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Apple announced a major update for its high-end MacBook Pro models last year, with the new machines featuring a complete redesign, the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, larger mini-LED displays with ProMotion, an HDMI port and SD card slot, full-sized function keys, and more. This month, Apple updated the 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip, so how do the machines compare?

13-inch-macbook-pro-m2-mock-feature-2.jpg

Despite both being MacBook Pros, the M2 model and the high-end models are very different machines, so should you consider purchasing the lower-cost MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,299, to save money, or do you need the higher-end 14- or 16-inch MacBook Pro, which costs at least $700 more? Our guide helps to answer the question of how to decide which of these two Apple silicon MacBook Pros is best for you.

Comparing the 13-Inch MacBook Pro and 14- and 16-Inch MacBook Pro

The 13-inch MacBook Pro and high-end MacBook Pro share a large number of important features such as an Apple silicon chip, wide stereo sound, and Touch ID. Apple lists these same features of the two devices:

Similarities

  • Display with P3 wide color and True Tone
  • Apple silicon System on Chip (SoC)
  • Media engine with hardware-accelerated H.264, HEVC, ProRes, and ProRes RAW, video encode and decode engines, and ProRes encode and decode engines
  • 16-core Neural Engine
  • 16GB unified memory option
  • 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB storage options
  • Ambient light sensor
  • FaceTime HD camera with advanced image signal processor with computational video
  • Wide stereo sound
  • Studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming
  • Touch ID
  • Backlit Magic Keyboard
  • Force Touch trackpad
  • 3.5mm headphone jack with advanced support for high-impedance headphones
  • At least two Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0
  • Available in Space Gray and Silver

Apple's breakdown shows that the two MacBooks share a large number of key features. Even so, there are some meaningful differences between the M2 MacBook Pro and the 14- and 16-inch models that are worth highlighting, including design, chip options, battery life, and display brightness.

Differences


13-Inch MacBook Pro
  • 13.3-inch display
  • LCD Retina display
  • 500 nits brightness
  • Apple M2 chip
  • 8-core CPU
  • 10-core GPU
  • 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB of unified memory
  • 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB of storage
  • 720p FaceTime HD camera
  • Stereo speakers with high dynamic range
  • Support for Dolby Atmos playback
  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports
  • Supports one external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz
  • Touch Bar
  • Integrated 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
  • Up to 20 hours battery life when playing back video
  • 67W USB-C Power Adapter


14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro
  • 14.2-inch or 16.2-inch display
  • Mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion
  • Up to 1000 nits sustained (full-screen) brightness, 1600 nits peak brightness
  • Apple M1 Pro chip or Apple M1 Max chip
  • Up to 10-core CPU
  • Up to 32-core GPU
  • 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB of unified memory
  • 512GB, 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB of storage
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • High-fidelity six-speaker sound system with force-cancelling woofers
  • Support for spatial audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos on built-in speakers
  • Three Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI port, and SDXC card slot
  • Supports two external displays with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz (M1 Pro) or three external displays with up to 6K resolution and one external display with up to 4K resolution at 60Hz (M1 Max)
  • Full-size function keys
  • Integrated 70 or 100-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
  • Up to 17 or 21 hours battery life when playing back video
  • 67W, 96W, or 140W USB-C Power Adapter
  • MagSafe 3 and fast charging


Design

Both the entry-level and high-end MacBook Pro models are available in Silver and Space Gray, but their designs vary. Although the machines are around the same thickness, the 14-inch and 16-inch models do not feature tapered edges, making them appear thicker and bulkier. The keyboard area of the high-end MacBook Pro is also all-black. The dimensions of the three machines are listed below:


13-Inch MacBook Pro
  • Height: 0.61 inch (1.56 cm)
  • Width: 11.97 inches (30.41 cm)
  • Depth: 8.36 inches (21.24 cm)
  • Weight: 3.0 pounds (1.4 kg)


