The 2020 edition of the MacBook Pro has received a better keyboard than its predecessor and with that we have had almost all the changes compared to the previous model. However, the MacBook Pro is well put together and has a sturdy housing, a good screen and a battery life of more than twelve hours during web browsing. The two Thunderbolt connections are not really practical and we miss a card reader. Despite the somewhat outdated processor, the performance is fine and the cooling appears to be such that little throttling occurs. Considering the hardware the MacBook offers, the price is high and so are the prices of upgrades.
- Good screen
- Good battery life
- Sturdy housing
- CPU throttling little
- High price and expensive upgrades
- Impractical connections
Since 2015, Apple equipped its laptops with butterfly keyboards, starting with the 12″ MacBook. Then the MacBooks Pro were equipped with the new keyboard and in some versions a TouchBar. The keyboards were not a success – Apple had to make many repairs – and that’s no doubt one reason Apple switched to regular keyboards with scissor switches, calling it “Magic Keyboard.” The last MacBook to go back to scissor keyboards is the 13″ MacBook Pro and in this review we look at the entry-level model, which has undergone surprisingly few improvements apart from the new keyboard.
When it comes to laptops, Apple likes to keep an existing design and that is clearly visible with the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apart from the keyboard, the appearance hardly differs from that of the model that was introduced in 2016. The housing is made of Made of ‘space gray’ aluminum, although you can also opt for a lighter shade of gray. The case feels sturdy, the laptop stands stable on the four feet that sit on the bottom and the hinge moves smoothly, but does not make the screen wobbly. you close the screen, it snaps into place magnetically and the recess in the housing makes it easy to open again.The housing looks sleek and that is how we are used to it from Apple.
On either side of the keyboard are perforations under which the speakers are placed. On many laptops, the speakers face downwards, but on the MacBook, they point upwards. This improves intelligibility, for example during a conversation.
Keyboard and touchpad
The most important innovation is therefore the keyboard, which is equipped with scissor switches. We also saw that keyboard on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which Apple released at the end of 2019. Not only the keys, but also the layout has changed. A physical escape key is back and the fingerprint scanner, top right, has also been removed from the TouchBar. The left and right arrow keys are half-height to make them easier to find when touch typing.
We were able to measure the key travel with the 16″ MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, we were unable to do that with this 13″ model, because the Windows to-go installation that we use to run the software did not recognize the keyboard. However, according to Apple, it is the same keyboard as in the 16-inch model and the 13-inch does indeed offer a similar experience. The keys have more travel than before and that’s nice, but it still doesn’t last and is comparable to the keyboards in thin ultrabooks.
Nothing seems to have changed on the touchpad. The surface is still nice and large, so you can lean on it with your hands while typing. That’s not a problem, because the palm detection works particularly well. The large, glass surface also makes it easy to perform all gestures that are included in macOS.
As far as connections are concerned, the MacBook Pro is somewhat sparse. You have to make do with two Thunderbolt connections and that quickly becomes cramped if you use one to charge the laptop. The more expensive variant has four connections, but costs more than 600 euros more. As far as we’re concerned, Apple should have equipped the MacBook with a card reader, especially since the company likes to target creative users, such as photographers and video makers.
With the review of the keyboard we have actually had all the innovations, at least as far as the test sample we received from Apple is concerned. The refresh that Apple implemented in May 2020 brought with it new processors from Intel’s Ice Lake generation, but they are only available for the more expensive models, which can be recognized by the four Thunderbolt connections. The cheaper models have two Thunderbolt connections and an eighth generation processor. With the standard model, which costs 1500 euros, that is a Core i5-8257U and you can optionally opt for a Core i7-8557U when purchasing. You can also upgrade to the model with four Thunderbolt connections and then you also get a newer processor from Intel’s tenth generation: the i5-1038NG7. However, that model immediately costs 2130 euros.
|MacBook Air 2020||MacBook Pro 2020
13.3″ (2x Thunderbolt)
|MacBook Pro 2020
13.3″ (4x Thunderbolt)
|CPU base model||Core i3-1000NG4 (9W)||Core i5-8257U (15W)||Core i5-1038NG7 (28W)|
|CPU upgrades||Core i5-1030NG7 (10W)
Core i7-1060NG7 (10W)
|Core i7-8557U (15W)||Core i7-1068NG7 (28W)|
|GPU||Iris Plus gen11, 48eu (i3) or 64eu (i5+i7)||Iris Plus 645 gen9.5, 48eu||Iris Plus gen11, 64eu|
|Architecture||Ice Lake, 10nm||Coffee Lake, 14nm||Ice Lake, 10nm|
The cheaper MacBook Air, just like the MacBook Pro, has Ice Lake generation processors with four Thunderbolt connections, and these are ‘squeezed’ into the MacBook Air at 9 or 10 watts, while the CPUs in the MacBook Pro can consume 28 watts. . The Ice Lake processors are equipped with a last-generation Iris Plus GPU, which is missing in the Pro with two Thunderbolt connections. On paper, the GPU of a MacBook Air with i5 is therefore faster than that of the entry-level MacBook Pro. In practice, however, the tdp throttling will prevent the MacBook Air from actually being faster than the MacBook Pro.
