5 Reasons Why the 13-inch MacBook Pro Still Exists

Commentary: The new M2 MacBook Air seems more "pro" than the actual 13-inch MacBook Pro. So why is the littlest Pro still around?

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
4 min read
M2 MacBook Air

Is the new M2-based MacBook Air the real entry-level MacBook Pro? 

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Among everything announced at Apple's WWDC 2022 was the company's new M2 chip and the first two laptops to host it, the all-new MacBook Air and the 13-inch MacBook Pro. While the Air received a lot of attention in the keynote, the MacBook Pro update received more of a cursory mention, with talk of its ProRes encoding and decoding capabilities and little else. Aside from the switch to the M2 chip, it appeared that little, if anything else had changed. 

Once the Apple Store came back online following the keynote, the changes -- or lack thereof -- were confirmed. What was stranger: the new MacBook Air appeared to be more "pro" than the actual 13-inch MacBook Pro. I hunted through the specs looking for possible advantages for people to consider the littlest Pro instead of the M2-based Air and came up short. With the exception of its processing, the 13-inch Pro is now out of step with 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. Why keep it around? 

MacBook Air (13-inch, M2) vs. MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2)

MacBook Air (13-inch, M2)MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2)
Starting price $1,199, £1,249, AU$1,899$1,299, £1,349, AU$1,999
Display 13.6-inch 2,560x1,664-pixel Liquid Retina (500 nits brightness)13.3-inch 2,560x1,600-pixel Retina (500 nits brightness)
No. of CPU cores 88
No. of GPU cores Up to 10Up to 10
Starting / max RAM 8GB / 24GB8GB / 24GB
Starting/max storage 256GB / 2TB256GB / 2TB
Wireless 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0802.11ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0
Connections Thunderbolt/USB 4 USB-C (x2)Thunderbolt/USB 4 USB-C (x2)
Webcam 1080p FaceTime HD camera720p FaceTime HD camera
No. of speakers / mics 4 / 34 / 3 (studio-quality)
Battery life Up to 18 hoursUp to 20 hours
Power adapter 30-watt USB-C (8-core GPU), 35-watt dual USB-C (10-core GPU)67-watt USB-C
Weight 2.7 pounds (1.24 kg)3.0 pounds (1.4 kg)

After talking with my colleagues on CNET's computers team, Lori Grunin, Joseph Kaminski and Dan Ackerman (who got hands-on with the new Air), here are the five reasons we came up with as to why Apple is keeping the 13-inch MacBook Pro around and why someone might choose it over the updated MacBook Air. 

Touch Bar for life

Introduced in 2016, the Touch Bar is a programmable OLED display replacing the function key row on MacBook Pros. When Apple released the updated M1 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models late last year, the Touch Bar was gone. People had feelings. Many Mac users were not fans and were happy it went awaySome users liked it though, so it makes some sense that Apple would keep a MacBook Pro in the lineup that retains the Touch Bar and has the latest Apple silicon. Then again, Apple's really never been too concerned about keeping a feature around just to make fans happy. 

Professionals want a Pro

The MacBook Air, however good a laptop it is, is the entry-level MacBook. Anyone serious about getting work done, especially anything creative or otherwise graphically demanding, wouldn't consider anything less than a MacBook Pro. At least before Apple's M1 chips arrived and then the Air could handily compete with the 13-inch Pro. 

With the redesigned M2-based Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is now outdated in design and features by comparison, aside from the new chip. Still, people might really be attached to having Pro in the name, and having an Air, regardless of what's inside, is unfathomable. 

The smallest MacBook with the longest battery life

With the Air M2, Apple increased the screen size to 13.6 inches. The 13-inch Pro uses a 13.3-inch display. This means the Air is ever so slightly deeper; the Air is 8.46 inches (21.5 centimeters) compared to the Pro at 8.36 inches (21.24 centimeters). Yeah, it's not a big difference; the Pro is actually 0.17-inch thicker -- and it weighs a little more, too. 

However, the body accommodates a slightly larger battery that gets you a couple more hours of battery life (according to Apple's claims) and "active cooling," otherwise known as a fan. That could allow the M2 MacBook Pro to run at peak speeds for longer without throttling down. The MacBook Air M2 has a fanless body, just like the M1. 

One other nice selling point of the Pro: Apple includes its 67-watt USB-C charger. That not only boosts charging speed but is great for powering up other devices like an iPad Pro, so you only need to travel with one charger.

It's to get rid of stock

Could Apple be sitting on a warehouse full of 13-inch MacBook Pro unibody chassis? I suppose it's possible. And a quick scan of chatter about the updated Pro on Twitter suggested this as a potential reason for it sticking around. But this feels more conspiracy theory than a real reason. It doesn't really make too much sense for the average buyer to consider the M2 13-inch Pro if the M2 Air is better equipped. Would consumers really buy a MacBook that's outmoded in every way other than its processor simply to help Apple unload some old stock? 

To make IT departments happy

On the other hand, there is one group of customers who prefer to have more established options when it comes to computers. When I asked my coworkers why they thought the 13-inch Pro was sticking around, Lori Grunin answered, "Corporate buying?" She pointed out that IT departments are consistency fanatics. If a business already has a managed fleet of 13-inch MacBook Pros, and it's a model they're already approved to buy more of, it fits that Apple would keep the general design and features the same but offer a spec bump for the best performance.