Over the years, Apple has retained a consistent design language for its MacBook Pro laptops. Yes, there have been minimal tweaks here and there—to make them slimmer, reduce the weight, or other such incremental changes. But even the genuine technological generational leap with the MacBook Pro Retina a few years ago used much the same tried and tested design. The new MacBook Pro, however, changes things considerably.
Compared to its predecessor, the new MacBook Pro 13 is lighter and thinner at 1.37kg and 0.59 inches. The design doesn’t throw caution to the wind, but it does bespeak restraint, though significant changes have been made within the trademark symmetry that bears striking similarities to the 12-inch MacBook. There are now two colours, and the new Space Grey, inspired by the iPhone and iPad, is certainly more attractive than the conventional Silver. There are no Gold and Rose Gold options just yet.
The big change is with the ports. Gone are USB 3.0 ports, the HDMI port and the SD card slot. Instead, you get two USB-C ports. If most of your data is on cloud services such as iCloud and Dropbox, this shouldn’t be an issue. However, you’ll need to buy adaptors for accessories such as existing hard drives and memory cards to make them compatible with USB-C ports. This can be a bit limiting for power users, who may hook up a second monitor at home or at work.
While Apple has used the existing 13.3-inch (2,560x1,600-pixel) Retina display, there are improvements in terms of brightness, contrast and colour reproduction. The previous-generation MacBook Pro displays were very good in terms of colour accuracy, but these improvements ensure the Pro 13 is the best laptop display visually.
Anyone who has been using a MacBook Pro will find the new keyboard design a little startling initially. Gone is the nice key travel (the distance of the press when you tap on a key) that you experienced every time you used the keyboard in the previous generations, and the layout is flatter. This will entail a slight learning curve for users.
Each key too is slightly bigger. The keyboard is noisier, a contrast from the silent keyboard in the previous MacBooks. However, Apple has increased the size of the touch pad by as much as 46%; very useful when you’re scrolling through documents and Web pages.
It is a bit perplexing to find that Apple has chosen to use an Intel Core i5 processor in the MacBook Pro 13, while similarly priced Windows laptops are using the more powerful Core i7 chips. One of the reasons is the basic underlying difference between the way Mac OS X Sierra and Windows 10 operating systems operate; both have different power as well as battery-life usage characteristics. With 8 GB RAM and a fast 256 GB solid-state storage, even extreme levels of multitasking are possible without a stutter in performance.
Battery life with the latest macOS Sierra update is nothing short of fantastic. Despite using this at work for Web browsing (a dozen Safari tabs open on average), opening multiple Word or Pages files simultaneously, and streaming some video playback and music on Apple Music, we consistently got 11-hour battery life.
In most aspects, the new MacBook Pro 13 is better than its predecessor. It is slimmer, lighter, brighter, has a more accurate display, and offers smooth performance. It does fall short, for some users, in terms of the ports on offer, and the keyboard isn’t as good as it used to be.
We recommend it, nonetheless, because the undeniably premium experience of using a MacBook remains intact. That, in itself, is worth its weight in gold.