This is one of 5 articles dedicated to Apple’s Macbooks:

1. How you can choose the ideal Macbook 12″
2. How to choose the best Macbook Air 11.6″
3. How to choose the best Macbook Air 13.3″
4. How to choose the best Macbook Pro 13.3″ (this article)
5. How to choose the best Apple 15.4″ Macbook Pro

Who is the 13.3″ Macbook Pro ideal for?

Anyone who wants a laptop that offers outstanding performance, is solid, light weight, with an excellent battery life, great backlit keyboard and trackpad, without the bulk, price nor requirement of the higher performance of the Macbook Pro 15.4″.

What is the Macbook Pro 13.3″ good for?

  • Web browsing
  • Office work (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)
  • Emails
  • Listening to music
  • Watching TV/movies from local files or streaming.
  • Audio/photo/video editing. Are you a pro working with heavy files and demanding programs? You may want to consider the more powerful Macbook Pro 15.4″.
The Macbook Pro 13.3", Retina display, solid, reliable, .6" thick and 3lbs.

The Macbook Pro 13.3″, Retina display, solid, reliable, .6″ thick and 3lbs.

Why do you want the 13.3″ Macbook Pro: Pros

  • Outstanding display: 2560 x 1600 13.3″ Retina display, with an IPS panel for accurate colors and great viewing angles.
  • High-performance 2133MHz or 1866MHz memory.
  • Very high performance PCIe solid state drive storage.
  • Better performance than the Macbook 12: Dual-core CPUs with much higher frequencies, resulting in better performance.
  • Only 3 lbs and 0.6″ thick. Not as thin nor as light as the Macbook, but still very portable for such a powerful laptop.
  • It’s an Apple computer: Mac OS X, Time Machine backup, many built-in apps, highly reliable, excellent customer service.
  • Excellent keyboard, great for typing
  • Backlit keyboard
  • High-end performance storage makes your computer feel more responsive.
  • Very quiet: The fan is hardly audible, unless you push the CPU to 100% for a long time.
  • Long battery life: 10 hours of web browsing
  • Solid chassis: All-aluminum unibody
  • Solid screen hinge
  • Excellent trackpad, with great multi-touch support
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • Latest generation 802.11ac WiFi

Why you might not want the 13.3″ Macbook Pro: Cons

  • Somewhat expensive: Starting at $1399.99 (Late 2016 model) or $1199.99 (Early 2015 model).
  • Limited amount of ports: 2 or 4 Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C is all you get. You’ll most likely require an adapter (dongle), USB hub or a dock for your older USB Type-A devices, memory cards and such.
  • Good, but not the best CPU performance: The Macbook Pro 13.3″ is equipped with a dual-core CPU. Not ideal for heavy photo/video editing, heavy multitasking or demanding programs where high sustained CPU performance is required. You’ll want the Macbook Pro 15.4″ if performance is your #1 priority.
  • Limited GPU (video card) performance. Not ideal for fast video editing or 3D rendering: you want the Macbook Pro 15.4″ with its dedicated video card for that.
  • No LAN port. You can a USB adapter for 10/100 speed, or a Thunderbolt adapter for Gigabit speed.
  • No optical drive. You can get an external USB powered optical drive, if you want to.
  • No Numpad
  • The Macbook Pro RAM cannot be upgraded: It’s soldered.
  • The SSD storage cannot be be upgraded on the Macbook Pro 13 with touchbar: it’s soldered.
  • SSD storage can be upgraded only on the non-touchbar models, if you can find a SSD that fits the proprietary connector, have the right tool, don’t mind following a guide to disassemble your Macbook Pro and a guide to copy your data.

How to Choose your Macbook Pro 13.3″

What you need to know:

Late 2016 Apple Macbook Pro 13.3″ models:

All the late 2016 models have this in common:

Dimensions: Width x Thickness x Depth: 12.0 x 0.6 x 8.4″ / 30.5 x 1.5 x 21.3 cm
Weight: 3.00 lbs (1.36kg)
GPU: Intel Iris Graphics 540
Screen: 2560 x 1600 13.3″ Retina display, with an IPS panel for accurate colors and great viewing angles.
Storage: High performance PCI-Express based SSDs (Solid State Drive) storage. This offers you a better computer experience because it responds to your inputs much more quickly. Programs launch far more quickly, the Operating System starts in seconds and resumes from sleep instantaneously. No noise, no vibration, higher reliability and higher resistance to shocks. See the SSD FAQ for more details on SSDs.
Ports: With Touch bar: 4 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) Ports, 3.5mm combo jack. Without Touch Bar: 2 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) Ports, 3.5mm combo jack
Networking: 802.11ac 2×2:2, Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: Up to 10 hours
OS: macOS Sierra, with many built-in apps. Windows through Bootcamp, if needed.

