With almost as much power as the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and almost as much portability as the 13-inch MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the best-balanced machine in Apple's lineup.

Our pick

13-inch MacBook Pro (2018)

The perfect MacBook for most people — the 13-inch MacBook Pro has the most features without going overboard.

When it comes to portability, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is perfect. It's got all the power of a top-of-the-line computer fit into a lightweight body you can take anywhere.

Who should buy the 13-inch MacBook Pro (2018)

The 13-inch version of Apple's most advanced notebook is actually the one that is suited for most people. It's feature rich without being too much computer for the average person's needs. If you plan to use your laptop for practically everything you do, but don't do a lot of heavy graphic

Is it a good time to buy?

Apple updated the MacBook Pro in November 2018 with a Radeon Pro Vega GPU graphics option, plus added the more advanced T2 security chip. Though the MacBook Pro is known to receive small processor chip upgrades at random times throughout the year, it'll still be quite a while before any major changes are made to the MacBook Pro lineup.

Reasons to buy

  • Ultra portible
  • Blistering fast storage
  • Fast data transfer Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • Most advanced security chip

Reasons not to buy

  • Only USB-C ports
  • Expensive

Why the 13-inch MacBook Pro the best for most people

It's no coincidence all of Apple's MacBooks are or have a model around the 13-inch screen size. It's big enough that you can scroll web pages and documents without feeling like the bottom is cut off short, yet it will still fit in every laptop bag, backpack, and sling on the market. The lack of bulk translates into a lack of weight — the 13-inch MacBook Pro not only fits in a backpack, it won't break your back lugging it around between meetings, classes, at conferences, while traveling, or around town. And while it's not as performant at its 15-inch quad-core brother, it still has plenty of power for video editing, compiling, photo editing, and more.

I went back and forth on the 13-inch Air vs. 13-inch Pro several times as well. I've owned a couple of each over the last few years. While the Air is alluring for its price and portability, I ultimately went with, and stuck with, the 13-inch MacBook Pro because, when you do need to render video, either for work for holidays, the speed difference is a huge time saver.

There are several versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro you can find online or in stores, and you can also use Apple's build-to-order (BTO) options to spec out variations and even higher-end models.

There's also Touch Bar and Touch ID as options now. Touch Bar is controversial, with many people not finding it useful for their workflows. Others like how it surfaces previously obscure and arcane shortcuts and makes them easily accessible.

Everyone loves Touch ID, though, which lets you quickly and easily log onto your MacBook Pro, authenticate apps, and even authorize Touch ID purchases on Safari.

USB-C / TB3 only for the ports has also been controversial. Many dislike the need for dongles, though that has always been true for anyone using peripherals with a MacBook Pro — and we have the FireWire adapters to prove it! Those who want to drive a 5K display, or dual 5K displays on the 15-inch version, along with high-speed storage, are happy enough.

Otherwise, the 13-inch MacBook Pro remains the best-balanced laptop in Apple's lineup, and when you throw in AppleCare and the availability of both telephone, online, and in-store support, one of the best values in higher-end computing.

Alternatives to the 13-inch MacBook Pro

Though the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the perfect MacBook for most people, it's not necessarily perfect for everyone. Here are the best alternatives.

Power winner

15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)

The 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018) is the on-the-go pro video editing dream.

If you're all about MAXIMUM EFFORT, the 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018) can be maxed out with a 6-core Intel Core i9 processors up to 2.9 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 4.8 GHz, up to 32GB of DDR4 memory, Radeon Pro discrete graphics with 4GB of video memory, and up to 4TB of SSD storage. Yeah.

It basically means you can edit short length RED video without having to worry about proxy files or external drives, which is basically the pro dream. It's available in silver or space gray.

Value pick

Non-retina 13-inch MacBook Air

If you don't need the power or the Retina display, go with the portability.

If you don't need the extra power and don't mind the lower pixel ratio, you can save some money and some weight and go with Apple's 13-inch MacBook Air.

Retailing at just $999 and weighing in at only 2.96 lbs, it's literally the ultralight every other manufacturer has spent the last few years figuring out how to copy. With a 13.3-inch 1440 x 900 display, 2x USB, 2x Thunderbolt, MagSafe, SC card, and 3.5mm headphone jack, it can max out at 2.2 GHz, 8 GB of DDR3 memory, and 512 GB of solid-state storage.

Bottom line

With almost as much power as the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and almost as much portability as the 13-inch MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the best-balanced machine in Apple's lineup.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Rene Ritchie is iMore's resident Apple analyst and has studied every aspect of every MacBook. He puts his MacBooks through their paces and knows exactly what each one's limits are.

Lory Gil is iMore's managing editor and has extensive knowledge of the MacBook lineup. Though she doesn't own every single MacBook ever, her stack can hold its own against Rene's.

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