Updated 13-inch MacBook Pro Dumps Butterfly Keyboard, Doubles Storage

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2020/05/04/updated-13-inch-macbook-pro-dumps-butterfly-keyboard-doubles-storage/

Apple has announced an update to the 13-inch MacBook Pro that eliminates the butterfly keyboard and doubles the standard storage. The higher-end models also feature 10th-generation Intel CPUs for faster performance.

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For those who may find it interesting, I wrote up a comparison between the new 13" MacBook Pro and the 2020 MacBook Air, Apple’s less-expensive 13" laptop.

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Well I couldn’t help myself. Needed a new toy to help me shelter in place. A few minutes after Apple announced the release I bought a new silver 13", 2.3 GHz Core i7, 32GB/1TB. Scheduled to arrive Wed, May 20. This should be a nice replacement for my trusty 2013 13" MBP. I won’t lie, I was hoping for a bezel reduction and increase to 14" with this update. But I’m fine with just the CPU/mem upgrade. :slight_smile: :+1:

Congrats. You must have had a premonition to start this thread a few days ago.

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I agree with you @ace about the 720p camera. I use it for Zoom only basically and the quality there is not an issue. So I’m not adversely affected by the 720p myself. But I do find it a bit pathetic that despite wide bezels and a $2599 price tag my new MBP will be coming with essentially the same shitty (by today’s standard) camera as the 2013 model I already have.

There’s been some commotion on other sites about the lack of Wifi 6 (.ax) on this MBP. The SE has it, the iPad Pro has it, so what gives, Apple? Again, not something I will be exploiting myself right now (I have Gigabit fiber, but still use an .ac AP Extreme), but on a $2599 MBP you cannot include the same wifi as on your $399 budget iPhone? C’mon.

Last gripe, although I found most BTO options on the recent MBA and MBP refreshes rather reasonable, the $400 I paid to go from 16GB to 32GB feels steep. Not exactly highway robbery, but definitely impolite. :wink:

Anybody here know what to make of this? Apparently you’re not supposed to charge your MBP on the left side. WTF?

Well, “not supposed to” is kind of strong, but some folks were having problems with “kernel task” taking up a lot of CPU resource. I first saw the problem on Stack Exchange:

The underlying issue was discussed in a TidBITS article and a subsequent Talk thread:

Though in the TidBITS discussion the location of the temperature sensors weren’t identified as a contributing factor. FWIW, I have a 2019 MBP, charging on the left side, and haven’t seen temperature-related throttling problems. (On the other hand, I don’t think it has been verified that this model suffers from that particular problem.) If you operate in a warm ambient environment or push your CPU or both, however, you probably are better off charging on the right.

Or, you could take the position that moving the charger to the right side simply masks a problem that the temperature sensor and “kernel task” throttling were supposed to fix, and you’re inviting early failure. Until and unless Apple weighs in, I don’t suppose we’ll know.

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What I can’t figure out is why charging on the left should make the logic board run any hotter than charging on the right. IIRC the left and right side ports are connected to two different TB controllers. Is the one running the left side ports doing something else when nothing else is connected?

A while ago I remember the ports on the right (or rather their controller) had fewer PCIe lanes at their disposal so the recommendation was to run performance critical peripherals off the left side ports. Is that still an issue?

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I believe that the problem is that the temperature sensors are on the left side, so that warming up the circuitry around the left-side ports differentially affects the sensors.

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Ah, that would make sense. Thanks, @ron.

I agree about the Touch Bar. I actually returned a 13" high end macbook pro because of it. It’s a horrible idea, in my opinion.

This is a great comparison and summary. If my ancient MacBook Pro gives up the ghost before A series machines are released, this will come in very handy.

Nice review!

What I don’t get is why the two-port MacBook Pros even still exist. One of Jobs’ signature moves during his second round at Apple was to dramatically simplify the product line, which mostly eliminated consumers having to make trade-off evaluations when buying a product.

By contrast, Tim Cook has presided over a blossoming of SKU’s, often by leaving products like zombie iPads available for purchase at a lower price point than they had when they were current. I now have to regularly have involved conversations with clients contemplating new hardware because they have to make value judgments, rather than looking at “good, better, best” or “small vs better performance”.