We received the ‘cheap’ MacBook Pro from Apple and have therefore not tested the version with a 28W processor, but we can make the comparison with the benchmarks of the i5 version of the MacBook Air, which is therefore equipped with the i5-1030NG7 -Processor.
The MacBook’s performance in Cinebench is fine for an eighth-generation processor; it is snappier than some Ice and Comet Lake processors. However, it cannot keep up with the fastest, such as the one in the Dell XPS 13, and the new AMD Ryzen 4500U also remains well out of reach. The same can be seen in the 3DMark Cloud Gate benchmark, in which the GPU is relatively fast, but loses out to more modern processors. In DaVinci Resolve, a longer benchmark, the MacBook Pro in macOS is faster than a hexacore Ryzen processor, but that mainly has to do with the software. Exporting a video in the Mac version of DaVinci is much faster than under Windows. When we start in Windows, we see that the export also takes longer, but is not bad for a somewhat outdated processor.
The fact that the MacBook is fast under sustained load is because there is little throttling. The cooling is emphatically present, but does its job well. We render a simple image in Blender for half an hour, using all CPU cores, and then record the fastest and slowest time. Rendering in Blender is also faster under macOS than under Windows, but it is clear that the laptop shows little throttling under prolonged load in both operating systems.
Screen and battery life
The screen of the MacBook Pro is known to be of good quality and Apple has not changed anything with the 2020 version. The resolution is 2560×1600 pixels, which gives an aspect ratio of 16:10 and produces a sharp image. If you don’t like glossy screens, you’re out of luck, because Apple hasn’t put matte screens in its laptops for years and doesn’t seem to be changing that either.
On the other hand, it turns out that the maximum brightness of the screen is nice and high and you can compensate for the reflections to a certain extent. From the measurements with our SpectraCal C6 colorimeter and Calman softwarealso shows that the contrast is high and the screen is good to be used for image editing thanks to the pretty good calibration. The calibration is not completely perfect, because the average color temperature is slightly too high and the average ΔE deviation is therefore 4.6. The screen can also display almost the entire dci p3 gamut: 99.2 percent according to our measurement. This distinguishes the MacBook Pro screen from that of the MacBook Air, because it cannot display more than the sRGB gamut. The MacBook Air also has lower brightness and lower contrast than the Pro. In addition, the p3 color reproduction is really only interesting if you are specifically looking for it, but the higher brightness and higher contrast make the screen just a bit nicer to use.
Finally, we look at the battery life and that is fine. There was a time when Apple laptops were head and shoulders above the Windows competition in terms of battery life, but that is no longer the case. The battery life during browsing and video is as you would expect from a laptop of 1500 euros. We should also note that both tests are quite light and you will probably end up with a lower battery life in practice. To simulate heavier workloads, we usually also run PCMark, but that test only runs under Windows and because that operating system is not optimized for the hardware like macOS, that would not provide a representative comparison.
Apple asks 1500 euros for the cheapest MacBook Pro and for that money you get an eighth-generation Intel processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. Although we didn’t have to put it down for this test model ourselves, we still felt a bit cheated, because for this money you expect a CPU of the last generation, more memory and a larger SSD. A version with a newer processor architecture is available, but costs at least 2130 euros. Then you also get two Thunderbolt connections extra. You can choose to upgrade the base model, but the prices for it are also not tender and the price for upgrading the working memory has recently even increased .
So much for the commentary on the price. If we look further at the laptop itself, it turns out to be very well put together. The processor is certainly not slow and beats laptops with newer CPUs in benchmarks. This is certainly the case with longer benchmarks, because the cooling is well regulated and there is little throttle. The screen has a resolution that is somewhat higher than the usual full-HD screens on 13.3″ laptops, high brightness and contrast. It is also quite well calibrated and for those who find that important, the entire p3 can be viewed. gamut are displayed. The battery life remains good and should be more than enough to get through a working day if you don’t run too demanding software. Finally, the MacBook Pro is the youngest Apple laptop to be equipped with a Magic Keyboard.
In short, the MacBook Pro is a good laptop with a solid price. In addition, the laptop has a somewhat uncertain future, which you as a potential MacBook buyer cannot ignore. Apple has announced that it will switch from Intel processors to proprietary ARM chips, which means that the Intel MacBook Pro will eventually no longer be supported. How long that will be the case is unknown. Apple keeps it to ‘the next few years’.