- ✓2019 update adds Touch Bar, Touch ID and T2 security chips
- ✓Slimline design weighs just 1.37kg
- ✓Good mid-range performance
- ✓Bright, attractive Retina display
- ✕Expensive, especially for UK users
- ✕Only two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports
- ✕Poor upgrade/repair options
The popular MacBook Air recently received a price cut that was designed to cement its position as Apple's 'affordable' laptop for students – although, of course, its lightweight design and strong battery life will have obvious appeal for many business users as well. But, as with so many ultraportable laptops, the MacBook Air does trade performance for portability, and its modest dual-core processor is best suited to simple tasks such as web browsing, or light use of apps such as Word and Excel.
Business users wanting a sleek and elegant Apple laptop that offers more power might be tempted by this new addition to the MacBook Pro range instead. Like its larger 15-inch brethren, the 13-inch version of the MacBook Pro received a major revamp back in 2016, when Apple introduced the Touch Bar, and a new lightweight design. That new design came with a hefty price hike, though, so ever since 2016 Apple has also offered a more basic 'entry-level' version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a lower specification, and which also omits the Touch Bar.
SEE: Top 20 Apple keyboard shortcuts for business users (free PDF)
That entry-level model did receive a modest update in 2017, but by 2019, it was looking rather overpriced when compared to its Touch Bar brethren. So, in the recent rash of updates for the MacBook line – which also saw the discontinuation of the 12-inch MacBook – Apple has finally eliminated that Touch Bar-less model and introduced a new entry-level option for the 13-inch MacBook Pro that offers a lot more bang for the buck.
Features & design
This isn't a particularly radical revamp, as the updated 2019 model simply adopts the Touch Bar that the rest of the MacBook Pro range has been using since 2016, along with more recent additions, such as the Touch ID sensor and Apple's T2 security chip.
It has the same dimensions as the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro that we reviewed in 2018, measuring just 14.9mm thick, 304mm wide, and 212mm deep, and with a weight of 1.37kg (compared to 1.25kg for the MacBook Air). The 13.3-inch Retina display has the same 2,560-by-1,600 resolution (227dpi) as before, but – like all of Apple's current laptops – now includes the True Tone feature that automatically adjusts the colour balance to match changes in ambient lighting.
More importantly, this update brings the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro more up to date with an 8th generation, quad-core Core i5 processor rather than the dual-core processor used in its predecessor, although the modest 1.4GHz clock speed and Iris Plus 645 integrated graphics do leave a considerable stretch of clear blue water between this model and the rest of the MacBook Pro range. And one quite visible difference setting it apart is that this entry-level model only has two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, rather than the four ports found on all other MacBook Pro models.
Pricing & options
The bad news for UK businesses is that Apple's UK pricing continues to creep upwards, and there's a price hike of around £50 right across the board for the entire 13-inch MacBook Pro range. This means that the 2019 entry-level model now costs £1082.50 (ex. VAT; £1,299 inc. VAT), although the US price of $1,299 hasn't changed since last year.
That price includes a quad-core, 8th generation Core i5-8257U running at 1.4GHz – compared to the 2.3GHz dual-core processor of its predecessor – along with 8GB of RAM and a rather meagre 128GB solid-state drive. As always, the sealed casing of the MacBook Pro means that user upgrades and repairs are discouraged – especially with the SSD soldered onto the motherboard, according to a recent iFixit teardown – but you can upgrade to 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD at the time of purchase for £1,399.17 (ex. VAT; £1,679 inc. VAT, or $1,699).
There's also a processor upgrade that's only available for this particular model, with a 1.7GHz quad-core processor bringing the total price to £1,624.17 (ex. VAT; £1,949 inc. VAT, or $1,999). But, rather than upgrading this entry-level model it probably makes more sense simply to step up to the next model in the range, which starts at £1,499.17 (ex. VAT; £1,799 ex. VAT, or $1,799) with a 2.4GHz processor.
Performance & battery Life
To be fair, the 1.4GHz processor in this entry-level model does manage to punch above its weight quite effectively, thanks to Intel's TurboBoost feature which can actually reach 3.9GHz with a following wind.
Admittedly, its single-core score of 4,870 in Geekbench 4 is only slightly higher than that of the less-expensive MacBook Air. However, multi-core performance surges ahead to 17,300, which is more than twice the MacBook Air's 7,906, and within spitting distance of the 18,580 score delivered by the high-end 13-inch MacBook Pro that we reviewed a few months ago.