Even though they’ve been refreshed, I feel the two-port MacBook Pro’s are zombie products. Why do they need to exist when there is a MacBook Air? What do they offer? Who are they for? The product line would seem to be simpler if you’ve got Air (general purpose model, a little thinner and lighter), and Pro (robust performance and connectivity).

The 12-inch MacBook was confusingly named – it should have been the new “Air” in 2015, as it was a kind of spiritual successor to the 11" model. But they kept selling the 13" non-Retina Air as a cheap model, rendering the name meaningless.

Discontinuing the 12-inch model (which, like the 11" Air, I think only appealed to a niche, though one that I belonged to) and then making a smaller, new 13" Air helped, since the 13" Air was always the general purpose workhorse in the line. Now they’ve got it to the point where if you outfit it with a better CPU, you’ve got a perfectly nice two-port machine.

So, again, why are they still selling the two-port MacBook Pro’s? What do they offer that an i7 Air doesn’t? (And, to Adam’s point, who cares about the Touch Bar? I’d rather have function keys as well.)

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According to my quick comparison, I think they will perform better. The high-end stock Air and the low-end Pro both have an MSRP of $1300. The Pro has a better screen (brighter, wider gamut), and a comparison of the CPUs seems to indicate that the Pro will perform better - yes, it’s an 8th gen vs. a 10th gen, but the clock speed is significantly higher. A benchmark comparison (chip-to-chip, not system-to-system) indicates that the Pro’s CPU will be faster.

The Air’s advantage over the identically-priced Pro? Larger SSD and slightly lower weight (0.3 lbs lighter).

I will be very interested to see benchmarks on the new computers instead of just comparing chips.

I agree that the high-end Air and low-end Pro are somewhat redundant and will likely compete with each other. But it is not at all clear which is the “better” buy.

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I agree with you. I think next to the new MBA the 2-port MBPs have become quite unappealing. They offer a better/brighter screen and the TouchBar (which I agree adds no value), but other than that I feel the MBA is the much more interesting Mac being lighter, having more battery life, and being less expensive.

An argument can be made that the MBP’s low-end CPU will perform better than the MBA. Even the i7 Air will throttle during heavy use due to the tight thermal envelope of the MBA and the 9/15-W CPU. Those are limitations the low-end MBP does not have so during sustained high-load ops, the MBP will in almost all cases perform better. That said, I think an argument should also be made that anybody serious about sustained CPU performance should not be getting either an Air or a low-end MBP, but the serious 10th-gen MBP (4-port model).

Geekbench has even the 1.2 GHz i7 MBA (10th-gen) at 1101/2838 whereas the 1.4 GHz i5 in the low-end 13" MBP (8th-gen) comes in at 927/3823. And if you spec that MBA with the more affordable 1.1 GHz i5 you’ll be seeing just 1054/2644. Sources below.

https://browser.geekbench.com/macs/448
https://browser.geekbench.com/macs/463

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One more. Promise it will be the last.

So the new USB-C charger in the box comes with only a duckbill but no charging cable (like you’d use with a power strip so as not to block adjacent outlets). I actually need to buy that for an extra $19. With a $2600 notebook. Really, Apple? :frowning:

I’ve always understood zombie computers to be machines that were taken over by hackers or viruses:

Even though they’ve been refreshed, I feel the two-port MacBook Pro’s are zombie products. Why do they need to exist when there is a MacBook Air? What do they offer? Who are they for? The product line would seem to be simpler if you’ve got Air (general purpose model, a little thinner and lighter), and Pro (robust performance and connectivity).

I think Adam’s article and Shamimo’s chart make it very clear that the new Air and Pro are very distinct and different models.

The 12-inch MacBook was confusingly named – it should have been the new “Air” in 2015, as it was a kind of spiritual successor to the 11" model. But they kept selling the 13" non-Retina Air as a cheap model, rendering the name meaningless.

I don’t get this at all.

Discontinuing the 12-inch model (which, like the 11" Air, I think only appealed to a niche, though one that I belonged to) and then making a smaller, new 13" Air helped, since the 13" Air was always the general purpose workhorse in the line. Now they’ve got it to the point where if you outfit it with a better CPU, you’ve got a perfectly nice two-port machine.

