13-inch MacBook Pro M1 vs M2: Improvements where it matters – Macworld

At WWDC in June, Apple updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 chip, but nothing else has really changed compared to the M1 version that launched in 2020 (apart from the price which has increased in certain parts of the world, but not in the U.S.). But while the new 13-inch MacBook Pro lacks the impact of the the MacBook Air, which has seen a complete redesign and gained a larger screen, should you consider buying one?
You can preorder an M2 MacBook Pro at Apple.com, Best Buy, and other stores now for delivery June 24.
You’d be hard-pressed to tell the M1 and M2 MacBook Pro apart. Nothing has changed between the two models. It’s not that the design isn’t beautiful and practical, it’s just that it looks dated in contrast with the redesigned 2022 MacBook Air, and the 14-inch MacBook Pro, both of which share a similar design language.
If you sit a 13-inch MacBook Pro down beside any of the other Mac laptops you will notice that the bezels around the edge of the display are a lot thicker and the screen smaller. However, there is one potential benefit to this, depending on your viewpoint. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is now the only Mac laptop (other than the M1 MacBook Air that’s still on sale) that doesn’t feature a notch.
The purpose of the notch is to contain the camera, allowing Apple to reduce the bezel at the top and stretch the screen up a little higher. Some think that the notch spoils the design, others note that it doesn’t really result in any less workable space because the menu is placed either side of the notch (although it can get in the way in full screen mode). It’s a compromise you have to make if you want a larger display.
The 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro looks the same as the M1 model.
There is one other feature of the 13-inch MacBook Pro that sets it aside from every other Mac. This is the only model that retains the Touch Bar, a feature that Apple added to the MacBook Pro back in 2016 and removed from the 14-inch and 16-inch Pros in 2021.
The Touch Bar is a divisive feature – some find it incredibly useful, others can’t see the point. It essentially replaces the function keys with a LED strip that can be automatically adjusted to suit the app you are using. It’s quite useful for scrubbing through video in an editor, for example, or for adding emoji or correcting typos.
But the market for the Touch Bar was always supposed to be the power users of apps such as Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, and it turned out they didn’t want it. Now that it’s gone from every other model, it seems unlikely that the Touch Bar will survive another update. So, if you are a fan this may be your last opportunity to buy one.
The display size of the 13-inch MacBook Pro hasn’t changed since the 2009 13-inch MacBook Pro. It’s actually a tad bigger than 13 inchesat 13.3 inches measured diagonally and is now the smallest laptop Apple sells after the M2 MacBook Air screen got a bump to 13.6 inches.
Display technology has improved since 2009, but recently not so much. You can expect 2560×1600 pixels, 500 nits brightness, wide colour (P3) and True Tone technology (which means that the colours and brightness adjust according to the ambient light – making it easier on your eyes). None of these features are any different to the previous generation.
If you want a better display the best options come from the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro, where you’ll find Liquid Retina XDR display’s with 1,000 nits sustained full-screen, 1,600 nits peak brightness and ProMotion technology for adaptive refresh rates up to 120Hz. And the MacBook Air has a Liquid Retina display with rounded corners and support for a billion colors.
The M2 MacBook Pro’s display hasn’t changed.
The real difference between the M1 and M2 MacBook Pro is what is on the inside. There are two standard M2 MacBook Pro:
The M1 MacBook Pro also had two standard models:
As you can see, the M2 chip offers a number of advantages, including 10-core graphics and up to 24GB unified memory, compared to 8-core graphics and up to 16GB memory.
The extra graphics cores and the ability to support 24GB memory could be reason enough to choose the newer MacBook Pro, but the M2 brings more than that. The M2 delivers improves performance and efficiency for a faster CPU and a more powerful GPU. There’s also a 40 percent faster Neural Engine and 50 percent more memory bandwidth.
We’re hoping to have benchmarks for the M2 soon, and we will update this article as soon as we have comparable data. We expect slight improvements of roughly 20 percent over the M1, but don’t expect the M2 to beat the M1 Pro or other variants of the M1.
Another hidden improvement relates to the audio capabilities of this Mac laptop. While the new M2 MacBook Pro doesn’t offer the four-speaker sound system of the M2 MacBook Air, the new model does gain support for Spatial Audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos on built-in speakers. This includes Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking when using AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro and AirPods Max.
Battery life is just the same as the M1 model, at 20 hours. However, it’s possible that some of the improvements in the M2 processor could lead to battery improvements. We’ll update this article as soon as we have some data on testing.
Where the M2 MacBook Air has just gained an extra port in the form of MagSafe, which means that you don’t have to give one of your USB/Thunderbolt ports over to charging, the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro still only offers the same two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports as its predecessor.
There is a slight change to the 3.5mm headphone jack, which now adds support for high-impedance headphones.
The only other difference is that the M2 MacBook Pro ships with a 67W Power Adapter, rather than the 61W Power Adapter of the older model. Theoretically this could speed up charging, but it’s not likely to make a huge difference as the 13-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t support fast charging.
While the price for the 2022 generation of 13-inch MacBook Pro hasn’t changed in the U.S., it has in other counties.
The M2 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,299/£1,349. It previously cost $1,299/£1,299.
The M2 13-inch MacBook Pro with 512GB SSD costs $1,499/£1,549. The equivalent model cost $1,499/£1,499.
It’s interesting to note that there is a similarly speced M2 MacBook Air available for the same price as the more expensive MacBook Pro. You can get an M2 MacBook Air with 512GB SSD and 10-core GPU for $1,499/£1,549. If you are torn between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro we’ve compared the differences between the two models.
While resellers sell off the M1 MacBook Pro you may be able to pick up some bargains below (MSRP was $1,299/£1,299):
It’s on sale now, but stock is in short supply, but you’ll see the best prices for the M2 MacBook Pro below (MSRP $1,299/£1,349):
We’ll have more to say about the M2 MacBook Pro when we review it, but for many the attraction of the new design of the MacBook Air, along with its bigger, better and brighter display, and a similar price, will be a big factor in a decision not to buy the M2 13-inch MacBook Pro. However, side by side with the model, the performance improvements close the gap some between it and the higher-priced MacBook Pros.
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Macworld editor since 2008, Karen has worked on both sides of the Apple divide, clocking up a number of years at Apple’s PR agency prior to joining Macworld almost two decades ago. 
Karen’s career highlights include interviewing Apple’s Steve Wozniak and discussing Steve Jobs’ legacy on the BBC. Her focus is Mac, but she lives and breathes Apple.
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