We live in the golden age of the MacBook.
MacBook Airs are faster, thinner, and more accessible laptops than ever before, while the Pro models have the best displays, speakers, keyboards, trackpads, and battery life of any competing laptop. They are on their A game.
For years, there was really only one ugly duckling in the lineup—a constant reminder of a bygone era in MacBook design philosophy. After the 13-inch MacBook Pro is gone and gone, we can finally move on and be grateful that we’ve entered an entirely new era.
Jony Ive’s influence
Let me take you back to 2015. During this period of Apple’s history, a certain Jony Ive was elevated to a very important role – and his design mindset was felt through almost every device. Under his influence Apple products became increasingly thinner and sleeker, within the boundaries of minimal design and what was technically possible. Before 2015, MacBooks were already known for being thin, but there was clearly a new mandate coming in the latter half of the decade.
At a March 2015 press event, Apple unveiled this new design philosophy with the 12-inch MacBook, a laptop that would define the next five years in MacBook design. It was the most compact MacBook ever made by Apple, weighing only 2 pounds and measuring between 0.14 inches by 0.52 inches due to its thin design. It was definitely a stunning look. This low-powered, fanless laptop made for an impressive press conference, but the dual-core processor didn’t get much love from reviewers and early buyers.
Then there was the keyboard. Oh boy. The butterfly mechanism keyboard would become one of Apple’s worst design decisions ever, as these keyboards became difficult and expensive to fix.
As we saw in 2016, Apple began redesigning its entire MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lineup with these ideas in mind. The keyboards were poor, the ports were extremely limited (only USB-C), and the Touch Bar never lived up to the hype. Meanwhile, in terms of display, all of these MacBooks were too thin for their own good. This was especially problematic in higher-end devices like the 15-inch MacBook Pro. It suffered from severe thermal throttling and loud fan noise, especially with the Intel Core i9 chip inside.
But then, things changed drastically. Ive announced he would be leaving the company in 2019, and a year later, Apple would begin its two-year transition to using its own silicon and correcting many of the mistakes made under Ive’s management.
In particular, in 2021 it became clear how seriously Apple was taking this. The MacBook Pro 14-inch and 16-inch launched and addressed nearly every concern of this era, with each decision undone in surprisingly decisive ways – even making the devices thicker and heavier. Even to the point. Of course, Apple Silicon was central to making this reversal possible, but Apple clearly had a new set of design initiatives as well.
One by one, each product was redesigned and reimagined. That is, except one. 13 inch macbook pro.
A MacBook Pro That Won’t Die
I’ve written extensively about why the 13-inch MacBook Pro was such a sore spot in the lineup, so I won’t discuss this issue in too much detail. But it retains many of the primary leftover design features of the previous generation of MacBooks – thick bezels, limited ports, a confusing display, and the Touch Bar. It was a 2016 laptop with a 2023 chip. But Apple continued to sell it as it remained a best-selling product. So, for the M1 and M2, Apple continued to refresh this laptop instead of killing it.
This has always made it very confusing for potential buyers. It was the cheapest “MacBook Pro” you could buy, despite the fact that it wasn’t a “pro” laptop in any meaningful way. Performance was roughly on par with the MacBook Air, and also despite the older design. It also did not have the premium features of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro. In other words, it was a MacBook “Pro” in name only.
But that all changed at October’s “Scary Fast” event. Apple discontinued the 13-inch MacBook Pro and instead began selling the M3 14-inch MacBook Pro, which was a direct replacement for it. While the M3 doesn’t offer any huge performance jump compared to other M3 MacBooks (when they eventually launch in 2024), the 14-inch MacBook Pro at least gets a premium XDR display, speakers, and extra ports. Finally, an entry-level MacBook Pro that felt like a proper pro device.
Keep in mind, this is not a perfect solution. There are still some issues with the M3 MacBook Pro, whether it’s 8GB of memory or the limitation of a single external monitor.
But now that we’ve said goodbye to the 13-inch MacBook Pro, we’re able to say goodbye to that entire era of MacBook history. And good riddance – because the one we live in is better in almost every imaginable way.