The Air and Pro models have always been quite distinct, and the names make this quite clear to prospective customers. Airs are lighter and more appealing to road warriors, students and others who have to schlep their laptops around a lot. Pros appeal to heavy duty graphics, video, scientific and computational users; they are willing to pay more for speedy rendering, color management and fidelity.

So, again, why are they still selling the two-port MacBook Pro’s? What do they offer that an i7 Air doesn’t? (And, to Adam’s point, who cares about the Touch Bar? I’d rather have function keys as well.)

I have a Pro for the reasons above, and this graphics and video oriented user is very happy to have two ports that I can plug my keyboard and big screen into when I get home or into a client’s office. I know am not alone in appreciating this. And though I would prefer a lighter and less expensive laptop, it currently isn’t practical for me to own an Air rather than a Pro.

Apple’s laptop product lineup is very small, precisely targeted and highly focused. Just take a look at the confusing, bloated and all over the map lineups that are currently for sale at Dell, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, etc.

That actually is the simplest use case and one that can easily be solved by a $20 dongle. Any single port MacBook would be more than adequate to solve that issue.

Marketing drivel. This very discussion is testament to a lack of focus and target.

Nowadays, Apple is trying to hit every possible price point. That leads to left behind products like the low-end 13" that don’t really make sense other than they hit $1499 or whatever other price gap Schiller and his gang have made out. Contrast this with the past Apple that had a simple and clean mobile Mac lineup — pro and consumer, small and large. All pushing the latest components in their area. Done. I couldn’t possibly care less how Apple fares against corporate box pushers like HP or Dell. I want Apple to match (and surpass) its own former self. In this department, they still have much work left. Not marketing BS, but actual metal.

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One less thing to carry and futz around with means less aggravation for me.

Nowadays, Apple is trying to hit every possible price point.

Dell is selling over 200 laptop models on its website. I couldn’t quickly get a count of the different product lines. And Walmart is selling hundreds of laptop models for under $200:

https://www.walmart.com/search/?query=laptop%20computers%20under%20%24200&typeahead=laptop

That leads to left behind products like the low-end 13" that don’t really make sense other than they hit $1499 or whatever other price gap Schiller and his gang have made out. Contrast this with the past Apple that had a simple and clean mobile Mac lineup — pro and consumer, small and large. All pushing the latest components in their area. Done.

Steve Jobs’ strategy of a simple and clean product line for Apple and Macs were very much in Alvin Toffler’s mind when he coined the “prosumer” market in 1980, it hasn’t changed since Mac was first introduced. Schiller and Cook make sure of this, and like Steve Jobs, updated and expanded the Mac line as demand for laptops and desktops grew and evolved.

I couldn’t possibly care less how Apple fares against corporate box pushers like HP or Dell. I want Apple to match (and surpass) its own former self. In this department, they still have much work left. Not marketing BS, but actual metal.

Then it would be a good idea not to whine about what in reality is Apple’s very limited, but highly customizable product line. Mac would not have survived if it had not expanded the number of its models, which is way, way far less than that of its myriad competitors. It’s something Steve Jobs foresaw when he developed the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, Music, etc. If you can’t find a Mac that meets your needs, you’ve got literally thousands of PCs to choose from in the US market.

I wrote:
By contrast, Tim Cook has presided over a blossoming of SKU’s, often by leaving products like zombie iPads available for purchase at a lower price point than they had when they were current.

MMTalker wrote:
I’ve always understood zombie computers to be machines that were taken over by hackers or viruses: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombie_(computing)

Poor choice of language on my part. I meant them to be “zombies” not in the sense in the sense of White Zombie (1932), where people’s minds are taken over by a voodoo master, but in the sense of Dawn of the Dead (1978), where people just keep wandering around the mall despite having died. See iPad 2, which was sold as a lower cost option from 2012 through 2014, but couldn’t be updated to iOS 10, released just two years after its discontinuation.

Apple’s current lineup is actually slightly cleaner than it was a couple of years ago, but it’s still more cluttered than it should be, with nonsensical, arbitrary naming (e.g. the current “iPad Air” not being a thinner, smaller, or lighter model than “iPad”; or the two-port “MacBook Pro” being a machine of limited expandability and middling CPU). It makes it hard for non-techie types (and sometimes even techie types) to make easy, clear decisions about what to buy. The two-port MBP’s are part of that clutter, and should be remnants of a product line, not members of it, when they fail to distinguish themselves clearly from a newer member of the product line (the MBA).

