Apple MacBook Pro 13 2020 review: the M1 processor revolution

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Alejandra Rangel
@alejandrarangel
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Apple has finally released its first Macs equipped with the Apple M1 in-house processor, which promises impressive gains. While the exterior remains the same, the interior is a game-changer in terms of performance and range.

Presentation

The 13-inch MacBook Pro in its M1 version uses the basics of MacBook Pro equipped with an Intel processor. We thus find the same chassis with the same dimensions and the same weight (1,4 kg). Apple even goes so far as to use a battery whose capacity is identical, but the new processor derived from that of the iPad is much less greedy and this should result in better autonomy. On the connection side, this model is satisfied with only two Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C ports against four on the Intel models, but it retains a jack output and especially the Touch Bar which allows you to display different shortcuts depending on the applications. . The third-generation butterfly keyboard introduced in 2019 on the 16-inch MacBook Pro and in early 2020 on the 13-inch MacBook Air and MacBook Pro is also present.



Compared to the Intel MacBook Pro, there are simply two changes in addition to the processor: "studio" quality microphones with approximately 40% reduced noise compared to previous models, and improved image quality for the camera. FaceTime. On the latter, the definition remains in 720p, but the power of the Apple M1 processor makes it possible to process the image in real time for better rendering. As you will have understood, the big novelty is above all the integration of the first processor for Mac designed in-house by Apple engineers and derived directly from iPhone and iPad chips. The migration of the entire range will take place over two years, during which Apple will always offer Intel machines, especially for those who use non-optimized applications and to give developers a little time to get up to speed. the ARM architecture.



The 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 is offered in two basic versions – which differ only in the 256 or 512 GB SSD – sold respectively for €1149 and €1679, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro Intel Core i5 2 GHz (Quad Core) is now displayed at 2129 €. Apple also offers to go from 8 to 16 GB of unified memory for 230 € and to swap the 512 GB SSD for a 1 TB model (230 €) or 2 TB (690 €).

Construction


The 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 is physically identical to the Intel 13-inch MacBook Pro


The Cupertino company offers a smooth transition since the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 is simply identical to the latest Intel 13-inch MacBook Pro, except that it is content with two USB-C ports. The 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 still measures 30,41 x 21,42 x 1,56 cm and weighs 1,4 kg. The occupancy rate of the 13,3-inch screen – lagging behind the best on the market – is limited to 79% of the front panel against more than 90% for the best optimized, such as the Huawei Matebook X Pro (92%) or the Asus Zenbook S13 UX392F (94%).



A chassis rigid enough to hold the computer by the corner.

The aluminum Unibody chassis remains the best in the laptop market in terms of rigidity. The computer can easily be held by a corner without twisting. In addition, as often with Apple, the finishes are impeccable. In the end, we're almost disappointed that this first M1 laptop is just a simple MacBook Pro; we would have appreciated a sleek new design, but that will probably have to wait for the next generation.


The Touch Bar is always present...



As is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

We obviously find the famous Touch Bar which marks the difference with the MacBook Air. The Touch Bar is a 2170 x 60 px Oled screen managed directly by the M1 chip which replaces the function keys. The buttons displayed vary depending on the application used. It's more or less useful depending on the case, but overall it works pretty well. On the right of the Touch Bar, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor allows authentication simply by placing your finger on it. Convenient !



The air inlets and outlets are located behind the display hinge.

The other difference with the MacBook Air is the presence of a fan which allows the MacBook Pro to withstand heavy loads longer. Simply put, when the processor gets too hot, it lowers its frequency. With a ventilation system, the processor can maintain a maximum frequency longer, and even permanently according to our first results – which will not necessarily be the case on the MacBook Air. The latter has no fan and it is therefore the chassis that must evacuate the heat passively. On previous MacBook Pros, Apple had added air inlets under the machine to facilitate ventilation. These have simply disappeared on this MacBook Pro 13 M1. The ventilation vents are placed behind the display hinge; one to draw in cool air, the other to expel hot air.

Since 2020, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has inherited the Magic Keyboard, which offers a slightly more natural feel than the butterfly keyboard of previous 13-inch MacBook Pros. Key travel has been lengthened and overall the keyboard is much more pleasant to use. For people coming from PCs, you have to get used to the layout of the Mac keys, with in particular the at sign which appears at the top left of the keyboard, or even the dashes on the right. This keyboard is backlit with an automatic adjustment according to the ambient brightness.

