Apple recently updated the MacBook Pro 13, but has managed to seriously complicate matters for anyone looking to buy one of the company's smaller pro laptops. Choosing the MacBook Pro 13 that you should buy is no longer easy.
For one, half of the MacBook Pro 13 models have outdated processors, while the other half is much more expensive, but is equipped with 10th generation Intel chips. Different RAM speeds and capacities, expensive solid state drive upgrades, different port options and things get complex quickly.
However, our MacBook Pro 13 buying guide will help you navigate these unsafe waters and decide which model is right for you. We have covered all important basics. At the end of this guide, you should have a clearer idea of which model to choose.
The (processor) generation gap
When Apple updated the MacBook Pro 13, the laptop was equipped with the 10th generation Ice Lake processors from Intel. What Apple didn't say was that these chips are limited to the two most expensive versions of the MacBook Pro 13. In comparison, the two entry-level models are based on older eighth-generation processors.
This isn't just a cosmetic change – Intel's 10th generation processors perform about 15% better than their older counterparts in benchmarks. The eighth generation chips on offer have base clock rates of 1.4 GHz (for the Quad-Core i5) and 1.7 GHz (for the Quad-Core i7). In contrast, the 10th generation Quad-Core i5 starts at 2.0 GHz, while the Quad-Core i7 has a base clock of 2.3 GHz. The latest chips are also equipped with improved Iris Plus graphics, which offer a significant upgrade over their predecessors. All versions of the MacBook Pro 13-inch use integrated graphics. For discrete graphics, you will need to switch to the larger 16-inch model.
Together, this all makes a noticeable difference. After all, the MacBook Pro has had eighth-generation processors since July 2018. If you're considering upgrading from one of these models to one from 2020 and opting for a cheaper option, you'll likely be very disappointed in the performance department.
That said, you should just choose the 10th generation models, right? Not so fast. If you want a 10th generation processor, you'll have to pay at least $ 1,799. The high-end MacBook Pro 13 starts at $ 1,999. That's a lot to pay just to have the latest chips available. We don't recommend old components, but paying $ 2,000 for a laptop that is still in four cores feels wrong.
Once you have chosen the processor generation that you are willing to pay for, you need to decide whether you want an i5 or i7 chip. Most people will be happy with the i5 – it will be more than enough to do basic computing.
If you are carrying out higher workloads, e.g. For example, frequent 3D modeling, video export and complex algorithm work, the i7 is more suitable for you. It usually benefits from higher clock speeds and a larger cache, which is helpful for professional tasks. But if that's your type of work, the MacBook Pro 16 is probably closer to you than the MacBook Pro 13 anyway. We've put together a buying guide for MacBook Pro 16 if you're more interested in Apple's largest laptop.
How much memory do you need?
The 10th generation chips from Intel not only enable better performance of the processors themselves, but also work with memory at a higher speed than their older predecessors. This is reflected in your decisions with the MacBook Pro 13.
The two entry-level models (which get stuck on processors of the eighth generation) offer LPDDR3-RAM with 2133 MHz. The two more expensive models, on the other hand, are equipped with LPDDR4X-RAM, which is operated at 3,733 MHz. That is, the more expensive versions have memory that is not only faster, but also from a newer generation.
However, what probably makes a bigger difference is the amount of RAM that you choose. The two cheapest MacBook Pro 13 models start at 8 GB and can be upgraded to 16 GB for an additional $ 200. The two more expensive models start at 16 GB and can be expanded to 32 GB for $ 400.
We think 16 GB hit the sweet spot. Although Apple originally rated the RAM upgrade for the entry-level 2020 MacBook Pro 13 at $ 100, it now costs $ 200. While this is still a relatively affordable upgrade, it will make a big difference to your Mac's performance. However, upgrading to 32 GB is much more expensive and overall a much more difficult question. You will probably only need so much if you do extremely intensive tasks. In this case, you should look at the MacBook Pro 16 instead.
Should you get a bigger SSD?
As a welcome change, Apple now offers all laptops at least 256 GB of super-fast SSD storage, which is usually much faster than that of competing laptops. The previous amount – 128 GB – was far too miserable for a modern laptop. However, only the cheapest MacBook Pro 13 starts with 256 GB. The two midrange models have 512 GB, while the high-end version has a 1 TB SSD. For the first time, you can now equip certain MacBook Pro 13 models with a 4TB SSD.
Updating the SSD size can be costly, but the price depends entirely on the model of the MacBook Pro 13 you choose. For example, the $ 1,299 version costs $ 800 for a 2TB SSD. The $ 1,999 model only charges $ 400 for the same drive.
For most people, 512 GB is probably a good choice. If you don't have a lot of photos and movies, or install a lot of big games, you're unlikely to run out of space soon.
If you have larger storage needs, check out Apple's iCloud storage plans. Apple offers 50 GB, 200 GB and 2 TB levels, and the 2 TB level costs $ 10 a month. If you don't mind storing your files in the cloud rather than locally, it may be much cheaper than buying a larger internal SSD with your MacBook Pro.
Ports, AppleCare and more
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There are a few other things to consider when buying a MacBook Pro. One of the most important is how many ports you need. Nowadays, all Apple laptops only use USB-C ports that run at Thunderbolt 3 speed. This means that you get incredibly fast transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbit / s, but also that you need an adapter for all devices that don't use USB-C ports.
The two cheapest MacBook Pro 13 models have two Thunderbolt 3 ports, while the more expensive versions have four. This is probably a secondary consideration compared to things like processor and memory – after all, you can get USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 docks that give you a lot more ports – but it's worth thinking about before you pull the trigger .
In addition to the MacBook Pro 13, Apple also offers AppleCare + insurance. This extends your coverage from one year to three and covers up to two cases of accidental damage (each with an upfront service fee). For the MacBook Pro 13, this costs $ 269. If you pay at least $ 1,299 for a laptop that you will hopefully use for many years, we think the extra security is worth it.
Which MacBook Pro 13 should you buy?
The exact model you choose depends heavily on your specific circumstances. However, we believe that for most people, the choice will be limited to two models.
If you can afford it, pick the model for $ 1,799. This is the "cheapest" way to get the latest 10th generation Intel processors in a MacBook Pro 13. You get 16 GB faster storage as standard and a 512 GB SSD, both of which are great for most people. You also get four Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of two.
However, we know that this model costs a lot of money. If finances are a bit tight, the $ 1,299 option is a decent option because it has a more generous SSD. Note that you get stuck on an older processor. If you increase the storage to 512 GB and the storage to 16 GB, only $ 100 will remain below the $ 1,799 model. So you should carefully consider whether it is suitable for you. This eighth generation Core i5 should still perform better than a Core i7 MacBook Air.
Whichever model you choose, AppleCare + is worth considering. It protects your device in the event of a failure and gives you priority access to Apple's excellent customer service team. If you spend so much on a laptop, it's worth protecting it well.
The alternative to buying a MacBook Pro 13 is to wait until the end of the year. Apple is generally expected to launch a completely revised 14-inch MacBook Pro in late 2020 or early 2021. This will be a revised MacBook Pro 13 that will get the same treatment as the MacBook Pro 16 – that means a new cooling system, thinner bezels and more. If you can hold out until then, we think you'll be rewarded.