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MacBook Pro 14-inch vs MacBook Pro 13-inch: Which one should you buy?

Apple has just launched the brand-new MacBook Pro 14, but it has kept last year’s M1 MacBook Pro 13 around as an entry-level model. The two versions of the MacBook Pro differ in a huge number of ways, meaning there is an awful lot to consider when you are choosing between them.

But fear not, as we have taken a magnifying glass to the two MacBook Pros to work out exactly which is better across a number of criteria. Read on to find out which MacBook Pro you should buy with your hard-earned cash.

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Pricing: Can you get a bargain?

The MacBook Pro 14-inch and MacBook Pro 16-inch.

One of the most important things to consider when buying a laptop is its price. We don’t think many people go into buying a MacBook Pro expecting a low price, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a fair price.

Right now, the MacBook Pro 14 is far from overpriced. It might seem weird to read that considering its starting price is $1,999, but it offers so much (especially compared to the MacBook Pro 13) that its cost is actually quite well justified.

The MacBook Pro 13 is a different story. It starts at $1,299, but most of its features have either been surpassed by the MacBook Pro 14 or can be found on the MacBook Air, which costs $300 less. It makes the MacBook Pro 13 a really hard sell.

Both the prices mentioned above are base prices. You can kit the laptops out with more storage and extra memory, and that will increase the prices accordingly.

A new design for a classic laptop

The 13-inch MacBook Pro, viewed at an angle from the back.

At first glance, the MacBook Pro 13 and the MacBook Pro 14 look pretty similar. Both come in the classic Apple silver and space gray colors, and both are constructed from matte aluminum. But look a little closer and the differences start to show.

One of the most prominent divergences lies with the Touch Bar. Apple’s touch-sensitive strip has been divisive since its debut in 2016, with some people swearing by it and many others finding it useless. That debate is not likely to last much longer, as Apple seems to have suggested it is moving on from the Touch Bar by omitting it entirely from the MacBook Pro 14. The MacBook Pro 13 still contains the Touch Bar, so it might be one of your last chances to get the feature if you really want it.

The bottom of the MacBook Pro 14’s chassis is also a tad flatter than that of the MacBook Pro 13, eliminating some of the slight curvature that was present on last year’s model.

While these differences separate the two laptops, they are not dissimilar in every aspect. For one thing, both MacBook Pro models use the same Magic Keyboard with its scissor-switch mechanism. This gives a comfortable typing experience that differs greatly from the old butterfly keyboard and its shallower key presses.

Mini-LED comes to the MacBook Pro

The 2021 MacBook Pro display.

Apple took its iPad Pro up a notch earlier this year when it added a mini-LED screen, something Apple terms the Liquid Retina XDR display. It was absolutely beautiful when we reviewed the 2021 iPad Pro, and that same tech has now made its way into the MacBook Pro 14.

Compared to the LED display in the MacBook Pro 13, the Liquid Retina XDR offers better contrast, higher brightness, and deeper blacks. It does this by packing in a huge number of tiny LEDs — around 10,000, all told — which allow much better image reproduction while avoiding the image burn-in issues suffered by OLED panels.

This display also includes ProMotion, which dynamically changes the refresh rate up to 120Hz when you need it. The MacBook Pro 13 lacks this tech.

It’s not just the panel tech that has changed. When Apple moved from a 13-inch screen in last year’s MacBook Pro to the 14-inch one in this year’s model, it did so by thinning the bezels around the edge of the display. This larger screen has a correspondingly larger resolution, up from the 13-inch model’s 2,560 x 1,600 pixels to the new laptop’s 3,024 x 1,964 pixels (something that was leaked before the device’s launch). Aside from the higher resolution, you’ll now also get a higher pixel density in the MacBook Pro 14: Roughly 250 pixels per inch (ppi) versus the MacBook Pro 13’s 227 ppi.

While we’re covering the laptop’s displays, we should also discuss something nestled within the frame, just above the screen: The devices’ webcams. The MacBook Pro 13 is stuck with a disappointingly low-resolution 720p camera, but the MacBook Pro 14 has taken the lead of the 24-inch iMac and bumped its webcam up to a much more palatable 1080p. That’ll help you look much better on video calls.

Both offer excellent performance

Apple M1 Pro logo.

The M1 chip inside the MacBook Pro 13 blew us away when we first reviewed it. It was so far ahead of anything inside previous MacBook Pro models that the difference was truly unbelievable. We had to remind ourselves that it was Apple’s first attempt at a laptop chip, and so would likely be the worst one it ever made.

