Apple’s MacBook Pro for more than a decade has been the gold standard for a pro laptop in the creative community, however, in the last 4 years, its star started to fade. In 2016, Apple’s new updated design wasn’t universally appreciated thanks to a new shallow keyboard that Apple called the butterfly-switch and the lack of essential USB A expansion ports instead of a new generation of Thunderbolt ports based on USB Type C connectors. 4 years on, Apple has finally put the lid on its experiment with the butterfly switch keys by going back to a more traditional scissor-switch keyboard that it calls the magic keyboard. USB Type C has also matured from it being pervasive on modern smartphones to high-end notebooks. Apple’s new 13-inch MacBook Pro is arguably its most important Mac product thanks to its size, functionality and price as it appeals to pro users and the layman alike. At Rs 1,22,900, Apple hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, but it has provided a pretty substantial update especially for pro users in the music production and graphic design/ publishing domain.
Prima facie, the base model, still is powered by the rather lethargic Intel core i5 8th generations CPUs which can be considered criminal for a notebook that starts at upwards of Rs 1 lakh. However, a more in-depth look at the specifications of this notebook reveals that Apple has built a rather considered system with things like double the amount of base storage to 256GB. This is nice.
What’s more important here is the type of storage Apple uses — this is lightning fast 256GB storage which has sequential read and write speeds of up to 3GB per second. Just to give you some context, this SSD is faster than the one Microsoft is planning on using on the Xbox Series X later this year. Compared to the Windows-based Dell XPS 13 which gets a larger 512GB SSD, its speeds aren’t even 1/3rd of what the MacBook Pro can achieve. In real-world usage, this SSD will have a devastating effect on performance, in a positive way.
Everything will open just faster as the storage is going to be almost as fast as the RAM on the notebook. On the baseline models, the MacBook Pro is stuck at 8GB of DDR3 RAM but on the top tier models, you also get faster DDR4X RAM, 16GB of it, upgradable to 32GB which is also a big deal.
On the models that start at Rs 1,74,900, Apple has upgraded to the 10th generation Intel Core i7 CPUs and also added 4 Thunderbold ports instead of 2 which is there on the baseline models. Apple also preloads its T2 chip which handles the processing for the touch bar interface, security for touch ID and processing for high-end video codecs which Intel’s silicon baulks at.
The best way to gauge the performance of an Apple notebook is to notice the sum of all its parts than look a headlining spec like the CPU. And indeed, there is nothing earth-shattering happening on the CPU and GPU side. Apple makes up for these deficiencies by adding infinity faster storage, faster RAM, a custom chip for offloading tasks of the main system-on-chip (SoC), apart from optimizations on the OS side and its own custom software. A great example of this optimization is the battery life one gets when one uses Apple’s Safari browser as opposed to Google’s Chrome – the difference is night and day.
With its specifications and size, Apple also promises 10 hours of battery life which is the same it manages with the iPad Pro. Apple usually doesn’t faf-around about battery life figures. macOS Catalina is also superb as managing standby time which would mean as long as you optimised core Apple applications, you will get superb battery life in this compact package.
Apple’s core strength as a platform for creatives will make this a delectable option for many people, but perhaps not who have a lot of work around video as the Intel Iris graphics don’t cut it for the sake of video editing. Sure, these machines can handle Apple’s new obscenely priced 6K Pro XDR displays, but you’d probably need an eGPU to augment the machine for proper video editing purposes.
That being said, there is an audience for this notebook — publishers, writers, designers and even musicians and DJs. These are the type of folks who don’t need the raw grunt of a discrete GPU afforded in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Musicians for example who use software tools like Abelton Live, Logic and Tracktor by native instruments depend on faster local throughput which is afforded by a faster CPU, more RAM and faster RAM and a lightning SSD – Apple has provided these efficiencies in its new notebook. It has also made the top of the line MacBook Pro more ports which can come in handy for people who would like to hook up Midi interfaces with the notebook.
For even writers and graphic designers, these new notebooks should cut it. For writers, the keyboard was the most important thing – considering the disastrous keyboard on the previous model. They also need long battery life which Apple always tends to deliver on unlike some of the Windows-based vendors. Everyone needs more speed and for graphical designers who work on software like Photoshop and Illustrator, the new SSD and more RAM will make this an efficient mobile workstation.
The one thing though, the MacBook Pro will not be great in the age of work from home, is video calls. Apple sticks to a sickly 720p HD web camera on this machine which is laughable, though the good news is that the microphones and speakers have become better. Overall, though this isn’t the glamorous splash one is used with Apple’s hardware but rather a much calculated one.