Watch: 2017 13" MacBook Pro vs. 2017 12" Retina MacBook

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited July 2017
Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar and 12-inch Retina MacBook were recently updated with Intel's latest-generation Kaby Lake processors. They both start at a base price of $1,299, but what are the differences, and which one is right for you?





Going by specifications alone, the 12-inch Retina MacBook only tops the 13-inch MacBook Pro in terms of the SSD with twice the amount of base storage. The write speed is also 65 percent faster than the Pro's, but that's not as important as read speed, which is actually 61 percent faster on the MacBook Pro.

If you're interested in style or portability, the 12-inch MacBook is the option for you. It's much thinner and lighter than the MacBook Pro, and comes in additional gold and rose gold color options.

But if horsepower is what you need, the MacBook Pro is the better choice. It matches or beats the Retina MacBook in every benchmark, has a bigger and better screen with 500 nits of brightness and DCI-P3 Wide Color Gamut, and the RAM is clocked at a higher 2133MHz speed.




Apple says both models have second-generation butterfly key switches, but in our tests, the keys on the Pro have more travel and a "clickier" feel, making them better suited for touch typists.

The MacBook Pro also gets a larger trackpad and better speakers with a comparatively broad dynamic range. Although the 12-inch MacBook fares well, the sound is dominated by high notes coming from the tweeters, which compares poorly against the full range of audio from the Pro.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro also has a better FaceTime camera, with a high-definition 720p sensor, compared to non-HD 480p on the 12-inch MacBook.




The 12-inch Retina MacBook only has a single USB-C port, while the MacBook Pro boasts two that support Thunderbolt 3. In contrast, the 12-inch MacBook only supports the Gen 1 USB 3.1 protocol, limiting transfer speeds to 5Gbps. That compares to 10Gbps with Gen 2 USB 3.1 on the MacBook Pro. Users can also upgrade to four USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports if they choose the MacBook Pro model with Touch Bar and Touch ID, which aren't options for the 12-inch MacBook.

The 13-inch model also has faster integrated graphics in the Intel Iris Plus 640. The 12-inch MacBook boasts the less capable HD 615 integrated GPU.

Both base models have Intel's latest 7th-generation dual-core processors. The fanless 12-inch MacBook only gets a 1.2GHz core M3 chip, configurable to i5 and i7 silicon, while the Pro gets a 2.3GHz i5 processor that Turbo Boosts up to 3.6GHz. By contrast, the base 12-inch MacBook only boosts to 3.0GHz.




Applying benchmarks to the hardware illustrates the differences. In the popular Cinebench R15 CPU test, the Pro got a 52 percent better score, as well as a 50 percent better score in the graphics test. Geekbench 4 showed a 31 percent higher score in single-core performance, and 40 percent in multi-core for the Pro model. The GPU test also showed a massive improvement of 81 percent over the 12-inch model. In Octane 2.0, a web browser benchmark, the MacBook Pro comes out on top with a 39 percent better overall score. Unigen Heaven also crowned the Pro as the winner with a huge 83 percent improvement over the MacBook.

The base model 13-inch MacBook Pro impressively handles complex computational tasks. For example, we were able to comfortably edit 4K video, as well as large photos in Photoshop and Lightroom. We tried the same tasks on the 12-inch MacBook, but editing was unbearably slow.

Better yet, the 13-inch MacBook Pro stays cooler, mostly due to the fanless design on the 12-inch MacBook.

As expected, all of this extra power comes with extra power draw. We ran a 1440p video on YouTube on both models for one hour, with screen brightness locked in at the highest setting, and found the Pro used 21 percent of battery life compared to 19 percent on the Retina MacBook.




After all these tests, we can clearly see how handily 13-inch MacBook Pro outperforms the 12-inch MacBook, all for the same amount of cash. Some users may feel they don't need the extra power, but are you certain you won't need it a year or two from now? And don't forget the rest of the advantages you get with the 13-inch MacBook Pro: at least two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a better screen, better speakers, bigger trackpad, superior camera, and more.

So if you're deciding on which model to buy, you have to ask yourself whether you value portability over pretty much everything else.

Where to buy

Readers can save $70 at Apple authorized reseller Adorama on both the Mid 2017 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro thanks to our exclusive $50 off promo code APINSIDER on top of a $20 instant discount. Adorama also will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ, offering many shoppers another $100+ in savings. The models retailing for $1,299 can be found below, while a full list of qualifying configurations can be found in our 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro Price Guides.

For instructions on redeeming the code, please visit our guide on how to save $70 to $120 on 2017 MacBook Pros.

Mid 2017 12-inch MacBooks
12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Silver for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Space Gray for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Gold for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
12" (1.2GHz 8GB 256GB) Rose Gold for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
* Price with promo code APINSIDER using the pricing links above. Adorama will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ. Prices in red reflect total savings off MSRP.
(See even more configurations...)

Mid 2017 13-inch MacBook Pros
13" (2.3GHz 8GB 128GB) Space Gray for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ)
13" (2.3GHz 8GB 128GB) Silver for $1,229.00 * ($70 off + no tax outside NY & NJ) - In stock & ready to ship
* Price with promo code APINSIDER using the pricing links above. Adorama will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ. Prices in red reflect total savings off MSRP.
(See even more configurations...)

