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Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch review: How the new M1 chip stacks up to Intel’s.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch review: How the new M1 chip stacks up to Intel’s.

Apple (AAPL) is in the midst of one of the biggest changes to its Mac line of products in more than a decade. After 15 years, the company is ditching its long-standing relationship with Intel (INTC) and is instead building its own processor specifically designed for its laptops and desktops called the M1 chip.

And one of the first products to get the M1 is also one of Apple’s most important: the MacBook Pro 13-inch. A workhorse for photo and video editors who need a powerful machine on the go, the Pro is an essential proving ground for the M1 chip’s capabilities.

And with a potent graphics processing unit (GPU), and central processing unit (CPU), along with 8GB of RAM, the M1-powered Pro I’ve been working with has proven to be an exceptionally impressive example of what Apple’s new chip brings to its machines. And one of the rare first-generation products I’m confident in recommending.

The M1 chip.

Let’s get one thing out of the way when it comes to the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. There’s no difference in forward appearance between it and the generation prior Intel-based Pro. That means there’s no way for you to tell which version of the Pro you’re running without looking at the system’s specs.

Both laptops have the same dimensions, same 13.3-inch Retina Display, and same backlit Magic Keyboard, which is a merciful upgrade from the unreliable butterfly-style keyboards found on older MacBooks.

Under the hood, though, things are far different than before. The Arm-based M1 chip, which Apple introduced during a virtual press event at its Cupertino, California, headquarters earlier this month, is a wild departure from the Intel processors the company has relied on since 2005. Its architecture is similar to the Apple chips uses in its iPhone and iPad, putting power consumption and performance at the forefront.

Apple’s new M1 processor is coming to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13-inch, as well as the new Mac mini. (Image: Apple)

Unlike Intel’s chips, the M1 is built using a 5-nanometer process, meaning its transistors measure just 5 nanometers in size. Intel, meanwhile, is stuck on a 10-nanometer process, and recently announced its 7-nm chips would be delayed. AMD (AMD), for its part, is working with 7-nm chips, meaning that Apple is already ahead of the curve.

During its announcement, Apple said that its M1 chip offers improvements over leading PC processors in terms of both CPU and GPU performance, claiming that it has “the fastest integrated GPU in the world,” and features “the world’s fastest CPU cores in low- power silicon.”

I’ve been using the M1-powered Pro as I would my normal work computer, and haven’t noticed any bit of slowdown, outside of the occasional, and predictable, hiccup in Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Chrome browser.

A nice aside about having the M1 chip in the Pro is that it also means Apple uses its own image signal processor for its FaceTime camera, which dramatically improves the image quality of your video chats.

As for battery life, Apple promises the Pro will get a whopping 20 hours of power out of a single charge while playing back video, compared to 10 hours for the Intel version of the machine. And while I can’t say that it specifically manages that, I can tell you that the battery in my review unit seemed like it just wouldn’t quit. Even after a full day of use, I still had plenty of juice to keep using the Pro well into the night.

That’s fantastic for professionals on the go. What’s not so fantastic is that the M1-powered Pro includes just two Thunderbolt/ USB C ports, while the Intel version gets 4. If you’re the type of person who needs as many ports as possible, that’s a big bummer. And yes, there are expansion dongles to add more ports, but with a $1,299 laptop, you shouldn’t need one.

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