Now, Apple has proved that contention right. The M1 Pro chip inside the MacBook Pro 14 outstrips even the M1, offering more cores and more performance in almost every way.

The MacBook Pro 13’s M1 chip comes with eight CPU cores split into four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. It also includes eight GPU cores. The M1 Pro inside the MacBook Pro 14, on the other hand, comes in two flavors, one with eight CPU cores and one with 10. Both are weighted much more toward performance, with two high-efficiency cores and either six or eight high-performance cores. On the graphics side, the MacBook Pro 14’s M1 Pro boasts either 14 or 16 GPU cores, depending on the model.

It gets even more impressive with the M1 Max chip, which comes with a 10-core CPU and either a 24-core or 32-core GPU. It’s the ultimate Mac chip Apple offers.

In practice, the big core increase will mean much better performance all over. Don’t get us wrong, the M1 is still an excellent chip, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the M1 Pro.

But it’s not just all about the chip — there are differences when it comes to memory and storage, too. Beginning with memory, the MacBook Pro 13 starts with 8GB of RAM and can be configured to come with 16GB. Thanks to the way the M1 chip works, with the memory built into the chip itself, the RAM performs much better than you would expect. Still, high-end users would be justified in wanting more.

And that’s what they get with the MacBook Pro 14. It starts with 16GB of RAM by default and can be configured to come with 32GB or even 64GB if you kit it out with the M1 Max chip. Considering how excellent ly this memory performs, 32GB should be enough for all but the most hardcore users. If you need more, 64GB will be perfect.

As for storage, the MacBook Pro 13 starts with 256GB of flash storage and can be kitted out with 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB of storage. On the MacBook Pro 14, the starting configuration moves up to 512GB, with 1TB, 2TB, 4TB, and 8TB options.

Portability: Size and battery life

John Ternus introducing the new cooling system in Apple's MacBook Pro 14.

When you’re working out how portable a laptop is, there are two key considerations to bear in mind: The device’s size and weight, and how long its battery lasts when you’re traveling.

No matter whether you want the MacBook Pro 13 or the MacBook Pro 14, there’s good news abouttheir battery performance. Thanks to the efficiency of Apple’s own chips, you can expect phenomenal longevity here. In our review, the MacBook Pro 13 lasted over 16 hours in our light web-browsing test, and over 21 hours in our video-playback test. That’s roughly in line with the 17 and 20 hours Apple lists on its website.

You can expect similar performance from the MacBook Pro 14. Apple says it will last for 17 hours of video playback and charges up to 50% after 30 minutes. We’ll have to see how it measures up in practice when we review the device.

Although the MacBook Pro 13 and MacBook Pro 14 have very similar footprints, there are some small differences. The MacBook Pro 13 measures 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches and weighs 3 pounds. The MacBook Pro 14, on the other hand, measures 12.31 x 8.71  x 0.61 ches and weighs 3.5 pounds. It’s slightly larger and heavier, but not by much.

Ports and connectivity

One of our least favorite aspects of the MacBook Pro 13 is its port situation. Just like the entry-level 24-inch iMac, it only comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports and nothing else. That’s not really enough for a device bearing the “Pro” name tag.

Fortunately, the MacBook Pro 14 rectifies this problem. Not only does it come with more ports, but there is more variety among those ports. There are three Thunderbolt 4 ports, a headphone jack, an SD card slot, and an HDMI port. It should mean much less reliance on dongles and adapters than with the MacBook Pro 13.

And then there’s MagSafe. This much-loved charging port was phased out with the 2016 MacBook Pro redesign, but it’s back in style with the MacBook Pro 14. It’s a magnetic charger that connects the power cable to your laptop. When it gets yanked too hard, it disconnects, saving your laptop from smashing onto the floor when someone trips over the cable.

The MacBook Pro 14 wins the day

The MacBook Pro 14 and MacBook Pro 16, with their new ports visible on the sides.

This is one comparison where the winner is clear: The MacBook Pro 14. It offers significantly higher performance than the MacBook Pro 13, a new design, a top-class display, greater port options, and much more. Its starting price is a lot more expensive, but we think that the premium is worth it.

The MacBook Pro 13 has some aspects that might find favor in niche situations, such as its Touch Bar, but most of these benefits are quite situational and probably won’t appeal to everyone.

Instead of the MacBook Pro 13, the MacBook Air is probably a better option. It comes with almost everything the MacBook Pro 13 offers, yet costs $300 less.

If you’re determined to go Pro, the MacBook Pro 14 should be your main choice. It’s expensive, yes, but your investment is repaid with a superb laptop that has some of the best features Apple offers.

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