A new MacBook Pro is coming this year, and it’s rumored to launch with the latest release of Apple Silicon, the M2. That sounds exciting, right? Apple’s pro laptops with its most recent new chips inside.
Well, there’s a catch. There’s been a performance and branding problem for the MacBook Pro ever since Apple began its transition to the M1 — and the rumored M2 MacBook Pro would only exacerbate these issues.
In the Intel era, the performance delta between the MacBook Pro 13-inch and the MacBook Air was significant. The Pro model had a higher wattage CPU, improved integrated graphics, and a more advanced cooling system. It matched the price difference, and features like the better screen, speakers, and Touch Bar were icing on the cake.
All that changed with the M1.
The MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both debuted the Apple M1 chip. They could be configured identically, and aside from the more powerful ports on the MacBook Pro, there was very little separating these two laptops outside of their price tags. The M1 MacBook Air made the MacBook Pro feel more like a MacBook Air Plus than a true Pro upgrade.
The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros made things even more confusing. These high-powered laptops were the “Pro” MacBooks we’d all been waiting for. The M1 Pro and M1 Max chips were capable of capturing the performance of discrete GPUs, and blowing away the M1 in turns of content creation and gaming performance. More ports. A better keyboard. An incredible mini-LED screen. Even a great webcam. For creative pros, you could hardly ask for more.
In every way that mattered, the 14-inch MacBook Pro should have replaced the 13-inch MacBook Pro. But it didn’t. Apple still sells it, Touch Bar and all.
I had hoped that in the next generation, Apple would focus its attention on the MacBook Air, but according to the latest reports, Apple plans to even further divide up its Mac lineup with a spruced up MacBook Pro that still performs like a MacBook Air. Thin bezels and a notch don’t make it a Pro.
So, why is Apple doing this? Well, probably because Apple has made a name for itself over the years selling laptops to the demographic that falls in between students and professionals. The amateurs. The hobbyists. The people with a side gig or creative hobby, but can’t afford a true MacBook Pro. There’s no problem with serving that audience, but the MacBook Pro 13-inch won’t do them much better than the MacBook Air.
Now, much of this is still very much based on speculation and rumor. We still don’t know exactly how Apple will split up its lineup this year between Airs and Pros. We know Apple is planning multiple MacBooks with M2 chips, though, and unless Apple has a significant way of distinguishing between the two, it’ll always present a problem for buyers trying to choose what Mac to buy.
Indeed it may not be too late for things to change. So, Apple? Please. Split up your products in a way that makes sense. Leave the “Pro” brand for laptops that has the performance and features professionals need and let the MacBook Air remain the excellent entry-level laptop it always has been.
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