14-Inch and 16-Inch MacBook Pro
  • Height: 0.61 inch (1.55 cm)/0.66 inch (1.68 cm)
  • Width: 12.31 inches (31.26 cm)/14.01 inches (35.57 cm)
  • Depth: 8.71 inches (22.12 cm)/9.77 inches (24.81 cm)
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg)/4.7 pounds (2.1 kg)


The 13-inch and 14-inch MacBook Pro are very similar in size, so the dimensions of these two machines should not heavily influence your decision. Instead, you may wish to consider that the 13-inch MacBook Pro features a much older design with a tapered look, compared to the rounder appearance of the high-end models. The high-end MacBook Pro's design has since spread to the M2 MacBook Air and offers a more modern look, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro uses a design from 2016.

macbook-pro-keyboard.jpg

Touch Bar

The Touch Bar is an OLED Retina multi-touch display strip built into the keyboard where the function keys traditionally go. It is contextual and can perform a range of different functions on the Mac depending on which app is in use.

new-macbookpro-photoshop-screen.jpg

The Touch Bar is a matte-style display that blends in with the rest of the keys on the keyboard and it supports True Tone, allowing the white balance to be adjusted to match the ambient lighting conditions. Interacting with the Touch Bar is done through taps, swipes, and other multi-touch gestures, with support for up to 10 fingers at a time.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro features the Touch Bar, while the 14- and 16-inch models simply have full-sized function keys. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is now the only remaining device with the feature, but if you enjoy the experience of the Touch Bar, you may prefer the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Ports and Connectivity

The selection of available ports is an area of major difference between the two machines. The 13-inch MacBook Pro features just two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The 14-inch and 16-inch models have three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, and an SDXC card slot.

2021-macbook-pro-ports.jpg

Both machines feature a 3.5mm headphone jack with support for high-impedance headphones, but the 13-inch MacBook Pro can support only one external display, while the high-end model can support up to four displays in total with the M1 Max chip. This all makes the high-end models much more versatile in terms of connectivity, and will be of particular value to professionals who use digital cameras or need to connect to external displays.

Display Size

The entry-level MacBook Pro's display is exactly 13.3 inches in size, which is considerably smaller than the 14.2 inches and 16.2 inches of the high-end models. 13.3 inches is still bigger than the largest iPad Pro model, which comes in at 12.9 inches, and will be adequate for most users.

The 16.2-inch display will be a better replacement for a desktop machine and provide much more screen space to arrange multiple windows and use professional applications that benefit from additional display area. The 14.2-inch display is still larger than the 13.3-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models from recent years, but still adds to the overall size of the machine. The larger MacBook Pros also feature slimmer bezels, a notch, and rounded top corners.

macbook-pro-2021-notch.jpeg

While the notch containing the webcam does eat into the display space very slightly, both high-end MacBook Pro displays are larger than previous models, so there is still more display area overall. In addition, the display area below the notch has an aspect ratio of exactly 16:10, just like previous MacBook Pro models, to ensure that the notch does not impede normal display views or watching media.

On this basis, if you are concerned about the notch, you should not necessarily feel obliged to get the larger, 16-inch MacBook Pro. That being said, since the notch is the same size on both models, it may be slightly less noticeable on the 16-inch model. If you strongly dislike the notch, it may simply be easier to opt for the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Display Technology

The display technologies of both machines are also significantly different. Like most MacBooks in recent years, the 13-inch model has an LCD Retina display. The 14- and 16-inch models feature Apple's newer mini-LED Liquid Retina XDR technology for deeper blacks, better dynamic range, and improved color accuracy.

macbook-pro-display.jpg

The XDR display can get much brighter, reaching as high as 1,600 nits of brightness at its peak when showing HDR content. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models also have ProMotion displays, allowing them to vary their refresh rate up to 120Hz. The 13-inch model does not have a display with a variable refresh rate.

