OPINION: Apple unveiled the MacBook Air M2 and 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 this week, two laptops powered by the new M2 chip.
I’m very impressed with the new MacBook Air, with plenty of upgrades to ensure this is a big step up from the preceding model that launched two years ago.
As for the MacBook Pro M2, I’m honestly disappointed. With Apple deciding to only upgrade the processor to the new M2 chip, it’s starting to look like a far less appealing option compared to the new Air, despite its steeper price.
The MacBook Air now has a superior webcam with a 1080p resolution compared to the Pro’s 720p video capture, while also rocking a snazzier design with a super-slender 11.3mm frame. The 13-inch MacBook Pro looks comparatively chunky at 15.6mm.
Apple will argue that the MacBook Pro’s inclusion of the fan makes up for that, helping to optimise the power of the processor, but any performance difference will likely be negligible considering both machines are using the same M2 chip.
Factor in the Air’s greater range of colour options, inclusion of MagSafe charging and slightly larger screen, and it’s difficult to see why anyone would want to purchase a 13-inch MacBook Pro instead. Sure, it’s got a slightly better battery life (at least according to Apple), as well as the controversial Touch Bar, but the MacBook Pro should have more to offer given its heftier price and ‘Pro’ moniker.
This feeds into a wider issue for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, as it’s clearly facing an identity crisis. Its ‘Pro’ name indicates that it offers a high performance, just like the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops. However, its M2 chip means it offers a similar performance to the MacBook Air instead, which is arguably very misleading, lagging miles behind the power that the M1 Pro and M1 Max processors provide.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is also lacking any of the other ‘Pro’ features that its more expensive siblings flaunt. There’s no Mini LED screen, and there’s no HDMI port or SDXC card slot. If you really want a professional-grade laptop, then I’d strongly recommend you purchase the 14-inch MacBook Pro instead.
As a result, I’m not really sure why the 13-inch MacBook Pro exists. The MacBook Air is a far better option for on-the-go productivity, while the 14-inch MacBook Pro is the better buy if you need a serious amount of power for workloads such as content creation.
In my mind, Apple has two options to remedy this identity crisis. It can either give the 13-inch MacBook Pro some more high-end features, such as a Mini LED (or OLED) screen, additional ports and even an M2 Pro chip if possible. This would of course lead to a price increase, but there’s currently a big gap between the base $1199/£1249 MacBook Air and $1999/£1899 14-inch MacBook Pro – a $1499 figure seems reasonable to me.
Alternatively, Apple could scrap the 13-inch MacBook Pro range altogether. The company has shown countless times that it’s willing to ditch a product that no longer has a unique selling point in its line-up. And with Apple failing to give the 13-inch MacBook Pro a redesign with the latest update, despite treating the MacBook Air to one, it’s looking increasingly likely that Apple is losing patience with its smallest MacBook Pro.
I personally think it would make sense to scrap the 13-inch MacBook Pro and focus on a more affordable laptop. With the recent launch of the Surface Laptop Go 2, Microsoft has demonstrated that there’s a big market for laptops which cost less than $600.
It would make a lot of sense for Apple to focus its attention on this market. It could shrink the MacBook Air’s screen size, reduce the display resolution and reuse the M1 chip. People would go absolutely bananas for a MacBook laptop like this, allowing Apple fans to use macOS without having to spend over $1000.
Unfortunately, there are no rumours suggesting that Apple is working on such a device, so it’s just a pipedream for now. But I just hope that Apple won’t keep launching new iterations of the unremarkable 13-inch MacBook Pro when it could be coming up with far more innovative form factors to make use of its revolutionary Apple Silicon processors.
Ctrl+Alt+Delete is our weekly computing-focussed opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.