Apple MacBook pro M2 13in review: A familiar design with blazing speed

The latest Apple Mac laptop looks familiar but, unlike the current 14in and 16in MacBook pros, the new 13in model has not adopted the latest design, but continues a previous look instead.

That means there’s a touchscreen strip where the function keys normally sit, called the touch bar. It also lacks the SD card slot, HDMI connector and MagSafe charging system which are on the larger laptops.

But it has one key advantage: currently, it’s the only laptop that features the second generation of Apple’s silicon (its own-brand processors). Apple claims that the M2 chip is 40 per cent faster than the last MacBook pro model when running high-demanding programs.

The company also points out that if you haven’t updated to an M1 Mac, then the performance increase is much steeper: 600 per cent faster.

After real-world testing the highly anticipated machine, we found out whether the debut laptop lives up to these claims.

How we tested

We’ve been testing the MacBook pro with M2 since soon after it was revealed at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference in Cupertino on 6 June. All parts of using the laptop have been considered, from the ease of set-up to the effectiveness of the onboard applications, as well as design and battery life.

Our tester reviewed every aspect of the laptop’s performance especially closely, because of the new processor on board. We tested at every level, from general everyday use such as email, web surfing and video playback to more demanding programs like video editing. In all cases, we looked at the speed, responsiveness and efficiency of the new MacBook pro.

Read more:

Apple MacBook pro with M2 processor, 13in display: From £1,349, Apple.com

Rating: 8/10

  • Processor: Apple M2
  • Display: 13.3in, LED-backlit, 2,560 x 1,600 native resolution, 227 pixels per inch, 500 nits brightness
  • RAM: 8GB/16GB/24GB
  • Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB
  • Dimensions: 30.41cm x 21.24cm x 1.56 cm
  • Weight: 1.4kg
  • Colour: Silver/space grey

This new laptop is completely familiar, in other words, as elegant as ever. It’s identical in design to the MacBook pro 13in laptop Apple has been selling for several years, with the familiar tapered lip to its lid. Open the lid and the keyboard and large glass trackpad are exactly as on previous models. Also the same are the grille speakers at the side of the keyboard, the display and even the MacBook pro logo at the base of the screen.

If you’ve seen the new MacBook pro models with 14in and 16in screens, you’ll spot lots of differences. Those have the latest design: flat lid, a tighter curve to the edges and a brighter display.

It remains a classy, stylish device, looking particularly good in the darker, space grey colour. It’s also available in silver.

The connectivity here is just two USB-C ports and an earphone jack. This makes for a sleek design but lacks the lightning connection found on the other MacBook pro models, for instance.

This was a controversial element, but we like it. If you haven’t used it, it’s a highly versatile feature, replacing the top row of function keys with a touch-sensitive screen.

You can set it so that it exactly replicates the keys, becoming a glass replica of them. But it’s much more useful if you let it do what it does best: change purpose according to the program you’re using.

In the mail app, as you’re typing the address of your recipient, it offers suggestions to choose from. That’s handy, but even better is when you regularly send an email to a similar group of people, for instance, the other email addresses will instantly pop up so it’s quicker to choose the ones you want.

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There are downsides: our reviewer knows several people who accidentally tap the touch bar without meaning to, with surprising results. This was especially the case when there was a virtual Esc button on the left which would unexpectedly quit you out of a file, say. Now, the Esc button is a physical one, sitting at the extreme left of the row. It’s flanked by the fingerprint sensor and power button which sits on the right.

This is now the only Mac laptop with the touch bar and it may not stay in the design much longer, making this a keen purchase for fans of the feature.

The display measures 13.3 inches and has sharp corners. That’s pretty standard on laptop screens, but is noticeably different from the new 14in and 16in screens which have gently curved corners. That said, the larger laptops have a cut-out in the display, where the camera sits, which this model does not have. So, while it doesn’t reach quite as far into the edges of the lid, the display is perfectly rectangular.

Performance

This is the big reason to buy this new laptop, and it’s a pretty convincing one. The importance of Apple’s foray into silicon is hard to overstate. Apple has made its own chips for the iPhone and iPad for some years but, until less than two years ago, every Mac had an Intel processor in it. The introduction of the Apple M1 chip in November 2020 was a game-changer. Processing power went through the roof while the laptop remained cool – a sign that the processor wasn’t exerting itself too much.

At the same time, battery life went up significantly. The two together meant that Mac users adopted the new models with the M1 chip in their droves. M1 was followed by the more powerful M1 pro and even better M1 max. Most recently, the M1 ultra (essentially two M1 Max chips artfully sewn together) was released.

Now, the M2 has been announced, and is installed for the first time in this laptop. Currently, it’s unique to the 13in MacBook pro, though the new-design MacBook air will have something similar when it launches in July.

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The M2 chip comes in two versions. Both come with an 8-core CPU with four performance cores and four efficiency cores. The difference is in the graphics processing unit (GPU). The entry-level chip, the one that’s found on the upcoming MacBook air, has an eight-core GPU. The step-up chip has a 10-core GPU. This is the chip that comes as standard in the MacBook pro, but you’ll need to pay extra if you want it on the new MacBook air.

But first, performance on the new MacBook pro is faster than on the already-lightning-fast previous model of MacBook pro. This is the reason you would want to upgrade to it.

Apple’s pro models live up to their names by making super-demanding programs run like Usain Bolt. If your computer needs to include these power-hungry apps for things like video editing, for instance, you’ll be grateful for this. You’ll be able to have more hi-res windows open and running at speed at the same time.

As mentioned above, Apple claims that the M2 is 40 per cent faster at this kind of application than the last model. It’s also supposedly 600 times faster than a non-M1 Mac.

In other words, while the move from Intel to M1 was a sea change of epic proportions, the uptick here may be less dramatic, but, at 40 per cent, it’s still very impressive.

So, how about if you don’t need this kind of program, if your usage is confined to apps that are more friendly in terms of their power demands? There are still benefits to be had. The MacBook pro is amazingly responsive, with programs doing their business fast enough to never leave you waiting.

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It’s worth noting that the other two MacBook pro models have M1 pro or M1 max chips which are still faster than this processor in some situations, thanks not least to having 10-core CPUs on board.

But the bottom line is this is a very fast laptop. This is borne out by benchmarks, for instance, but more enjoyably in real-world testing which yields a fast, smooth experience.

Battery life is also very good, up to 20 hours, in Apple’s calculations, which feels about right in our testing. This is two hours more than the upcoming MacBook air and only one hour less than the 16in MacBook pro with its noticeably bigger battery.

This is a key factor here. The MacBook pro 13in with M2 processor costs £1,349. The new MacBook air, when it arrives next month, will cost £1,249. So, you should choose the air, right? It’s not quite that simple. The air has the slightly less proficient version of the M2 processor. If you want the faster version found in this MacBook pro, you have upgrade to the 512GB storage model, which costs £1,549.

The verdict: Apple MacBook pro M2 13in

Apple has given customers a tough choice to make with its latest, M2-powered laptops. Want the best, most powerful version of the M2 chip? Then the 13in MacBook pro offers the best value, and with the excellent touch bar to boot. But if the thinner, lighter MacBook air with its 13.6in screen and lightning charging connector appeal, then you can save £100, but you’ll lack the ultimate M2 power (and you’ll need to wait a little for its debut next month).

If you’re a pro user, aspire to be, or just want to run lots of programs without your computer breaking a sweat, then the classic design, the superbly fast performance and that touch bar may see you rushing for this new, yet familiar, 13in MacBook pro.

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Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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