MacBook vs MacBook Pro

Apple announced spec updates to all of its MacBook models at WWDC 2017. Now more than ever it is a tough choice deciding which one you want to buy.

The MacBook Pro has shed some weight, and some ports, but risen in price. The 12in MacBook is only two years old and remains the same in design but more powerful on the inside. Which one should you go for?

We compare the two here. Please note that this comparison does not include the 15in MacBook Pro models. If you are wondering how the 13-inch MacBook Pro compares to the 13-inch MacBook Air read this: MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air comparison review.

You might also want to check out our 12in MacBook preview and 13in MacBook Pro review. We also have a comparison of the two MacBook Pro models here.

Price and availability

The base models of both the 12in MacBook and the MacBook Pro, confusingly, cost £1,249. This MacBook Pro is the one without the Touch Bar, and is also less powerful than the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that starts at £1,749.

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar costs £500 more thanks to the Touch Bar, Touch ID, more storage, better graphics abilities and more powerful processing power.

Here is the full pricing of the 12in MacBook and 13in MacBook Pro. Note that you can upgrade the processor, RAM and storage at point of purchase but this will increase the base price.

View all 12in MacBook models here

View all 13in MacBook Pro models here 

13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Design and build

The MacBook and MacBook Pro boast slim bodies and amazing design traits, but there are several differences.

Dimensions and weight

The MacBook measures 28.05 x 19.65 x 0.35-1.31cm compared to the MacBook Pro’s 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.49cm. Both the Touch Bar and non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros have the exact same dimensions.

The 12in MacBook is definitely the most compact laptop Apple has ever made. Its subtle wedge design and small bezels fit a 12in screen into an overall package not much bigger or heavier than an iPad, weighing in at 0.92kg.

All 13in MacBook Pro models weigh 1.37kg. None of these computers is going to weigh you down. But if you want the lightest, most compact laptop out there, then go for the 12in MacBook.

Features and specs

Processor, storage and ports

As you’d expect, the ‘Pro’ in MacBook Pro means that these machines have higher specs than the 12in MacBook. Confusingly, there’s a difference between the two 13in MacBook Pro models. Dammit, Apple.

Let’s start with the 12in MacBook though. The £1,249 model has a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core m3 with Turbo Boost up to 3.0GHz. The ‘m’ in ‘Core m’ stands for mobile, and basically means it is a low-powered chip that won’t be as proficient as anything found in the MacBook Pro.

12in MacBook

You can opt for a higher-powered 12in MacBook with a 1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz but that’ll cost you at least £1,549. Also this Core i5 is not the same Core i5 found in the MacBook Pro.

At £1,249, the non-Touch Bar 13in MacBook Pro has a higher powered 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz than the £1,549 12in MacBook. The extra £300 gets you 512GB storage though, while this base MacBook Pro only has 128GB storage.

Part of the buying decision here is common sense. If you want a slim, portable MacBook with at least 256GB storage, the 12in MacBook will be a good bet. Even at the same price, a £1,249 13in MacBook Pro has more power, but is bulkier and has half the storage.

The 13in Touch Bar MacBook Pros are expensive. The cheapest is £1,749 and has a 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz and 256GB storage. Most users won’t notice too much of a difference in computing power between it and the £500 cheaper non-Touch Bar version.

13in MacBook Pro with no Touch Bar

You’re paying £500 extra for 0.8GHz of power, a Touch Bar, Touch ID, and two USB-C ports. If you’ve got a high budget, this is an amazing computer. But you could save yourself £500 and not sacrifice very much.

There is also a £1,949 13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar that is the same specs as the £1,749 – you’re paying an extra £200 for 512GB storage as opposed to 256GB.

You can upgrade the processor in the 12in MacBook to a Core i7 at point of purchase for £135.

You can upgrade any 13in MacBook Pro to a Core i7 for £270, and 16GB RAM for £180. Options for additional storage range up to 1TB for an eye-watering £800 extra.

