Deal-breakers? 3 things missing from Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro

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It's good, but it's not great.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s newest 13-inch MacBook Pro is out with faster Intel chips and a brilliant new Magic Keyboard. It’s not quite the refresh many fans were hoping for, however, with a number of key upgrades still missing.

Here’s why you might want to wait for the next MacBook Pro refresh.

Apple’s newest notebook will be more than enough for most MacBook Pro users. It’s faster, packs more storage, and most importantly, it no longer ships with an unreliable and universally-hated butterfly keyboard.

As far as refreshes go, however, this one is incremental; it’s not the big redesign many of us had been wishing for. In a world where a 16-inch MacBook Pro exists, the new 13-inch model leaves a lot to be desired.

Here are some of things the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is still missing.

14-inch display

Perhaps the most obvious thing missing from Apple’s newest 13-inch MacBook Pro is a larger, 14-inch Retina display. For months now, reliable sources have been telling us it’s on the way, though some warned we’d have to wait for it.

The new machine packs exactly the same 13.3-inch display found in previous models. It offers True Tone technology, up to 500 nits of brightness, support for the P3 wide color gamut, and a super-sharp 2560×1600 resolution.

Why?

It could be that Apple was forced to delay the MacBook Pro’s 14-inch display upgrade as a result of the production issues that have spawned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps those displays simply weren’t ready in time.

It’s also possible, however, that this refresh was never meant to bring a larger display. Some sources warned that the early 2020 MacBook Pro upgrade could be smaller, with more significant changes planned for later on.

All-new audio

The 16-inch MacBook Pro also introduced a much-improved audio experience. It packs a high-fidelity six-speaker system with force-cancelling woofers, and a “studio-quality” three-microphone array with high signal-to-noise ratio.

Many users and reviewers say these things live up to Apple’s promises. No other notebook on the market today is capable of delivering the same kind of audio experience out of the box.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro, on the other hand, offers a more traditional stereo speaker system and three microphones — like its predecessor. It will be decent, but nowhere near as good as its big brother.

Why?

Maybe Apple couldn’t find room inside the smaller MacBook Pro for these things. Open one up and you’ll find things are already packed in tight; there’s no free space for additional audio components as things stand.

But given that Apple made such a big deal out of those microphones when it announced the 16-inch MacBook Pro, we were hoping for similar upgrades for the smaller model this year.

Perhaps those audio improvements will come later alongside the 14-inch display — when Apple makes more significant changes to the smaller MacBook Pro’s design.

Cool new thermals

Finally, the 16-inch MacBook Pro comes with a redesigned thermal system that includes a 35% larger heat sink, and promises up to 28% more airflow. It allows the machine to run faster for more sustained periods of time.

The 13-inch model, as far as we can tell right now, uses the same cooling system as its predecessor. But it does have new chips, which could make a big difference.

Why?

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is Apple’s first notebook with tenth-generation Intel processors. They’re not only faster than previous MacBook chips, but they’re also more efficient. They sap less power and should run a little cooler.

It could be that the tenth-generation chips Apple is packing into the 13-inch MacBook Pro simply don’t need better cooling. Or, again, this could be a change that’s being saved for a more significant redesign later on.

Should you wait?

There’s a long list of other things available with the 16-inch MacBook Pro that you cannot get with its smaller sibling, like up to 8TB of storage, up to 64GB of RAM, and dedicated AMD Radeon Pro graphics chips.

We should also point out that not all 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro models feature a tenth-generation Intel chip, but realize you need to spend at least $1,799 to get one. The more affordable models still pack eighth-generation CPUs.

Now, we never expected the 13-inch MacBook Pro to get all these things; the 16-inch model is always going to be better in some ways. But with the gap between them widening, the smaller model looks less “pro” than ever.

If you’re not desperate for a new 13-inch MacBook Pro right now, then, it might be best to wait for Apple’s next refresh — if/when that might be. It’s likely to include that 14-inch screen and other big improvements we’re still waiting for.

Then again, many 16-inch MacBook Pro owners will tell you the new Magic Keyboard alone is reason enough to upgrade today.