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Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro Review: The Super Speedy M2 Chip in a Classic Build

Apple's first M2-powered computer is nearly here, and I've spent a week with it.
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I’ve spent over a week with the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, and while you might be questioning the “new,” I can assure you that it all becomes a lot clearer once you sign into macOS. This laptop sports the now classic design language that Apple initially ushered in back in 2016, but it’s souped up on the inside with the brand-new M2 chip. It’s Apple’s second-generation in-house-made chip for a Mac, and it’s been refreshing in my use as my primary device for the past week.

It doesn’t have a redesign like the arriving July 2022 MacBook Air, but the 13-inch MacBook Pro is still something to be excited about in 2022. Even if it is starting to feel a bit more like the iPhone SE and the 10.2-inch iPad.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro still starts at $1,299 and is up for order, with shipments starting on June 24, 2022. So let’s unpack all that’s new with Apple’s first M2 computer.

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It’s All About the M2 Processor

The initial switch from Intel to M1 (Apple Silicon’s first chip) in 2020 had a lot to live up to and delivered one of the most significant leaps in computing. Similarly, Apple is promising some significant improvements from M1 to M2: 18% faster CPU, 35% faster GPU, and 40% faster Neural Engine. And the M2 is still based on a 5-nanometer chip that’s only a bit larger than the M1, though it packs 20 billion transistors.

And after an abundance of testing and use cases, Apple’s leaped here … again. The 13-inch MacBook Pro delivered the highest single-core score I’ve seen on a benchmark. In day-to-day use, macOS is incredibly responsive, and more intense tasks like video editing a 4K or 8K file or mass photo renders occur nearly instantly.

On the $1,299 entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro that I’ve been using, the M2 chip features an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and a 16-Core Neural Engine. It’s paired with only 8GBs of RAM, which is Apple’s standard for its Macs now, and it also comes with 256GB of solid-state-storage. That’s plenty for speed.

Day-to-day, I’ve been using a bevy of apps for work, communication, and entertainment like Google Chrome, Safari, Pixelmator Pro, Slack, Messages, Reminders, Parcel, Final Cut Pro, Numbers, Cities Skylines, Mini Motorways, Coffee Inc 2, and Excel. All of these ran without a hitch, and I could easily multitask and keep many open at once. I even hit double-digit tabs in Chrome and Safari with a number of these other applications open. Thankfully no warning of the Mac running out of RAM appeared.

Unlike when M1 first hit the scene, many of these — and likely the applications you’d find yourself using — are all optimized for  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report Silicon with versions designed for the operating system. And still, when you see an application that isn’t yet optimized, Rossetta kicks in to let that Intel-optimized application run on this Mac. This is a key area where the M2 chip kicks some butt in speed. It can make an Intel application open near instantly, whereas the M1 takes a few seconds to get the ball moving.

It just moves and allows you to get on with your work. Be it more productivity-centric or intense creative tasks, and you’ll have an ample runway to get your work done here. Routinely, I could handle running upwards of 20 applications, each with multiple instances.

The other trick with the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a fan and an active cooling system which allows the M2 to run hotter for longer. But, as it did with the M1 MacBook Pro, it’s hard to find instances where you can hear the fan. In most cases, with day-to-day workflows, you won’t find that the fan needs to kick in unless it’s a big render, a long-running task, or a high frame rate game that’s on for a long time.

All in all, the performance from the M2 is a significant jump generation over generation with the M1 chip, especially if you’re using the machine for more intense tasks. This 13-inch MacBook Pro got the highest single-core score I’ve ever seen for a laptop in GeekBench. If you’re coming from an Intel machine, it’s a night and day difference in terms of performance and just the whole experience.

Below I’m sharing some testing scores from the 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, and 8GB of RAM), 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro with M1 (8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, and 8GB of RAM), and 2020 13-inch MacBook Air with M1 (8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine, and 8GB of RAM.

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13-inch MacBook Pro with M2

13-inch MacBook Pro with M1

13-inch MacBook Air with M1

GeekBench 5 Single-Core

1,976 single-core

1,713 single-core

1,703 single-core

GeekBench 5 Multi-Core

8,092 multi-core

7,006 multi-core

6,203 multi-core

3D Mark Wild Life Extreme

6,738 overall score with an average of 40.3 FPS

4,929 overall score with an average of 29.5 FPS

3,897 overall score with an average of 23.3 FPS

As the raw benchmarking scores show, the M2 both boosts the whole experience. Still, it hits a higher mark, especially in the graphical space and with a bevy of multitasking. You’ll see this daily with faster render and export times for both 4K and 8K video projects, along with more swift photographic edits. And when it needs to push, the fan will kick in to keep the M2 running a bit longer.

