Do not buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro until further notice: Here’s why

MacBook Pro 13-inch
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Update: If you bought a MacBook Pro between 2016 and 2019, you may be eligible for part of this $50 million settlement.

The new $999 MacBook Air 2020 isn’t just the best MacBook for most people. It’s better than the pricier $1,299 MacBook Pro 13-inch. In fact, the Air is so much better that no one should buy the Pro -- at least until Apple significantly upgrades the latter.

Here’s why you should steer clear of the 13-inch MacBook Pro for now, and what you can expect from the new model once it arrives later this year.

Why you shouldn’t buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro

Although the 13-inch MacBook Pro has more raw power than the MacBook Air, there are some key reasons to hold off on your purchase.

The Butterfly keyboard isn't good enough

Apple has brought the more reliable and comfortable scissor mechanism keyboard from the 16-inch MacBook Pro to the MacBook Air, and it makes a world of difference. Typing just feels more pleasant, as you get more travel. More important, we haven’t experienced any stuck key issues or accidental double presses.

Meanwhile, the 13-inch MacBook Pro sill has Apple’s problematic and underwhelming butterfly keyboard. This is not your type.

The MacBook Air has double the storage for less money

Here’s a spec difference that makes zero sense. The 13-inch MacBook Air starts with a 256GB SSD. The 13-inch MacBook Pro that costs $300 more has a 128GB SSD. And to get the Air’s storage you would have to pay $1,499. 

The MacBook Pro uses a now-ancient 8th gen CPU

In terms of raw performance the quad-core Core i5 chip in the MacBook Pro is faster than the dual-core Core i3 CPU in the MacBook Air. But the MacBook Pro uses an older 8th gen Core processor, compared to a newer 10th gen Core in the Air. It’s only a matter of time before Apple upgrades the 13-inch Pro to a 10th gen CPU.

What to expect from the new MacBook Pro 2020

The new MacBook Pro 2020 should have everything that’s on our wishlist and then some. This includes a better scissor keyboard, a faster 10th-gen Core processor and we’re assuming at least 256GB of storage. But that’s not all you should expect.

Based on the MacBook Pro 2020 leaks we’ve seen, Apple may increase the screen size from 13.3 inches to 14 inches, similar to what it did for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. So you should get a bigger screen in the same footprint with less bezels.

Plus, it’s possible that the new MacBook Pro will feature a new mini-LED display. This is according to Apple analyst Min-Chi Kuo. The benefits of mini-LED include high brightness, deeper blacks and a better contrast ration. Essentially, you can expect OLED-like performance without potential burn-in issues.  

I also hope that Apple offers four Thunderbolt 3 ports standard instead of today’s two. Right now you have to jump all the way up to the $1,799 configuration to get that perk.

Bottom line

It’s strange to recommend the MacBook Air over the 13-inch MacBook Pro but that’s what I’m doing right now — and it's the same conclusion we came in in our MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro face-off. There’s no word on the release date for the MacBook Pro 2020, but it could be the fourth quarter of 2020 — and that’s if Apple is able to work through coronavirus-related supply chain and manufacturing issues. Regardless, it should be worth the wait.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.