The MacBook Pro is Apple's laptop for those who need a powerful machine in a portable package. The company currently sells two different sizes of MacBook Pro: a 13in MacBook Pro, of which there are four variants, and a new 16in MacBook Pro model, which includes two variants.
Prior to the introduction of the 16in MacBook Pro in November 2019 there was a similarly specced 15in MacBook Pro model. Officially Apple no longer sells this Mac, but it is available from Apple's Refurbished Store and you will still be able to purchase from third-parties, hence we will include it in this comparison.
So read on if you want advice on which MacBook Pro to buy, including whether you should spend more to get a 16in MacBook Pro, if a 13in MacBook Pro would give you sufficient power for your needs, or if a cut-price deal on the older 15in MacBook Pro would be too good to miss.
The MacBook Pro range
All MacBook Pro models are available in a silver or a space grey finish but that's where the similarities end.
Amid the range of MacBook Pro laptops there are some very different offerings. There may be two sizes of MacBook Pro, but there are actually various types of MacBook Pro to consider:
- 13in MacBook Pro with 1.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors. From £1,299 Buy it here. (July 2019)
- 13in MacBook Pro with 2.4GHz 8th-gen quad-core processors. From £1,799 Buy it here. (May 2019)
- 16in MacBook Pro with 2.6GHz 9th-gen six-core processors. From £2,399 Buy it here. (Nov 2019)
- 16in MacBook Pro with 2.3GHz 9th-gen eight-core processors. From £2,799 Buy it here. (Nov 2019)
There is also the 15in MacBook Pro (last updated in July 2019). It's since been discontinued by Apple, but you will still find it for sale at third parties, and via Apple itself at Apple's refurbished store.
- 15in MacBook Pro with 2.6GHz 9th-gen six-core processors. From £2,399 Buy it from Apple's refurbished store here. (July 2019)
- 15in MacBook Pro with 2.3GHz 9th-gen eight-core processors. From £2,799 Buy it from Apple's refurbished store here. (July 2019)
It used to be the case that we felt the 13in MacBook Pro wasn't really deserving of the name 'Pro'. For many years there was a huge leap in spec between the smaller and larger models. However, back in 2018 when the two more expensive 13in MacBook Pro models gained quad-core processors the gap narrowed somewhat.
But even then the entry level MacBook Pro still only offered dual core processors, making it not that much more powerful than the MacBook Air while costing more than that model. So, when Apple introduced new, much better specced, entry-level 13in MacBook Pro models in July 2019, we celebrated. Read about the MacBook Pro vs MacBook Air here.
For that reason it's important to note which generation of MacBook Pro you are buying. There are lots of deals to be had on older models, but they aren't all equal. We advise that you take a look at our best MacBook Pro deals to understand which model is being offered and how much is too much to spend on it.
MacBook Pro dimensions
We'll start with the most obvious difference between the different models of MacBook Pro: The dimensions.
The 16in MacBook Pro isn't actually the biggest MacBook Pro Apple has ever sold. The company ditched the 17in MacBook Pro back in 2012. Nor is the 16in MacBook Pro much bigger than the 15in model that preceded it, as you will see if you read on.
16in MacBook Pro dimensions
- Screen size: 16in diagonally
- Dimensions: 35.79cm x 24.59cm (14.09in x 9.68in)
- Thickness: 1.62cm (0.64in)
- Weight: 2.0kg (4.3lb)
15in MacBook Pro dimensions
- Screen size: 15.4in diagonally
- Dimensions: 34.93cm x 24.07cm (13.75in x 9.48in)
- Thickness: 1.55cm (0.61in)
- Weight: 1.83kg (4.02lb)
13in MacBook Pro dimensions
- Screen size: 13.3in diagonally.
- Dimensions: 30.41cm x 21.24cm (11.97in x 8.36in)
- Thickness: 1.49cm (0.59in)
- Weight: 1.37kg (3.02lb)
MacBook Pro display comparison
Obviously the second big difference between the various MacBook Pro models is the display. But other than the size of the display, and the total number of pixels, they displays actually have a lot in common:
- Both the 13in and the 16in MacBook Pro have the same 227 pixels per inch. (The now discontinued 15in model offered 220 pixels per inch.)
- Brightness is 500nits all MacBook Pro models.
- All screens offer P3 which means they display a wider range of “more lifelike” colours.
- All screens offer True Tone (a technology that adjusts the display brightness according to the ambient light, perfect if you often find yourself working in gloomy environments).
True Tone arrived back in 2018 but initially only featured on the 15in and the two more expensive 13in models. Prior to the July 2019 update the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro models lacked this feature but it is now a feature of all the displays. If it's something you think you will need it's worth checking what generation the 13in MacBook Pro is.