MMTalker wrote:
I think Adam’s article and Shamimo’s chart make it very clear that the new Air and Pro are very distinct and different models.

I think they support the conclusion that the new Air and new four-port Pro are distinct and different models…and also the conclusion that a high end new Air and new two-port Pro might be different, but not distinct.

I wrote:
The 12-inch MacBook was confusingly named – it should have been the new “Air” in 2015, as it was a kind of spiritual successor to the 11" model. But they kept selling the 13" non-Retina Air as a cheap model, rendering the name meaningless.

MMTalker wrote:
I don’t get this at all.

In my opinion, “Air” meaning “small and light” is clear branding, as is “Pro” meaning “powerful.” Apple abandoned this clarity in 2015 with the introduction of the 12" MacBook, and again in 2016 with the introduction of the USB-C MacBook Pro (which was the same weight and smaller than the concurrently sold 13" non-Retina MacBook Air). Names should mean something, and product lines should be distinct.

The MacBook Air was introduced in as a “thin and light” alternative to the optical-drive MacBook and MacBook Pro. Hence the “Air” name. By 2010, it was available in two sizes, 11" and 13", and with its 2011 revision had become a decent general-purpose computer, while the Pro was available in 13", 15", and 17", for power users. It was not hard to understand the difference between the Air line (smaller, lighter) and the Pro line (more capable).

When the 12-inch MacBook was introduced in 2015, it was practically revolutionary in its thinness, lightness, and slience (at the unfortunate expense of performance, keyboard quality, and a much needed second port). It thus was a logical choice to inherit the “Air” name.

However, Apple decided to continue to sell the existing 13" MacBook Air at a lower price point (while discontinuing the 11"). Thus the name “Air” was rendered meaningless; that model now stood for “entry level,” not “thin and light,” with its outdated screen technology remaining available to buyers all the way through most of 2018. Wouldn’t it have made more sense, if they felt they needed to keep the old model around, to instead call the new sexy thing “Air” and rename the old clunky entry-level thing to “MacBook”? I winced when I saw clients in 2016-2018 who replaced their older MacBook Airs with new non-Retina models, on the assumption that “Air” still meant what it once meant, when in fact they would have been better served by a 12-inch MacBook (super thin and light) or a USB-C 13-inch MacBook Pro (which was the same weight as the non-Retina Air 13", in a smaller form factor).

The situation is now slightly improved, with the discontinuation of the 12-inch MacBook (whose elegance, if not function, I still miss), and the 2018 MacBook Air redesign – though the waters are still needlessly muddied by the existence of the two-port Pro. Hell, I myself am not even sure how I’d decide between the two machines – the Air is not cute or quiet enough, and the two-port Pro is not capable enough, and they’re practically the same size and weight. But the choice between an Air and a four-port Pro is plenty clear, as it should be.

MMTalker wrote:
I have a Pro for the reasons above, and this graphics and video oriented user is very happy to have two ports that I can plug my keyboard and big screen into when I get home or into a client’s office…And though I would prefer a lighter and less expensive laptop, it currently isn’t practical for me to own an Air rather than a Pro.

Based on your own sources, it’s not clear to me that a maxed out 2020 MacBook Air wouldn’t work equally well for you. I think your two-port MacBook Pro might perform modestly better, without any superior expandability. But if you want performance, as others have said, then a four-port Pro is dramatically better, and substantially more expandable.

I think the two-port Pro had a questionable name, but it served a purpose before the 2018 MacBook Air redesign. Now I think it represents something of an unhappy medium between the MBA and the four-port Pro, and I’d have a hard time investing money in it; your mileage apparently varies, so maybe Apple knows something I don’t. I do know that I expect Apple to simplify technology, and I don’t think they’re meeting that mark by offering substantially overlapping products.

(And while their product line may be radically simpler than their competition’s, that’s way too low a bar to clear. By that standard, Windows 95 was great because it was better than MS-DOS. This is Apple. They’re supposed to be in a class of their own, not just “better than.”)

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