It will be worth getting the high-end MacBook Pro models for viewing and editing HDR content, as well as watching high-framerate video such as sports. The display of the 13-inch MacBook Pro will still be more than adequate for normal daily use, but the high-end model, offering deeper blacks and smoother on-screen motion, simply offers a better experience.

Chip

The 13-inch MacBook Pro has the M2 chip, while with the 14-inch and 16-inch models, you can choose between the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip. The M1 Pro and M1 Max are scaled-up versions of the M1 chip.

m1-pro-vs-max-feature.jpg

The M1 Pro and M1 Max allow for a CPU with up to two additional CPU cores, 24 additional GPU cores, 56GB more memory, and 6TB more storage, compared to the M2 chip. The M2 chip is much closer to the M1 than it is to the M1 Pro, prioritizing efficiency over performance. The M2 levelled the playing field in some senses by adopting the capabilities of the M1 Pro's dedicated media engine and the chip is more powerful in single-core tasks with its higher 3.49GHz CPU clock speed, but the M1 Pro and M1 Max are considerably better in multi-core and graphics tasks. See our detailed M2 vs. M1 Pro guide for more information:


While the M2 is ostensibly a more modern chip, being fabricated with next-generation 5nm process and offering the latest core technology, the M1 Pro and M1 Max remain more capable due to their scale. With significantly more transistors, performance CPU cores, and GPU cores, not to mention larger quantities of unified memory and higher memory bandwidth, the M1 Pro and M1 Max are powerful chips for professionals with demanding workflows. The M2, on the other hand, is more of a consumer-oriented chip focused on delivering impressive performance for day-to-day tasks and excellent efficiency to keep temperatures down and prolong battery life. For more detailed information about each of Apple's custom silicon chips for the Mac, take a look at our helpful guides:


Camera

The high-end MacBook Pro has a considerably better 1080p webcam compared to the 13-inch model's 720p camera. If you frequently use the built-in webcam for video calls, you will have a noticeably better experience with the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Speakers

The 13-inch MacBook Pro has high dynamic range stereo speakers. With the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros, Apple completely redesigned its speakers with a new six-speaker system that supports spatial audio when playing music or video with Dolby Atmos.

macbook-pro-speakers.jpg

Both speaker setups are very capable for a laptop, but if you rely heavily on the built-in speakers, you will have a better experience with the high-end MacBook Pro models.

Battery Life

The 13-inch MacBook Pro offers three extra hours of battery life over the 14-inch MacBook Pro, but one hour less than the 16-inch MacBook Pro. According to Apple, the 13-inch MacBook Pro can deliver up to 20 hours of battery life during video playback. One the other hand, the 14-inch MacBook Pro can deliver 17 hours of battery life and the 16-inch model can deliver 21 hours of battery life.

Charging

The high-end MacBook Pros feature MagSafe 3 for easily connecting and disconnecting the charging cable from the machine using magnets. The 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are also capable of fast charging.

macbook-pro-magsafe-3-charging.jpg

Other MacBook Options

If you are looking for a more affordable Apple silicon MacBook, there is the M1 MacBook Air, which sports the same processor as the M1 MacBook Pro, a 13.3-inch display, Touch ID, and ports, as well as most other hardware features, for a price starting at $999. For casual users, this means that the additional $300 to get the M1 MacBook Pro may be difficult to justify. It is a more consumer-oriented and slightly less capable machine compared to the MacBook Pro, but is more than adequate for most users.

M2 MacBook Pro still has a number of improvements over the MacBook Air, offering slightly better performance, a brighter display, the Touch Bar, improved microphone and speaker quality, two extra hours of battery life, and an active cooling system. If you want slightly better performance than the M1 MacBook Air, as well as better battery life, display brightness, and speaker and microphone quality, the MacBook Pro is the better option.

