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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  • adamjohari - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    this is slightly off topic, but i wish some of you guys know the answer to this. right now i'm using a mac mini with a logitech mouse, and the movement of the mouse is just terrible. i did some research online and it says it's because of the mouse acceleration is different in macs. my question is, if i were to buy the magic mouse... would the acceleration be any different than me using my logitech mouse right now?

    thanks in advance. again, sorry for diverting.

    adam
    Reply
  • Jamor - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    I've never noticed a difference between mac or other mouses and I've used mainly logitech mouses on my macs. There are logitech mouse drivers which I've never bothered to install, might help you though. Also try fiddling with system preferences/mouse settings. Reply
  • tipoo - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    The acceleraiton would be no different, that is an OS related thing. However you may find the Logitech has faster tracking than the Magic Mouse.

    You can get little programs that "fix" OSX's different acceleration curve, one is called MouseFix or something like that.

    Good luck
    Reply
  • stormmonkey - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    I'm very happy with my 2010 13" MBP and just Tuesday upgraded to Seagate's new Momentus XT. Aside from a 20mb/sec average read speed increase over the stock drive, it's caching to flash storage gives a great overall boost to everyday use. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    "For the past 1.5 years every single Mac has shipped with some form of NVIDIA graphics, standard, regardless of price."

    I was just on Apple's website and found iMacs that have Radeon GPUs in them.
    Reply
  • hallubalooza - Thursday, June 10, 2010 - link

    I know this wont mean anything to anyone who already has their mind made up. But I have a ridiculous desktop for running games and any intense windows apps. However I also have a 13" macbook pro that is awesome. It stays charged for a very long time even running a virtual machine (vmware fusion is great) for when i need to do something in windows xp or 7. I have it partitioned with windows 7 which I can either boot into if I really need the extra performance for something or I can load it in vmware to get any files I may need. It has some useful terminal commands built in and the trackpad is hands down the best I have ever used. Using any other laptop feels gimmicky compared to the multitouch and all the stupid hand swipe gestures that surprisingly increase productivity! It does cost more, but it isnt plastic and I really feel that people complain about the glossy screen just to find something to complain about. I would never buy an apple desktop but I feel that the 13" mbp is a great computer. Reply
  • howmoney - Friday, June 11, 2010 - link

    best buy com hardware

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    Reply
  • Hrel - Saturday, June 12, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I
    currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out
    there. It's made by compal, and available on Cyberpower.com who's
    machines you've reviewed before.
    If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang
    for buck, do this:
    Go to the website.
    mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen.

    (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other
    configurations use the same chassis when personalized they
    come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3
    or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is
    cheapest/best for me.)

    Then I configured
    it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5%
    off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but
    hopefully.
    ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3
    320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out
    and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that
    review!!)
    Everything else on that page I left untouched.
    The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth;
    Though I'm curious if the MSI option is
    equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing.

    It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports,
    the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish
    they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and
    tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical
    disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.)

    On page 3 I select "none, format only" for
    the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is
    unacceptable to me.
    This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if
    you get the MSI network card.

    So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these
    for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe
    someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now...
    like a lot!
    If you're review is good I'm gonna start
    saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks
    guys! A loyal reader. - Brian
    Reply
  • CompSciSTL - Saturday, June 12, 2010 - link

    Have you installed Windows 7 on the new 13" MBP? I'd be curious to know what kind of battery life you get using Win 7. Reply
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    Reply

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