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  • Soon Kai Hong

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2) Review: New, Yet Now New

So here’s the new, but at the same time, not that new MacBook Pro 13-inch with the Apple M2 chip. Now we did have our first impressions of the laptop back when we first got it, and to sum up that experience, we’ve to say that Apple is definitely on the right track with their own silicon but the use of this older chassis might be a little questionable. Fast forward to today, and we’ve had this for about a month or more now. We have to say that our first impressions were definitely pretty much on point. But nevertheless, let’s dive deeper and see what you’re really getting here with the latest M2 chip.

Now to preface, the M2 chip will be first featured with the brand new redesigned MacBook Air as well as this, the new, yet not that new MacBook Pro 13-inch. Arguably, one is much more enticing than the other but nevertheless, let’s first focus on the M2 chip itself.

Apple released the original M1 chip back in November of 2020 and back then, it certainly made waves in more ways than one. Since then, we’ve seen upgrades in the form of the M1 Pro and M1 Max with the newly redesigned MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch, and not too long ago, the M1 Ultra with the totally brand new Mac Studio.

But now, just recently in June of 2022, we have the new M2 chip which builds upon the previous architecture and is the start of the second generation of Apple silicon. The M2 chip is the direct successor to the M1 chip and in all aspects, is an upgrade all around. As usual, Apple is taking a vastly different approach from the major players in the industry, pushing not just better performance, but also performance per watt. Essentially, efficiency.

Compared to the previous M1 chip, the new M2 chip has over 20 billion transistors built on 2nd-generation 5nm technology which translates to 18% faster cpu performance, 35% gpu performance, 40% faster neural engine, up to 24GB of Unified Memory, 100GB/s of Memory Bandwidth and much much more. But don’t be confused by the numbers and assume that the new M2 chip is going to be as huge an upgrade as compared to the M1 Pro and M1 Max over the standard M1. Because it’s not. It is a solid upgrade over the M1 but still does fall a little short compared to even the M1 Pro.

So if you’re someone who really needs that Pro-performance per se, the MacBook 14 or 16-inch is still going to be your go to choice. With that said, the new M2 does encroach ever so nearer towards the M1 Pro, so let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about performance

We ran Cinebench R23 as per usual and we managed to achieve a score of 8.693 and 1,581 in Multi-Core and Single-Core respectively. Compared to the previous M1 chip with a score of roughly 7,700 and 1,500, this is about a 13% improvement when it comes to Multi-Core performance in Cinebench R23 specifically. We also ran Geekbench this time around to have a reference per se, and it managed a Multi-Core score of 8,955 and a Single-Core score of 1,915 respectively.

Overall, this does put it right around the ballpark of the claims they Apple has made. And of course, your mileage will vary depending on your use case. But one definite improvement is with the flow of video editing itself. The M2 chip now comes included with the media engine that’s directly taken from the M1 Pro. This means that it can now also accelerate ProRes and ProRes Raw and also support 8K H.264 and HEVC video.

Now we did our usual test with DaVinci Resolve with our 10 minute test projects. However do note that the footage used and the export itself aren’t ProRes, but just standard high bitrate H.264. So this might not be the best example to showcase the performance uplift that the M2 chip is really capable of. Despite that, we’ve to say that there’s still a solid improvement nonetheless that anyone can definitely appreciate.

But apart from the CPU, the GPU does also get an upgrade as well and there’s now also the option to outfit the M2 chip with 2 additional GPU cores for a total of 10 GPU cores. In a controlled benchmark like GeekBench Metal, this does indeed have much improved performance, scoring roughly 30,363 which puts it quite a ways ahead of the previous M1.

It goes without saying that we did also put some games to the test as well, testing at both 1080p and the native resolution of the retina display. The games were run on MacOS natively, we didn’t use bootcamp, so this is as accurate as it can get. Of course, we didn’t have much to test here but if you’re looking to just get a simple no fuss gaming experience, the M2 chip is technically pretty capable for what it is

Now jumping in from the future here a little, we do have to mention that Apple has definitely changed up the power and fan curves for the new M2 chip after further testing. It’s now quite a bit more aggressive, favoring performance over temperatures. In the most intense of loads, the M2 chip was constantly hovering around 90 degrees celsius or more with the fans spinning. Clearly Apple is still favoring lower fan noise over keeping temperatures lower. Which isn’t unsurprising, but definitely still a little disappointing. Anyways, back to the studio.

