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Apple MacBook Pro (M2, 2022) review

(Pocket-lint) – The MacBook Pro (M2, 2022) represents one of Apple’s more curious releases in recent times.

Unlike the redesigned MacBook Air, this updated Pro machine has largely been left untouched. Compared to the previous generation, there’s actually only one change – the introduction of the shiny, new M2 processor.

On paper, this laptop does provide an option to those who crave the Touch Bar – or, equally, those who want the ‘Pro’ label without having to stretch to the lofty asking prices of the revamped MacBook Pro duo released in 2021. 

However, we suspect that’s a very niche group. And it’s also true that this latest MacBook Pro features an older design, fewer ports and a worse quality camera compared to the new MacBook Air – and costs more.

So, what’s the real story with this revised Apple laptop? Is it still an option worth considering, or should you skip straight to the M2 Air? We’ve been testing it in order to find out.

Our quick take

Due to the nature of the latest MacBook Air announced alongside it, the MacBook Pro (M2, 2022) sits in a strange place in Apple’s lineup. Not only is the Air cheaper, but it also features better specs.

So, naturally, there’s plenty of speculation over why this device still exists in the range. Does Apple want to ensure it has a ‘good’, ‘better’ and ‘best’ offering in the form of the 13-inch, 14-inch and 16-inch models? Was it just very easy for the company to replace the M1 processor with an M2 processor and be done with it?

Whatever the reason, the new processor packed inside continues to push what’s possible with Apple’s laptops. Even in the short space of time since the M1 model was released, Apple’s tech has come on leaps and bounds.

Ultimately, then, this is still a very good laptop – it’s just not the best value.

So, the question is: do you bite the bullet and enjoy that speed in an old design, or wait a bit longer for the more desirable MacBook Air. While we’ve only briefly played with the Air ahead of its full release in July, we strongly suspect it will be a better pick for most users.

Apple MacBook Pro (M2, 2022) review: An old friend gets a performance boost

Apple MacBook Pro (M2, 2022) 

For

  • Very fast performance
  • Superb battery life
  • Great display
  • Design still very functional
Against

  • Misses out on newer design
  • Touch Bar still present
  • No new features
  • Minimal ports

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Same old design

  • 13.3-inch LED-backlit display; 500 nit brightness; 2560 x 1600 resolution
  • 11ax Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compatible
  • 2x Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports; 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Full-size backlit Magic Keyboard
  • Touch Bar and Touch ID

Long story short, the 2022 iteration of the 13-inch MacBook Pro hasn’t changed from the M1 2020 model – at all. That means you still get the same design, with its two Thunderbolt USB-C ports, 3.5mm headphones jack, and the Touch Bar that’s been eliminated in newer designs.

Pocket-lintApple MacBook Pro review photo 2

The model, then, still also features the same 13.3-inch display, which comes complete with a 720p webcam for those all-important video calls.

If you’re already a MacBook Pro user, the design doesn’t deviate too much from what you’ll already have – and it hasn’t, really, since the Touch bar was introduced.

It works, but, for our money, it isn’t nearly as nice as the refined 14-inch MacBook Pro, or the new MacBook Air, which come complete with bigger displays, better cameras and more port options.

Pocket-lintApple MacBook Pro review photo 6

That’s not to say that the look of this model is to be completely written off, though. The Pro models have always been robust and ready to be chucked into a bag, and nothing about that approach changes here.

You could even argue that the slightly smaller form factor (13.3-inches, compared to the 13.6-inch MacBook Air) makes it a bit more travel friendly in terms of size, even if it is still 200g heavier.

M2 Performance

  • 8-core CPU / 10-core GPU
  • 16-core Neural Engine

Design changes to one side, the big difference here is performance. The 13-inch MacBook Pro now has the new M2 processor inside, which is the next iteration of the M1 processor announced in 2020.

Well, on paper, at least. We should note that despite the M2 processor representing an evolution from the M1 processor, it’s not as advanced in every area as the M1 Pro, M1 Max or M1 Ultra used in devices like the 2021 MacBook Pro models or the Mac Studio.  

Pocket-lintApple MacBook Pro review photo 1

In a move that confuses things further, however, the M2 does feature the same video processing capabilities as the M1 Ultra – allowing you to edit 4K and 8K footage – which is something that even the M1 Pro or M1 Max MacBook devices can’t do. If you’re planning on video editing, then, this will certainly appeal.

In terms of general performance on offer, the M2 features an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine with a base configuration of 8GB of unified memory.

Unlike the 14-inch MacBook Pro model, which comes in two M1 Pro configurations, life is simpler at the entry-level end of the range. The only upgrade choices you have are whether to add more memory (16GB or 24GB) or more storage (512GB, 1TB, 2TB).

Pocket-lintApple MacBook Pro review photo 4

In action, the M2 is as fast as you would expect.

A 9min 40sec 4K video – around 3.7GB in size – took us around just under two minutes to export in iMovie at the highest settings (4K, Best, ProRes, Better Quality) on the 13-inch MacBook Pro powered by the M2 processor.

The same file takes over three minutes to export on an M1-powered Mac mini with 16GB RAM that we’ve also got in the office. That’s a noticeable difference – and one that will certainly speed up a videographer’s workflow, even if these are fine margins.

The M2 also compares well to the M1 Pro-powered  MacBook (32GB RAM). The file takes just 57 seconds for the more powerful machine, but, at nearly twice the cost, this is to be expected.

That’s all because the ProRes file export is specifically boosted by the ProRes acceleration of the M2 media engine. So, even though the ProRes export is a larger size and higher quality, the export is faster than the 4K comparison project.

And those time savings are huge. The same file export at a lower setting took over twice as long on the M2. If you’re after quick export times, a cut in half is very welcomed. 

Pocket-lintApple MacBook Pro review photo 8

When you aren’t exporting 4K videos, general apps and games work flawlessly. The opening times are minimal, everything is smooth in operation and, despite the model coming with fan support for when you push the processor to the limit, we’ve yet to hear it kick into action.

That’s a great sign of just how easy it can handle most applications and tasks – even if it was a similar story when using the last generation model.

So, the M2 is the next logical evolution of the M1, and, with it, you get the speed improvements you would expect.

These minor changes, combined with a unified memory that can shift around as it likes to best support your apps, mean that you shouldn’t have much issue with this as your everyday driver. 

How long does the MacBook Pro last?

According to Apple, the boost in performance shouldn’t affect the battery life. In fact, the strides made in the processor department mean that the battery life should now last even longer – 20 hours, in fact, which would see it better the 18 hours of the new MacBook Air.

We’re still putting these battery life claims to the test, but, so far, we’ve enjoyed one of the longest-lasting batteries we’ve ever tested on a MacBook Pro.

It’s comparable to the M1 MacBook Pro – so, around 13 hours, but you can stretch that if you turn down the screen brightness and stick to your standard apps. 

Depending how you use it will depend on long it lasts, as is the case with any device. Turn that 500 nits screen up full and start editing 8k video, for example, and you’ll soon see the battery bar plummet.

We’ll continue to test the device in a number of different workflows to provide a clearer picture here, but, for now, we can say that the laptop has easily got us through the day without much effort. And that’s a good start. 

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To recap

The MacBook Pro (M2, 2022) delivers Apple’s latest entry-level processor to an existing model that’s still very functional. It’s just not the best value. So, if you aren’t fussed about having the Touch Bar and don’t crave the ‘Pro’ name, we would recommend waiting to see just how the new MacBook Air performs. Our expectations are that this will be the better model for most people.

Writing by Stuart Miles.


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