13-inch MacBook Pro differences: More than just Touch Bar

Yesterday, Apple announced the brand new MacBook Pro with the cool new Touch Bar, a strip of display above the keyboard that replaces the function key row with context specific functions that can be customized by users and developers.

However, the company also announced a variant of the smaller 13-inch model without the Touch Bar. Now on surface it seems the lack of Touch Bar is the only real difference, but turns out there’s more.

Apart from the obviously missing Touch Bar, the standard model also does not get Touch ID, which means no fast authentication, no quick user switching, and no ability to pay using Apple Pay online.

Then there are the hardware differences that were mentioned on stage. While the Touch Bar model starts gets a 2.9GHz dual-core Core i5, the standard model gets a 2.0GHz dual-core Core i5. Their boost clock speeds are 3.3GHz and 3.1 GHz, so they do close the gap a fair bit under stress but under nominal load the Touch Bar model will feel faster.

Both models get 256GB base storage but since Apple doesn’t mention the speeds (claimed speeds are for the 512GB storage) we don’t really know how well the 256GB does and if there are any differences between the Touch Bar and non-Touch Bar model.

The RAM is most definitely different. According to the Apple specs page, the Touch Bar model has 8GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory while the standard model has 8GB 1866MHz LPDDR3 memory. Even the 16GB upgrade options for both models have the same 2133MHz and 1866MHz speeds, respectively.

Graphics are also different, with the standard model rocking an Intel Iris Graphics 540 and the Touch Bar model an Intel Iris Graphics 550. Again, the claimed performance improvements by Apple are for the 550 model.

Moving on, the Touch Bar model also gets four Thunderbolt ports, while the standard model gets just two. Considering these are also used for charging, if you have a charger connected you are down to just one usable port on the standard model.

The next two are a bit curious. The Touch Bar model has three microphones on it, whereas the standard model has two. I’m not really sure how much of a difference this would make to, well, anything but it’s worth noting. Second, and even more curious, is that the Touch Bar model has a smaller battery than the standard model, 49.2Wh versus 54.5Wh respectively, to be precise. Apple’s battery life claims are common for both, so this probably won’t make a big real life difference.

Both models can be upgraded with 16GB RAM and 1TB storage but the Touch Bar model can be cranked up to 3.3GHz dual-core Core i7 while the standard model only up to 2.4GHz dual-core Core i7.

Of course, the standard model is $300 cheaper at $1499 than the $1799 Touch Bar model, but it seems it’s well worth spending the bit extra to get all of these things that come with the more expensive model. The standard MacBook Pro really comes across as the now defunct 16GB iPhone, whose only real purpose was to make you want to buy the more expensive model.