otherwise, it really just looks like a thicker, heavier laptop that gets ~10 percent less battery life.

The 4-port 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, looks like the machine I’ve been waiting for for years.

Thursday, 7 May 2020