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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  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    I noticed a real world article with regards to battery life and for the life of me cannot recall the link.

    Anyhow, the guy grabbed six laptops of various battery life etc and simply played a dvd.

    The macbook (Not sure which he used) lasted around 5.5 hours continuous play... the same as the other laptops.

    Baffled??
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    P.s. I also think that this article gives me nothing that hasn't been said before and wonder why it's been written? Reply
  • BlendMe - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    AT readers have been asking for a review of the new 13" and the 320M, so he delivered. Reply
  • tim851 - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Seriously, am I getting so old that I am the only one who thinks 1280x800 is sufficient for a 13.3" screen? Reply
  • Ninjahedge - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Yes.

    /me hands tim a pair of bifocals.
    Reply
  • Dennis Travis - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Do you have a pair for me also? :D Reply
  • Ninjahedge - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    /me snaps bifocals at bridge.

    Bifocal Monocles for both!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • FATCamaro - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    hahahaha. nice Reply
  • rfadream - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Hey Anand are you sure those temps you measured are in Fahrenheit and not Celsius? Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, June 09, 2010 - link

    Its amazing the type of quality product you can get from using just slave labour to make it.

    Well done.
    Reply

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