Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review

Two-minute review

The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) is a watershed moment for Apple’s Pro line. That’s because, along with the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) and the Mac mini (M1, 2020) that launched at the same time, it has moved Apple into a new era. Instead of using Intel CPUs that have powered all of the company’s computers for a while now, it uses the new Apple-made M1 chip. This upgrade to the laptop line is the first truly big leap that it has seen in a long time.

That’s not to say that it looks all that different from previous models. In fact, as big of a change as the M1 chip is, it’s the only big upgrade the Pro 13-inch gets. If you have a 2019 or even an early 2020 model, for instance, you’ll probably want to wait a few generations before getting a Pro with an M1 chip. However, it’s still a big update. This new model is 2.8 times faster than its predecessor and has a better battery life to boot. Additionally, it’s three times faster than comparable Windows laptops.

Though we would have loved to see an additional port or two and a design update, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch is a fantastic update for Apple’s top line of portables. Apple has yet again redefined what we can expect from a laptop.

(Image credit: Future)

Price and availability

Prices for the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) start at $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$1,999 for the 256GB SSD/8GB RAM model, with the 2TB SSD/16GB RAM model selling for $2,299 / £2,299 / AU$3,499.

Both models come with the same M1 chip with an 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU, and storage can be configured up to 2TB.

For comparison, the MacBook Pro (2020) launched earlier this year for $1,299 / £1,299 / AU$1,999, so we’re not seeing the price cut on the MacBook Pro some were hoping to see now that Apple has moved to its own silicon, but we commend Apple for releasing the new version at the same price as the previous model.

What’s interesting is that the new MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is available with the same M1 chip, and with the same amount of RAM and 512GB storage, for $1,249 / £1,249 / AU$1,949. Usually, we wouldn’t compare the MacBook Pro with the MacBook Air, but considering how close the specs are, and the fact that new MacBook Air also features a screen that supports the P3 color gamut, previously exclusive to MacBook Pros, there may be some people who think going for the Air is a better choice, especially as it comes with double the capacity for less money.

However, the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) has a fanless design, whereas the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) still has fans. This means the new MacBook Air is limited in how long it can run intensive tasks for before its performance is throttled in order to prevent overheating, due to there being no fans to cool it down.

If you’re going to have your machine working for hours on end on rendering tasks, for example, then the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) will be worth the extra outlay.

(Image credit: Future)

Spec Sheet

Here is the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: Apple M1 (8-core)
Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB Unified PDDR4X-4266 MHz SDRAM
Screen: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display (backlit LED, IPS, 500 nits brightness, wide color P3 gamut)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 3.5mm headphone jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Camera: 720p FaceTime HD webcam
Weight: 3.0 pounds (1.4kg)
Size: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H)

Design

The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) is one of the most exciting releases from Apple for a while, thanks to its new M1 silicon brains, but you probably wouldn’t think that when you first get it out of the box.

That’s because, with its dimensions of 0.61 x 11.97 x 8.36 inches (1.56 x 30.41 x 21.24cm) and a weight of 3.0 pounds (1.4kg) it’s pretty much the same as the previous model. It certainly looks and feels identical to previous MacBook Pro 13-inch models, so anyone hoping for a radical new look to match the radical new hardware within is going to be disappointed.

We feel that this is a bit of a missed opportunity for Apple. It’s made a big deal of what a revolutionary change its move to the M1 chip is, along with macOS Big Sur – which is a big enough change to warrant naming it ‘macOS 11’, and not ‘macOS 10.17′ – so we’d have like to see Apple be just as bold with the look of the MacBook Pro 13-inch.

Apple would probably argue, along with some of its fans, that the MacBook Pro 13-inch’s design is perfect, so there’s no point changing it. In a way that’s fair – this is still a good-looking laptop after all, and it remains impressively thin and light; but when Apple’s rivals, such as Dell and HP, are doing some innovative things with their designs, be it super-slim bezels or 2-in-1 designs that let you use the laptop like a tablet, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)’s look starts to feel a little dated.

(Image credit: Future)

For a while now, many people felt that Apple had neglected the Mac and MacBook in favor of the iPhone. After all, could you imagine Apple sticking with the same iPhone design since 2016? That’s pretty much what it has done with the MacBook Pro 13-inch, barring a few tweaks.

It’s a bit of a shame, as in other respects – the revolutionary M1 chip and the improvements the company has brought to macOS Big Sur – it does feel like Apple is excited about MacBooks again.

