The 2022 hop-up of the 13-inch MacBook Pro (starting at $1,299, $1,899 as tested) brings a big silicon deal for power users to the stalwart MacBook: It’s the first to hit the market with Apple’s new M2 processor. In classic Apple fashion, it’s a stylish and capable laptop that can hang with the best in the ultraportable class. But the design is, in a way, a safe and conservative one, with few marked changes apart from the chip update. Indeed, it feels stuck in the cutting edge of 2016, even as the MacBook Air (and other sizes of the MacBook Pro) have seen a host of updates.
Upgraded with the first manifestation we’ve seen of the second-generation Apple Silicon-based processor line (the plain “M2,” in contrast to previous-generation variants like the “M1 Max”), the MacBook Pro 13-inch is marked as much by what doesn’t change as what does. The new CPU may offer enhanced performance, but the rest of the MacBook Pro is almost exactly as it was when Apple introduced the design six years ago, even as the 14-inch and 16-inch models have gotten updated styling and features. The result is a laptop with superb performance, but one that feels a step off the leading edge, even as it handily beats other top competitors in the game of raw testing numbers.
The 2022 MacBook Pro: A Case of Design Déjà Vu
Apple’s MacBook design is extremely familiar—as mentioned above, the outward design is mostly the same as the one Apple introduced in 2016. The aluminum chassis looks great, and it comes in either a bright silver finish, or the Space Gray of our review unit. The lid is smooth and featureless, save for the mirror-shine Apple logo, and the whole package is still an impressive 0.61 by 12 by 8.4 inches (HWD) that weighs just 3 pounds.
(Photo: Brian Westover)
But that consistency of design is also part of what holds back the new MacBook Pro, because it doesn’t look like a new MacBook Pro, but the same 13-incher as ever, The newer 14-inch and 16-inch Pro laptops feature a flatter profile and a wider port selection, and they ditch the controversial Touch Bar, which increasingly looks and feels like a relic rather than a forward-looking feature. (It has its proponents, to be sure, but the rest of the MacBook line ditching it shows what Apple thinks of its long-term prospects.)
That said, everything that worked about the older MacBook Pro 13-inch, when it had an M1 processor, still gets the job done in the new M2-equipped model.
(Photo: Brian Westover)
And, if you’re looking for the best initial implementation of the M2 processor, the MacBook Pro will probably prove to be it. (We haven’t yet had the opportunity to test and review the 2022 reboot of the MacBook Air with M2, but we should soon.) Unlike the MacBook Air, which relies on passive cooling, the MacBook Pro uses fans to keep things cool, and in turn maintain higher peak performance under load. It also gets a larger battery, which Apple estimates will provide two extra hours of life.
The 2022 MacBook Pro’s Connectivity: A Few Good Ports
When it comes to ports on the MacBook Pro 13-inch, there’s not a lot to talk about. The laptop has two data ports, and they’re both Thunderbolt 4 ones that use an oval USB Type-C connector. One of those ports doubles as a charging port for the laptop. Both are on the left edge. The only other wired connection is a 3.5mm headphone jack, on the opposite edge.
(Photo: Brian Westover)
(Photo: Brian Westover)
Those dual Thunderbolt 4 ports can be adapted into any number of other connections for peripherals, thanks to a wealth of third-party hubs and docking stations that convert Thunderbolt out to several ports.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro will support one external display, with resolution up to 6K—like that seen on the Apple Pro Display XDR monitor—but only the one. If you want to run two or three external displays of any resolution, you’ll need to step up to the more powerful 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro models.
The 2022 MacBook Pro’s Keyboard and Trackpad: Familiar, Solid Inputs
The Magic Keyboard feels great to type on, combining the slimness of a membrane dome switch with the satisfying, solid typing feel of the scissor-switch mechanical stabilizers beneath each key. As laptop keyboards go, it’s quite good, if not the best of the lot; trying it side-by-side with the keyboard on the recently reviewed Dell XPS 15 OLED (9520), the Apple keyboard felt shallow.
(Photo: Brian Westover)
The Force Touch trackpad is still spacious, though its generous size is no longer an outlier. Large touch pads have become the norm on midrange and premium ultraportable laptops, among them the Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310) and the HP Spectre x360 14. The pressure-sensitive controls offered by Force Touch aren’t as impressive, however, as they seemed back when it was introduced. For many users, the contextual menus and pressure-specific controls are less intuitive than a simple binary mouse click, or straightforward gesture controls. The haptic feedback, however, still remains one of the best implementations we’ve seen.
The Display and Audio: Same Old Song
As with the rest of the design, the MacBook Pro 13’s display and audio features are also the same as on past models. That’s great in the sense that the Retina display has faithful color reproduction and high brightness, which translates into sharp text and crisp video. It also features Apple’s True Tone color optimization, which automatically adjusts the color and brightness to make the display look its best under a variety of lighting conditions common and challenging.