The FaceTime HD webcam does not evolve and remains stuck at a 720p definition (1280 x 720 px). Apple still announces a better quality image thanks to the power offered by the 16 hearts dedicated to artificial intelligence which are supposed to improve the image in real time via face detection and increased contrast. It's already good, but we would have liked a slightly better defined camera in addition to the new image processing.


Connections simplified to the extreme: 2 Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C ports and a headphone output.

On the connection side, there are simply two Thunderbolt 4 / USB-C ports on the left and a 3,5 mm headphone output on the right which fortunately is still resisting.


The MacBook Pro M1 comes with a 61W USB-C charger.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 comes with the same 61W USB-C charger as the Intel model, which seems rather disproportionate for this machine. We flashed its consumption to 40 W at its maximum capacity. Finally, if it is possible to open the Mac using a Pentalobe P5 screwdriver, it is of no use since all the components are soldered and the battery is glued.


The thermal photo of the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 under full load.

In terms of noise pollution and temperature management, this 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 is doing very well since after one hour of encoding with the 8 cores pushed to the maximum, the temperature does not exceed 35 ° C. This is much better than the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro, which saw its temperature rise to just over 40°C. The noise does not exceed 38 dB(A) at 50 cm in front of the device when fully charged. Again, this is better than the previous model measured at 39 dB(A). In practice, the fan is audible at full load. It's not unpleasant, but you can hear it. Luckily it only happens very rarely. For example, even during our performance test on Rise of Tomb Raider and Shadow of Tomb Raider, the fan was inaudible.

Screen

The 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 has the same 13,3-inch screen (33,8 cm diagonal) displaying a definition of 2560 x 1600 px as its predecessors. It has True Tone technology, which allows dynamic management of its color temperature according to ambient light as well as coverage of the DCI-P3 color space for wider color reproduction.

Contrast 1510: 1 Delta E 1,1 Temperature 6920 K

The MacBook Pro 13 delivers very good results, notably with a contrast of 1510:1 and sufficiently deep blacks. The average delta E is measured at 1,1 - well below 3, the threshold below which the human eye no longer perceives any difference between the color displayed and the color requested. The colors requested can therefore be considered as perfectly accurate. Finally, the temperature calculated by us is 6920 K, which is quite close to the 6500 K of the video standard. Of course, we measure the temperature with the True Tone deactivated. When the latter is activated, the temperature varies continuously in order to provide additional comfort during use.


From left to right, the gamma curve, color temperature, and delta E.

We measured the screen's maximum brightness at 514 cd/m². This brightness peak associated with a fairly efficient anti-reflective filter (reflectance of only 26,9%) means that the 13-inch MacBook Pro can be used outdoors without suffering too much from ambient light, even if we avoid everything. even to have the sun directly in the screen. The persistence of 21 ms is a little lower than the previous model (15 ms). Compared to what can be found on fixed monitors and televisions, this value is not very good (it would be rated 2 stars) and reflects the limits of laptop computer panels. In practice, this results in a blurry trail behind dark objects moving against a light background. It's not very awkward to use and it's really impactful only during nervous gaming sessions.

performances

Along with the new MacBook Air and Mac mini, this new 13-inch MacBook Pro ushers in the first Mac processor developed and engineered entirely by Apple engineers. Baptized Apple M1 (for Macintosh 1), this processor marks a change of architecture and forgets the x86 instruction set of Intel processors. The M1 processor uses the ARM architecture found on the iPhone and iPad. It is also directly derived from the Apple A14 found on the iPhone 12 and the iPad Air 4.

Engraved with a fineness of 5 nm by the Taiwanese founder TSMC, the 16 billion transistors of the Apple M1 processor embed four high-performance ARM cores clocked at 3,2 GHz (192 kb instruction cache, 128 kb data cache, 12 Mb level 2 memory shared), four high-efficiency ARM cores clocked at 2,06 GHz (128 kb instruction cache, 64 kb data cache, 4 Mb shared level 2 memory), a graphics unit also composed of 8 cores (128 execution units, 2,6, 82 teraflops, 41 gigatexel per second, 16 gigapixels per second) and a neural engine consisting of 16 dedicated cores that can perform 1 trillion operations per second. All these fine people can operate simultaneously, whether it is the eight ARM cores, the graphics part or the neural engine, while respecting the thermal envelope of the machine. The Apple M4 processor also includes a secure enclave to keep biometric data separate, including fingerprints, to maximize security, the Thunderbolt/USB 264 controller, an image signal processor (ISP), a SSD and H.265/H.9/HEVC/VPXNUMX encoding engines.