Likewise, users who intend to perform a lot of graphics-based tasks should skip the MacBook Air entirely and buy the M2 MacBook Pro because the eight-core GPU MacBook Air configuration is only $50 less than the MacBook Pro, which offers ten GPU cores, but this is only the case if you don't need more than 256GB of storage, because a storage upgrade would further push up the MacBook Pro's price.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the best option for normal consumers. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is actually more akin to a MacBook Air than its high-end siblings, being more than good enough for the needs of casual users. It is lighter, smaller, and more portable than the 14-inch MacBook Pro. Starting at $1,299, the 13-inch MacBook Pro should be the default choice for the average consumer who is looking for something that is a little more than the MacBook Air.


Professionals who require larger and more accurate displays, additional ports, more memory and storage, hardware acceleration for media, and a very high level of performance should look to the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro, and the $1,999 and $2,499 price points of these machines reflects this. These high-end MacBook Pros are not targeted at everyday consumers, being clearly tailored to creatives and professionals who rely heavily on the capabilities of their machines.

macbook-pro-sizes-space-gray.jpg

If you want the best possible performance, connectivity, display technology, and speakers, the high-end MacBook Pro is the best option. The 16-inch MacBook Pro in particular is also potentially a good desktop replacement machine due to its large display.

The 14-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,999, which is $700 more than the $1,299 starting price of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That being said, if you are looking to configure the 13-inch MacBook Pro with 16GB of memory and at least 512GB of storage, which brings it closer to parity with the 14-inch base-level model, it costs $1,699. For the additional $300, it will be worthwhile for these users to get the 14-inch MacBook Pro instead.

Article Link: M2 MacBook Pro vs. 14- and 16-Inch MacBook Pro Buyer's Guide
 

radus

macrumors 6502a
Jan 12, 2009
662
383
What I like ist the 144 Hertz on the Spectrum Display connected via Displayport ( Macbook Pro 16" ).
Is this possible with the M2 Macbook Pro ?
 

Kdvl7

macrumors member
Jun 14, 2022
44
64
France
From a technical point of view, it still makes no sense to keep the MacBook Pro 13" together with the new MacBook Air M2, as the latter features overall better characteristics (same chip, better camera, bigger and more advanced display, new design...) for roughly the same price.
 

MICHAELSD

macrumors 601
Jul 13, 2008
4,668
1,992
NJ
Apple is shooting themselves in the foot a little bit by staggering the release of Mac’s with next-generation silicon. There are a few M1 Mac’s, like the Mac Mini and iMac, that are bound to be upgraded soon, and M1 Pro chips in the MacBook Pro that are poised to imminently become M2 Pro.

That being said, the strategy is fine if they don’t delay releasing the M2 versions of other Mac’s for too long. I’m definitely still considering the current 14” MacBook Pro.
 

mudflap

macrumors 6502
Aug 24, 2007
466
909
Chicago
Ordered my 14" MacBook Pro 16GB 512GB Wednesday afternoon, saw that it had a 5 week wait, but at final checkout I was able to choose next day delivery and setup for free, and I got it Thursday afternoon. AMAZING. Total surprise, I thought it was too good to be true but here I am typing on the best keyboard I've ever used in my life.

Had the Air but I'm selling it. I love it, and the form factor can't be beat — it's probably the greatest thin laptop ever made, but I needed more power and higher external display resolution. The 14" is pretty incredible.

[EDIT: spelled "day" wrong :/ ]
 
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heystu

macrumors member
Jun 30, 2021
59
461
Norwich, UK
MR scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit here - this isn’t comparing apples with apples, more like apples with jumbo jets 🙄
 

BeatCrazy

macrumors 68040
Jul 20, 2011
3,648
2,511
From a technical point of view, it still makes no sense to keep the MacBook Pro 13" together with the new MacBook Air M2, as the latter features overall better characteristics (same chip, better camera, bigger and more advanced display, new design...) for roughly the same price.
But not everything happens for a 'technical' reason :)

They're likely keeping it in the lineup because their amortized BOM for the 13" is dirt cheap (compared to the Air), they can probably ramp supply easily, and maybe they make someone a good deal on them for an enterprise/education customer deployment.
 

