Apple's first MacBook Pro using its own processor was announced at the company's One More Thing online event. The 13in MacBook Pro was one of three models to receive the new Apple M1 chip – the second time the 13in MacBook Pro has been upgraded this year.
In its online broadcast, Apple highlighted the 13in MacBook Pro’s performance and extremely long battery life – plus some new microphones that should improve how you sound on your next Zoom call.
While Apple is boasting about the new model’s performance, it’s an entry-level model – and Apple is continuing to sell the Intel-based 13in MacBook Pro with higher amounts of RAM and storage. Want more information? We compare the M1 MacBook Pro and the 2.0GHz MacBook Pro in a separate article.
From the outside, the new 13in MBP looks remarkably similar to the previous model. There’s the same chassis – in silver or Space Gray – screen and two Thunderbolt ports that you plug the power adapter into for USB-C-based charging. It weights about the same too: 1.4kg.
The trackpad and keyboard are also the same, with the Touch Bar between these and the screen providing tailored controls for your apps and the Touch ID sensor allowing fingerprint-based login and payment – plus doubling as the power button.
What’s new is under the hood. For the first time since 2006, Apple Macs are available that don’t use Intel processors, and the first iteration of this is the Apple M1 chip found in the new MacBook Pro (and also the new MacBook Air and Mac mini).
The M1 processor combines many of the MacBook’s central components into a single unified memory architecture – featuring the CPU, GPU, memory, I/O and more. Apple says that this makes for a much more efficient design that using separate components, delivering optimal performance.
There are eight CPU cores – four focussed on performance and four on efficiency. The high-performance cores run the most strenuous tasks such as video and photo editing functions, while the high-efficiency cores are for simple tasks such as email or web browsing that won’t drain the battery as much as the other cores. Apple’s new Big Sur OS splits tasks between the cores according to their needs. Early benchmarks for the MacBook Air are promising so we are hopeful that the MacBook Pro will see impressive results.
The chip also includes an eight-core GPU with 128 execution units, capable of producing 2.6teraflops of graphics performance. Note, the new M1 Macs with Apple's Silicon processors will not support eGPU - read more here: M1 Macs will not support eGPU.
iFitit has dismantled the new MacBook Pro and described the M1 chip. Read more here: What's inside M1 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini model.
The included Neural Engine accelerates machine learning-based tasks such as image processing and video analysis.
Other features on the chip include an image signal processor that Apple claims offers better noise reception and a bigger dynamic range than the previous models, Secure Enclave for security, storage and Thunderbolt controllers, and video encoding and decoding engines.
While the older, Intel 13in MacBook Pros have a base of 16GB of RAM and max out at 32GB, the entry-level M1 MacBook Pro starts at 8GB and tops off at 16GB.
Outside the M1 chip, there’s the option of 512GB, 1TB or 2TB of SSD storage.
Components that remain the same as the Intel MBP include a 13-inch LED-backlit display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and a P3 colour gamut and True Tone colour shifting to match ambient lighting.
What is new on the outside – or just under it – are three microphones that Apple describes as “studio quality”.
Apple claims that the M1 chips has created a 13in MacBook Pro that’s CPU is up to 2.8x faster than the previous generation. Its GPU is up to 5x faster, says Apple.
At the launch event, Apple demoed the 13in MBP running Cinema 4D, DaVinci Resolve (above) and other professional-level creative applications – claiming that the new laptop can render a 3D title in Final Cut Pro up to 5.9x, design game scenes in Unity up to 3.5x faster, and play back 8K ProRes footage in Resolve.
However, these figures compare the new MacBook Pro to the entry-level model of the previous range – which was a few generations technologically behind the higher-end models that Apple is continuing to sell. The entry-level model had 8th-gen Intel Core processors – 10th-gen in the higher-end models. Like the new M1-based model, the old entry-level model had a choice of 8GB and 16GB RAM – whereas the higher-end models could be configured with 32GB.
The old entry-level model also featured weaker graphics than the models that remain.
How the new M1 model measures up to the 10th-gen based 13in MacBook Pros is uncertain – but we’ll be reviewing the new model and benchmarking it soon.
Read more about the M1 chip here: How good is Apple's M1 chip really?
This is one area where Apple is claiming a boost over all older models. According to the company, the M1-based 13in MBP offers up to 17 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback – up to twice that of previous models.
The new 13in MacBook Pro starts at £1,299/US$1,299 with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. A model with a 512GB drive costs £1,499/$1,499. Maxing out with 16GB RAM and a 2TB SSD pushes this up to £2,299/$2,299.
The older models start at £1,799 with a 2GHz Intel Core i5 chip, 16GB memory and 512GB storage – topping out at £3,599 with a 2.3GHz Core i7 Chip, 32GB RAM and 4TB storage.
The new MacBook Pro is available for pre-order today, with units arriving by post or at stores next week (UK stores are currently click-and-collect only).
On the next page we look at the May 2020 update to the MacBook Pro