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MacBook 12-inch vs. MacBook Pro 13

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By Jon Martindale


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If you can’t wait to see whether Apple’s rumored six-core MacBook materializes later this year, then there are plenty of MacBooks to choose from right now.

If you want to consider the entire range, our MacBook buying guide will see you right, but if you already have it whittled down to our two participants in this head to head, read on to see which comes out on top in the when you compare the equally-priced MacBook 12-inch and MacBook Pro 13. So let’s see which is more deserving of your $1,300?

Design

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Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

While one of the laptops in this head to head has the “Pro” moniker attached to its name, you wouldn’t know that just by looking at them. Both the MacBook 12-inch and MacBook Pro 13 look fantastic and have a premium feel, though the Pro’s slightly weightier and heftier design does make it the more substantial of the two devices. Each laptop also comes with a surprisingly robust set of built-in speakers.

The two notebooks do differentiate when it comes to inputs, with the Pro featuring a second-generation “butterfly” keyboard, which is slightly improved over the standard MacBook. We’re not huge fans of either, but typists will certainly prefer the experience on the Pro. That laptop also has configuration options to include the Touch Bar, which is a rather gimmicky feature in our experience, but it does offer a unique input option if you want it — and some fun customization opportunities. Just expect to pay a premium for it.

Ports on both laptops are limited to a headphone jack and USB-C, though the Pro does offer up to four of them, where the standard MacBook only offers a single port. That can prove extremely frustrating during everyday use.

Performance

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There’s no getting away from it: The MacBook Pro is a far more capable machine than the MacBook 12-inch. Its standard model comes with a dual-core, 7th-gen Core i5 processor that boosts up to 3.6GHz and there are options to increase that to 4.0GHz. The onboard graphics chip choices are the Intel Iris Pro 640 or 650, which are solid onboard graphics cores.

In comparison, the standard MacBook comes equipped with a dual-core, 7th-generation Core m3 processor that boosts up to 3.0GHz for the base model. That can be improved to a Core i5 CPU that boosts to 3.2GHz. Graphically, the best you can hope for is an Intel HD Graphics 615 chip, which is considerably weaker than the Iris Pro core found in the MacBook Pro.

Although both notebooks can have up to 16GB of RAM, the Pro also offers up to a terabyte of solid-state storage, where the 12-inch MacBook can only be equipped with 512GB. The MacBook Pro’s display is of a slightly higher-quality too, with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 across its 13.3-inch panel. In comparison, the MacBook’s smaller 12-inch screen is a lower 2,304 x 1,440. Both maintain the same aspect ratio though and a near identical pixel density, so there is no real difference between the two in terms of visual clarity.

The only hardware advantage that the standard MacBook has is that it offers more storage at a lower price point than the Pro.

Portability

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The size discrepancy between the MacBook 12-inch and MacBook Pro 13 isn’t dramatic, but when it comes to lugging around a laptop all day, it can make a real difference to the comfort of the user. Where the MacBook Pro 13 measures up at 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59 inches, the MacBook is 11.04 x 7.74 x 0.52 inches.

It has an even greater advantage in terms of weight. Where the MacBook Pro weighs just over three pounds, the MacBook is just over two. That one thirdcut in weight will absolutely be noticeable over a long day and highlights one of the greatest advantages of the MacBook in this head to head.

Better yet, it’s also longer lasting too. While its battery is smaller (41.4 watt-hours vs. 54.5 watt-hours in the Pro), it’s rated iTunes movie playback time of 12 hours tops the Pro’s 10 hours. Both are said to offer 10 hours of wireless web browsing and 30-days of standby time, but the standard MacBook will typically last a little bit longer than its Pro counterpart — a serious upside of its lower-powered hardware.

The Pro 13’s extra heft is worth it

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Digital Trends

As much as the standard MacBook’s lower weight and longer-lasting battery are nice touches, that doesn’t make a big enough impact for it to pull ahead in this comparison. The MacBook Pro might cost a little more in most configurations — although it doesn’t have to — but its more powerful hardware, improved keyboard design, and the added functionality of all of those extra USB-C ports makes it a much more capable laptop and a nicer one to use too.

While we’d pick both of these laptops over the aging MacBook Air, when it comes to the MacBook 12-inch versus the MacBook Pro 13, we know which one we’d choose every time. Just save yourself some money and go with the non-Touch Bar version.


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