Apple 13in MacBook Pro (2020) M1 8-core CPU, 7-core GPU, 256GB full review

We've run benchmarks and we've compared the MacBook Pro to the previous generation and the MacBook Air, but what we are interested in here is how is compares to an older Mac. It's likely that most of the M1 MacBook Pro customers will currently own an older MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, maybe even an 15in MacBook Pro, and be wondering whether the M1 MacBook Pro will be a suitable replacement - or if they would be wise to wait until the 14in MacBook Pro rumored to have a M1X chip arrives.

So in this review we'll compare the M1 MacBook Pro, not to the immediate predecessor, but to the 15in Macbook Pro 2016 with its quad-core Intel chip. Can the M1 MacBook Pro replace the 15in MacBook Pro?

First impressions

Apple keeps packaging sparse - the company has long attached great importance to conserving resources, however, unlike with the Apple Watch and iPhone, a power supply is included in the box, otherwise it would not make much sense. The power adapter generates 61 watts, the USB-C charging cable is two meters long. There's also a small booklet with quick instructions and stickers, and that's it.

As Apple software chef Craig Federeigi demonstrated in his presentation video for the M1 MacBook, and as we recreated here IMAGE, the MacBook Pro awakes as soon as you open the lid. You'll hear the familiar start up gong that Apple brought back with Big Sur and the white Apple logo appears on a black background.

The setup wizard guides us through the necessary steps, first we create an administrator account, then a second one for daily work. The battery is about 70 percent the first time it boots.

How it feels

M1 MacBook Pro vs 15in MacBook Pro

With our previous work tool, the 15in MacBook Pro from 2016, we never had problems with the keyboard. While after four years the lettering on several buttons is now worn out, no key ever got stuck despite it being one of the troublesome butterfly-mechanism keyboards that Apple has since replaced. The keys of our 2016 Mac now rattle loudly, but that never bothered us in itself. The keyboard of the M1 MacBook Pro already seems a little smoother to us.

The 13in MacBook Pro obviously has a smaller screen than our 15in MacBook, but the smaller dimensions of the 13in MacBook Pro are completely sufficient for most of our needs. If we feel like we need more space we simply connect the MacBook Pro to our 32in display. Used on the lap it doesn't get unpleasantly warm, nor do fans roar at us.

As for the battery level indicator, it hardly moved. Perhaps that comparison is a little unfair: the battery of our 15in MacBook Pro is four years old and doesn't hold it's charge so well now. A warning to us to make sure that we don't constantly leave the new MacBook Pro plugged in (although changes to energy management should go some way to mitigate those problems with depleting batteries). Not that there is any great need to plug in the M1 MacBook Pro: in principle the MacBook Pro M1 only has to be connected to the charger every two days, its battery life is so good.

There are disadvantages to the 13in model though. Here there are only two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports available, in one we have an adapter for the HDMI signal for our large monitor, the other is occupied by our Time Machine volume. The 15in MacBook Pro from 2016 has four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports.

For everyday work

So onto how it is using a M1 MacBook Pro for everyday work. For us this includes various web browsers, Microsoft's office package, parts of Creative Cloud, especially Photoshop and InDesign.

Here there are a few problems despite the fact that Apple includes Rosetta 2 to translate Intel X86 code so that it can run on the ARM-based system. Early adopters will have struggled, but there are a few of these apps now running natively on the M1 chip including Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook, and Firefox are now ready for the M1 processor. Check out our list of apps that are supported on the M1 Mac.

MacBook Pro M1 review

For other apps Apple's translation layer Rosetta should do the work so that you can run old software on the new Macs. The first time you start a program for Intel Macs, you have to install Rosetta 2, but that's done so quickly that it hardly delays the program start up sequence.

Having used the 7-core GPU equipped M1 MacBook Air, we were interested to see the difference that one graphic chip more would make. It's basically the equivalent of a Media Software department. We had the old and new MacBook Pro export a project lasting more than five minutes with 14 tracks (of which five are muted) as an uncompressed AIFF file. The 13in MacBook Pro with M1 and its 8-core CPU and 8-core GPU was done in 50 seconds, the 2016 15in MacBook Pro with six processor cores took just over two minutes.

The CPU

Although we do not expect significantly different results from artificial benchmarks such as Geekbench, Cinebench or Blackmagic Speed Disk than with the MacBook Air M1, we repeat the measurements: We are particularly interested in the comparison to the 2016 MacBook Pro 2016 but we also compare to the 16in MacBook Pro from autumn 2019, which is equipped with Core i7 with six CPU cores and has 16GB of RAM (our M1 Macbook Pro has 8GB of shared memory).

Well the results speak for themselves. But require classification. Sure, we are comparing apples with oranges here to a certain extent: A brand new device with a four-year-old one. But it clearly shows how fast Apple Silicon makes a Mac - and we can but look forward to what's yet to come.

In the APSI Benchmark, we can see how much the Intel Core i7 reduces the performance of the 2016 MacBook Pro, and we also hear the fans of the 16in MacBook Pro purchased last summer roar. In addition, the battery loses a good 30 percent of charge during the procedure.

Benchmark 15in MacBook Pro i5 2016 16in MacBook Pro i7 2019 13in MacBook Pro M1 2020
APSI Bench Standard 52.8 101.9 79.1
APSI Bench Longterm 80.82 57.69 83.33

In the APSI standard load, the M1 MacBook Pro beats the device it is supposed to replace in the office by a long way, but still lags behind the ninth generation Core i7.

The results of the CPU Geekbench are devastating for 2019's 16in MBP, we don't even need to talk about the four-year-old device anymore.

In the GPU Geekbench tests, the discrete Radeon graphics of the 16in MacBook Pro remained ahead of the integrated cores of the M1, but the lead wasn't huge.

In Cinebench the results were more telling. Here the MBP from 2016 was far behind, the M1 actually beat the MBP 16 inches. We also head proof that it is not an M1 MacBook Air: For the first time we could hear the fans, albeit not long and loud.

The SSD of the 2019 16in MacBook Pro was a little faster than that of the M1 MacBook Pro, but that shouldn't really matter. This only really makes a difference if the RAM on the SoC becomes scarce and the system has to outsource it to the SSD.

The camera and software

The M1 MacBooks still come with outdated and incredibly poor quality 720p iSight cameras. It is no coincidence that vain people buy a webcam on their MacBook or configure their iPhone as an external camera to look good in video conferences. Apple could have installed a better camera module in MacBook Air M1 and MacBook Pro M1 - as it did with the 24in iMac - but it didn't.

Therefore it follows that if you want a decent web cam with your Mac you will either need to purchase one separately, or wait for the 2021 MacBook Pro, expected to launch this autumn. It is possible that future Apple M1 MacBooks will offer even more than a 1080p webcam, it may even feature Face ID and Apple's True Depth camera system.

Verdict

For our purpose of mobile work, the M1 MacBook Pro is a completely sufficient replacement for our 15in MacBook Pro, offering both high speed and unprecedented battery life (we managed two working days in a row without charging in between). The small form factor does not bother us as much as we thought it would, on the contrary: it fits much better in our backpack. The screen is bright and brilliant. The biggest compromises are the sound (but we have other output devices for that), and the poor 720p camera. The camera is one reason why we can hardly wait for the 14in Macbook Pro said to be coming later in 2021 - that could even bring Face ID.

For the best deals right now on the MacBook Pro read our MacBook Pro deals round up.

This article originally appeared on Macwelt. Translation by Karen Haslam.

Find the best price

Best prices today

Retailer Price Delivery  

Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide