It’s time to kill the 13-inch MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) sitting on a desk —MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 confused many in the tech community when Apple released the laptop last year. After the MacBook Pro 14-inch, MacBook Pro 16-inch and MacBook Air M2 received updated modern designs, the MacBook Pro 13-inch with its more powerful chip but dated aesthetic felt out of place.

This is doubly true now that the MacBook Air 15-inch is available.

That isn’t to say the MacBook Pro 13-inch is a bad laptop. On the contrary, it’s been one of the best laptops and best MacBooks you can buy. Its Apple M2 chip delivers exceptional performance and efficiency. It matches or exceeds many of the best Windows laptops and it's one of the longest-lasting laptops we've tested. The MacBook Pro 13-inch is also compact and light enough to comfortably carry around wherever you go.

Despite its virtues, it’s still hard to justify the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s existence. It’s the vestigial tail of the MacBook line. As we’ve previously said, the MacBook Air 15-inch makes the 13-inch MacBook Pro irrelevant. Let me explain why.

You’re outdated, MacBook Pro 

I directly compared the 15-inch Air and 13-inch Pro in face-off: MacBook Air 15-inch vs MacBook Pro 13-inch: Which MacBook should you buy? In that piece, I definitively stated that the 15-inch Air is the superior laptop. One of the chief reasons I said that was due to the laptops' respective designs.

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) sitting on a desk —MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2, 2022) review

Can you tell the difference between the Intel and M2 versions of the MacBook Pro 13-inch? (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The MacBook Air 15-inch has the same flat, uniform chassis with flat edges as 2021’s MacBook Pros and the 13-inch MacBook Air. In contrast, the MacBook Pro 13-inch has the same design that’s been around for the better part of a decade. The latter laptop isn’t unattractive, but its thick bezels and Touch Bar make it seem like a relic of the past — because that’s what it is now.

The 13-inch MacBook Air's thick bezels and Touch Bar make it seem like a relic of the past — because that’s what it is now.

Beyond aesthetics, the 15-inch MacBook Air’s design is arguably more user-friendly. Though some liked the Touch Bar featured in older MacBook Pros, most folks weren’t fond of losing a traditional function row. People’s positive reaction to the new MacBooks ditching the Touch Bar underscores this point.

2023 MacBook Air 15-inch M2 shown open on a surface

Both the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Air have a MagSafe port, which is something the MacBook Pro 13-inch lacks. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Then there’s port selection. Both laptops only have two USB-C ports. However, since the MacBook Air 15-inch has a MagSafe port, this frees up a USB-C port you’d otherwise be using to charge the laptop. Using a MagSafe charger is also safer since the cable simply snaps off the connector when it’s yanked hard.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro’s 720p camera is no longer viable in a world where video conferencing has become so important. That isn’t to say the 15-inch MacBook Air’s 1080p webcam can match the best webcams, but it delivers a sharper and more color-accurate image than the MacBook Pro’s.

MacBook Air M2 2022

If you prefer a 13-inch MacBook, the MacBook Air M2 released in 2022 is a great alternative to the MacBook Pro 13-inch. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You could argue that the MacBook Pro 13-inch is better for folks who don’t want a 15-inch laptop. Fair enough, but if that’s the case, I’d direct those same individuals to the 13-inch MacBook Air M2. It’s not as good for video editing and rendering as the 13-inch Pro due to its fanless design, but it’s ideal for most folks who want a smaller-sized MacBook that won’t break the bank — especially at its new entry-level price of $1,099.

Outlook 

Both the MacBook Air 15-inch and MacBook Pro 13-inch cost $1,299, which could make it difficult to decide which laptop to get. But considering everything outlined above, what’s truly difficult is recommending the 13-inch Pro over the 15-inch Air. Sure, the latter lasts longer on a single charge (18 hours versus 15), and it’s nominally better at video rendering, but its negatives outnumber its positives.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro was once great but it’s now obsolete thanks to both of the MacBook Air laptops. Given how Apple didn’t release an updated version of the 13-inch Pro in 2023, I’m inclined to believe the company won't release another version in 2024. Thankfully, we now have the MacBook Air laptops to take the 13-inch MacBook Pro's place. That's not a bad thing.

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Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.


  • PanicProof
    Your reason for getting rid of the MacBook pro 13 which is by your admission more powerful than the MacBook Air 15-in is that you don't like the look of it and you don't like the touch bar. There was a time when they were going to get rid of the touch bar and then the people who actually like it spoke up and said hey we actually like it. So they made one without and one with. I'm not out here advocating that they take away non-touch bar laptops so why can't you leave the touch bar ones alone?

    I much prefer the MacBook pro 13" so much that I have two of them. I bought the base model one 3 years ago and I bought a fully upgraded one this year. I prefer the older chassis and touch bar. I'm not even tempted by the 15-in MacBook Air, my dad bought one he loves it which I totally support because he is allowed to have an opinion just like I am.
    Reply
  • markiz_von_schnitzel
    I don't understand, what is this, a witch hunt? 3 articles all with the same ridiculous idea, all dismissing the single reason that matters, and that's the size. 14" and a small footprint is where I draw the line. I want bigger screen? I connect it to a monitor.
    Reply