The change in architecture did not allow us to run all our usual tests. We used to measure the performance of Macs running Windows through Bootcamp to compare Cupertino machines to PCs. However, it is simply impossible to install Windows on a Mac equipped with an M1 processor. If the various players in virtualization (Parallels and VMware) as well as those in emulation (CodeWeaver with CrossOver) are working on this subject, to date, it is not yet possible to run Windows applications. In addition, remember that since the arrival of macOS Catalina 10.15 last year, 32-bit applications no longer launch at all. So you have to deal with 64-bit Mac applications. Fortunately, Apple includes an emulator – called Rosetta 2 – which allows you to launch all current 64-bit Intel Mac applications, and this, with simply excellent performance for an ultraportable PC. We therefore carried out most of our tests on Mac Intel applications in order to get an idea of ​​the performance of this Apple M1 processor. The only exception to the rule is Handbrake — the video encoding software — which is already compiled for the Apple M1's ARM architecture. Under Corona Benchmark, via emulation, the MacBook Pro M1 is thus slightly faster than a Ryzen 7 4700U and slightly slower than a Core i7-9750H.

In the end, the MacBook Pro M1 proves to be very efficient, even with software not optimized for the new architecture. It easily compares to more powerful PCs and even the 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple's fastest laptop. To say, even in emulated games, the Apple M1 drops Intel processors and their integrated graphics controller:

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Audio

In terms of audio rendering, this 13-inch Macbook Pro M1 is simply identical to the previous model. It offers a very correct sound reproduction despite the size of its chassis. The positioning of the loudspeakers makes it possible to benefit from a true stereophonic width (which exceeds the width of the screen a little), unlike the overwhelming majority of laptops. The loudspeakers are quite powerful, but it is not possible to exploit this reserve of power to the maximum since the distortion quickly comes to point the tip of its nose, clearly deteriorating the listening experience (sound scene much more confused , more aggressive sound). This will avoid pushing the volume to the maximum. As often, the bass is absent, even if Apple has made an effort on the low mids. On the other hand, the extension in the upper midrange/treble is more than correct. The intelligibility of voices is perfectly assured.

The performance of the headphone output of this MacBook Pro 13 M1 is in line with that of other Macs. It restores the signal in a way that could not be more faithful, with a power far superior to the rest of the market and sufficient to power many headphones on the market, all this with excellent distortion management. The dynamics are very well respected. This MacBook Pro does not correct the small problem in terms of crosstalk (interference of the left signal on the right channel and vice versa) encountered on previous MacBook Pros, but the listening experience remains generally very good.

Mobility / Autonomy

With its MacBook Pro M1, Apple promises record autonomy. It is clear that the bet is held since our test MacBook Pro was able to read a little more than 20 episodes of the House of Card series without stopping (Netflix under Chrome ARM, screen brightness at 200 cd / m² , headphones plugged in and keyboard backlight off), i.e. a battery life of 20 h 52 min.


A record autonomy of 1252 minutes (20 h 52 min) for the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1.

At 1,4 kg, the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1 is far from the lightest laptop in this category. However, it remains light enough to be taken everywhere. If despite the camel autonomy you really need to take the USB-C charger with you, it will take an additional 280 grams.

Highlights

  • Performance of the Apple M1 processor.

  • Autonomy.

  • Perfectly calibrated screen.

  • New keyboard more pleasant to use.

  • Finishing.

Weak points

  • Only two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports.

Conclusion

Note globale

For a first attempt, it's a masterstroke. We were dubious about the performance offered by the new Apple M1 processor in real conditions and we must admit that we were surprised. The Apple chip proves to be very powerful, to the point of calling into question the very existence of Intel Macs in the years to come. Icing on the cake, autonomy is simply excellent. With the exception of anemic connectivity, it's flawless for the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1, which combines power and autonomy in a compact and solid chassis.

Sub Notes
  • Construction
  • Screen
  • performances
  • Audio
  • Mobility / Autonomy
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