It’s done. The circle is now complete. Apple has finally updated its 13-inch MacBook Pro with the Magic Keyboard. Now, the entire range of MacBooks has finally transitioned, leaving behind the almost universally loathed butterfly switch keyboard.
Physical design is unchanged, but it is a little thicker and heavier to accommodate the Magic Keyboard and upgraded internals. The 13-inch MacBook Pro now comes with Intel’s newest 10th generation processors, double the memory and storage. However, these only apply to the higher-end models with four Thunderbolt 3 ports. The entrylevel models with two Thunderbolt 3 ports will have to make do with the same 8th generation Intel Core processors that the last generation models had, and just 8GB memory. However, even the cheapest 13-inch MacBook Pro will come with at least 256GB of storage.
There were rumours that the 13-inch MacBook Pro would be updated with a larger 14-inch display but that was not to be. Instead, we have the same 13.3-inch Retina HD display that supports the P3 colour space with TrueTone technology. It’s a brilliant display but the bezels are looking a little thick in this day and age.
The keyboard is fantastic. The feel is positive with just the right amount of resistance to give feedback and to soak up your strokes. Each switch feels smooth and consistent. There’s also a physical Esc key in the top left corner, and in the opposite corner is the Touch ID button. The arrow keys now have an inverted-T configuration so that it’s easier to find them by feel.
What’s not so great, however, is the return of the Touch Bar. It appears that Apple is adamant that it’s superior to physical function keys, but I’m not so sure. It’s been nearly four years and I still haven’t found an instance that I would prefer them over physical keys. Maybe it’s because I’m a touch typist and the problem with the Touch Bar is that it isn’t tactile at all, so your mileage may vary. Regardless, the Magic Keyboard is a huge step up.
Curiously missing is support for Wi-Fi 6, which is surely the wireless networking standard of the future. It’s curious not only because the newest iPhones (iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11, and iPhone SE) and the recently updated iPad Pro support it, but also because it’s supported by just about every Windows notebook that’s been released this year. The only consolation is that you probably won’t miss it unless you have a Wi-Fi 6 router (which still happens to be quite pricey).
Performance is good. The unit I tested was the higher-end model with four Thunderbolt 3 ports, a quad-core Core i5 processor, 16GB of memory, and a 512GB SSD, and it was around 10% to 25% faster than last year’s model. When transcoding a one-hour long 1080p video, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro took 32 minutes versus the 40 minutes of last year’s model. Battery life wasn’t half bad either.
Battery capacity is a claimed 58Wh and I could get around 8 hours with the display nearly maxed out and my usual suite of apps (Safari, Firefox, Airmail, Pages).
What’s more noteworthy is the performance of the new 10th generation Core processor, which is really good, and also the fact that Apple doubled both the memory and storage of higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro models with four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Not only does it make this generation of 13-inch MacBook Pros better value, but it also puts it more in line with the needs of its intended users as well as competing Windows notebooks where 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage are steadily becoming the norm.
Taken as a whole, I think a lot of users will find this new higher-end 4-port version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro to be an enticing and compelling package. If you are shopping for a portable MacBook and you have deep enough pockets, this is the obvious choice.
And so, in a span of around six months, Apple has updated its entire line of MacBooks, transitioning them from the dreaded butterfly-switch keys to the new Magic Keyboard and given them meaningful processor upgrades and spec bumps along the way. It’s their strongest lineup of notebooks in some time and there’s something for everybody. I think anyone who bought one of these new MacBooks will be very happy with their purchase. Unless you happen to have a Wi-Fi 6 router at home.
Apple’s entire lineup of MacBooks now use the new Magic Keyboard.
The new Magic Keyboard is great, but the usefulness of the Touch Bar is debatable.
The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro offers great performance and comes with a much-improved keyboard.
AT A GLANCE
Intel Core i5-1038NG7