Home / Laptop Reviews / Apple MacBook Pro 13 (2020) review: The hobbyist

Apple MacBook Pro 13 (2020) review: The hobbyist

Apple MacBook Professional 13 (2020) evaluation: The hobbyist

Macbook Professional 13-inch Touchbar

“The MacBook Professional’s new keyboard makes it a worthy selection for aspiring creatives.”

  • Business-leading show
  • Skinny and light-weight design
  • Wonderful new keyboard
  • Laborious-as-rock construct high quality
  • Complicated processor selections
  • Common battery life

The MacBook Professional 13 performs an important position in Apple’s lineup. It’s not a real “professional” laptop computer — that’s the MacBook Professional 16. It’s for the hobbyist. The novice. The aspiring professional.

Let’s face it. The quantity of people that really want professional-level efficiency is comparatively small, whereas hobbyist graphic designers, YouTubers, music producers, and photographers are a dime a dozen. It’s a demographic that features a few of Apple’s greatest followers, and the MacBook Professional 13 reveals why.

Value and configurations

The best way Apple costs the MacBook Professional displays that aspiring hobbyist nature of this laptop computer. It’s costly. Much more costly than earlier than. The bottom mannequin begins at $1,299, which feels like a good value.

That’s till you notice Apple is promoting previous in a brand new laptop computer. Other than the keyboard, this “new” MacBook Professional is equivalent to the one it was promoting a 12 months in the past.

This isn’t what different laptops producers do. You will get the newest 10th-gen processors within the Dell XPS 13, Floor Laptop computer Three, or HP Spectre x360, in configurations beginning at $1,200 or much less. This isn’t Apple’s normal observe both. The corporate tends to replace its Macs at a slower price than different corporations, however when a brand new mannequin comes out, it usually has the newest silicon.

And I can’t think about Apple releasing a brand new flagship iPhone or iPad that makes use of final 12 months’s processor. It as an alternative releases previous designs with new processors, just like the iPhone SE.

That makes configuring a MacBook Professional a whole mess. Good luck selecting between the Eighth-gen Core i7 and the 10th-gen Core i5. Surprisingly, it’s the Eighth-gen that prices $100 extra when equally configured. Spec for spec, Apple is upcharging you $200 for the modest leap from Eighth-gen to 10th-gen Intel processors. It additionally fees extra for sooner reminiscence, maybe in makes an attempt to sweeten the deal on high-end fashions.

There’s one glimmer of sunshine within the new configurations. Storage. The bottom mannequin now comes with a 256GB SSD somewhat than 128GB, and the $1,799 mannequin has 512GB. That’s already the usual for a lot of laptops, and I’m comfortable to see Apple observe swimsuit.


One factor might change my bitter impression of the MacBook Professional 13’s choices. Efficiency. Perhaps Apple cooked up one thing particular. It’s doable, because the Intel 10th-gen Core chips in costlier configurations are particular to the MacBook Professional.

My evaluation unit had Intel’s Core i5-1038NG7, a 25-watt processor with 4 cores and eight threads. It’s just like the Intel Core i5-1035G7, a 15-watt processor that reveals up in lots of 13-inch laptops together with the Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre x360, and the Microsoft Floor Laptop computer Three.

These 10 further watts do add some efficiency, however as I discovered, it’s a modest uptick. The MacBook Professional 13 beats most different 13-inch laptops in Cinebench R20 and Geekbench 5 — particularly laptops that don’t push the CPU laborious, just like the Spectre x360 or the Razer Blade Stealth. The Dell XPS 13 is a notable exception. It makes use of thermal tips to push the processor greater than others, and regardless of it having a lower-wattage chip, it beats the MacBook Professional 13 in most benchmarks.

The MacBook Professional 13-inch’s efficiency squeaks by for a hobbyist.

However in real-life functions, the MacBook Professional 13 punches again. I encoded a 4K video in Handbrake to H.265 in simply over Three minutes, which is 10 seconds sooner than the Dell XPS 13. That is one of the best video-encoding rating I’ve but seen from a 13-inch laptop computer, although not by so much. Once more, that is with the $1,799 mannequin, that includes the 10th-gen Core i5, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.

