13-inch MacBook Pro M1 review: Amazing breakthroughs in processing and battery performance

For years, it’s been iPhone this, iPhone that. And for good reason. But now, the Mac—the platform that pushed Apple to the forefront of computing—is back in the spotlight. And for good reason.

While the Intel years were good for the Mac, Apple needed something to take its computer to the next level. That something now comes in the form of Apple’s own system on a chip (SoC), called the M1. Along with macOS Big Sur (the OS built for the M1), the Mac makes breakthroughs in performance and battery efficiency that were never possible with Intel silicon.

This review takes a look at the $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro, which has an Apple 8-core M1. This SoC includes 8GB of RAM and an 8-core graphics processor. The laptop also comes with a 256GB SSD, a 13.3-inch LED-backlit display, a 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery, and a 61W USB-C power adapter.

As the tests will show, this Mac is an astounding machine.

13-inch MacBook Pro M1: Performance benchmarks

Apple made bold claims during its “One more thing event” on November 10. The company said its new 13-inch MacBook Pro’s M1 CPU is up to 2.8 times faster than the 1.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 in a same-sized MacBook Pro. (This Intel Core i7 was available as a built-to-order option for the previous $1,299 13-inch MacBook Pro, a machine that came standard with a 1.4GHz quad-core Core i5 when it was released earlier this year.)

We don’t have this specific laptop that Apple uses for its performance comparison. But we do have three other MacBook Pro models that can help us draw some conclusions as we test them against the 13-inch MacBook Pro M1. Specifically:

  • The $1,799 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.0GHz quad-core Core i5 (it’s still available for purchase)
  • The 2019 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 1.4GHz quad-core Core i5 (it originally sold for $1,299)
  • The beefed-up 16-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.4GHz 8-core Core i9 (with its 32GB of RAM and 2TB SSD, it sells right now for $3,899)

So what did we find out? Well, we might not have been able to replicate Apple’s 2.8 times increase in performance, but what we did see was exciting nonetheless. Sometimes the results left us awestruck.

Geekbench 5 Single CPU and Multi CPU benchmarks

13in m1 mbp geekbench 5 IDG

Results are expressed in Geekbench scores. Higher scores/longer bars are better.

We first turn to Geekbench 5, where the new M1 delivered awesome results. In the benchmark’s Single Core test, the M1 MacBook Pro left all of the other laptops in the dust, showing an 85 percent improvement over the 1.4GHz MacBook Pro; 34 percent over the 2.0GHz Core i5 MacBook Pro; and 40 percent over the 16-inch model.