Should I get a 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro or a 16-inch or the MacBook Air?

Yes, you read it right – not all MacBooks are created equal. Despite the deluge of coverage gushing over the new 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro, the other headline spec bumps don’t apply across the board.

The left two models of the 13-inch MacBook Pro are up to 43% cheaper than the highest-specced model, but are quite similar to the previous generation. Image: Apple Store Singapore

The 13-inch MacBook Pro is one of Apple’s most popular laptops, next to the MacBook Air. With plenty of ports to satisfy even the most peripheral-hungry power-user, the MacBook Pro also has plenty of power to deal with some pro tasks.

Updates across the board

With this iteration, Apple has slapped on their new “Magic Keyboard” to replace the last-gen “butterfly” switches that some users reported got stuck and broke more easily than should be acceptable.

While similar to their pre-butterfly keyboard predecessors, the Magic Keyboard enjoys improvements to keystroke stability with lessons learnt from Apple’s daring innovation.

In addition, there’s also a proper Esc key and a more intuitive “inverted T” arrow key layout, which would satisfy programmers. The 2020 13-inch MacBook Pro still retains its Touchbar, an iconic feature of Apple’s Pro laptop lineup.

The “inverted T” arrow keys and physical Esc key could make the 13-inch MacBook Pro a hit among coders. Image: Apple

Few other hardware improvements on base models

First, the CPU. The base models, priced at SGD 1,899 and SGD 2,199 still hang on to their 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processors, while the SGD 2,699 and SGD 2,999 options boast 10th-gen i5 and i7 chips.

That means you’ll be running on 2017 tech, although benchmarks for lower-tier Intel Core chips don’t show as great a performance improvement between generations.

Storage remains constrained, with 256GB and 512GB of SSD capacity offered on the more wallet-friendly models.

Memory or RAM, essential for multitasking, is also constrained to the older LP DDR3 standard, while recent releases and the 2.7 and 2.8 grand MacBook Pro models offer the latest LP DDR4X RAM. This spec bump could spell a big difference in boot-up times and app launch speeds.

Lastly, while all 13-inch MacBook Pro models offer a generous four USB-C ports, the cheaper pair only offers two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 speeds, which can be a constraint if you need to quick access to external drives and power high-resolution monitors while charging.

Laptop alternatives

Needless to say, if you’re A-OK with 8th generation Intel Core i5 processors on your brand new machines, but require the additional in-built USB-C ports and the quad-core performance, the new baseline 13-inch MacBook Pro models offer Apple’s renown quality, portability and performance.

The 2020 MacBook Air is a great alternative for those considering the baseline 13-inch MacBook Pro models. Image: Apple

But if your work consists primarily of web browsing and Office suite apps, the 2020 MacBook Air currently starts at SGD 1,449. Its more expensive model costs exactly the same as the baseline MacBook Pro at SGD 1,899, but packs a quad core 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, more modern LPDDR4X RAM, at the cost of providing two less USB-C ports.

For true power users who might be creatives of the Adobe variety, or perhaps dabble in 3D renders, the top-specced 13-inch MacBook Pro bears a cash-crunching pricetag of SGD 2,999. Even with this damage, it might struggle with your graphics-intensive and other demanding tasks due to a more constrained thermal design and a lack of dedicated graphics.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro offers much greater performance at a slightly higher price tag. Image: Apple

To these folk, the 16-inch MacBook Pro might be right up your alley. A greater focus on thermal design, 9th-generation 6- and 8-core Intel Core processors will make for ideal use with professional work like with Photoshop, Logic Pro, MATLAB or Xcode. To top it off, it has discrete AMD Radeon Pro 5000M graphics.

Ian Ling
Ian is the resident Tech Monkey and Head of Content at VR Zone. His training in Economics and Political Science is at the basis of his love for journalism and storytelling. A photographer by passion, and an audiophile by obsession, Ian is captivated by all forms of tech that makes enthusiasts tick.

One thought on “2020 13-Inch MacBook Pro VS 16-Inch & MacBook Air: Not All MacBooks Are Created Equal

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