That doesn’t imply the MacBook Professional is a content-creation machine. To export a 4K 2-minute clip to ProRes 422 took a painfully lengthy 16 minutes. The 16-inch MacBook Professional can do that in about half the time, because of extra processor cores and a discrete graphics card. The issue is that laptop computer begins at $2,499, greater than double the value of the entry-level MacBook Professional. The $1,799 sits in between the 2 when it comes to value, however not when it comes to efficiency.

The MacBook Professional 13-inch will squeak by for a hobbyist, although. Should you do music manufacturing in Logic, pictures in Lightroom, or YouTube movies in Last Lower, the 13-inch MacBook Professional received’t get in your method an excessive amount of, so long as you aren’t pushing the machine with excessive resolutions or codecs. Should you aren’t making a residing in these functions, paying $2,499 or extra for a laptop computer isn’t possible. In that case, coping with some hiccups or longer render instances is your solely selection.

In fact, the MacBook Professional 13 can simply deal with dozens of Chrome tabs, Slack, Spotify, and streaming video. If that’s all you could do, the extra inexpensive MacBook Air would in all probability be a more sensible choice.


The MacBook Professional 13’s four-year-old design is now on its fourth iteration. That’s not unparalleled for Apple, and it’s not essentially a foul factor. There are areas the place the MacBook Professional nonetheless leads. You possibly can open it with one finger, but the display screen isn’t wobbly. The audio system are unparallel, blowing each different 13-inch laptop computer out of the water. They’ve extra bass and a wealthy stereo unfold that pulls out particulars in songs such as you’ve by no means heard in a laptop computer.

However just a few wrinkles present, together with the display screen bezels. With the MacBook Professional 16, Apple trimmed down its bezels in favor of a bigger display screen. That’s much less wasted house and extra display screen actual property. Nevertheless, the MacBook Professional 13 is caught with chubby bezels. Rumor has it a 14-inch MacBook Professional is within the works that takes an analogous strategy, nevertheless it’s not prone to launch in 2020.

It has a super-sleek profile that dozens of laptops have tried however failed to copy.

You possibly can’t fault Apple for its unibody aluminum chassis, nonetheless. Many have tried to duplicate Apple’s machined aluminum physique. The House Grey colorway nonetheless appears to be like contemporary and complicated, particularly sitting subsequent to gentle grey Floor units, or one of many myriad of nondescript black laptops. I do want the wonderful gold end from the MacBook Air was an choice, although.

I can’t complain concerning the measurement both. The MacBook Professional isn’t the thinnest or smallest 13-inch laptop computer on the planet, nevertheless it nonetheless feels slim. With out setting it beside the zero.58-inch XPS 13, you wouldn’t be loopy to imagine the zero.61-inch MacBook Professional was thinner. The unibody construction offers it a super-sleek profile that dozens of laptops have failed to copy.

The MacBook Professional 13’s Thunderbolt Three ports have been a trendsetter when first launched, however at this time they’re pretty normal. The $1,799 mannequin comes with 4 Thunderbolt Three ports, whereas the $1,299 mannequin has simply two. On the cheaper mannequin, Apple locations each ports on the left aspect, which is a bit inconvenient for charging functions.

Show high quality

The MacBook Professional line is a pacesetter in show high quality, although that image has slowly modified over the previous couple of years. The MacBook Professional 13’s 2,560 x 1,600 display screen is crisp, particularly for a 13.Three-inch display screen. Should you’re used to a 1080p display screen, you’ll discover the distinction in sharpness straight away.

However laptops just like the XPS 13 or Spectre x360 now provide 4K display screen choices which might be much more pixel dense, whereas nonetheless being each bit as brilliant, vibrant, and color-accurate. Configured the identical, the 4K Spectre x360 is $500 cheaper, whereas the XPS 13 is $140 cheaper. HP even gives an OLED choice that options unbelievable black ranges that typical LED can’t match. Lately, these screens are even better-equipped for exact photograph modifying than the MacBook Professional.