Here's How to choose the Mac with the best processor for your needs.

RAM

Every 12in MacBook and 13in MacBook Pro has 8GB RAM. The 12in MacBook has 8GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 memory while every 13in MacBook Pro has 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory. Only those users with high memory requirements for photo, video or music editing will truly require the power of the MacBook Pro.

You can upgrade the 12in MacBook to 16GB RAM at purchase for £180.

Graphics

In terms of GPU, the 12in MacBook has an Intel HD Graphics 615. The non-Touch Bar 13in MacBook Pro has a higher spec Intel Iris Plus Graphic 640, while the Touch Bar model one-ups it with an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650.

If you want to play games fluidly and without interruption on any of the laptops, you should definitely go for the MacBook Pro. A fully specced out i7 16GB RAM 12in MacBook will handle it, but cost an absolute fortune. The base 13in MacBook Pro will handle graphically intense games.

Display

Every 12in MacBook and 13in MacBook Pro has an Apple Retina display.

The 12in MacBook’s display has a 2304x1440 resolution at 226 pixels per inch.

All 13in MacBook Pro’s have a display with 2560x1600 resolution at 227 pixels per inch.

All look amazing – there’s just an inch difference in diagonal size.

Keyboard and ports

All the laptops in question have full size QWERTY (in the UK) keyboards. Both also use Apple’s second-generation butterfly mechanism keys. These keys have low travel compared to legacy MacBooks and they take a bit of getting used to.

The 12in MacBook in 2015 and 2016 had first-generation butterfly keys that were largely panned for being overly clicky. Thankfully the new gen found on all these laptops is much improved, giving decent feedback in a shallower travel.

The 12in MacBook only has one USB-C port. That’s it! And now all 13in MacBook Pro models only have USB-C connectivity too. The non-Touch Bar version has two ports while the more expensive Touch Bar models have four.

Trackpad

All these laptops feature Apple’s incredible Force Touch trackpads. They are one of our favourite things about them (bear with us here). They simulate a click using electromagnetic feedback, rather than physically clicking.

This is great because it’s one less moving part that could break and also means you can register a click anywhere on the pad, even right at the top. It’s amazing.

The deeper push also allowed by Force Touch allows you to perform an action specific to an app you’re in. Once you’re used to it you won’t go back.

The mouse travel afforded by the trackpad is also of the highest quality. These are the best trackpads in the world.

The trackpad on the 12in MacBook

Battery

Apple claims the 12in MacBook and both 13in MacBook Pro models can run for 10 hours when unplugged and online. We’d expect these figures to be accurate as Apple has a great track record for fulfilling battery expectations.

This number will run down when memory usage is high of course, and we expect the MacBook Pro to outlast the MacBook under the same conditions. It’s worth noting that the non-Touch Bar 13in MacBook Pro has a 54.5-watt-hour battery, bigger than the Touch Bar model’s at 49.2.

The 12in MacBook’s is 41.4-watt-hour and is charged via the solitary USB-C port.

Software

As of release in June 2017, all the MacBooks here run macOS Sierra. Once macOS High Sierra is available as a free download this autumn, you’ll be able to upgrade, and they will all handle the operating system with no issue.

All the MacBooks comes preloaded with exactly the same software suite, including Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and Garageband.

Here's our preview of macOS High Sierra.

OUR VERDICT

The choice between the 12in MacBook and 13in MacBook Pro is a bit trickier now that the base models are the same price. If you want a slim MacBook with decent battery life, Retina display, and you don’t need to use USB accessories, video edit or play games, then the 12in MacBook is the one for you.

If however you want a bit more processing power, an extra port, an extra inch on the screen then go for the non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro.

You only need the Touch Bar MacBook Pro if you can afford it, need four USB-C ports or need the highest specs possible for music, photo and video editing in particular.

Of course, if you want a Rose Gold MacBook, then you’ll have to settle for the 12in MacBook.

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