A Classic Design

While this is the 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro, it looks no different than the 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro. Apple is still offering it in just silver or space gray, and the latter still loos sharp. It’s not as thin as the M1 or M1 MacBook Air at 0.61-inches and weighs a bit more at 3-pounds.

It’s unmistakably a MacBook Pro. One that keeps the same thickness throughout has four black rubber legs on the bottom, two USB-C ports on the left, and a headphone jack on the right. You’ll use the lip on the front to lift the top of the laptop open and will be greeted by a 13.3-inch Retina Display with bezels all around. The left, right, and bottom don’t look that out of place, but the top bezel is starting to look a little thick by modern laptop standards. This 13-inch MacBook Pro opts for bezels instead of a notch at the top the display like on the larger MacBook Pros.

And the display is still vibrant, crisp, and overall rich. It’s a 2560 X 1600 resolution that delivers 227 pixels per inch, and it sports True Tone and support for the P3 wide color standard. It also hits 500 nits of brightness, which makes it ideal for video editing and using it under bright fluorescent lights or outdoors in direct sunlight. Sadly, there’s no high refresh rate support here, though that won’t be an issue if you’re coming from a device above 60Hz.

There’s also a 720p FaceTime camera centered above the display. I wish a 1080pHD camera was tossed in here, but it’s OK for FaceTime, Zoom, Google Meet, and WebEx. The M2 processor does feature a fresh image signal processor, but I didn’t notice crazy improvements in the quality here.

The Magic Keyboard here is excellent to type on. Heck, I wrote this review and countless other emails, stories, and spreadsheet inputs over the past week. Each keypress is punchy, which provides an invigorating spring back that doesn’t bottom out and keeps one typing. It’s also paired with an expansive trackpad ideal for navigating macOS Monterey and video timelines in Final Cut Pro.

And love it or hate it, there’s still a Touch Bar instead of a physical row of function keys here. It’s a little strange, as no other Mac in the lineup features this bar, and it feels as if it’s being phased out a bit. I still like it for some neat use cases like switching tabs in Safari visually, selecting an emoji or opting for a predictive text key, and shortcuts in creative apps like Pixelmator or Final Cut Pro. But there are also times when I search for a physical F1 or F5 key, after using the MacBook Air and 16-inch Pro.

So yes, it’s not a fresh redesign that you might have been craving, but it’s a classic Apple design language that has become common in homes, schools, and workplaces. And remember, for those who want a “Pro” with the fan for extended, intense tasks, this entry-level model with a very familiar build.

Long Battery Life

Apple is still opting for the same 58.2-watt hour lithium-polymer battery inside the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro. It’s the same one that also delivered an impressive longer than all-day battery life on the M1 13-inch MacBook Pro. But here, thanks to the M2 and its efficient properties, it’s lasting a bit longer.

Notably, our battery test beat the promised 20 hours of video playback that Apple was promising. In our testing, the 13-inch MacBook Pro lasted for 23 hours and 15 minutes with a 4K playback test. I also set the brightness to 50% and turned off connectivity during the playback. It’s quite impressive, and in day-to-day use, it’s tough to make the MacBook Pro die.

I could easily have the 13-inch MacBook Pro last over a full day of use, coming in around 18 hours of full use, and the laptop can sit in standby mode for several days.

Like any other 13-inch MacBook Pro, you’ll charge it with a USB-C cable. Apple still ships this with a 67-watt brick, but no fast charging is supported here. Similarly, Apple didn’t add MagSafe to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. For that port, you’ll need to wait for the new MacBook Air or opt for a 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Bottom Line

The 2022 13-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t catch eyes with a striking new look but rather soups up the experience by turning it to 11. Applications open in a flash, and it just moves with any task. Even neater, it can scale for more creative photo or video edits, most times without evening needing to kick in the fan.

Apple’s M1 chip -- and the many laptops and desktops opting for it -- is still plenty powerful, and by no means is it a slouch. Those devices will be ticking along for many years to come, and there’s no need to jump to M2 unless you feel you need more speed or bandwidth for graphics-heavy tasks. Those still sticking with an Intel Air or Pro will find that the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro significantly improves speed. It will also beat any of those in terms of battery life.

It’s a classic look with a souped-up engine on the inside, and that’s something I can get behind.

Prices are accurate and items in stock at time of publishing.