Save $50 on boxed AppleCare
Adorama is also closing out remaining stock of boxed AppleCare for 13-inch MacBook Pros with a $50 instant discount, bringing the price down to $199.00.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    BuffyzDeadBuffyzDead Posts: 343member
    Nice Comparison review. Thank you
  • Reply 2 of 11
    virtuavirtua Posts: 208member
    I think the MacBook as a portable makes even the 13" pro feel elephant like. It's a remarkable design and also capable enough to make you think twice on a 13" pro.  I don't think power users are going to be comparing these two though. 


  • Reply 3 of 11
    firelockfirelock Posts: 213member
    My daughter is in college and her old MacBook Air finally gave up the ghost a couple of months ago. I ended up getting her a rose gold MacBook instead of the Pro, mainly because of the additional storage that you get over the base Pro, but also because of the portability of the MacBook. She is not a power user and she does all of her gaming on Xbox and her iPad Mini, so the MacBook is a fine choice. She does need the additional storage, though. I will say that while the MacBook is definitely overpriced for what you get, she has gotten many compliments from her classmates on the computer's appearance.
  • Reply 4 of 11
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,112member
    Ideally playback tests would match on nits and not screen %, as the 100% of the Pro is of a higher Nits output. 

    Good review though. Are these two guys related? 
  • Reply 5 of 11
    smlombardismlombardi Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I think that the fact that these two are the same price is ridiculous and a huge missed opportunity for Apple. It might not be possible financially, but if the MB was priced under $1000 (like the Air), then the trade-offs would make more sense. They make buying an entry-level portable more difficult than it needs to be with this setup. If I had to replace my aging 2011 13" MBP, even I'm not sure what I'd do.
    tipoo
  • Reply 6 of 11
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,207member
    With every drip I see the MacBook riding off towards the sunset...   Or, maybe more accurately, being crushed between two giants....

    Except for portability, it fails its comparison to the more powerful and functional MacBook Pro...
    Now I am looking forward to a review/comparison of it to the 10.5 inch iPad Pro...
    ...  I suspect that, except for the cursor, the iPad Pro will match or beat the MacBook in all respects.

    So, the MacBook gets attacked from both the top and the bottom...  That is:

    According to Apple the iPad Pro is:
    "More powerful than most laptops"
    "...six cores puts incredible power in your hands. So you can edit a 4K video on the go. Render an elaborate 3D model. Or create and mark up complex documents and presentations. Easily. All on a device that still delivers all‑day battery life."

    ...  Is that a MacBook fluttering away like a lost butterfly?

    Jobs said Apple was not concerned about cannibalizing its own products -- because if Apple didn't somebody else would...  I have no doubt Apple has thought this iPad vs MacBook rivalry out to the smallest detail...  They have a plan.   They know where this is headed and when it will get there...   I think the MacBook (as we know it today) is one of the walking dead -- but, at the same time, I suspect Apple is going to surprise us...




  • Reply 7 of 11
    I guess I can see with the same price point that many would side with the more powerful machine, but I have the 12" MacBook and absolutely love it. Of course I went from a 2011 11" MacBook Air with 128gb ssd and 4gb ram to a 2015 (1st gen) MacBook. So with the better screen (way better), and increased ssd and ram it was definitely a significant upgrade. And because of age even the Core M on the MacBook performs better than the i5 of the 2011 Air. Not being a power user it was a great upgrade and has been a very satisfying experience so far. Now, regarding the price I got my 2015 MB last fall after the 2016s came out and was able to snag it for $800 when B&H was have a great sale. At that price point I feel like it has been an incredible value, but I can see that it would have been much more of a stretch to pay $1300 for it, especially with the Pro at the same price. If they got to a point where they were able to price it more around the $999 or even $1099 (which I think is what I originally paid for my 2011 Air) then I think it would make more sense for a lot of people. For non-power users who love the ultra-portability and the simplicity, like I do, I think it is really a great machine that would be great for a lot of people.
  • Reply 8 of 11
    Very well done Appleinsider Staff :smile: Take a moment to pause between points for better affect and you'll have it nailed.
  • Reply 9 of 11
    tipootipoo Posts: 1,112member
    I think that the fact that these two are the same price is ridiculous and a huge missed opportunity for Apple. It might not be possible financially, but if the MB was priced under $1000 (like the Air), then the trade-offs would make more sense. They make buying an entry-level portable more difficult than it needs to be with this setup. If I had to replace my aging 2011 13" MBP, even I'm not sure what I'd do.

    Absolutely. I'd be fine with Apple not updating (ok, they "added more MHz") the Air and discontinuing it eventually, IF and only if the Macbook 12 took the 999 spot. 

    At the same price as the base 13" Pro, I have a hard time pointing people to it instead of the 13. 


    People thinking of the 12 probably don't care about the storage situation, though the 256 *at least* is also advisable. 
  • Reply 10 of 11
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member
    tipoo said:
    Ideally playback tests would match on nits and not screen %, as the 100% of the Pro is of a higher Nits output. 

    Good review though. Are these two guys related? 
    Are they real? They seemed more like automatons. :)
  • Reply 11 of 11
    apple2capple2c Posts: 38member
    "Better yet, the 13-inch MacBook Pro stays cooler, mostly due to the fanless design on the 12-inch MacBook. "

    Huh?!

    That's some trick!  Sounds like quantum entanglement -- the lack of a fan on the 12" MacBook keeps the 13" MacBook Pro cooler!

    Wow!  

    Of course, this may be a mistake.  More likely, it's the fan on the 13.3" that keeps the 12" MacBook cool, even though it lacks a fan!  😎
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