Rumor has it that Apple is investing within the subsequent evolution of its show know-how, mini-LED, nevertheless it appears to be like like we’ll need to maintain ready for it.

The Magic Keyboard and Contact Bar

Past the interior updates, the Magic Keyboard stands out because the MacBook Professional’s most necessary function. Is unhappy state of affairs? Perhaps, however you’ll be able to rely on one hand the quantity of instances Apple has reversed course this sharply. It’s an enormous deal.

I’m not satisfied this might be Apple’s final try to reinvent the keyboard, however for now, it’s retreated to a traditional design. Every key has a scissor change, a rubber dome, and a full millimeter of journey.

It’s not a return to the 2015 MacBook Professional, although. The keycaps are sturdier and fewer wobbly, and the keypresses have a sharper click on. It’s implausible — a quiet, snug keyboard I felt immediately at residence with. The inverted “T” form of the arrow keys is again, as is the Esc key. All of those got here to the MacBook Air and MacBook Professional 16-inch first, however I’m comfortable nonetheless.

The Magic Keyboard is a quiet, snug keyboard I felt immediately at residence with.

The trackpad hasn’t modified, nor ought to it. Numerous engineering magic occurred within the preliminary design in 2016, and it nonetheless stands as one of the best trackpad on a laptop computer.

The Contact Bar sits rather than the operate row, and it hasn’t grown on me previously few years as I’d hoped it might. It nonetheless freezes sometimes, leaving me unable to show down my music or display screen brightness. It’s hardly ever helpful, and I usually neglect it’s there. I used to be ecstatic when Apple launched it in 2016. What an thrilling innovation! However since then, Apple has executed little or no to develop it right into a function that feels obligatory.

Contact ID nonetheless sits on the highest proper of the Contact Bar, providing fast sign-ins and Apply Pay purchases. I miss facial authentication within the vein of Face ID or Home windows Howdy. Mac stays the one main OS to not implement some sort of facial recognition.

Battery life

The present MacBook Professional has by no means boasted stellar battery life. You possibly can anticipate round 6 to 7 hours on a single cost, relying on how laborious you push it. I averaged round 6.5 hours on my typical workflow of net apps.

When in comparison with 1080p laptops just like the XPS 13 or Spectre x360, the MacBook Professional will get crushed. The XPS 13 ought to web you an additional four hours of battery life, which makes the MacBook Professional look pretty weak by comparability.

When you leap as much as 4K display screen, although, the rating is a little more even. I haven’t reviewed the newest 4K mannequin of the XPS 13, however in earlier generations, it lasts 45 minutes lower than the MacBook Professional in the identical web-browsing battery check.

Our take

The MacBook Professional 13-inch is a blended replace. It fixes the troubled keyboard, however Apple’s determination to stay with older for entry-level configurations is an enormous drawback. The design is getting old in some respects, however stays modern and compares properly to most alternates. The MacBook Professional gives you the feeling that you are able to do something, however you’ll solely have the appropriate instruments for those who go for the costliest configurations — that are very costly certainly.

Are there any options?

The very best 13-inch laptop computer is the Dell XPS 13. It beats the MacBook Professional in most areas, and appears simply nearly as good doing it. Even the 4K mannequin undercuts the MacBook Professional in value.

Should you’re set on a Mac, your different two choices are the MacBook Air and the 16-inch MacBook Professional. Each provide higher worth than the MacBook Professional 13. Configured with the quad-core Core i5, the MacBook Air is right for college kids and anybody who runs easier functions. The MacBook Professional 16 is your best option for critical artistic professionals.

How lengthy will it final?

The MacBook Professional 13 ought to final you not less than 5 years or extra. Apple is thought for making extraordinarily reliable merchandise. Should you purchase the entry-level $1,299 mannequin, although, that processor is a full 12 months behind different new laptops you purchase in 2020.

Must you purchase it?

Sure. It gives simply sufficient further efficiency to be a stable choice for aspiring artistic professionals.

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