That's what's the same, but there are obviously differences according to the size of the display. The larger the display the more pixels:
- 16in Display resolution: 3,072x1,920 at 227ppi
- (15in Display resolution: 2,880x1,800 at 220ppi)
- 13in Display resolution: 2,560x1,600 at 227ppi
While the display resolution on the 16in MacBook Pro looks impressive next to the 15in model, it's still not as good as some PC laptops that offer 3,840 x 2,160 pixel, 4K displays.
We were hoping to see Apple launch a 4K 16in MacBook Pro in 2019, but Apple claimed that the resolution of the new display is sufficient, and helps the machine offer improved battery life (more on battery life below).
Obviously the 16in MacBook Pro (and the 15in before it) has a much larger display than the 13in model. In real terms, that’s an extra 467 across and 320 down (comparing the 15in and 13in that was an extra 320 pixels across and 200 pixels down).
It’s likely to make a difference to you if you often have a lot of applications open, or if your work with images.
Another thing that may interest pro users: the 16in models support refresh rates of 47.95Hz, 48.00Hz, 50.00Hz, 59.94Hz, 60.00Hz.
There are benefits associated with the smaller screen on the 13in model - it means the laptop is smaller and lighter. If that’s more important to you than a few extra pixels it’s a good reason to choose the 13in over the 16in (or 15in if you find one on sale).
Our recommendation if you really need a bigger screen: plug your MacBook into a second display whenever you are at your desk.
Prior to the July 2019 update the entry-level models also lacked True Tone, but now all MacBook Pro models offer this feature which adjusts brightness and colour on your screen depending on the surrounding lighting conditions.
MacBook Pro specs comparison
It's not just the screen that is different. If you want a powerful machine it's what is inside that counts.
The various 2019 MacBook Pro models offer four different processors, and it's not just the clock speed or the amount of cores that is different, there are different generations of Intel processors on offer here:
- 1.4GHz quad-core 8th-gen Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz, with 128MB of eDRAM (13in MacBook Pro)
- 2.4GHz quad-core 8th-gen Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz, with 128MB of eDRAM (13in MacBook Pro)
- 2.6GHz 6-core 9th-gen Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz, with 16MB shared L3 cache (16in & 15in MacBook Pro)
- 2.3GHz 8-core 9th-gen Intel Core i9, Turbo Boost up to 4.8GHz, with 16MB shared L3 cache (16in & 15in MacBook Pro)
All this adds up to big leaps between the different MacBook Pro units, although the 2019 improvements at the bottom of the line definitely help sell those models (prior to July 2019 those were dual-core 7th-gen processors).
The processor is a key differentiator between the models and one of a number of reasons why the 16in is better suited to creative pros. However, you may notice that the processor in the 16in MacBook Pro is actually identical to the one that featured inside the 2019 15in MacBook Pro.
That would suggest that you can expect a similar performance from the 2019 15in and 16in MacBook Pro models, however in our tests we have found that the 16in model performed better. This is likely to do with other differences inside the machine, which include changes to thermal management.
The more cores your computer has, the more problems it can solve at a time. The processor can either deal with lots of different tasks, with each processor devoted to each task, or it can split a task across multiple processors, either way that task can be done quicker. This matters if you are doing something like 3D rendering.
In addition, a Core i7 and i9 processor will be better able to cope with multimedia applications, gaming, and multitasking. You’ll find more on processor cache on i7 and i9 models too, which should make scientific calculations faster. The extra cache comes into play with multitasking too.
The quad-cores in the 2019 13in MacBook Pro (as they did in the 2018 model) make us more comfortable with that machine's pro status. If you are considering buying an older MacBook Pro with fewer cores beware that it won't be nearly as powerful as the newest models.
You may be wondering what the difference is between a processor with 128MB of eDRAM and one with 16MB shared L3 cache? The eDRAM is related to the GPU that's integrated into the CPU in the 13in models. While the L3 cache option you see in the 15in models is fast memory that's placed close to the processor core, this cache stores frequently used instructions so that the CPU can access them quickly, improving performance. So they couldn't really be more different.
The differences continue when you look at the graphics offerings.
13in MacBook Pro:
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645
- Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
16in MacBook Pro
- AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 & Intel UHD Graphics 630
- AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 & Intel UHD Graphics 630
Discontinued 15in MacBook Pro:
- AMD Radeon Pro 555X with 4GB of GDDR5 & Intel UHD Graphics 630
- AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4GB of GDDR5 & Intel UHD Graphics 630
Both generations of 13in MacBook Pro offer graphics cards that are integrated on the processor, while the 16in MacBook Pro (like the older 15in model) features discrete graphics as well as integrated graphics (so the Mac can switch between the two, thereby saving battery life when the faster card isn't required).
