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The MacBook Air grabbed most of the headlines at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, boasting a sleek new design and the introduction of Apple's second-generation M2 system-on-chip (SoC). That's hardly surprising since the MacBook Air is, according to Apple, "the world's best selling laptop", but it meant that this more modest update for the 13-inch MacBook Pro went almost unnoticed -- in fact, it got barely a minute during the opening WWDC Keynote speech.
That's perhaps inevitable, as the 2022 edition of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is, essentially, a speed bump that does little more than drop the new M2 chip into the same 13-inch laptop design that's been in use for several years. And, in many respects, the MacBook Air is now the more attractive of the two laptops. The one real advantage of the MacBook Pro is that its fan-assisted cooling system allows its processor to run at full speed for longer than the passive cooling of the MacBook Air. That might give the MacBook Pro the edge for professional users who don't mind trading a little extra weight for more sustained performance in their key apps and software.
If you're in the US, then the price of the 13-inch MacBook hasn't changed, still starting at $1,299 when equipped with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid-state storage. The entry-level UK price, however, has increased from £1,299 to £1,349.
There are no upgrade options for the M2 processor itself, although the M2 runs at 3.5GHz, compared to 3.2GHz for the previous M1, and steps up from 8 to 10 GPU cores. The 8GB of RAM is annoyingly limited for a professional laptop, though, and Apple's memory upgrades are as expensive as ever, costing $200 to double up to 16GB, or $400 if you opt for the maximum 24GB. Storage upgrades are equally pricey, costing $200 for 512GB, $400 for our 1TB review unit, or $800 for 2TB.
There really are very few differences between the M1 and M2 versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That's no bad thing, though, since the M2 edition is just as slim and light as its 2020 predecessor, measuring 304mm wide by 212mm deep by 15.6mm thick. The weight remains the same too, at 1.4kg -- not much heavier than the 1.24kg of the new MacBook Air.
The 13.3-inch Retina Display remains the same too, with 2560 by 1600 resolution (227ppi) and 500 nits brightness that provides a bold, colourful image that works well for streaming video and entertainment. The Retina Display also supports both Adobe RGB and the DCI-P3 colour standard required for professional-level video and graphics work.
This unambitious update does represent a missed opportunity, though. The 13-inch MacBook Pro retains the unloved Touch Bar that Apple has already removed from other MacBook Pro models, and is the only MacBook Pro model that's still limited to two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports.
It's also disappointing to see that it retains the same 720p webcam as its predecessor. The webcam does work well in relatively low light conditions, but it can't match the sharpness of a good 1080p webcam. That's disappointing for a laptop with a starting price of $1,299, and it remains odd that a company with Apple's affinity for eye-candy should have such an obvious blind spot when it comes to webcams.
As mentioned, the M2 chip includes an 8-core CPU just like the M1, but now steps up from 8 to 10 cores for its integrated GPU. The M2 also increases the maximum amount of integrated 'unified' memory from 16GB to 24GB, with 100GB/s memory bandwidth that is 50% higher than that of the M1. That has led Apple to claim a performance increase of 39% over the M1 for tasks such as gaming and image processing. The fan-assisted cooling system of the MacBook Pro also seems to give it an edge over the M2 version of the MacBook Air, as it been reported that the Air's passive cooling system sometimes forces it to throttle processor performance when under intense pressure in order to reduce heat output.
Our test results were somewhat mixed, but still show the M2 pulling clearly ahead of the entry-level M1. The M1 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro achieved a score of 1,707 for single-core performance in Geekbench 5, while the M2 manages 1,900 -- in fact, that score even outguns the 1,790 single-core performance of the M1 Ultra used in Apple's high-end Mac Studio.
The M2 pulls further ahead on multi-core performance too, scoring 8986, compared to 7395 for the M1. However, it's the Geekbench Compute test of graphics performance that shows the greatest improvement, with the M1 scoring 20,440 while the new M2 strides ahead with 30,180. That's in line with Apple's claims for image processing performance, but we saw relatively little difference in 3D graphics, with the M2 only nudging slightly ahead to 30fps in the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme test, compared to 29fps for the M1. In contrast, the M1 Max processor used in the 16-inch MacBook Pro scored 121fps, while the M1 Ultra of the Mac Studio -- with no fewer than 48 GPU cores -- romps off into the sunset with 209fps.
So while the M2 does provide a worthwhile speed bump when compared to the M1 chipset, it's still no match for the M1 Max and Ultra with their additional CPU and GPU cores.
But, as always, the Apple Silicon MacBook range still has one ace up its sleeve, in the form of outstanding battery life. Like its M1 predecessor, the new M2 13-inch MacBook Pro claims battery life of 'up to 17 hours' for wireless web browsing, and 20 hours for video playback. And while many rival laptops fall far short of the manufacturer's boasts, we found that the M2 model lasted for a full 19 hours and 56 minutes when streaming full-screen video from the BBC iPlayer, with the screen brightness set to a perfectly watchable 50%. If you're not using the wi-fi all the time, then the 13-inch MacBook Pro might genuinely be able to provide a full 24 hours of battery life.
The M2 MacBook Pro is not a major upgrade, and owners of the two-year-old M1-based model shouldn't worry that they're missing out on the 'next big thing'. It's also a little disappointing that Apple hasn't done more to update the ageing design of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Even so, the M2 chipset does provide a welcome speed bump, and could well prove a tempting upgrade for owners of older Intel-based MacBook Pros.
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) specifications
|Processor||Apple M2 (8-core CPU, 3.5GHz)|
|Graphics||integrated 10-core GPU|
|RAM||8GB, 16GB, 24GB (Unified Memory)|
|Storage||256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB (SSD)|
|Resolution||2560 x 1600 (227ppi)|
|Colour gamut||sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt/USB 4|
|Input||65/66-key keyboard, Touch Bar, Force Touch trackpad|
|Webcam||720p FaceTime HD Camera|
|Audio||3x microphones, stereo speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Battery life (claimed)||up to 20h movie playback, 17h wireless web|
|Charging||67W USB-C power adapter|
|Dimensions||304mm x 212mm x 15.6mm (11.97in. x 8.36in. x 0.61in.)|
|Price||from $1,299 / £1,349|
Mac users are spoilt for choice at the moment, with multiple MacBook models offering both M1 and M2 processors. And, of course, PC rivals such as Microsoft's Surface range are always keen to get a slice of Apple's pie.
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