Updated March 14: Article originally posted March 11
As this year’s Worldwide Developer Conference approaches, Apple is expected to unveil not only the next generation of Apple Silicon in the M3 family, but also new hardware to show off the latest chipset. This will most likely be the MacBook Air, in the traditional 13-inch format but perhaps also in a 15-inch model. The former will be welcomed by many and the latter has been an unattainable wish for years.
But leaks this week suggest Apple has another laptop ahead of its M3 Silicon launch… a MacBook model that’s proven clunky, out of place and obsolete since it arrived in 2020.
Why is Apple continuing with the 13-inch MacBook Pro?
Update: Monday, March 13: What makes little sense is that Apple continues to produce and sell this MacBook Pro, while putting more and more business weight behind the MacBook Air.
Chris Matyszczyk is a longtime Apple reporter noting the change in Apple’s market strategy lately, with a nudge towards the MacBook Air. This weekend, he highlighted where Apple’s iPhone marketing prowess is fading, and the resulting increased excitement for Apple’s consumer laptops:
“Now imagine the marketing opportunities. Every new Air gets a new number. It will differentiate them. It will encourage more people to buy the latest. Just to have the latest number. And what if, every year, it becomes physical design slightly altered? Oh, is that an M4? I feel so bad, I only have an M3.”
All that marketing power goes to the MacBook Air… not the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is supposedly the customer-friendly version.
Updated March 14: Article originally posted March 11
Update: Tuesday, March 14: Key to the rise of the MacBook Air, and the awkwardness of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, is the leap in strength Apple Silicon offers. The move from Intel to ARM for the macOS platform wasn’t measured in a few percentage points, it was a significant leap that saw the rest of the industry struggle to keep up. When all your laptops take that leap, the small increase in power on the 13-inch MacBook Pro pales in comparison.
Apple hasn’t stopped innovating either. The first-generation Apple Silicon in the M1 is about to be surpassed by the chip for Apple’s next smartphone. Early leaked benchmarks for the A17 show the iPhone to match the likes of the first-generation MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Axel Metz:
Running through the numbers, DCInside reports that the A17 Bionic achieves a single-core score of 3019 and a multi-core score of 7860 on Geekbench 6, where the A16 Bionic scores 2504 and 6314 respectively. grain of salt, but it’s exciting to think that the Pro-grade iPhone 15s could have benchmark scores to rival Apple’s M1 MacBooks.
When you look at Apple Silicon’s performance gains from Intel to M1, the difference between the M1 MacBook Air and the M1 MacBook Pro was minimal. The same goes for the M2. And from what we can tell, the same will be true for the M3 as well. The MacBook Air provides more than enough power for a consumer laptop, why consider the very small performance boost and buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro?
It’s worth looking back at the history of this 13-inch MacBook Pro.
When Tim Cook and his team debuted Apple Silicon, it showcased the chipset in three new consumer-oriented machines; the MacBook Air, the Mac Mini, and the MacBook Pro. Aside from the change in architecture – something those in depth would recognize as big ‘quite a big thing’ – there were no real changes to the look and feel, design or pricing of any machine in the portfolio. Essentially, Apple did everything it could to show that nothing would change for users.
The MacMini became an excellent choice for a desktop computer. The MacBook Air saw a huge change in battery life and performance, just like the MacBook Pro. Moving the Air from the mobile-focused Intel chips to Apple Silicon has boosted the Air up and beyond the Intel-based MacBook Pros launched in previous years. The MacBook Pro also took the performance leap… but the rise of the MacBook Air meant that for the vast majority of users, the Air offered more power and performance than they would ever need.
As a PR tool, the MacBook Pro M1 came in handy. As a viable laptop, it was already eclipsed by the utility of the lower-priced MacBook Air.
Then came the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops. The M1 Pro and M1 Max chipsets are built on the M1 and offered even more power and performance. You also had the first MacBook design changes in many years, with larger screens, a more angular design, longer battery life, and improved thermal controls. if you’ve been looking for a MacBook that packs a lot of power and is aimed at developers and heavy creatives, this is what you’re looking for.
A consumer MacBook with plenty of power for media creation and lightweight development? That’s the MacBook Air. As for the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it’s more expensive than the MacBook Air, with only a small performance gain and not enough “performance per dollar” that would put anyone off the larger MacBook Pro laptops.
Apple has managed to create its best consumer laptop and its best professional laptop, almost at the workstation level. Caught between them? The MacBook Pro 13-inch.
Last year, Apple unveiled the M2 chipset at WWDC 2022. This broadly offered a twenty percent performance boost. Next to the launch of the MacBook Air M2 was the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which looked even more out of place due to the performance of the MacBook Air M2 and the continued dominance of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.
The latter were updated in January this year, creating an even wider gap between the consumer and professional laptops.
And now the latest leaks suggest that in addition to unveiling the M3 Apple Silicon platform, Apple will continue to push the smaller and increasingly marginalized MacBook Pro alongside the all-conquering ubiquitous MacBook Air.
It does allow Apple to present a different MacBook at each step of the pricing portfolio, though this is much more a factor of perception than practicality. Maybe Apple wants to launch an Air and a Pro together without the performance of the Pro getting too far ahead of the MacBook Air? It’s all about presentation again. On the buyer’s side, they may want the allure of a “Pro” laptop without spending the money required for a fully-featured MacBook Pro.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is a makeup laptop. There’s no doubt it can get the job done, but there are far better options in Apple’s portfolio.
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