16-inch MacBook Pro vs 13-inch M1 (late-2020): Which one should you buy?

16 Inch Macbook Pro Vs 15 Inch Hero
16 Inch Macbook Pro Vs 15 Inch Hero (Image credit: iMore/Rene Ritchie)

With the introduction of the Apple M1 chip in November 2020, the landscape changed for Mac users. If you are in the market for a new Mac, your decision isn't just based on the screen size or the amount of storage.

You now have to decide if you want a 16-inch MacBook Pro with an aging Intel chip or a 13-inch MacBook Pro with a brand spanking new M1 chip. Which MacBook Pro should you buy? It's not as easy a decision to make as it may seem.

16-inch MacBook Pro (2020) vs. 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020): What are the differences?

The easiest and most observable difference is the size difference between the two MacBooks. You have to decide if a 13-inch screen is enough screen real estate to work with. Let's see what we have to work with.

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Header Cell - Column 0 16-inch MacBook Pro (2020)13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020)
Starting price$2,399$1,299
Display16-inch Retina Display with True Tone13.3-inch Retina Display with True Tone
Processor2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 processor; upgradable to 2.4GHz 8-core Intel Core i9Apple 8-core M1 chip
GraphicsAMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory; AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of GDDR6 memory; AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory; AMD Radeon Pro 5600M with 8GB of HBM2 memory8-core GPU
RAM16GB, 32GB, 64GB8GB, 16GB
Storage512GB SSD (up to 8TB SSD)256GB SSD (up to 2TB SSD)
PortsFour Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)Two Thunderbolt/USB-4 ports
Battery lifeApprox. 11 hoursApprox. 20 hours
Weight4.3 pounds3.0 pounds
Camera720p FaceTime HD720p FaceTime HD
KeyboardMagic KeyboardMagic Keyboard
Windows boot campYesNo
Runs iOS appsNoYes

It comes down to how you use your computer. Do you dock it at home and use an external monitor? Or will you need all 16 inches of your screen all the time? Of course, there are many more differences between these two powerful machines.

16-inch MacBook Pro (2020) vs 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020): Intel vs M1

With the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2020), you have your choice of Intel processors, beginning with a 2.6GHz 6-core i7 processor in the base model, up to a 2.4GHz 8-core i9 processor. The processors are aging. However, they are still very powerful and are built for resource-intensive work such as video editing.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020) uses the new Apple M1 chip. The Apple M1 chip is an 8 core CPU system on a chip. It was built specifically for the Mac, and it features the processor, the I/O, the memory, and security on a single chip. The 8 core CPU has four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, making the processor very powerful and highly energy-efficient, leading to longer battery life. Over the next two years, all Macs are being transitioned to Apple silicon.

One factor to consider when thinking about processor choice is that Windows boot camp doesn't work on the M1 chip. If you must run Windows boot camp, you will still need to buy an Intel Mac. Conversely, if you want to run iOS apps on your Mac, your only choice is an M1 Mac.

16-inch MacBook Pro (2020) vs 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020): RAM

If you need lots of RAM for the work you do, then with the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2020), you can order up to 64GB. The base model comes with 16GB of RAM.

You may look at the specs for the 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020) and think that with only a base of 8GB of RAM and a maximum of 16GB of RAM, you will not have enough memory to do intensive work. The M1 Macs, however, come with Apple's unified memory architecture. According to Apple, "M1 unifies its high‑bandwidth, low‑latency memory into a single pool within a custom package". This means you will need less memory than Intel, and you will see high power and efficient performance.

16-inch MacBook Pro (2020) vs. 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020): Ports and battery life

Macbook Pro With M1 Chip side view with 2 USB-C ports

Macbook Pro With M1 Chip side view with 2 USB-C ports (Image credit: iMore)

When you consider the differences between the 16-inch and the 13-inch MacBooks, one important consideration is the number of ports. The 16-inch MacBook Pro (2020) comes with four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. You can charge your computer and still have three free ports to plug in any accessories you want.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020) only comes with two ports on the same side of the laptop. This gives you less flexibility for both ports and where you place your power cord. You may also need to purchase a USB-C hub to expand the availability of ports. One critical factor to consider is with the M1 Macs is that you can only connect one external monitor.

When it comes to battery life, the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2020) has up to 11 hours, which is excellent for a machine of this power and size. You could get through an entire day of work without having to recharge.

If you are frequently away from a power outlet and you don't want to feel the anxiety of your battery about to die, then the up to 20, I'll say it again, 20 hours of battery life in the 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020) will transform the way you use your Mac. This is possible because of the power efficiency in the M1 chip. You will easily get through a day of work and a night of web browsing, and start the next day, all without charging.

16-inch MacBook Pro (2020) vs. 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020): Which should you buy?

Macbook Pro With M1 Chip Touch Bar

Macbook Pro With M1 Chip Touch Bar (Image credit: iMore)

If you need an Intel processor, the most memory you can buy in a MacBook, need to use Windows boot camp, or just want a large 16-inch display, you will want to buy the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2020). Just be prepared to spend almost double the price than the 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020) for a base model with an aging processor.

If you want the latest and greatest chip in a Mac, if you want 20 hours of battery life, if you often dock your MacBook and use an external monitor and don't need the larger screen size, you should buy the 13-inch Macbook Pro (late-2020).

I would personally recommend the 13-inch MacBook Pro (late-2020) if it meets your needs. You get to use Apple's newest technology, the M1 chip and can work in a power-efficient and speedy environment for much less money than you will spend on the 16-inch MacBook Pro (2020).

Mark Goldschmitt

**Mark Goldschmitt** is the father of three boys and loves anything Apple. Born and raised in Queens, NY, and currently residing on Long Island, Mark is a lifelong New York Mets fan. {.end}