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Computers

Hands-on with the new Apple MacBook Air and MacBook Pro

These two entry-level Apple laptops get spec upgrades and, in one case, an important price cut.

macbooks-2019
Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple kicked off the back-to-school season with some pretty significant changes to the MacBook lineup on Tuesday. There were price cuts, trickle-down features and a few quiet cancellations, including the old, pre-redesign MacBook Air and the cult favorite 12-inch MacBook

Getting an update are the MacBook Air and the lowest-end version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. For the Air, that's a significant point, as the system received its largest overhaul in a decade just last year. 

Both new MacBooks have arrived in the CNET Labs for review. Our testing is ongoing, but here's an early look at some of the initial results and our first hands-on impressions. 

05-macbook-pro-2019

The entry-level MacBook Pro now includes Apple's Touch Bar. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The new MacBook Air doesn't look any different, but it adds Apple's True Tone display, which can adjust the screen's color temperature based on the ambient lighting. It's already found on iPad Pro, recent iPhones and some MacBook Pros. 

But more important than that, the starting price has been cut by $100, from $1,199 to $1,099 (£1,099, AU$1,699). That's still not the classic MacBook Air price of $999, but it's getting closer and students can get it for $999. 

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More consequential are the changes to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. That $1,299 model was a favorite for some, as it excluded the Touch Bar found in more-expensive MacBook Pros. Now you can no longer avoid the Touch Bar, but it's included for the same $1,299 price, along with the TouchID fingerprint reader and T2 security chip. 

It also jumps from an older dual-core Intel CPU to a newer quad-core version, so the least expensive Pro feels more like, well, a Pro. Case in point, we ran the new quad-core 13-inch MacBook Pro against an older dual-core version. Yes, the eighth-gen chips have an advantage over the seventh-gen ones, but the difference between the two base models is huge. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

MacBook Pro 13-inch (quad-core, 2019)
16949
MacBook Pro 13-inch (dual-core, 2017)
9032

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

MacBook Pro 13-inch (quad-core, 2019)
647
MacBook Pro 13-inch (dual-core, 2017)
381

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

MacBook Pro 13-inch (2019) MacOS Mojave 10.14.5; 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-8257; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1536MB Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645; 256GB SSD
MacBook Pro 13-inch (2017) MacOS Sierra 10.12.6; 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-7267; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz, 1536MB Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650; 256GB SSD

We're currently testing both the new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, and will report full benchmark results, including battery life, in upcoming reviews. While the Pro is getting a big speed boost, I wouldn't expect any real change in the MacBook Air performance -- the biggest move there is the price.