The 5 differences between all the models:

touchbar

1. Touch Bar or No Touch Bar:
Number of Ports, CPU & RAM performance, Battery Life and Price

You have the choice of buying your Macbook with the new Touch Bar or the classic row of function keys (F1, F2, etc.).

The Touch Bar is basically a thin and wide touchscreen above the number row, with useful shortcuts that are based on the app that you are using, that can be customized as you wish.

On the far right side, it features a touch ID sensor, for secure login and secure purchases.

Some people love it, some people hate it. I think that it’s a matter of getting used to it, so that it becomes a second nature to take advantage of it.

That said, it’s optional on the new Macbook Pro 13, so you can choose to get it or not.

Be aware that having a touch bar or not also affects 4 other things!

1- Number of Thunderbolt / USB Type-C Ports
Models with the touch bar have twice the number (4x) Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) Ports, while the models without the touch bar are limited to two Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C) Ports. Keep in mind that charging your Macbook uses one of those ports.

2- CPU performance
Models without the touch bar are limited to lower performance CPUs, while models with the touch bar are equipped with higher performance CPUs. See the section below for more details about this.

3- Memory (RAM) performance
Models with the touch bar are equipped with faster 2133MHz RAM, while models without the touch bar are equipped with 1866MHz RAM.

4- Battery life
Models with the touch bar are rated for one hour less of battery life, due to the higher power requirements of their higher performance CPU and the power required for the touch bar.

5- Price
Finally, the models with the touch bar are more expensive than the ones without the touch bar.

2. Choose between 2 or 3 levels of CPU performance:

You see, depending on whether you choose a Macbook with or without a touch bar, it will be equipped with different CPUs.

Basically, the models that are equipped with the touch bar offers higher CPU performance, with significantly higher base frequencies.

Macbook Pro 13, no touch bar, from the lowest to highest performance:
– Intel Core i5-6360U Skywell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.0-3.1GHz
– Intel Core i7-6660U Skywell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.4-3.4GHz

Macbook Pro 13, with touch bar, from the lowest to highest performance:
– Intel Core i5-6267U Skywell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– Intel Core i5-6287U Skywell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.1-3.5GHz
– Intel Core i7-6567U Skywell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.3-3.6GHz

The difference is in the base and Turbo clock frequencies (speed). Higher frequencies (number in GHz) mean higher performance.

3. Three storage capacities:
256GB, 512GB or 1TB (1024GB)

Unsure about how whether you want 256GB, 512GB or 1TB (1024GB) of storage?

Read our article on How to choose the right SSD storage capacity and pay less for your computer to figure it out.

4. Choose between 8GB or 16GB of memory (RAM)

4GB_RAM_macbook_airYou have the choice between 8GB and 16GB of memory.

Is 8GB of RAM enough for you or do you want 16GB?

It depends on what you intend to do with your Macbook Pro.

If you only use your MacBook Pro to run a few basic programs at once, like email, some Excel, Word, a web browser, and iTunes, 8GB is plenty of memory.

On the other hand, if you run multiple programs at once, run heavier programs (audio/photo/video/3D), like to multitask and have no time to lose, 16 GB is the wiser option.

If you intend on keeping your Macbook Pro for many years, going with 16GB is a good idea, seeing as memory usage keeps increasing, with newer versions of programs using more and more memory.

Keep in mind that the memory is soldered in the Macbook Pro computer, so you cannot add memory to upgrade your computer.

5. Color

It’s available in either Silver or Space Grey.

