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Ctrl+Alt+Del: It’s time Apple decides what to do with its awkward MacBook Pro 13-inch

OPINION: Apple’s October 30th “Scary Fast” event is closing in and it looks like we’re getting new 14 and 16-inch MacBook Pro models. But what of the awkward 13-incher that still is very much available to and proudly showcased on the Apple online store? It’s time to revamp or move on.

It made some sense to keep the 13-inch MacBook Pro around upon the launch of the original M1-powered MacBook Air. It was a safe bet, offering users an M1 laptop option that came with a fan to enable more sustained performance. But, as the success of the M1 became clearer and clearer, the need for the 13-inch Pro model has waned. And, now, the design is outdated, so what’s next?

When the M2 MacBook Air with its next design came around, as well as the reimaged 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple persisted with the 13-inch MacBook Pro. The M2 version didn’t offer up Pro or Max chips and it still stuck with the old pre-M series design – providing some solace for a niche set of touch bar fans and those who prefer chunky screen bezels.

It’s not just about the outdated looks either, the reasoning for it continued to dissipate with the M2. It’s a fair argument to suggest the 13-inch MacBook Pro has stuck around as Apple likes to have tight pricing options, so it can invite customers to steadily reconsider what it might need from a laptop and urge them up the pricing ladder. With the 13-inch MacBook Air starting at £1149 and the 14-inch MacBook Pro coming in a grand higher at £2149 there was clearly a gap to be filled. Then, Apple released the 15-inch MacBook Air.

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Not only was the pricing range that it made some sense for the 13-inch Pro to sit in decreasing but the introduction of the M2 and its range of capabilities – with the Air being perfectly capable of sustained work even without a fan. The 15-inch MacBook Air also comes in at £1399, slightly higher than the 13-inch MacBook Pro model and filling that price gap. It no longer has a reason to exist and that’s likely to exacerbate.

With the October 30th “Scary Fast” event, it appears that an M3-series MacBook Pro is coming, but rumours point towards only the 14-inch and 16-inch getting the M3 Pro and M3 Max bump. Given the 13-inch Pro only offers the standard chip, if it was going to get the M3 you might expect it to come with the new Air models that are being touted for 2024. By then, the current 13-inch Pro design is going to be stunningly out of date and, given the rumoured significant improvements the M3 will offer, just completely unnecessary in terms of what it offers.

Right now, all it offers is a potential dose of confusion for buyers who may be looking at getting a new MacBook Pro and may get muddled by the differences between the 14-inch/16-inch models and the 13-inch, despite sporting the same product name. As such, it is time for Apple to give the 13-inch MacBook Pro a contemporary redesign, even if that means a price increase, and turn its ugly duckling into a swan. Or, set it loose.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon. 

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