One of the key differences between integrated and discrete (or dedicated) graphics is that integrated graphics don’t have their own RAM and that will matter if you are doing something graphically intense, like rendering something in 3D, or playing a graphically intensive game.
That doesn’t mean that integrated graphics don’t have their advantages. They require less power, so battery life might be better, for example, and they are cheaper than a discrete card, so, in theory, should allow Apple to sell those models for less, and indeed it does: there is a difference of £400 between the top of the line 13in model and the entry-level 16in MacBook Pro. We’ll look in a bit more detail at the price later on.
You might think that the lack of discrete graphics means that the 13in MacBook Pro really doesn’t deserve to be called a Pro machine - assuming of course that the pros you are thinking of are creative pros. If you are just a professional, looking for a machine to create spreadsheets, presentations and emails on the 13in models might be pro enough though.
There is a significant difference between the graphics in the 16in and 15in models. The Radeon Pro 555X and 560X in the 2019 15in MacBook Pro were the same graphics cards as the 2018 models offered, but there were also the following, impressive, build-to-order options available:
- Radeon Pro Vega 16 with 4GB of HBM2 memory (+£225)
- Radeon Pro Vega 20 with 4GB of HBM2 memory (+£315)
The 16in MacBook Pro comes with the newer AMD Radeon Pro 5300M and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory. Both come with 4GB of GDDR6 memory, previously this was 4GB of GDDR5 memory. The new build to order options are in terms of the associated graphics memory: the AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory is another £90.
Wondering what the difference between GDDR5 and GDDR6 memory is? GDDR6 has increased capacity and increased bandwidth, and offers HBM2 features (as per the previous build-to-order options). Power consumptionis also lower.
If RAM is important to you you'll be pleased to learn that the 2019 16in MacBook Pro can be equipped with 64GB RAM! That's a £720/$800 build-to-order option. As standard the machine ships with 16GB.
Prior to the introduction of the 16in MacBook Pro the 15in MacBook Pro maxed out at 32GB RAM.
That's few differences between the 13in and 15in MacBook Pro models.
- The 13in MacBook Pro ships as standard with 8GB 2133MHZ LPDDR3 memory, but it’s upgradable to 16GB RAM.
- The 16in MacBook Pro ships as standard with 16GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory, it’s upgradable to 32GB or 64GB RAM.
- The now discontinued 15in model shipped with 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory. There was a 32GB RAM build-to-order option for the 15in MacBook Pro (£360/$400).
Note that not all RAM is equal: the 16in has 2400MHz DDR4 RAM, which is faster memory than the 15in's 2400MHz DDR4, and much faster than the 2133MHZ LPDDR3 in the 13in.
Chances are you don't need 64GB RAM, or even 32GB RAM, in your laptop, but if you do, then the 16in MacBook Pro can serve your needs.
Touch Bar and keyboard
It used to be that the key differentiator between the four configurations of 13in MacBook Pro was whether you get a Touch Bar or not. However, when Apple updated the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro in July 2019 it gained the Touch Bar and better processors along with some other improvements.
Now the Touch Bar is now available on all MacBook Pro models. Obviously the bigger machine offers more space for the Touch Bar, but beyond that there’s not really much of a difference.
There is a slight difference between the 16in and 15in Touch Bar though. Apple has redesigned the Touch Bar in the new model; separating the Escape key and moving the Touch ID button a smidgeon.
The keyboard is a feature that has gained attention for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately there have been some widely publicised problems with the butterfly-mechanism keyboard that has been a feature of the MacBook Pro (and MacBook and MacBook Air) since around 2016. The good news is that Apple has changed to a new style keyboard for the 16in MacBook Pro.
We like the new keyboard, which feels better to type on thanks to deeper key travel. We hope that the problems suffered by the older generations are now rectified.
Those issues aren't necessarily a reason not to buy the older MacBook Pro models though. They were well publicised problems, but not suffered by everyone, and if your Mac did have any associated issues Apple will fix it for free. If you aren't prepared to risk it you may be interested to know when the 13in model will adopt the same new keyboard. Rumours say spring 2020.
The Force Touch trackpad is available on all the MacBook Pro laptops. It features pressure-sensing capabilities so that you can “Force Click” and use Multi-Touch gestures.
Ports and connectivity
The 1.4GHz MacBook Pros offer two Thunderbolt 3 ports, while the 2.4GHz 13in model offer four, as do the 16in models (and the 15in models). None of the MacBook Pros offers USB-A.