Macbook 13.3″ Late 2016 without a Touch Bar: 

Core i5 2.0-3.1GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1,349.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.0-3.1GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1,699.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.0-3.1GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,099.00 at B&H

Core i5 2.0-3.1GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1,649.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.0-3.1GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1,899.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.0-3.1GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,299.00 at B&H

Core i7 2.4-3.4GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1,799.00 at B&H
Core i7 2.4-3.4GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1,999.00 at B&H
Core i7 2.4-3.4GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,399.00 at B&H

Core i7 2.4-3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1,999.00 at B&H
Core i7 2.4-3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $2,199.00 at B&H
Core i7 2.4-3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,599.00 at B&H

Macbook 13.3″ Late 2016 with a Touch Bar:

Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1,699.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $1,899.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,399.00 at B&H

Core i5 3.1-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1,899.00 at B&H
Core i5 3.1-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $2,099.00 at B&H
Core i5 3.1-3.5GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,499.00 at B&H

Core i7 3.3-3.6GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage: $2,099.00 at B&H
Core i7 3.3-3.6GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage: $2,299.00 at B&H
Core i7 3.3-3.6GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,699.00 at B&H

Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $1,999.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $2,199.00 at B&H
Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,599.00 at B&H

Core i5 3.1-3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $2,099.00 at B&H
Core i5 3.1-3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $2,299.00 at B&H
Core i5 3.1-3.5GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,699.00 at B&H

Core i7 3.3-3.6GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage: $2,299.00 at B&H
Core i7 3.3-3.6GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage: $2,499.00 at B&H
Core i7 3.3-3.6GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage: $2,899.00 at B&H

Early 2015 Apple Macbook Pro 13.3″ models:

If you aren’t a fan of the new design with only Thunderbolt / USB Type-C ports or if you wish to spend less money, the early 2015 models are a fine alternative.

Differences between the early 2015 models and the late 2016 models

The early 2015 models are roughly half a pound heavier, slightly thicker (.1″),

Performance wise, they are equipped with 5th generation of Intel CPUs instead of the 6th generation, so at the same frequencies they are 5-10% slower, but depending on which CPU your Macbook Pro 13.3 is equipped with, you may end up with similar or higher CPU performance compared to a similarly priced late 2016 Macbook Pro 13.3. That said, you will get lower performance integrated graphics, not that it matters much for most users.

Ports wise, on the early 2015 models you get a SDCX card reader, a HDMI output, 2x USB 3.0 Type-A ports, two ThunderBolt 2 ports and the MagSafe power connector, compared to two or four ThunderBolt 3/USB Type-C ports on the late 2016 models.

All the early 2015 models have this in common:

Dimensions: Height: 0.7″/ 1.8cm, Width: 12.3″/31.2cm, Depth: 8.6″/21.8cm
Weight: 3.46 lbs (1.57kg)
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 6100
Screen: 2560 x 1600 13.3″ Retina display, with an IPS panel for accurate colors and great viewing angles.
Storage: High performance PCI-Express based SSDs (Solid State Drive) storage. This offers you a better computer experience because it responds to your inputs much more quickly. Programs launch far more quickly, the Operating System starts in seconds and resumes from sleep instantaneously. No noise, no vibration, higher reliability and higher resistance to shocks. See the SSD FAQ for more details on SSDs.
Ports: 2x USB3.0 (A), 2x ThunderBolt 2 (Mini DisplayPort via Thunderbolt port), 1x HDMI, SDXC card reader, 3.5mm combo jack
Networking: 802.11ac 2×2:2, Bluetooth 4.0
Battery: Up to 9 hours
OS: Mac OS X Yosemite or El Capitan: free upgrade to macOS Sierra, with many built-in apps. Windows through Bootcamp, if needed.

The 3 differences between all the models:

1. Choose between 3 levels of CPU performance:

From the lowest to highest performance:
– Intel Core i5-5257U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.7-3.1GHz
– Intel Core i5-5287U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– Intel Core i7-5557U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.1-3.4GHz

The difference is in the base and Turbo clock frequencies (speed). Higher frequencies (GHz) mean higher performance.

2. Four storage capacities:
128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB (1024GB)

Unsure about how whether you want 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB (1024GB) of storage?

Read our article on How to choose the right SSD storage capacity and pay less for your computer to figure it out.

3. Choose between 8GB or 16GB of memory (RAM)

4GB_RAM_macbook_air You have the choice between 8GB and 16GB of memory.

Is 8GB of RAM enough for you or do you want 16GB?

It depends on what you intend to do with your Macbook Pro.

If you only use your MacBook Pro to run a few basic programs at once, like email, some Excel, Word, a web browser, and iTunes, 8GB is plenty of memory.

On the other hand, if you run multiple programs at once, run heavier programs (audio/photo/video/3D), like to multitask and have no time to lose, 16 GB is the wiser option.

