The 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) edition is a noteworthy release for a variety of reasons. The most compelling reason to take note is that it’s finally transitioned from the oft-maligned butterfly keyboard to the much-improved Magic Keyboard.
Indeed, with the release of this MacBook Pro, the butterfly keyboard is no more. Should you consider upgrading? Watch our hands-on video for the details.
First and foremost, I recommend ignoring any “new” MacBook Pro model below the $1799 version. Yes, they all feature the Magic Keyboard now, but cheaper models come with older 8th-generation Intel CPUs, and much-less-capable integrated graphics, among other deficiencies. If you just need a cheap Apple laptop for basic computing, I recommend looking at the MacBook Air (2020) instead, as it also has the Magic Keyboard.
With that being said, here are the specifications for the $1799 model. These specs can be upgraded during the build to order process on Apple’s website.
- 2.0GHz quad-core 10th-generation Intel Core i5 processor
- Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics
- 16GB 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory
- 512GB SSD storage
- 13-inch Retina display with True Tone
- Magic Keyboard
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
- Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
- Price: $1799
13-inch MacBook Pro (2020) video review
Unboxing and features
If you’ve ever unboxed a MacBook in the past, you won’t find any surprises when unboxing the 2020 MacBook Pro. Inside the box you’ll find the MacBook laptop, a “Designed by Apple in California” packet with MacBook Pro getting-started guide, warranty and regulatory information, and Apple stickers.
You’ll also find a 61W USB‑C power adapter inside the box, along with a 2-meter USB-C charge cable.
Design and build quality
Design-wise, the MacBook Pro has changed very little from its predecessor. Unlike last year’s transition from the 15-inch MacBook Pro to the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple’s smallest Pro-designated laptop retains the same exact form factor as its direct predecessors.
In other words, the screen size is exactly the same at 13.3-inches, and the black bezels that surround the display are the same size as well. At 3.1 pounds, weight is still the same, as are the dimensions, with the MacBook Pro measuring in at 11.97 inches-by-8.36 inches-by-0.61 inches.
Additional MacBook Pro staples, like the Touch Bar, and the extra-large trackpad still remain, as are the speakers located on the left and right side of the chassis. By and large, from a design perspective, this MacBook Pro varies very little from the machine that it’s replacing.
But that’s not to say that there are no obvious changes for the MacBook Pro, because the Magic Keyboard has finally arrived on the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
After last month’s update to the MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro was the only remaining laptop in Apple’s lineup that hadn’t yet ditched the horrific butterfly keyboard in favor of Apple’s Magic Keyboard with scissor switch mechanism.
I’m not going to go super in-depth with the differences between the butterfly switch keyboard and the new Magic Keyboard, but you can read and watch my in-depth impressions in my 16-inch MacBook Pro (2019) review and my most-recent MacBook Air (2020) review. In both reviews, I lend details on what makes the Magic Keyboard such a breath of fresh air to anyone who’s used the butterfly switch keyboard in the past.
Needless to say, the Magic Keyboard on the 2020 MacBook Pro is amazing to type on compared to the butterfly switch keyboard found on older hardware, and this change by itself may be worth the price of admission if you’ve found the prior model unreliable and/or difficult to type on.
I’ll sum up the new Magic Keyboard in just a few points:
- There’s more perceived key travel on the Magic Keyboard
- The keys have slightly more space between them lending to more accurate touch typing
- Even when pressed off-axis, the keys drive straight down, similar to the butterfly keyboard
- There’s a physical escape key
- The inverted-T arrow keys make a much-needed comeback on the MacBook Pro
- The Magic Keyboard is not nearly as prone to issues with dust and debris
These are the main reasons why you’d want to upgrade to the Magic Keyboard from the prior butterfly key switches on 13-inch MacBook Pro models of old.
With the introduction of the Magic Keyboard in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the long, tumultuous, embarrassing chapter of the butterfly keyboard is officially closed. Good riddance!
Nothing has changed with the trackpad on the MacBook Pro, but for all of the grief we give Apple over the keyboard debacle, I think it’s fair to dish out some much-deserved props for how good the trackpads are on Apple laptops.
The trackpad on the MacBook Pro is absolutely perfect, and I honestly couldn’t think of a way for Apple to improve it. For starters, the trackpad isn’t mechanical at all, it’s solid-state, which means that you can click any area of the trackpad and get the exact same response.
The trackpad works great with macOS software when navigating around the operating system and within apps. The gesture support in macOS is second-to-none, and much of that is owed to how good the hardware is.
So it’s nothing new, I just wanted to give props to Apple for making such good trackpads. Interestingly, if you’re debating between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro, one of the key differences is trackpad size. The trackpad on the MacBook Air is noticeably smaller than the trackpad on the MacBook Pro, despite the machines sharing roughly the same form factor.
Touch Bar and Touch ID
Now if we could only say the same about the Touch Bar…
I’ll continue to express my sentiments that the Touch Bar is more or less wasted space on the MacBook Pro. Unlike the MacBook Air, which features physical function keys on the top row, the Touch Bar is a touch screen that dynamically maps function keys and various other interactions based on the apps you’re using.
The idea of the Touch Bar was perhaps a noble one, but it’s just not a practical use of real estate in my opinion, and I would much prefer physical keys.
The Touch Bar adds needless complexity to the MacBook Pro, and requires you to look down at the keyboard in order to see what virtual button you’re interacting with. It’s one of those ideas that sounds great on paper, but has never really caught on with developers or the Mac community at large.
