I'm convinced that there's no perfect mobile form factor. You can make arguments in favor of and against everything from the smartphone and tablet to 17" desktop replacement notebooks. There's simply a time and a place for everything.

Sometimes you don't need to do a lot but want to be able to couch around and browse the web on a tablet. Other times you need to do actual work but don't need a ton of CPU horsepower; that puts you into 13-inch notebook territory.

For even more productive beings there are larger 15 and 16-inch systems. And given how thin the system is, it's also not hard to make an argument for Apple's 17-inch MacBook Pro. You get a desktop-like screen resolution and mainstream desktop performance.

It's like having a set of screwdrivers. You may use some more often than others but having the entire set helps. Unfortunately having a set of notebooks and mobile devices isn't really an option for most. Inevitably you have to choose. And for portability, that choice often leads you to something a bit larger than a netbook for performance, but small enough to comfortably carry around.

For Apple users this portable sweetspot is the 13-inch MacBook Pro.


Apple's 2010 13-inch (left) vs. 15-inch MacBook Pro (right)

I've praised the 2010 15-inch MacBook Pro as being the one to get thanks to its combination of performance and battery life. When Apple made its 2010 upgrade public however, the 13-inch model was somewhat neglected. It got a faster GPU and bigger battery, but only a mild CPU bump. Priced at $1199 you get a 4.5 lbs aluminum unibody chassis, a 13.3" display and a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo CPU. Keeping up with recent tradition, a NVIDIA GeForce 320M chipset is also under the hoo..err, keyboard. While the rest of the MacBook Pro lineup got shiny new Core i5 and i7 processors (dual core + Hyper Threading), the new 13-inch is stuck with an older Core 2 Duo.

On the bright side, Apple finally outfitted the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a sufficient amount of memory: 4GB. It's still spread out over two DIMMs (making upgrading more expensive than it should be), but it's enough to get you going. I'd say that given the usage model for most notebooks, 4GB should be plenty with OS X 10.6.


The 13-inch MBP comes with all the ports the 15-inch model has, minus dedicated line in/out. You get GigE, FireWire 800, mini DisplayPort, 2 x USB 2.0, a SD card readerand a shared line in/out port. Click to Enlarge

Apple's 2009 Lineup 13-inch MacBook Pro (Early 2010) 13-inch MacBook Pro (Late 2009)
CPU Intel Core 2 Duo 2.40GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz
Memory 4GB DDR3-1066 2GB DDR3-1066
HDD 250GB 5400RPM 160GB 5400RPM
Video NVIDIA GeForce 320M (integrated) NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (integrated)
Optical Drive 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R 8X Slot Load DL DVD +/-R
Screen Resolution 1280 x 800 1280 x 800
USB 2 2
SD Card Reader Yes Yes
FireWire 800 1 1
ExpressCard/34 No No
Battery 63.5Whr 60Whr
Dimensions (W x D x H) 12.78" x 8.94" x 0.95" 12.78" x 8.94" x 0.95"
Weight 4.5 lbs 4.5 lbs
Price $1199 $1199

Today we're going to find out if the sweetspot got any less sweet as a result of the unusual upgrade. If you're unfamiliar with Apple's unibody MacBook Pro and integrated battery design I'd recommend reading our older articles on the topic.

Not Arrandale, but Better Graphics
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  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    I have a brand new Macbook on my desk here at work, as well as newish (Phenom X3) desktop with Windows 7.

    For a while it's been the case that I don't really care which OS I use for random tasks.

    On balance, I prefer windows simply because I can game when I want to.

    I never have the huge number of problems people seem to run into. Infact, I've had to force the Macbook off by holding down the power button more than once, so neither is perfect.
    Reply
  • Ninjahedge - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Been there, done that.

    After my mother had her laptop crash consistantly when using school scheduling and grading software that the schools tech staff could not fix (many lost days in productivity) I have to say Apple is not necessarily always golden.

    Does that mean that PC is better for this? Not necessarily (as I do not have any direct experience with that. Apple has done a good job flooding the Education segment with their products from almost day one. Hell, I still remember "computer" class on an Apple IIe!!!!!)

