The 13in MacBook Pro is a highly capable notebook, but we can't help feeling that something is missing, particularly when the old white MacBook has a very similar specification and a lower price. Onboard 3G would be a good fit for such a compact MacBook, but its absence doesn't make this model any less desirable.
Robust build; low weight; excellent battery life.
No matte screen option; fixed battery may restrict some people.
The new 13in MacBook Pro is aimed at people who like the look of Apple's other aluminium 'unibody' models, but don't want to lug around a leviathan laptop just to have Mac OS on the move, or pay a premium for the MacBook Air.
Externally, the 13in MacBook Pro has the same sumptuous good looks as its 15in and 17in siblings, but it weighs a good half a kilo less than the 15in model. It fits more comfortably on the lap too, which is an important consideration if you're prone to working on the train or in cramped economy-class airline seats.
The all-aluminium construction means that the 13in MacBook Pro feels very robust and, like other the other unibody models, there are no external vents to worry about keeping clear. Apple has sensibly relegated all expansion ports to the left side of the laptop and, while this means that there's a plug scrum when they're all in use, the cables are at least kept neatly to one side.
All MacBook Pro models gained an SD Card with Apple's June refresh, and FireWire is now standard on all models. The port was absent from the previous 15in MacBook Pro, much to the annoyance of many. Apple has settled for FireWire 800 ports on all MacBook Pro models though, so you'll need an inexpensive 400-to-800 adapter to connect digital video camcorders and many external FireWire hard drives.
As with other MacBook Pros, the 13in has Apple's new glass multi-touch trackpad and 'Scrabble tile' keyboard, and both are extremely comfortable to use.
The 13.3in glass screen has the same frameless design as the other MacBook Pros but, unlike the 17in model, there's no anti-glare option. We can't help feeling that this is a mis-step for this model since, while the LED backlight gives a wonderfully bright and vibrant image, the screen's highly reflective glossy coating makes it all but useless outdoors, which is where a compact notebook like this will often be used.
One other small caveat with the 13in MacBook Pro is that the battery is non-removable. This is something of a trend with Apple products, although its supporting arguments about increased battery life do seem to hold water (or electrons). The 13in MacBook Pro gives an impressive six hours of typical internet use but, while this is impressive for any laptop, it's no consolation when you can't swap in a spare cell on a 10-hour flight.
With a starting price of £899, the 13in MacBook Pro is good value and highly recommended if you need a powerful Mac OS laptop that's both affordable and portable. The only hiccup is that the white MacBook is still on sale and, thanks to recent specification bumps, has largely the same set of features as the 13in MacBook Pro. In fact, its matte screen, removable battery and FireWire 400 port might make it even more appealing, as long as you can live with its dated design, that is.