But the Retina display’s 2,560-by-1,600-pixel native resolution is just a touch disappointing when the option for even higher resolutions are so common in this category, as seen on the Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310) and the HP Spectre x360 14. And features like True Tone are offered on the MacBook Air, too, blurring another distinction between the new M2-equipped Pro and the M2 version of the MacBook Air, which is also getting a proper physical redesign.
All that aside, the display is still quite good. There’s still no touchscreen option on the Mac (that would have been the biggest news, if there were), but the 2022 MacBook Pro does have the Touch Bar, so that, as ever, is what Apple offers to mollify the touch-input-hungry Mac user.
The audio quality is also quite good, with stereo speakers providing great dynamic range. And if you prefer to use headphones, the system supports Dolby Atmos and other spatial audio formats.
But then there’s the webcam, which keeps the same 720p resolution offered on the older Mac laptops. With new Macs getting full HD (1080p) and even higher resolutions, it’s a real disappointment to see the MacBook Pro sticking with a decidedly non-Pro camera, especially in an age when webcams, for many users, are getting more of a workout than ever with remote learning and flexible work schedules ascendant.
M2 Chip: A Little Bigger, A Little Better
The biggest change to the MacBook Pro 13 is the switch from the first-generation Apple Silicon M1 chip to the new M2 processor. On paper, that looks like an easy win, with the M2 version offering more transistors, backed by a larger memory bandwidth, and supporting better GPU capability and larger amounts of RAM than the original M1.
(Photo: Brian Westover)
In our testing below, you’ll see that the improved chip does deliver better performance across the board—it topped the M1 in every test we’ve run. (And we’ll follow up with additional results as we’re able to do more testing later this week.)
Now, of course, Apple offers several configurations of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Our own review unit was stepped up from the base model, outfitted with more memory (16GB) and storage (1TB), and decked out in Space Gray. This configuration sells for $1,899. The base model is a bit more modest, with the same Apple M2 eight-core processor and 10 GPU cores, but only 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD for storage. The price for that starter version is $1,299.
If you really want to splash out on the 13-inch Pro, the best configuration ($2,499) tops out at 24GB of memory and a 2TB drive. Whether that’s worth the extra spend pivots on your memory and storage needs. If you know you’ll be working with memory-intensive apps or need the maximum possible local storage for media work, the additional cost may be worth it. But for everyone else, it’s probably an extravagance.
Let’s dig into the performance testing to see how the new M2-powered MacBook Pro stacks up.
Benchmarking the Apple M2 in the MacBook Pro 13-Inch: Slightly Boosted Performance
As we noted, our M2-equipped model comes with 16GB RAM and a 1TB SSD, which puts it in line with several of the top 13- and 14-inch ultraportables we’ve reviewed. For comparison’s sake, we looked at the previous M1 model of the MacBook Pro 13-inch from 2020, as well as the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the upticked version of the M1 CPU, the Apple M1 Pro, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro, with the next-step-up M1 Max.
Along with these Apple competitors, we also looked at top competitors from other brands, notably the Dell XPS 13 OLED (9310) and the HP Spectre x360 14 mentioned earlier, as well as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021). All of these are top-rated systems in similar sizes and price ranges. Here’s a basic breakdown of the specs for each of our comparison models…
Comparing Apple’s macOS laptops to Intel-powered Windows ones isn’t entirely straightforward, as the latest nuances of the long-running Mac and PC bifurcation makes finding meaningfully overlapping tests a bit of a challenge. Apps that run just fine on scads of Windows machines may not have native support on Apple Silicon, and Apple’s family of supported apps doesn’t always include a Windows equivalent.
While the cross-platform tests aren’t as numerous as we’d like, we still have plenty to compare. Video transcoding in Handbrake is one such test, timing how long it takes a machine to convert a standard 4K clip into a smaller 1080p version.
We also use Cinebench R23, which uses Maxon’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, to test multi-core and multi-threaded processing. Another processor-intensive test we run is Primate Labs’ Geekbench Pro, which simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning.
Finally, we run Adobe Photoshop running in Rosetta 2. While Photoshop does run natively on both M1- and M2-based Macs, we used the same PugetBench for Photoshop test (by workstation maker Puget Systems(Opens in a new window)) that we use to test everything from workstation beasts to kid-friendly laptops. But here we’re running it in the Rosetta 2 emulation layer, less as a pure indication of media-processing capability, and more as a test for how well the system can handle older software originally designed for Intel-powered Macs. But even with that caveat, the Mac performance holds up very, very well against top Windows machines.