Touch ID, on the other hand, is just as great as it’s always been. With a simple tap of your finger on the Touch ID sensor, you can easily unlock your Mac, or authenticate within supported apps. But as the MacBook Air has shown us, you don’t need the Touch Bar to have Touch ID.
Four Thunderbolt 3 ports
Another major reason to opt for the $1799 version of the MacBook Pro over the cheaper models is that lesser versions are stuck with just two Thunderbolt 3 ports sharing a single Thunderbolt 3 bus.
Having the two extra Thunderbolt 3 ports may not only have a significant impact on performance, but the convenience of having physical connections for peripherals and for power on both sides of the MacBook Pro chassis cannot be understated.
For example, in my review of OWC’s ThunderBlade SSD, you need the bandwidth provided by two separate Thunderbolt 3 buses to benefit from the full potential of two ThunderBlades in a RAID 0 configuration. Trying to connect both drives to the same Thunderbolt 3 bus results in significant bottlenecks.
The display on the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the same display that we’ve had for the last few years. The 13.3-inch Retina display features a native resolution of 2560‑by‑1600 at 227 ppi.
The MacBook Pro display supports technologies such as True Tone, which automatically adjusts the white point of the display based on ambient light. Unlike the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro display is brighter at 500 nits vs 400 nits, and it supports P3 wide color, for more accurate color reproduction.
FaceTime HD camera
For as good as Apple makes the cameras in the iPhone, Mac webcams continue to be less than stellar, and the 720p FaceTime HD camera in the MacBook Pro is no exception.
The FaceTime HD camera requires a ton of light and even then isn’t all that impressive. Apple should, at the very least, bump up the resolution to 1080p. Having a 720p webcam in the year 2020 seems ridiculous.
While the sound quality on the 16-inch MacBook Pro was much improved over its 15-inch predecessor, the sound quality on this year’s MacBook Pro refresh sounds exactly like previous model years. Which is to say, the sound quality is decent enough for a 13-inch laptop, but it’s not going to make your ears perk up like the 16-inch model with its specialized speaker setup and improved microphone arrangement.
The biggest differences with the 13-inch MacBook Pro has little to do with the exterior design, but there are some big changes underneath the hood if you opt for the $1799 version.
Intel 10th-generation Core CPUs
By far the biggest change to come to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, outside of the upgraded keyboard, is the addition of 10th-generation Intel CPUs and integrated Intel Iris Plus graphics.
The $1799 version features a 2.0GHz quad‑core 10th‑generation Intel Core i5, supporting Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, along with 6MB shared L3 cache. You can upgrade the processor to a 2.3GHz quad‑core 10th-gen i7 that turbos up to 4.1GHz for an additional $200. For many users, the i5 found in the default configuration will be enough.
These 10th-gen CPUs are, of course, faster than the previous 8th-gen chips, but they are also bundled with integrated Intel Iris Plus GPUs with up to 80 percent faster graphics.
These GPUs, unlike the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 GPUs found in the 8th-gen Intel configs, support the ability to connect to one of Apple’s high-end Pro Display XDR monitors at full 6K resolution.
Granted, you’ll need to temper your expectations, because pushing 20 million+ pixels is a tall order for any integrated GPU. I highly recommend using an eGPU as an intermediary to help out with graphics performance.
Of course, benchmarks only tell part of the story, and my comparisons aren’t exactly apples to apples because I don’t own all of the needed hardware to facilitate more meaningful 1:1 comparisons. Yet, these benchmarks should provide you with a ballpark idea of what to expect out of the $1799 SKU.
During my testing, I noticed that the 2020 MacBook Pro with 10th-gen CPU is significantly quieter than both the 2019 MacBook Pro and the 2020 MacBook Air when under sustained load. If you’re someone who values a quiet working environment, then such a factor shouldn’t be overlooked.
The $1799 MacBook Pro comes bundled with 16GB of RAM and can be upgraded to 32GB if desired. The memory that Apple uses in the higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with faster and more power-efficient 3733MHz LPDDR4X memory.
I’ve long stated that if you wish to use your MacBook Pro to work in creative professional apps like Adobe Photoshop, Affinity Designer, Final Cut Pro X, Apple Motion, and the like, then 16GB should be the starting point. Thankfully, the $1799 models start users off right with 16GB as a baseline.
Like all of the products in its product line, Apple has given the entry-level models a significant boost in storage space. The $1299 MacBook Pro now comes with 256GB of flash storage instead of a paltry 128GB like in the past.
Although I don’t recommend opting for the entry-level MacBook Pro if you’re determined to have the cheapest MacBook Pro model, at least Apple now provides a decent amount of storage.
The $1799 version of the MacBook Pro starts users off with 512GB of storage, which is enough to store all applications and their corresponding files, and still have some usable space left over. The 512GB configuration is also high performance, with read and write speeds above 2000 MB/s.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro gives users the option of configuring up to 4TB of storage, which in many cases will eliminate the need for most users to connect an external drive, adding to the convenience.
If you’re in the market for a 13-inch Apple laptop, then it boils down to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.
If your workflow primarily involves basic computing tasks like web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, etc., then the MacBook Air will most likely be enough for your needs. It was recently updated with the Magic Keyboard and features updated Intel 10th-generation CPUs.
But if you’re a creative professional who regularly uses professional apps like Final Cut Pro X, Logic Pro X, Adobe Creative Suite, Affinity Designer, etc., then I’d advise you to lean towards the $1799 and higher MacBook Pro.
With this MacBook Pro configuration, not only do you get a more capable CPU, but you get more high-performance storage, double the RAM, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a brighter display with wide color support, and a quieter machine with less fan noise.
What do you think? Sound off down below in the comments with your thoughts and opinions.
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