    The only frustrating thing I find about the Mac is simply, well, simplicity. One person put it on another post it is the difference between "tone" and a 40 band graphic equalizer. Apple has a good amp, and a simple "tone" knob". PC's have that equalizer. Problem with PC's is that 4 BILLION different companies make those equalizers and YMMV (The Yiddish Equalizer puts Bass on the RHS!!! ;) )

    Anyway, that 1 day thing is a crock. I DO AGREE however, that you need to use BOTH for more than a few minutes to get a feel for them, their OS, their available programs and hardware and how they fit your lifestyle.

    If either stank, they would not be around this long.

    Period.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Don't blame you guys for wanting some simple and stable to run on. You have what is essentially given as-is to you. You work within its limitation as well, as with all Apple products. So while this type of "closed" product is good for some it's not so great with others.

    Then you have the Windows OS PC side where you should expect issues. That's because just about everyone has a thing for it. If they screw up the PC screws up. But there's great flexibility there and you do have spend time to find the right products; which in itself is a fun thing for some :)

    So other than bashing one of the other, just enjoy how the PC suits your needs currently. And if you need should change, as it usually does, just pray that whatever product you have will allow it :) This to me the the most crucial.
    Reply
  • gcor - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    That's a rather insulting reply.

    In the past I've been professionally employed as a systems engineer, integrating Windows, unix and mainframe (IBM, Fujitsu, etc) systems. I've architected, designed and developed large scale multi-tier transaction processing systems across all these platforms, including middle ware products.

    From there I moved into the R&D of a 3G mobile network, actively architecting, designing and implementing parts of one of the most successful 3G networks currently being operated.

    If this makes me one of the people you consider a "moron" and that Windows is "clearly too taxing on their mental abilities", then so be it.

    Thank you for your considered and polite input to the debate.
    Reply
  • BlendMe - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Do any of you remember Anand's first Mac article?

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/1500

    Good stuff!
    Reply
  • effortless - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    I do not see how people can even allow themselves to complain. The MacBook Pro 13 features great construction quality (UniBody), has got premium speakers and a premium display, along with the best battery in the business. After all, nearly 10 hours web browsing with that performance behind is an incredible unmatched ratio.

    That it is thin and does not all excessive bulk anywhere (pretty much a flat surface), is to me more important than some ultra-portables weighing a few 100g less. Volume is what matters when you put it into a bag or similar.

    Otherwise everything about it just reeks of quality. I've tried the trackpad and the keyboard, and they both instantly became my favorites among the few notebooks I've tried with chicklet keys.

    Additionally, if you go to college, you can get an iPod Touch, eligible for upgrade to the new iOS4, for free. Considering how the trends state that you get more money in return when selling your Mac, than a PC, I personally consider the price tag a steal.

    I am really not weary to understand the hate against Apple. Sure, they do not support all standards, as they place bets only on the horses they in the future predict will be predominant. An adapter can solve pretty much any video output issue, whereas you have BootCamp in case you need Windows for something. Since let us face it, few among you have heard about people returning from OSX to Windows, as the former is simply superior in terms of user interface. Then what is there left to complain about? That they use dirty tricks in their marketing? I think most businesses do, and Apple has made a clear effort to actually improve their products to become eco-friendly and efficient. So even if their thoughts are somewhere else entirely (money & profit), these changes to apply to changes in reality.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    No complaints from me this time. The review was nicely done with little to no "ohh, woww, OMG" type of personal inputs. That I can live with as I'm actually reading a review rather than having to sort through all the irrelevant, persuasive comments.

    This time, I don't see how some could bash the review hahaha Nice work Anand.
    Reply
  • KoolAidMan1 - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    The PC fanboys seem absolutely threatened by any Mac reviews on this site, its lunacy.

    I myself use and like both Windows PCs and Macs, so whatever
    Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    It seems clear to me that the new 13" MBP is really the best the new lineup can offer.

    While many of my pet peeves remain, such as the glossy display, poor resolution, lack of good connectivity choices etc. the improved graphics performance, battery and bumped minimum specs actually puts it back in the running as an option for a truly portable computer.

    While the lack of a 'modern' CPU is an issue on paper I have to say nothing about the actual performance seems that bad to me.
    Reply
  • sil0nt - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Anand,

    I'd like to see an SSD comparison on one of the Mac platforms to understand which drives hold up the best in the non-TRIM aware OX S. There are some benchmarks out there, but none with your rigorous testing methodology.
    Reply

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