Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2) First Impressions
Updated: Jun 23, 2022
Back when Apple first transitioned to the use of their own silicon with the Apple M1 chip, it made a serous wave among the industry. Some were hesitant, some were dubious, some were excited. Needless to say, Apple has since improved upon the architecture by leaps and bounds with the M1 Pro and M1 Max with the revamped MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch, as well as the latest M1 Ultra with the Mac Studio. But here's the start of the next generation, starting with the all new Apple M2 chip.
To begin the new generation, the M2 will be first featured with the brand new redesigned MacBook Air as well as the tried and tested MacBook Pro 13-inch. We have the latter here today and while it might be the less exciting of the two, it's still very much worth taking a look at.
As expected, the design isn't anything new. This is the same exact chassis that Apple has been using for the past few years. So you can expect a really thin and beautiful chassis that's made entirely out of aluminium and it just feels great to the touch. Unlike the newer MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch as well as the latest redesign of the MacBook Air, this still features the tapered edges alongside rounded bottom feet instead of the newer pancake-like feet. It's also still going to be relatively light, coming in at about 1.38kg or about 3.05lbs. Again, it's a design that we've all known and have either come to love or hate. But regardless, it's still really beautiful and professional looking.
Open up the lid and you'll be greeted with a great, no-nonsense Retina Display. There really isn't that much difference here compared to the previous generation. It's still 13.3-inch IPS panel with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 at 60Hz providing 227 pixels per inch. A 500 nits max brightness with support for P3 colour and True Tone. In essence, it's a tried and tested display that just looks great for the every day user. Sure, it's nowhere near as beautiful as compared to the Liquid Retina XDR Display on the 14-inch and 16-inch. But it's still really capable of producing a beautiful image that's not only going to be great for browsing, media consumption and the like but also equally capable for professionals who need that colour coverage and accuracy for their creative work. In all regards, it is still a fantastic display.
One thing to note is that this would be the only MacBook Pro in Apple's lineup that doesn't have a notch in the display. In contrast, you do get slightly thicker bezels all around, which does also make way for the MacBook Pro branding. The webcam is up there as it should be, but it is only 720p just like before. This doesn't get the same treatment as the new Macbook Air which is a slight bummer. It's usable for sure, but could've been better.
But here's where it gets kind of interesting. You see, as we've mentioned earlier, this entire chassis is basically unchanged from the previous generation. That also means you do get the Touch Bar, which is arguably perhaps the most questionable and interesting design decision from Apple by far. Certainly, it is a love-hate relationship with many out there. Well whether you like it or not, it's here.
The Touch Bar is unique in the fact that it'll adapt the buttons according to the application or window that's active. In essence, it allows a 'fixed' keyboard to become 'adaptable' and arguably much more intuitive. For example, you can quickly swap between tabs or do a search in Safari without using a trackpad or quickly access shortcuts in applications like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. The function row of the keyboard becomes multifaceted. At least, that's how it's supposed to be. In practice however, most professionals and even the average user tend to prefer the standard fixed layout. Be that as it may. One thing to note is that we're also unsure of the future of the Touch Bar. This is definitely not the focus for Apple moving forward and there isn't even a mention of additional support for it with MacOS 13 Ventura. This might very well be the last time we see the Touch Bar. Putting the Touch Bar aside however, we're definitely glad to see a proper Esc key as well as the power button which does support Touch ID.
As for the Magic Keyboard itself, this is the same experience you're getting from before, which means it's just plain great. Good tactile feedback, decent key travel and overall, just a pleasant typing experience. The same can be said for the Force Touch trackpad as well, which is basically the best you can get in any laptop, period. Apple simply has the edge when it comes to trackpad usability, feel, performance, everything about it. It doesn't get much better than this.
As for the speakers, you get two up-firing speakers located by the sides of the keyboard. We don't have the previous MacBook Pro 13-inch to compare side by side but they should sound really similar, if not downright the same. While it's not going to compete with the speakers from the larger 14-inch and 16-inch models, this is well above the majority of Windows-based laptops out there. Clean and crisp highs with clear vocals and strong mids. Bass is of course lacking but not unsurprising.
Battery life is good, though we can't really say how good given what little time we've had the laptop for at the moment. But the M2 chip is even more efficient as compared to the M1 chip and should theoretically at least provide you with similar or perhaps even better battery life with that 58.2 wHr battery with the included 67W USB-C Power Adapter. This should easily last you 10 hours of general usage, or even more.
But we now come to the main downside. The ports selection. As this uses the previous generation chassis, that also means you don't get the MagSafe 3. Instead, you just have two Thunderbolt 3 / USB 4 ports on the left side, and a single 3.5mm headphone jack on the right. Not that great, especially since it can only charge via USB-C which means you'll only have one free port left when you do so. Dongles and adapters are definitely a must here unfortunately.
But let's put that all aside for we all already knew that for better or for worse. The most important factor when it comes to considering the refreshed MacBook Pro 13-inch comes down to the chip at play. That Apple M2 chip.
Here's a quick glance as to what the new M2 chip has to offer. You can now get up to 24GB of LPDDR5 Unified Memory. Up to a 10-core GPU. About 18% faster CPU performance and 35% faster GPU performance as compared to the M1. A much higher memory bandwidth at 100GB/s and perhaps most importantly, the inclusion of the media engine found in the M1 Pro. For our MacBook Pro 13-inch, we have the Apple M2 chip with 16GB of Unified Memory as well as the upgrade 10-core GPU alongside 1TB of PCIe 4.0 SSD storage.
We ran Cinebench R23 on it and we got 8,693 and 1,581 in Multi-Core and Single-Core respectively. Compared to the previous M1 chip with a score of 7,759 and 1,503. This is roughly a 12% improvement in performance when it comes to the Multi-Core score for Cinebench R23 specifically. Just like Apple has shared, the new M2 chip is an upgrade over the M1 but definitely still falls short compared to the M1 Pro, rightfully so. However, it is worth to note that the inclusion of the media engine does help improve the video editing experience for professionals quite a fair bit more as compared to the M1 which lack it. More testing with regards to that to come in the full review, which will also include testing of whether the active cooling system makes a difference for the M2 chip.
For now however, we've to say that the Apple M2 chip is pretty much exactly what Apple has claimed. It sets the next basic foundation for the architecture moving forward. While the M1 Pro, M1 Max and M1 Ultra are still superior in performance in all aspects, there's nothing wrong with that. If Apple are to keep the same naming scheme for M2, we should expect to see the M2 Pro, M2 Max and perhaps even the M2 Ultra in the future.
All in all, this is but a first impressions with the M2 on the refreshed MacBook Pro 13-inch and we definitely still have a lot more to try and test. But for the moment, if you're thinking of getting your hands on Apple's latest silicon and you're a fan of the previous generation design alongside that Touch Bar, for better or for worse, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2) is what you'll be looking at.
But hold your horses. We will have a full review coming up as soon as we can and we'll be taking a look at the new MacBook Air with M2 once that's in the studio as well. And arguably, that is the more interesting of the two and perhaps the difference between a passively cooled M2 and an actively cooled M2 might not be as much of a difference as one might think? Who knows. Oh, and perhaps a little gaming as well? Hmmm...
Either way, Apple's latest silicon is looking really promising.