If you intend on keeping your Macbook Pro for many years, going with 16GB is a good idea, as newer versions of programs tend to use more and more memory.

Keep in mind that the memory is soldered in the Macbook Pro computer, so you cannot add memory to upgrade your computer.

The 17 recommended configurations

1. Intel Core i5 2.7-3.1GHz, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage
$1129.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5257U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.7-3.1GHz
– 8GB RAM
– 128GB of storage

A good choice if you want a Macbook Pro at the lowest price possible. You do get the lowest CPU, only 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM.

2. Intel Core i5 2.7-3.1GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage
$1499.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5257U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.7-3.1GHz
– 8GB RAM
– 256GB of storage

Compared to the model above, you get twice the storage capacity, at 256GB. CPU performance and RAM are identical.

If you want higher performance and or 512GB of storage, see alternatives below.

3. Intel Core i5 2.7-3.1GHz, 16GB RAM, 128GB storage
$1499.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5257U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.7-3.1GHz
– 16GB RAM
– 128GB of storage

A good choice if you want 16GB of RAM at the lowest price possible. You get only 128GB of storage though.

4. Intel Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 16GB RAM, 128GB storage
$1599.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5287U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– 16GB RAM
– 128GB of storage

RAM and storage are the same as above, but you get a faster CPU.

A good choice if you want the second highest performance CPU available for the Macbook Pro 13.3″, with 16GB of RAM. You only get 128GB of storage, so if you want more performance and/or more storage, keep scrolling.

5. Intel Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage
$1534.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5287U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– 8GB RAM
– 256GB of storage

Compared to the model above, you get twice the storage capacity but half the RAM.

6. Intel Core i5 2.7-3.1GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage
$1699.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5257U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.7-3.1GHz
– 16GB RAM
– 256GB of storage

If you want 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Compared to the two models above, you get a slightly lower performance CPU though.

7. Intel Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage
$1699.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5287U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– 8GB RAM
– 512GB of storage

A good choice if you want the second highest performance CPU available for the Macbook Pro 13.3″ Early 2015.

You also get 512GB of storage but only 8GB of RAM.

9. Intel Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage
$1799.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5287U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– 16GB RAM
– 256GB of storage

Here you get the second fastest CPU available in the Macbook Pro 13.3″ Early 2015 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

12. Intel Core i7 3.1-3.4GHz, 8GB RAM, 512GB storage
$1899.99 at B&H

– Intel Core i7-5557U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.1-3.4GHz
– 8GB RAM
– 512GB of storage

Compared to the model above, you get twice the amount of storage capacity, but you get 8GB of RAM instead of 16GB

Fastest CPU available in the Mac, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

13. Intel Core i7 3.1-3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage
$2199.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i7-5557U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.1-3.4GHz
– 16GB RAM
– 512GB of storage

Want the fastest CPU available in the Macbook Pro 13.3″ with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage?

14. Intel Core i5 2.9-3.3GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage
$2199.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5287U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– 8GB RAM
– 1TB (1024GB) of storage

Second fastest CPU, 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. If you want 1TB of storage, but with the fastest CPU and/or more RAM, see the models below.

15. Intel Core i7 3.1-3.4GHz, 8GB RAM, 1TB storage
$2469.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i7-5557U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.1-3.4GHz
– 8GB RAM
– 1TB of storage

If you want the fastest CPU available in the early 2015 Macbook Pro 13.3″, 1TB of storage and only need 8GB of RAM, this is the model for you.

16. Intel Core i7 2.9-3.3GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage
$2499.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i5-5287U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 2.9-3.3GHz
– 16GB RAM
– 1TB (1024GB) of storage

Compared to the model above, you still get 1TB of storage, with 16GB of RAM but a slightly slower CPU.

17. Intel Core i7 3.1-3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage
$2599.00 at B&H

– Intel Core i7-5557U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.1-3.4GHz
– 16GB RAM
– 1TB of storage

This is the highest-end configuration for the early 2015 Macbook Pro 13.3″. You get the Intel Core i7-5557U Broadwell, Dual-Core + Hyper-Threading 3.1-3.4GHz CPU, 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

 

Conclusion

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this article on how you can choose the ideal Macbook Pro 13.3″.

Do you have any feedback or any questions? Are you unsure which Macbook Pro 13.3″ is the best one for you?

Please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.