Those Thunderbolt 3 ports are also USB-C ports.
All the MacBook Pro laptops offer a headphone port.
We mentioned the battery life briefly earlier. Apple's reasoning for not giving the 16in MacBook Pro a 4K display was that it would result in reduced battery life. As a result the 16in MacBook Pro actually offers better battery life than the 13in and 15in models.
The 16in MacBook Pro boasts 11 hours according to Apple's tests, while the 13in MacBook Pro offers 10 hours battery life, as did the 15in model.
Our final difference to address is storage. Storage is actually the only difference between the two 1.4GHz and the two 2.4GHz models.
- The £1,299/$1,299 1.4GHz MacBook Pro comes with 128GB
- The £1,499/$1,499 1.4GHz MacBook Pro comes with 256GB
- The £1,799/$1,799 2.4GHz MacBook Pro comes with 256GB
- The £1,999/$1,999 2.4GHz MacBook Pro comes with 512GB
You essentially pay £200 extra to double the storage. The question is do you really need that extra storage or could you make do with 2TB in iCloud for £6.99/$9.99 a month?
The 16in MacBook Pro now ships with a choice of 512GB or 1TB storage. This is an improvement on the 15in model, which offered 256GB or 512GB as standard.
If you want the maximum storage available the 16in MacBook Pro can be specced up with 8TB SSD for £1,980/$2,200.
MacBook Pro price comparisons
Apple put prices of the MacBook Pro models up by £50 and £100 in the UK when it introduced the new entry-level models to the lineup in July 2019. It's likely the company was adjusting according to currency fluctuations.
With a starting price of £1,299/$1,299, the 1.4GHz 13in MacBook Pro is a great option now that Apple has updated the entry-level model (as of July 2019).
The 2.4GHz 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,799/$1,799 - which is a leap of £500 compared to the entry-level model, and a leap of £300 from the 1.4GHz model with the same storage option (256GB). That's a big jump.
But previously there was a humongous gap between the specs of the models that gap has lessened since the July 2019 update, so we're not as keen to recommend the 2.4GHz model now as we were then.
It's worth noting that for a similar price (£1,749/$1,799) you could get a 3.0GHz 6-core, 27-inch iMac that comes with 8GB 2666MHz RAM, 1TB Fusion Drive, and Radeon Pro discrete graphics (as opposed to 2.4GHz quad-core processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and Iris Plus Graphics). That's quite a boost in power for the same price.
What the 2.4GHz offering does is lessen the gap between the entry-level 13in and the entry-level 16in model though. Starting at £2,399/$2,399 there is a £1,100/$1,100 difference in the price! Enough to buy a MacBook Air too!
The price difference between the top-of-the-range 13in model (£1,999/$1,999) and the entry-level 16in (£2,399/$2,399) is still £400/$400, but that seems fairer than it would if the 13in offering wasn't as wide ranging.
And the £400 difference between the entry-level 16in MacBook Pro and the top-of-the-range 13in model does include differences in graphic capabilities, processor, screen size, and everything else.
All these price jumps might sound gigantic, but it's worth bearing in mind that the 16in MacBook Pro introduced in November 2019 is priced at exactly the same point as the 15in MacBook Pro was. Apple could have put up the price but didn't.
The entry-level 16in MacBook Pro price starts at £2,399/$2,399 for a 2.6GHz 6-core 9th generation i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD, and costs more than the top-of-the-range iMac (£2,249/$2,299). That iMac offers a 3.7GHz 6-core 9th generation i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 2TB Fusion Drive and Radeon Pro 580X discrete graphics.
The point of these comparisons is that while we understand that it's normal to pay a premium to buy a pro-laptop, if you don't need portability the iMac could offer you more for your money.
Have a look at our round up of the best MacBook Pro deals to see if you can pick up a discount on a new or older model.
Whether you require a 16in or a 13in MacBook Pro - or even the older 15in MacBook Pro - depends primarily on what you will be using it for and how much you have to spend.
If all you do with your Mac is surf the web and open emails then you might find a cheaper MacBook Air might meet your needs.
Now that the entry-level 13in MacBook Pro models have received an update (they'd been left untouched by Apple for a few years) we are much more positive about recommending that machine.
At the same time as Apple updated the entry-level 13in the other 13in models gained a price increase (if you are in the UK). To make matters worse, when they were updated earlier in 2019 they only saw a move from 2.3 to 2.4GHz, the processor generation didn't change. They are still impressive, but not as impressive as the 16in models, which offer 9th generation processors.
But those 16in models are EXPENSIVE! And when you consider what you can get for the same money if you buy an iMac, well, it's hard to recommend them unless you REALLY need a powerful portable.