The trend is pretty clear. When comparing the M2-powered MacBook Pro to other Apple MacBooks, it outperforms the M1 model—but not the M1 Max or M1 Pro—every time, often by a healthy margin. These are improvements that you’ll feel in day-to-day use, but that will be most apparent when you’re pushing the performance capabilities of the chip with complex tasks, such as editing photo or video files. More casual use will simply seem snappy and responsive.
But it’s most telling when we compare the M2 MacBook Pro to top-rated Windows machines—the MacBook Pro blows past the Windows ultraportables every single time. It’s a stunning result, especially considering the M1 had similar margins, and Intel is still playing catch-up.
For gauging relative graphics performance, we turn to GFXBench, a cross-platform rendering test. Whether it was the basic 1080p Car Chase or the more demanding 1440p Aztec Ruins test scenario, the MacBook Pro handled it easily. While the Mac version relies on Apple’s Metal instead of OpenGL, the comparison shows that there’s no performance hit from the switch. The MacBook Pro 13 offered excellent scores, easily beating both the older M1 model and leading Intel laptops, like the HP Spectre x360 14 and the Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon, which rely on the integrated graphics (Iris Xe) resident on those two systems’ Intel processors. (The M1 Pro and M1 Max in the larger MacBook Pros, once again, commanded a clear lead over the M2 in this new MacBook Pro.)
Our limited time with the MacBook Pro prior to publication prevented us from completing our full selection of graphics and gaming tests, so we’ll update this review with those numbers once we’ve had a chance to complete our full test suite.
Finally, we put the MacBook Pro through our standard battery test, a 24-hour looped version of the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel(Opens in a new window) at 720p, with the laptop set to 50% screen brightness and Wi-Fi off.
The MacBook Pro notched an impressive 21 hours and 55 minutes of battery life. And while 20-plus hours of battery life isn’t out of the ordinary for Macs, it’s a different story for Windows, where only one of the leading ultraportables managed similar numbers, with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) getting within striking distance. But if you want an all-day machine that doesn’t need to be plugged in, the MacBook Pro 13-inch is a great choice.
An Initial Take: Apple Competing With Apple
The M2 chip definitely proves itself in our tests, showing solid performance and efficiency across the board. It makes a strong case for going with Apple in the name of productivity, though anyone looking to pivot from Windows who relies on specific software will need, as ever, to be wary of Apple’s limitations on the application side of the equation.
But the landscape is quite different than it was when the M1 wowed us with its impressive performance and ultra-long battery life. Intel has launched its 12th Generation laptop processors, which offer competitive performance and adopt a similar mix of Performance Cores (P-Cores) and Efficient Cores (E-Cores), and AMD’s latest Ryzen 6000 series processors are still delivering a solid mix of performance and value, though they are less common in laptops.
But Apple’s biggest competition right now is Apple itself. The M2 processor is a step up from the M1, as a new iteration should be, but it still sits below the M1 Pro and the M1 Max in terms of pure processing power. And at the launch of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, those upper-tier M1 chips remain on the market in the other screen-size versions of the MacBook Pro. If you want superior processing speeds or media-editing chops, you’ll want to spend the extra money for the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro, in a configuration that features those older, but more capable, chips.
Indeed, the M1 family isn’t going anywhere yet—the M1 MacBook Air is sticking around as Apple’s entry-level laptop, and it’s still plenty capable for most users. The new M2-equipped MacBook Air will have new features and a fresh design to help sell it, but the MacBook Pro 13 didn’t get the same treatment.
(Photo: Brian Westover)
Should You Upgrade From an M1 MacBook Pro?
With the clear improvement over the M1 model, there’s definitely a case to be made for recommending the M2-powered Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch if you’re coming from a pre-Apple Silicon MacBook. It offers better performance, better graphics, and stunning battery life, even compared to the M1 model from 2020.
But it’s not a huge improvement, especially when you consider the fact that the 13-inch MacBook Pro was left out of the improvements and upgrades lavished on the MacBook Air and other MacBook Pro models over the last two years. The M2 chip is an improvement over the M1, but not as significant an uptick as the older M1 Pro and M1 Max options, and the M2 MacBook Air is coming shortly, offering what will likely amount to similar performance with the same processor, but a fully updated design.
That awkward middle-child status makes the 2022 MacBook Pro 13-incher both easy and hard to recommend. It’s a great laptop by almost every measure—but it’s not the best value, or the best performer, in the MacBook Pro stable. And Apple has other options that seem to offer more for both casual and professional users (the Air, and the 14-inch MacBook Pro, respectively). We’ll be most interested to see how the MacBook Air, with its different pricing structure and newer design, shapes up—in its own M2 iteration—versus this new Pro. Stay tuned.
Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (2022, M2)
The Bottom Line
The 2022 reboot of Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro gets points for its peppy new M2 processor, which delivers a raw-performance uptick, and remains an iconic design. But we’d have liked to see more daring innovation on the rest of the laptop.
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