Still, for the purpose of this MacBook review, the design of the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) isn’t bad by any means, just rather familiar – and that sense of familiarity is maintained when you open the laptop. The TouchBar returns – if you’re not familiar with this, it’s a thin touchscreen that runs along the top of the keyboard, and which shows context-sensitive buttons and shortcuts depending on what app or tool you’re currently using.

(Image credit: Future)

When it first appeared four years ago, opinion was divided as how useful it was, but over the years we’ve found ourselves warming to it, and as more third-party applications have added TouchBar functionality it’s become more useful. It’s good to see it back, and it shows that Apple’s move to the M1 chip and macOS Big Sur hasn’t caused it to ditch this feature. The escape key on the left is once again separate, rather than being included in the TouchBar, which was a request of many people who use the key a lot (such as developers).

The keyboard is the same Magic Keyboard as the one introduced with the MacBook Pro 13-inch from earlier this year. This was a welcome change at the time, as it replaced the controversial Butterfly switch keyboard, which was often prone to reliability problems. It’s good to see it back in the new MacBook Pro 13-inch, and it again feels great to type on.

The screen is also unchanged, with a Retina resolution of 2560 x 1600. This results in a sharp image, but again Apple is being outclassed here by rivals such as HP and Dell, who are putting higher-resolution screens on their 13-inch laptops.

Still, the screen of the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) remains bright and vibrant. It also supports the P3 wide color gamut, offering excellent color reproduction – this is great for photographers and video editors, who need true-to-life colors, but it’s worth pointing out that the new MacBook Air (M1, 2020) also now comes with P3 wide color support. This makes the more affordable MacBook Air a viable alternative for budget-conscious creatives, and deprives the MacBook Pro of a key selling point.

When it comes to ports, the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) sticks with just the two Thunderbolt 3 ports (both on the left-hand side), and an audio jack on the right.

While we’re glad that Apple’s move away from Intel hasn’t meant losing Thunderbolt 3 (it’s an Intel product, after all), this lack of ports continues to be a bit of a pain point for professionals. If you want to copy photos from a memory card, or use peripherals that rely on the older USB-A ports, then you’re going to need to buy a dongle. While Dell includes one in many of its USB-C only laptops, Apple doesn’t.

(Image credit: Future)

Benchmarks

Here’s how the 13-inch MacBook Pro (M1, 2020) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

Cinebench R23 CPU: Single-Core: 1,491; Multi-core: 7,768
Geekbench 5 Single-Core: 1,732; Multi-Core: 7,590
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 13 hours and 22 minutes

Performance

In our time with the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) we were been impressed by its performance. Apple talked a big game about the M1 chip, and claims that its CPU is 2.8 times faster at building Xcode projects, and delivers twice as fast vector performance in Affinity Photo, plus 5.9 times the 3D title render speeds in Final Cut Pro and 2.9 times the performance in Shadow of the Tomb Raider thanks to its GPU.

For a fair MacBook review, we had to take these claims with a hefty dose of salt, as Apple is a bit vague about some of its tests, and when it comes to GPU performance it’s comparing this to a base MacBook Pro 13-inch from the previous generation, which uses an older 8th-generation Intel processor with integrated graphics.

Now that we’ve had the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) for a while, we can delve deeper into its performance. We ran both native M1 apps and older legacy apps designed for Intel Macs, and they performed really well. We opened up several demanding apps at once, and swapped between them, and throughout macOS Big Sur didn’t miss a beat. They opened quickly, and switching between them was almost instantaneous.

As we said in our MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review, the fact that Apple has switched to an ARM-based chip, but via its Rosetta tool allows you to continue to run older apps without any major issues, is commendable. Microsoft has a version of Windows 10 that runs on ARM-based laptops like its own Surface Pro X, but it’s limited to only being able to run apps from the Microsoft Store that have been built for ARM architecture – and that means many popular apps just don’t work on Windows 10 on ARM.

The fact that Apple is not only ensuring that pretty much all older Mac apps work on the M1-toting MacBook Pro 13-inch, but also thousands of iOS apps as well, really highlights what a poor effort Microsoft has made with Windows 10 on ARM. It needs to seriously up its game.

Unlike the new MacBook Air (M1, 2020), which runs silently thanks to its fanless design, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) does still have fans, and they do kick in after a while when you’re doing some strenuous work on the device. The laptop also gets rather warm towards the back at times. However, the fans don’t ever get too distracting, and for day to day use you’ll never hear them.

