The 2016 MacBook Pro’s redesign was divisive, to put it lightly. With its fancy new Touch Bar, reduced connectivity, and sticky keyboard, the new model’s reception wasn’t as warm as Apple may have hoped.
Many of those issues have been resolved on the new 16-inch model, which is the best Mac product in years. The problem? The 13-inch MacBook hasn’t gotten the fix yet, and not everyone needs the power and size of that larger MacBook.
Fortunately, Apple did lower the price of the 13-inch MacBook Pro in mid-2019, dropping the base model (which now includes the Touch Bar) to $1,299. That comes with an 8th-gen Intel Core processor, 128GB of SSD storage, and 8GB of RAM. With an update coming soon, is the current 13-inch MacBook Pro worth your money?
Still the most luxurious laptop
One look at the MacBook Pro 13 is all you need to know it’s a Mac. Despite the sea of copycats, the MacBook Pro design still stands out. That was even more impressive when Apple decided to take attention away from its branding, ditching the glowing white apple in favor of a slick, subtle gloss logo similar to what’s on the MacBook, the iPhone, and the iPad.
As always, the MacBook Pro 13 features an all-aluminum, unibody design lacking any visible seams aside from those on the bottom. It’s sturdy as a rock, without a hint of flex in any corner of the device. That remains true, despite it being just 3.02 pounds and only 0.71 inches thick. That’s not as extreme as it was in 2016, but the MacBook Pro remains a highly portable laptop to travel with.
When this design originally launched in 2016, the bezels looked trim and modern, despite not being as aggressive as Dell. We remarked that users with the older Pro model will appreciate the improvement.
The MacBook Pro comes in Space Gray or Silver. The new MacBook Air also has the Gold option in the mix. Color choices may seem petty, but they add a touch of personality, and we wish Apple brought some of that to the MacBook Pro. Even Dell has expanded the XPS 13’s conservative color scheme, and HP’s Spectre x360 also has some fancy color options too.
Regardless, there’s no arguing with the MacBook Pro’s elegance. The beauty of Apple design has always been subtle, which is why the company is sometimes accused of being safe, or boring. The Pro doesn’t even try to side-step those criticisms. It’s not the smallest 13-inch laptop, nor is the lightest. There’s something to be said for design that works, though, even if it’s not innovative, and the MacBook Pro remains the most luxurious laptop around.
Meanwhile, although the MacBook Pro 13-inch has a headphone jack, it makes another connectivity choice that’s just as controversial and, functionally, more important. Apple decided that USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 is the future and has ditched every other port.
Yes, USB-C is all you get. The MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar has four of these ports, two on each side. Even the card reader is missing. The decision has it benefits. The simplicity of the port selection is hard to argue with, and every port is a charging port, so you can plug the wall adapter into whichever is more convenient. The ports are quick, too, so you can hook up multiple displays or use fast external SSDs without worry about connectivity bandwidth.
Now, for the bad news: You’re going to need adapters, and you might need lots of them. Do you use an external display? That’s an adapter. External hard drive? Adapter. Wired input of any sort? Adapter. Ethernet? Adapter. SD card? Adapter. At best, you’ll need to purchase one or two dongles. At worst, you’re going to need a dock solution, which can add another $100 to $200 to the price.
The greatest irony? Even Apple’s iPhone can’t plug into any MacBook Pro 13 without purchasing an adapter.
However, thanks to Apple’s lead, this has increasingly become the norm, for better or worse. Laptops like the HP Spectre 13, the XPS 13, and the Huawei MateBook X Pro now have similar port options — and it’ll only continue to be the direction the way things go.
At least it can communicate wirelessly. Speaking of which, the new Pro 13 has the usual 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter, now paired with Bluetooth 5.0.
The keyboard of the future isn’t very good
The 12-inch MacBook, released in 2015, which has since been discontinued, debuted an all-new “butterfly” switch that’s much thinner than any used in a laptop keyboard prior. Though Apple touted it as having great feel, we complained that “typing for more than an hour [left our] fingers with a dull ache,” due to the keyboard’s stiff feel and limited travel.
Now that same keyboard can be found on the MacBook Pro. Well, not exactly the same. When launched, the Pro’s keyboard was a “second-generation butterfly mechanism,” with slightly more travel than the first. And it is an improvement.
That’s not to say it’ll serve you well. While travel has improved, the keyboard continues to suffer a stiff, abrupt bottoming action that can make long typing sessions tiresome. The degree to which this will bother you is a matter of preference. A few Digital Trends writers thought it was perfectly acceptable and most thought they could learn to live with it. No one said they preferred it over the older MacBook Pros.
And it’s not clear why this sacrifice was made. While the new MacBook Pro 13 is thin, it’s as thick or thicker than many competitors with better keyboards, such as the HP Spectre x360, ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and Dell XPS 13. Whatever the reason, it’s clear Apple had to make a compromise between size, performance, and keyboard quality, with the latter getting the bad end of the bargain.
The increased complaints (and lawsuits) about sticking keys doesn’t help either. Even with Apple’s newest keyboard update, the third-generation butterfly, it’s been clear that the keyboard sticking issue has not been resolved. We expect Apple to revert to the new “Magic Keyboard” found in the 16-inch MacBook Pro when the rumored 2020 update to the 13-inch comes around.
Should you buy it?
No. The MacBook Pro 13-inch is not a bad laptop, but you’ll be disappointed by the outdated design, faulty keyboard, and high price tag.