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MacBook Pro 2020 review roundup: What the critics love and hate

MacBook Pro 2020 13 inch
(Image credit: Apple)

The first round of reviews for the MacBook Pro 2020 (13-inch) are arriving, and we're seeing a lot of confidence in Apple's decision to eradicate the Butterfly keyboard infestation from the mid-range MacBook. But is this the right laptop for you to buy now?

The early MacBook Pro reviews also note that this update features solid to great performance boosts, depending on what it's being compared to. Of course, the pundits also have some complaints. 

Its battery life and weight may be good in isolation, but those who don't limit themselves to macOS should know that they don't stack up well against the MacBook Pro's PC counterparts. Critics also pointed out how it doesn't have a whole lot to separate it from the MacBook Air 2020. Nor does it have the ports that competitors offer (we miss USB-A too!).

Here's everything the critics are saying about the 13-inch MacBook Pro:

Laptop Mag

Macbook pro 2020 13 inch price

(Image credit: Apple)

At our sister site Laptop Mag, Sherri L. Smith noted the positive — albeit incremental — upgrades, and also pointed out a few ways it could improve. While overall performance proved solid (and its SSD speeds wowed), Sherri found the MacBook Pro's new Magic Keyboard to be a great upgrade, and noted that the MacBook Pro's speakers pack the thunder. If only it were as thin (or thinner) as similar PCs, which also lasted much longer on a single charge.

Pros

"The Magic Keyboard is clicky with firm feedback, making for a very comfortable typing experience. I cruised past my typical 70 words-per-minute typing average on the 10fastfingers test, reaching 76 wpm."

"On the Blackmagic benchmark, the MacBook’s 512GB SSD had a read time of 2,060.2 megabytes per second, shattering the 1,421.9MBps average. It also crushed the 1,198.7MBps write average with a blistering score of 2,315.9MBps."

"This 13-inch notebook can get plenty loud. My small living/dining room was filled with warm, balanced audio when I listened to Tony! Toni! Tone! play 'Whatever You Want.'"

Cons

"The MacBook Pro is a little on the heavy side, at 3.1 pounds. Both the HP Spectre x360 (2.7 pounds) and Dell XPS 13 (2.8 pounds) are a good deal lighter."

"The MacBook Pro delivers all-day performance, lasting 10 hours and 21 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test … [which is] nowhere near as long as the XPS 13 and Spectre, which clocked times of 12:39 and 13:19, respectively."

The Verge

Dieter Bohn at The Verge first impressions of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro are pretty positive. Bohn reviewed the $1,799 version which comes with the upgraded 10th Gen Core i5 processor, as well as 16GB of speedy LPDDR4X RAM and a 512GB SSDD. He championed the performance at the stand out feature of the new Mac machine, as well as the move to the new scissor-key Magic Keyboard. However, as the new MacBook Pro comes with both 8th-generation as well as 10th-gen Intel processors, Bohn noted that choosing the right one could be tricky. And while the base models have the Touch Bar, it’s a little stingy on USB-C ports. 

Pros 

“Compared to my 2017 13-inch MacBook Pro, it feels faster in every way. That’s to be expected, of course, but I believe these spec bumps add up to slightly more than the sum of their parts when it comes to performance.” 

“It’s always possible that there’s a critical flaw nobody has caught yet. But I think it’s safe to trust this Magic Keyboard — and this MacBook.” 

Cons 

“Choosing between that model and the higher-end spec with Intel’s newer 10th Gen processors isn’t as simple as some might think.” 

“The base model keeps the Touch Bar, but it has two Thunderbolt ports instead of four.” 

Engadget

Engadget’s Dana Wollman said the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020 is “easier to recommend” thanks to Apple getting rid of the much-maligned Butterfly keyboard. And Wollman also noted that the specs bump of the more expensive models delivers improved graphics performance. However, a hot bottom and the ongoing omission of pro-grade ports” were flagged as shortcomings to the newest MacBook Pro. 

Pros 

“For shoppers who have been holding out for a new MacBook Pro with a more usable keyboard, you can upgrade now, confident you’re making a good choice.” 

“There’s also enough performance clout here that it’s clear why someone would choose this over the similarly sized MacBook Air.” 

Cons 

“I still miss having at least one full-sized USB port, not to mention an SD card reader. I don’t think Apple will ever reverse course on this but it still boggles my mind that a machine aimed at creative professionals wouldn’t have these things built in.” 

“As for the Touch Bar, I still wish it weren’t there, but I’ve mostly made peace with it. I’d much prefer a row of physical function keys, which you’ll still find on the MacBook Air. I haven’t found much use for Touch Bar shortcuts, but I do miss the physical pause button.” 

TechCrunch

Brian Heater at TechCrunch tried to place the new 13-inch MacBook Pro in contrast with the rest of the MacBook lineup, and found that the recent upgrades to the MacBook Air make it harder for folks to know which one to buy. However, his fairly positive review talked up how much better the Magic Keyboard is to the butterfly-switch keyboards, which is alone enough to make him "seriously … reconsider upgrading [his] four-year-old machine." And as a fellow MacBook Pro owner, I get that; we buy these laptops hoping they last a lot longer than just 4 years. 

Pros

"The 13-inch becomes the third and final member of the MacBook family to get the new keyboard. It’s not “Magic” as the name implies (Apple really does love the M-word), but improvements are immediate and vast. The experience is considerably softer to the touch and quieter than previous versions, and the one millimeter of key travel is much easier on the hands."

"There are other nice touches, here, including the addition of a dedicated Escape key. It’s a small but welcome consolation that the Touch Bar can’t do everything."

"Same 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 Retina display. It’s also, for that matter, same as you’ll find on the Air, though the 13-inch’s is 500 nits vs. the Air’s 400."

Cons

"The Pro’s battery life is rated at up to 10 hours, to the Air’s 11. Out of the box, I got several hours of life, doing work and listening to music, but like the Air’s claims, 10 hours is definitely a stretch here with everyday usage."

"Really, the only complaint I would level against it is that the company hasn’t done a lot to distinguish the outside of the machine from the $300 cheaper Air (the Air starts at $999, the Pro at $1,299), beyond port count."

Macworld

Over at Macworld, Roman Loyola shared the early benchmark testing results for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, as they're just getting started with their review. And so far it's mostly good news. Not only does this year's model (MacWorld tested the $1,799 model that has the 10th Gen Intel CPUs and not the intro-level model with 8th Gen chips) show single core prowess against last year's model, it even keeps up with the 16-inch MacBook Pro in that category.

Once we get his full review, we expect to see some of the laptop's negatives highlighted.

Pros

"The boost in performance from the old MacBook Pro to new model looks impressive. Often, we see a 10 to 15 percent increase, but [in Geekbench 5 single-core benchmarks], it’s 24 percent."

"It’s also hard to ignore that a single core of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro’s processor is able to keep pace with a single core of the 16-inch MacBook Pro’s processor, despite significantly lower core and boost clock speeds."

"When it comes to multi-core performance, the new MacBook Pro provides a modest increase over the model it replaces. With a Geekbench 5 score of 4480, that is just over a 14% improvement. When you consider that the new model has a maximum boost clock speed of 3.8GHz and the old one went up to 4.1GHz, that’s fairly impressive."