The fact that the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) has fans means it can work harder and longer than the MacBook Air (M1, 2020) as well. Due to its fanless design, the new MacBook Air has to throttle performance (by lowering the speed of the M1 chip) to avoid overheating. This makes the Pro the better choice for professionals that are using it for prolonged intensive tasks, such as rendering complex 3D animations.

The benchmark results were also incredibly impressive. We’d seen leaked Cinebench scores suggesting that the M1 chip can beat powerful Intel 11th gen chips, and it proved to be correct. In the intensive Cinebench R23 benchmark, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) scored a whopping 7, 768 points in the multi-core test. That puts it well above the performance of the entry level MacBook Pro 16-inch with a six-core 9th generation Intel Core i7 processor. The fact that the laptop sells for $2,399 (£2,399 / AU$3,799), which is around $1,000/£1,000 more, and has a dedicated graphics card, casts the cheaper MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)’s performance in a very positive light.

The Geekbench 5 results also show what a big improvement the M1 chip is compared to the previous model with a 2.0GHz Intel Core i5-1038NG7 quad-core processor. Scoring 1,732 in the single-core tests, and 7,590 in the multi-core tests, it roundly beats the earlier model, which scored 1,268 and 4,490 in the same tests. The extra four cores of the M1’s CPU (it’s an octa-core chip) are obviously doing some heavy lifting here.

We also had a play around with Final Cut Pro, Apple’s video editing software which has been updated to run on the M1 chip, and used it to editing an 8K video using multiple sources. The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) kept up admirably, allowing us to scrub through the footage while showing a preview of the video at the same time. It was seriously impressive. The app did crash once on us, however, when we were adding some titles and fancy effects, but that appeared to be a one off.

On the whole, the video editing performance of the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) was remarkable, with 8K video editing a possibility with the M1’s GPU.

Battery life

Apple claims that the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) has the “longest battery life ever in a Mac”, promising a huge 17 hours of wireless web browsing, and up to 20 hours of video playback – a whopping 10 hours more than the previous model.

Again, these are big claims from Apple, and by its very nature you’re going to be using the MacBook Pro 13-inch for more intensive tasks than that, but we’ve usually found Apple’s battery claims to be pretty on the mark.

In our battery life benchmark test, the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) lasted 13 hours and 22 minutes. During this test we play a looped 1080p video with the screen at 50% brightness until the battery dies. Now, while that isn’t quite as long as the 20 hours Apple was claiming, it’s still a very impressive score, and a decent improvement over the earlier 2020 Intel model, which lasted 8 hours and 31 minutes in the same test.

That around a 5 hour bump – seriously impressive. It’s also longer than the MacBook Pro 16-inch’s record of 11 hours and 41 minutes, and also beats the latest Dell XPS 13 model, which scored 11 hours.

The battery life of the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) is so impressive, that we were actually able to use it straight out of the box, and didn’t plug it in for a couple of days later. This was doing a bit of light use – browsing the web and writing emails – so when it comes to much more intensive tasks, that battery life is going to deplete faster. Still, this is very impressive.

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if…

You want a powerful (and small) MacBook
The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) has had an impressive power boost thanks to the new M1 chip. It’s genuinely quite exciting what Apple has achieved here.

You want excellent battery life
Normally powerful laptops have to make do with short battery lives, but the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) manages to balance performance with a battery life that can last well beyond the whole work day.

You want to edit ultra-high definition videos
The performance of the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) is good enough to easily handle 4K – and even 8K – videos. This is impressive stuff.

Don’t buy it if…

You’re on a budget
While the MacBook Pro 13-inch is the most affordable MacBook Pro, it’s still very expensive. Meanwhile, the new MacBook Air (M1, 2020), offers similar performance in many areas, for quite a bit less.

You want a graphical powerhouse
While the 13-inch MacBook Pro is no slouch in the performance department, it still relies on integrated graphics, which means it’s not great at seriously intensive graphical tasks.

You don’t like Apple’s designs
Once again, Apple hasn’t made any big changes to the overall design of the MacBook Pro 13-inch. It’s now been a few years, and if you didn’t like how it looked before, this won’t change your mind.

