PCs

Improved scissor-mechanism keyboard in 13-inch MacBook Pro

Apple has been trying to replace its much-maligned butterfly-mechanism keyboard - first introduced in 2018 - in all its laptops. With the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro, it is finally mission accomplished.

Though I have never encountered issues, Apple has acknowledged that in some instances with this keyboard, letters do not appear or would repeat unexpectedly when the keys are pressed.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with the scissor-mechanism keyboard.

First introduced in the new 16-inch MacBook Pro launched late last year, this keyboard's X-shaped switches have two crossing supports. A rubber dome sits underneath each keycap to deliver a responsive and satisfying key press with 1mm of key travel.

Compared with the butterfly-mechanism version - whose V-shaped switches have a hinge in the middle - this keyboard feels much better to type on. It has a "clicky" feel as well as a very satisfying clunk to each key press. I also like the inverted-T arrow keys arrangement, which makes navigation easier.

The Touch ID/Power button is set slightly apart from the Touch Bar, so you do not mistakenly touch the Touch Bar when pressing it. The Escape key is now a dedicated key, instead of being a virtual key in the Touch Bar.

It is among the little improvements introduced. Typing this review with this keyboard, I made very few typing mistakes.

But unlike the 16-inch MacBook Pro and the latest MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro does not have any major design changes (apart from the keyboard layout) from its predecessors.

In fact, it looks like the ones from 2016 with big bezels around its display. There are no changes in terms of the 13.3-inch True Tone display (which changes colour temperature according to the ambient light), built-in speakers, microphones and webcam. There is still a headphone jack on its right side.

Thankfully, the MacBook Pro's aluminium uni-body build and design has been top-notch since day one. So, you are still getting a great laptop.

There are two versions of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro. While they look identical, the entry-level version has two Thunderbolt 3 ports (on one side) and the higher-end version has four Thunderbolt 3 ports (two on each side).

The entry-level version (from $1,899) comes with eighth-generation Intel Core processors, while the higher-end version (from $2,699) comes with the latest 10th-generation Intel Core processors. The review unit is the base model of the higher-end version.

  • FOR 

  • • New and better scissor-mechanism keyboard 

    • Fast performance

  • AGAINST 

    • No Wi-Fi 6 support 

    • Same design as its predecessors

  • SPECS

    PRICE: From $2,699 (with four Thunderbolt 3 ports)

    DISPLAY: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels

    PROCESSOR: From 10th-generation Intel Core i5 2.0GHz quad-core (configurable up to Intel Core i7 2.3GHz quad-core)

    GRAPHICS: Intel Iris Plus Graphics

    SYSTEM MEMORY: From 16GB (configurable up to 32GB)

    STORAGE: From 512GB SSD (configurable up to 4TB SSD)

    CONNECTIVITY: 4 x Thunderbolt 3

    WEIGHT: 1.4kg

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 3.5/5

    DESIGN: 3.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

I do not see the point of getting an entry-level version, as you might be better off choosing the latest MacBook Air, which also has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, is lighter and features the 10th-generation Intel Core processors.

In terms of speed, the review unit scores 1,175 (single-core) and 4,433 (multi-core) in the GeekBench 5 benchmarking test. The 16-inch MacBook Pro, which uses ninth-generation Intel Core processors, scores 1,122 (single-core) and 6,784 (multi-core).

In everyday usage, I find the 13-inch MacBook Pro to be more than up to the task. I do not experience any lag when editing photos using Affinity Photo - not even with 15 tabs opened on both the Google Chrome and Apple Safari browsers at the same time.

But with the absence of a discrete graphics processing unit, you probably cannot play graphics-intensive games such as Doom Eternal. But I have no issues playing Diablo III and Football Manager 2020 on it.

The bigger downside is its lack of support for the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology. While many might not have a Wi-Fi 6 router at home now, it is good to future-proof your device, especially when a MacBook Pro can usually last about five years or more.

In terms of battery life, the laptop seems to have regressed slightly from the 2019 version. It lasted seven hours and two minutes in the video loopback test, compared with last year's version, which lasted seven hours and 24 minutes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2020, with the headline 'Improved scissor-mechanism keyboard in 13-inch MacBook Pro'. Print Edition | Subscribe