The M2 might sound like it’s better, but it’s a base-level chip next to the M1 Pro, M1 Max, and M1 Ultra powering the $2,000+ MacBook Pro models. It’s easy to be swayed by Apple’s stats, which boast that the M2 processor has a 35 percent more powerful GPU, 18 percent faster CPU, and 40 percent faster neural engine compared to the M1. But it’s not quite enough for most professionals, who require more computing power. (The M2, just like the M1, still only supports one external monitor, unlike the M1 Pro and up.)
The M2 performed well. Most of the time, I didn’t run into any hiccups. On busier days, when I had about 20 tabs open on Google Chrome and multiple apps running in the background simultaneously, it felt a bit sluggish; there was some lag when switching between tabs and windows, and I managed to trigger the dreaded rainbow wheel a few times.
I uploaded 4K Pro Res files shot on the iPhone 13 Pro to Final Cut Pro and edited one stream on the timeline. I applied a light color grade, along with a few other built-in effects and saw some stuttering throughout. I didn’t really alter the footage that much, but this MacBook Pro struggled with even the slightest of color adjustments (and the rainbow wheel made a few appearances).
Editing photos with apps like Pixelmator and Adobe Photoshop felt a lot smoother. The Mac stuttered here and there while I adjusted sliders, added slight bits of rotation, and made minor changes to color. But it still managed to power through a multitude of layers and effects to achieve the desired look—without the fans ever kicking in.
That’s the main difference in power between this MacBook Pro and the new MacBook Air—it has a fan. When the fan kicks in, the MacBook Pro can draw a little more power over sustained periods. It also has slightly better battery life. I usually had to plug in after eight hours on workdays.
A Tough Sell
All of this isn’t to say the 13-inch MacBook Pro is completely unusable for heavy-duty tasks, but it likely won’t be enough for anyone who regularly deals with processor-intensive workloads. If that’s you, I think it’s worth saving your cash and going for the base version of the 14-inch MacBook Pro instead.
If you just need a good, new laptop, wait for the upcoming MacBook Air. You get a slightly larger, more modern-looking screen, a better webcam, nicer speakers, and a fast-charging support, all in an overall lighter package (and fun colors!). This MacBook Pro remains an awkward middle child and doesn’t bring nearly enough to the table to be worth your while.