  • These are the best laptops of 2020
  • Do more with your Macbook with a Mac VPN
  • Check out all the latest cheap MacBook Pro deals
Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

This Alienware laptop is at a bigger discount than last week, plus more cheap laptop deals

OUR TOP PICK: Alienware m15 R4 — save $300 BEST APPLE DEAL: 2020 Apple MacBook Air — save $100 BEST FOR BUSINESS: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 — save ... Read more »

M1X MacBook Pro may still be on track for 2021 as new clues emerge

Apple’s redesigned MacBook Pro models with what’ll theoretically be the new M1X chip might have just been spotted in a filing with the EEC (Eurasian Economic Commission). Hardware being filed ... Read more »

Head back to school with a 2-in-1 Asus Chromebook on sale

Save $60: The Asus Chromebook Flip C433 2-in-1 laptop (14-inch FHD touchscreen, 8GB RAM, 64GB eMMC storage) is on sale for $419.99 at Amazon as of Aug. 3. A Chromebook ... Read more »

Cyber Monday laptop deals 2021: what to expect

If you’re looking for that perfect price cut on your next machine, then Cyber Monday laptop deals will definitely be worth waiting for. These sales, alongside the prior Black Friday ... Read more »

The best cheap MacBook Pro deals, prices and sales in August 2021

It can be difficult to find truly cheap MacBook Pro deals. These are premium laptops, and the jewel in Apple‘s lineup of luxury laptops. That means they don’t tend to ... Read more »

The best cheap Dell laptop deals and prices for August 2021

Dell laptop deals can offer some excellent low prices on machines with specs that outrank their price tags. That’s excellent news, whether you’re looking for a super cheap everyday machine ... Read more »

The best cheap Chromebook prices and deals in August 2021

The best Chromebook deals can save you even more cash on already-cheap machines. Often that means you’ll be able to pick up a budget device for under $200 / £200, ... Read more »

Best AMD gaming laptops 2021: the top gaming laptops powered by Team Red

When it comes to choosing the best AMD gaming laptop, you’ve got a lot more to choose from than you might have had even a year or two ago. From ... Read more »

Save on refurbished Dell and HP computers this weekend

You don’t need an expensive computer to be a productivity machine. In terms of functionality, all you really need is solid RAM, enough storage, and a high-quality screen. You also ... Read more »

Save $200 on an Alienware gaming laptop, plus more cheap laptop deals

OUR TOP PICK: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 — save $1,025.55 BEST APPLE DEAL: 2020 Apple MacBook Air — save $149.01 BEST MICROSOFT DEAL: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 — ... Read more »

Need a cheap laptop? Grab this HP Chromebook for $220.

Save $120: The HP Chromebook 14-inch FHD laptop (Intel Celeron N4000, 4GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC) is on sale for only $219.99 at Amazon as of July 29. When you’re ... Read more »

XPG Xenia 14 review

Two-minute review You have to hand it to XPG: since entering the laptop market a couple of years ago, the Adata sub-brand has certainly taken a good stab at shaking ... Read more »

HP Spectre x360 (2020) review

Two-minute review With the HP Spectre x360 2020 rocking double the RAM of prior Spectres, Iris Plus integrated graphics and the Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU, it can stand toe-to-toe with ... Read more »

Getac K120 G2 ruggedized laptop review

Getac makes a wide range of computers made to work in the types of environment that can often spell doom for the delicate electronics inside of modern systems. While they’re ... Read more »

Dell XPS 15 (2020) review

The Dell XPS 15 (2020) may be the closest any manufacturer has come to a perfect device, elevating the line to a new level. Among the best laptops right now, ... Read more »

Dell XPS 13 (2020) review

Two minute review The Dell XPS 13 was already a great machine, but the Dell XPS 13 (2020) has cemented its status as the benchmark for all Windows portables. This ... Read more »

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review

Two-minute review The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) may be the biggest leap forward the smallest Pro line has gotten in years. Instead of the usual Intel processors, Apple opted ... Read more »

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

Two-minute review The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) has given Apple’s slimmest laptop line a giant leap forward. With the manufacturer’s highly-acclaimed Apple M1 processor, the ARM-based chip that’s replaced the ... Read more »

The best cheap laptop deals in July 2021

We’re bringing you all the best cheap laptop deals currently on the shelves, and right now you can pick up some excellent specs for some great prices. Not only are ... Read more »

Best Chromebooks 2021: the top Chromebooks for kids, students and more

The best Chromebook combines great reliability with a price that won’t break the bank. Loaded with the capable yet lightweight Chrome OS, while not as full-featured as the Windows 10 ... Read more »

Apple MacBook Air's rumored upgrades could take the world's best laptop to another level

It looks like the best laptop in the world, the MacBook Air, will be getting a major upgrade in 2022, with Apple reportedly planning to include a Mini LED display ... Read more »

How do I connect my laptop to my TV?