We’re pretty sure that most of you have seen this design of the MacBook Pro, it’s already been quite a few years and yet here we are, with yet the same chassis but just with updated internals. So we did cover this quite extensively just within our first impressions article, you can go ahead and read should you want to, but here’s a quick refresh.

You get the slim tapered look that has been a controversy for professionals for the longest time, a pretty good retina display but basically unchanged since its introduction, you only get two USB-C ports, both of which are Thunderbolt 3 and you’ll have to charge via USB-C here, no MagSafe, last but not least, while you do get the awesome keyboard and trackpad, no complaints here whatsoever, this still features the Touch Bar.

Again in essence, this is the exact same experience you would have gotten with the previous MacBook Pro 13-inch, except you now get the M2 chip. That’s basically it. So in contrast to the newer and totally redesigned MacBook Air, and even the already released MacBook Pro 14 and 16-inch, you don’t get the better 1080p FaceTime webcam, you don’t get the better and larger display, even compared to the new Air, you don’t get MagSafe and definitely not all the extra ports that comes with the other Pro laptops.

This really puts the MacBook Pro 13-inch with the new M2 chip in a really weird position that’s almost non-existent. If you’re someone who’s looking to get and enjoy the new M2 chip, more likely than not, you would be looking at the new MacBook Air, and if you’re someone who requires the additional performance, the M1 Pro is still the much more capable chip. And it’s made even weirder when you take price into consideration.

A MacBook Pro 13-inch with the new M2 chip with 16GB of Unified Memory and 512GB of SSD storage will run you 2,479 Singapore Dollars or 1,699 US Dollars.

While a MacBook Air with the new M2 chip with the same specifications will run you 2,449 Singapore Dollars or 1,699 US Dollars and a MacBook Pro with again, the same specs, except with the M1 Pro will run you 2,999 Singapore Dollars or 1,999 US Dollars.

Now perhaps you might say that compared to the MacBook Pro 14-inch, there is some kind of justification there because you will indeed be getting much better performance with the new M2 chip as compared to the original M1 and you will still be saving quite a bit of cash per se. But you do have to ask yourself, does saving that extra bit of cash be worth it when you lose the better display, the better webcam, the better ports selection, the better speakers, the better performance still and arguably perhaps even the better keyboard layout.

For some, perhaps. But for most who’re actually looking at getting a MacBook Pro, we would say not really. For just that bit more, the 14-inch simply delivers so much more.

So unless you’re someone who really prefers this design language for the MacBook Pro, or perhaps you really like the Touch Bar and actually implements it heavily within your workflow, then sure, this might perhaps be the perfect next laptop for you to upgrade to. On that note, it does also feature quite the insane battery life. As noted by many other users and myself included. Easily 12 hours of actual usage, with no issues at all.

But for the rest of us, this really isn’t the sensible option. And yes, we do have the MacBook Air upcoming for a review, and we’ll compare the passively cooled design against this actively cooled design and see if there’s any substantial difference. So definitely click the bell icon to get notifications and stay tuned for that.

Nevertheless for now, while this chassis itself is sort of a quote unquote, interesting decision by Apple to reuse, the M2 chip itself is definitely a step forward. It is simply a brilliant chip and it really sets the direction for Apple moving forward. We’re definitely interested in what Apple has in store in the future and since we’re at it, Apple should really equip the Mac Mini with the new M2 chip as well, that is one machine that would benefit from M2 greatly.

This definitely sets the foundation for the next generation of Apple silicon and it’s definitely going to be quite the ride. But for now, if you’re really thinking about considering this very MacBook Pro 13-inch with the new M2 chip, definitely think hard and not just twice, but perhaps three or four or many more times.

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