Graphics performance is respectable too, achieving a score of 57fps with the Cinebench R15 GPU test, compared to 35.6fps for the MacBook Air. However, the more demanding Unigine Valley drops to only 11.5fps, so while the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro will be perfectly adequate for presentations that require some light photo- or video-editing work, it's clearly not suitable for workstation-class duties.
One final pleasant surprise comes in the form of improved battery life, with iFixit apparently revealing a slightly larger battery in this updated model. This extends battery life by half an hour over last year's model, delivering 9 hours and 45 minutes of full-screen streaming video via the BBC iPlayer.
You can argue about Apple's use of the term 'entry-level' for a laptop that has a starting price of £1299/$1299, but this new entry-level 13-inch model is certainly better value for money than its Touch Bar-less predecessor. It's only slightly more expensive than the MacBook Air, but provides a major increase in performance. And, with strong battery life and lightweight design, it's certainly an attractive option for business users who need a speedy workhorse laptop that they can carry on their travels.
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|Operating System||Apple macOS Catalina 10.15|
|Processor / Chipset|
|CPU||Intel Core i5 (8th Gen) 1.4 GHz|
|Max Turbo Speed||3.9 GHz|
|Number of Cores||Quad-Core|
|Features||Intel Turbo Boost Technology|
|Memory Speed||2133 MHz|
|Configuration Features||provided memory is soldered|
|Installed Size||8 GB|
|Humidity Range Operating||0 - 90% (non-condensing)|
|LCD Backlight Technology||LED backlight|
|Resolution||2560 x 1600 (WQXGA)|
|Monitor Features||227 ppi, BFR/PVC-free, Mercury free, Retina display, True Tone display, Wide Color Gamut, arsenic-free glass, beryllium free|
|Diagonal Size (metric)||33.8 cm|
|Display Resolution Abbreviation||WQXGA|
|Audio & Video|
|Graphics Processor||Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645|
|Sound||Stereo speakers, three microphones|
|SSD Form Factor||soldered|
|Type||Force Touch trackpad, Touch Bar, keyboard|
|Localization & Layout||US QWERTY|
|Features||Multi-Touch Gesture Recognition, Touch ID sensor, ambient light sensor, force click, multi-touch touchpad, pressure sensitivity|
|Wireless Protocol||802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Drive Type||no optical drive|
|CPU Type||Core i5|
|Clock Speed||1.4 GHz|
|Run Time (Up To)||10 hour(s)|
|Input||AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)|
|Connections & Expansion|
2 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 2/Thunderbolt 3/DisplayPort (Power Delivery)
|Product Line||Apple MacBook Pro|
|Model||with Touch Bar|
|Country Kits||United States|
|Data Link Protocol||Bluetooth 5.0, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n|
|Included Accessories||USB-C power adapter|
|Diagonal Size||13.3 in|
|Image Brightness||500 cd/m2|
|Platform||Apple Mac OS|
|Hard Drive Capacity||128 GB|
|Security Devices||fingerprint reader|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|ENERGY STAR Certified||Yes|
|Min Operating Temperature||50 °F|
|Max Operating Temperature||95 °F|
|Operating System / Software|
|Type||Apple AirDrop, Apple AirPlay, Apple Automator, Apple Calculator, Apple DVD Player, Apple Dashboard, Apple Dictionary, Apple FaceTime, Apple Font Book, Apple GarageBand, Apple Image Capture, Apple Keynote, Apple Launchpad, Apple Mac App Store, Apple Mac OS X Chess, Apple Mission Control, Apple Numbers, Apple Pages, Apple Preview, Apple QuickTime, Apple Safari, Apple Stickies, Apple System Preferences, Apple TextEdit, Apple Time Machine, Apple iBooks, Apple iMovie, Apple iTunes, Calendar, Contacts, Dictation, Drivers & Utilities, Game Center, Maps, Messages, Notes, Notification Center, Photo Booth, Reminders, Siri, iCloud|
|Graphics Processor Series||Intel Iris Plus Graphics|
|USB-C Ports Qty||2|
|USB-C Features||USB Power Delivery|
|Service & Support|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|Service & Support Details|
|Type||limited warranty, technical support|
|Service Included||phone consulting|
|Full Contract Period||1 year, 90 days|