There are many reasons why you might want to connect your laptop to your TV. Maybe you haven’t got a smart TV or streaming box and watching your favorite TV ... Read more »

How to use Nvidia GeForce Now on a Chromebook

People think you can’t game on a Chromebook, but we’re here to show you how to with Nvidia GeForce Now, which brings top-flight gaming to your Chromebook for free!  “For ... Read more »

How to screenshot on a Chromebook

Knowing how to screenshot on a Chromebook will come in handy, whether you use yours for work or for school. Taking screen grabs is a basic function of any decent ... Read more »

How to clean your laptop screen

Learn how to clean a laptop screen with this guide. Your window to the digital world is crucial to your computing experience. But it also has a habit of attracting ... Read more »

Switch effortlessly from studying to gaming with the right tech for college life

Getting your head around a new semester is all about using your time and resources wisely. Cutting-edge gaming tech can power your downtime at school, but it can also help ... Read more »

Back up your files with ease using this portable device

TL;DR: Back up your computer, phone, or tablet anywhere with the AnyBackup device. As of July 24, get one for only $59.95 — a 14% discount. With the AnyBackup device, ... Read more »

Save $100 on a 2020 MacBook Air, plus more cheap laptop deals this weekend

OUR TOP PICK: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 — save $249.01 BEST APPLE DEAL: 2020 Apple MacBook Air — save $100 BEST LENOVO DEAL: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 — ... Read more »

Amazon's exceptional MacBook Pro deal has the Apple Store beat

SAVE $199.01: Typically $1,299, the MacBook Pro (M1 chip, 256GB) is on sale on Amazon for just $1,099.99 as of July 16 — a 15% savings. Looking for a new ... Read more »

Save $1,000 on a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, plus more laptop deals this weekend

OUR TOP PICK: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 — save $329.01 BEST LENOVO DEAL: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 — save $1,219.60 BEST GAMING DEAL: Razer Blade 15 — save ... Read more »

Get the job done with a Lenovo 2-in-1 laptop on sale for $429

Save $110.99: This Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14-inch 2-in-1 laptop is on sale for $249 at Walmart as of July 15. If you need a new laptop, you don’t always have ... Read more »

MacBook camera not cutting it? Try a 1080p webcam instead.

TL;DR: Upgrade your video call quality with this 1080p HD Webcam, on sale for $36.99 — a 53% discount — as of July 16. For the price tag that comes ... Read more »

How to connect AirPods to Chromebook

If you were concerned that you couldn’t get in on the AirPods craze with your Chromebook, don’t worry. Your Apple AirPods and Google Chromebook are compatible via Bluetooth. While AirPods ... Read more »

Get the kids ready for class with an Asus Chromebook on sale for $139

Save $130: The Asus C423 14-inch Chromebook with 4GB of RAM and 64GB hard drive is only $139 at Walmart as of July 8, a 48% savings on its list ... Read more »

Microsoft is having a sale on the Surface Pro X, but Amazon's is better

Save $210.05: The Microsoft Surface Pro X (SQ1, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD) is going for $788.95 at Amazon as of July 8 — beating Microsoft’s own sale price by more than ... Read more »

This Samsung Chromebook is still on sale at its low Prime Day price of just under $160

SAVE $70.99: Typically $229.99, the 32GB Samsung Chromebook 4 is on sale at Walmart for just $159 as of July 6 — a 31% savings. Let’s play a quick game of ... Read more »

Gateway laptops are back and better than ever — available exclusively at Walmart

The following content is brought to you by Mashable partners. If you buy a product featured here, we may earn an affiliate commission or other compensation. The under-$500 laptop has ... Read more »

Apple might launch 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro in September

Apple is preparing to completely overhaul its lineup of MacBook Pro devices. This is according to a new report by Digitimes (via MacRumors), which claims that Apple plans to launch ... Read more »

Get a dual-screen work station wherever with a portable monitor

TL;DR: Use a second screen on the go with the Mobile Pixels DUEX portable monitor, on sale for $229 with code DUEXLITE as of July 1. That’s a savings of ... Read more »

Huawei MateBook 13 review

Two-minute review The Huawei MateBook 13 is another excellent release from Huawei, providing performance on par or better than many laptops in its class and at a lower price. In ... Read more »