Shirasaki

macrumors G5
May 16, 2015
13,220
7,421
It’s disappointing to see Apple goes all out on notch, one of the major factor that drove me from using iPhone primarily to using iPad primarily, simply because iPad has no notch. As someone else pointed out, that notch and redesigned menubar has more than what it sounds (always the same size regardless of scaling level, eat away menu area, status icons got covered etc).

M2 doesn’t seem like a big enough jump compared To M1, even though I’m already feeling a bit sluggish when using M1 MacBook Pro sometimes while doing no intensive workloads. But for iteration upgrade I guess it’s ok. Better than Intel’s 14+++++++++nm era Lol.

I agree that for most people 13” MacBook Pro should be a no brainer unless lightweight is your major concern or you like new color or you believe The better camera is Appealing, or you don’t like Touch Bar, or you enjoy fanless experience (doesn’t mean it will always remain cool when under load).
 
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roncron

macrumors 6502a
Aug 15, 2011
887
1,518
A useful comparison is between the base model 14" and the 13" M2 MBP equipped with the same RAM and SSD (16/512).

Equipped this way, the 13" M2 Pro costs $1700, just $300 less than the base model 14".

That extra $300 buys you a bigger, MUCH better display, much better speakers & webcam, ports galore, and a better cooling system.

The price difference may be less than $300, since the base model 14" pro can sometimes be found for $200 off at Costco, Amazon, Best Buy, etc.

I think most "pro" users would be much better served by the 14" MBP for not that much more money, and most "non-pro" users by the M2 MB Air coming in a few weeks.

So who is the 13" M2 MB Pro for, exactly? People who...
  • like the Touch Bar
  • value a lighter machine: the 13" M2 MB Pro weighs 8 ounces less than the 14" MB Pro (though the M2 Air will weigh even less, and be cheaper)
  • do a lot of processor-intensive work and want the active cooling of the 13" M2 Pro over the fanless M2 MB Air
I'm happy for these folks that the 13" M2 MBP is available, but I'm guessing there are relatively few of them, and that 13" M2 MB Pro sales will fizzle out quickly.
 
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roncron

macrumors 6502a
Aug 15, 2011
887
1,518
It’s strange some people saying the M2 MBP should not exist, yet it is Apples 2nd best selling laptop model.
I think Apple said the 13" M1 MBP was their second best seller, since the M2 model wasn't yet available at that time.

That's not a surprise. Second cheapest macbook, second best seller.

I don't see many people saying the 13" M2 MBP shouldn't exist, just that there are other options that are unambiguously better for most users. (Except Touch Bar fans, obviously.)
 

bradman83

macrumors 6502
Oct 29, 2020
327
585
Buffalo, NY
Apple is shooting themselves in the foot a little bit by staggering the release of Mac’s with next-generation silicon. There are a few M1 Mac’s, like the Mac Mini and iMac, that are bound to be upgraded soon, and M1 Pro chips in the MacBook Pro that are poised to imminently become M2 Pro.

That being said, the strategy is fine if they don’t delay releasing the M2 versions of other Mac’s for too long. I’m definitely still considering the current 14” MacBook Pro.
This is par for the course with Apple. Their upgrade releases have been staggered for as long as they've been making computers. I suspect their release cycle for the M1 family was extended because of supply chain issues. There were indicators they wanted to launch the M1 Pro/Max in June 2021 but it got pushed to October because of supply chain issues. Apple likely wanted to get the entire M1 family out in 2021 and launch the M2 in early 2022 but factors outside their control put a damper on that. While supply chain issues persist hopefully Apple can move the M2 upgrades sooner. (ie: M2/M2 Pro Mini, M2 Pro/Max MBP and M2 iMac in the fall 2022, M2 Ultra Studio early 2023, M3 Fall 2023).
 
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