Hands on: MacBook Pro review


OUR EARLY VERDICT

To say that the new MacBook Pro is a massive improvement over the previous would be an understatement. It’s more portable and more powerful, not to mention more enjoyable to use. But, it’s tough to justify the premium for that Touch Bar, no matter how cool it is.

FOR

  • Super thin and light
  • Touch Bar smartly designed
  • Gobs of USB-C ports
  • Huge trackpad

AGAINST

  • Touch Bar needs more app support
  • Direct light washes out Touch Bar display

It’s finally here: the new-and-improved MacBook Pro, and it seems to have closed the gap between it and the competition – and them some.

But, the MacBook Pro has done so in ways that matter perhaps even more than Gigahertz and pixels. This is now Apple’s most usable laptop yet. Sure, it’s thinner, lighter and more powerful, but the improved keyboard and trackpad stand to set Apple apart in an even bigger way.

And, that’s before we even get to the Touch Bar (though its mileage may vary).

MacBook Pro price and release date

The spankin’ new MacBook Pro is available for pre-order right now. As for when you’ll get it should you pre-order, that’s another story.

The 13-inch version with standard function keys and two fewer USB-C ports will ship the day you pre-order it.

However, if you want one of the fancy Touch Bar versions, that won’t begin shipping until two to three weeks from now.

Here’s how much the MacBook Pro costs to start, broken down by version:

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (no Touch Bar): $1,499/£1,449/AU$2,199
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (Touch Bar): $1,799/£1,749/AU$2,699
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro: $2,399/£2,349/AU$2,999

Now, let’s get into what’s new about the refreshed MacBook Pro, and what it feels like to use. Spoiler: it’s better – way better.

image1

Design and feel

At first glance, not much has changed about the MacBook Pro’s design. The profile or silhouette generally remains unchanged, save for finally (sadly) losing the illuminated Apple logo on its lid in favor of chrome.

But, take a closer look, and you’ll see that nearly everything has changed. The 13-inch and 15-inch versions of the new MacBook Pro are 17% and 14% thinner than their predecessors, respectively – to the tune of a 14.9mm-thin 13-incher and a 15.5mm-thin 15-incher.

Naturally, with a thinner chassis means lighter weight. The 13-inch version weighs just 3 pounds (nearly half a pound lighter), while the 15-inch model hits the scale at 4 pounds (also shaving off nearly half a pound).

While Apple wouldn’t let you forget it, that makes the 13-inch MacBook Pro now thinner and lighter than the latest (and likely last) MacBook Air. Upon lifting the device, you can definitely tell.

image2

As for the keyboard, Apple claims its second-generation butterfly hinges vastly improve the typing experience from what it was on the 12-inch MacBook. Having recently taken the latest 12-inch MacBook for a test drive, we can attest to these improvements.

Travel is deeper, feedback upon releasing your fingers from a key is punchier. Frankly, this is what the first iteration of the new MacBook keyboard should have been – of course, that’s easy to say.

The Force Touch trackpad has also been hugely improved. For one, the thing is damn enormous – twice as spacious as that on the previous model. This is the kind of trackpad we’ve wanted for a long time on MacBooks, and we finally have it. Plus, activating Force Touch functions, like word lookups, requires much less, well, force than before.

image3

The Touch Bar, and how it works

Now, talking about how the new MacBook Pro feels to use brings us to the tiny elephant in the room: the Touch Bar with Touch ID. It’s a Retina (read: OLED) touch display underneath a matte surface, and that’s key: it means way less smudging on a screen you’re supposed to be touching all of the time.

And yes, if you’re wondering how this little screen performs under direct light: like any matte screen, not very well. But, it’s not as if the screen’s content is unrecognizable under such conditions – there’s just a blatant difference between its look under direct and indirect light.

As you expect from Apple, the way the Touch Bar works is stupid simple. For one, in general use, the Touch Bar just replicates the media-first functions you’re used to from previous MacBooks.

But, when you enter an app supported by the Touch Bar directly – like most Apple-made apps and some third parties, like Adobe Photoshop – you’re presented with an app-specific icon toward the left of the Touch Bar. Pressing this summons a series of app-specific functions.

For instance, when using Messages, this icon renders as a smiley face, offering you the breadth of emojis you’re familiar with on your iPhone. It even remembers your most-used emojis if you’re using Messages on connected iOS devices via the same Apple ID.

image4

Opening the Maps app introduces a directional arrow icon, which when pressed presents a series of specific commands, like walking, public transit and driving directions, or specific types of locations of interest to hone in on.

The Touch Bar supports 10-point multitouch as well as gestures, though we doubt there will be any applications of the tool requiring all 10 of your digits, much less fit them all on there.

All told, the Touch Bar works as seamlessly as you’d expect from the company: Apple wrote the playbook on touch devices, practically.

Regardless, that still doesn’t make the Touch Bar hugely useful – we’re having a hard time seeing anything that the Touch Bar can do vastly better or more easily than the MacBook Pro’s much-improved keyboard and trackpad. Even before the improvements, weren’t they just fine?

Well, except for DJing: this thing is going to be a record scratcher’s dream.

image5

What’s inside

Powering the entire range of MacBook Pro models, including the one sans Touch Bar and with just two USB-C ports, are 6th generation (or Skylake) Intel processors – not the brand new Kaby Lake chips. (The 13-inch models offer dual-core i5 or i7, while the 15-inch model offers quad-core versions of those chips.)

It’s a surprising (if even disappointing) move, but we doubt it’s going to mean much to the overall experience. If anything, using chips that have been in cycle for longer should mean fewer issues.

Backing that up is Intel integrated graphics on the 13-inch models, meanwhile the 15-inch version offers AMD Radeon Pro 450 graphics with 2GB of video RAM to start. (You can also upgrade to the Radeon Pro 460 chip with double the video RAM.

image6

As for storage, all models start with 256GB of solid-state storage, upgradeable to 1TB in the 13-inch versions and up to a massive 2TB in the 15-inch version. Apple claims that all of these drives are markedly faster than those in previous MacBook Pros, but we’ll have to save testing that for a full review.

One the memory front, the 13-inch models start with 8GB of RAM, upgradeable to 16GB – the 15-incher just comes with 16GB and calls it a day.

All of this sits behind Apple’s Retina display that, save for a 67% increase in brightness and the same boost in contrast, remains the same resolution. So, that’s 2,560 x 1,600 on the 13-incher, and 2,800 x 1,800 on the 15-inch model. Regardless, the screen looks as gorgeous as ever, and media professionals will appreciate the wider color gamut.

And finally, the connectivity on offer amounts to four USB-C ports with Thunderbolt and charging, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 round out the package. Of course, none of this saves you from having to buy at least one adapter – especially if you’re an iPhone user that likes to hard wire.

image7

Early verdict

There’s no doubt that this is the best MacBook Pro ever made. It’s thinner, lighter, more powerful and has improved inputs on top of a brand new one, the Touch Bar. If you’re in the market for a laptop upgrade, you just found one of the most worthy options around.

But, we’re having trouble reconciling the Touch Bar, especially for the premium it presents when next to the version with standard function keys and half the USB-C ports.

It costs another 300 bucks to get an insanely cool feature that, frankly, you might not even use. (Compound that with being asked to pay $400 more for the new entry-level MacBook Pro now than before – ouch.)

All told, though, this is the long-overdue MacBook Pro refresh we’ve been waiting for. It’s thinner, lighter, more powerful and easier to use than before with improved inputs. The MacBook Pro was lagging behind the competition for a while there, but now it’s caught up and then some in ways beyond just “more power.” To know by exactly how much, you’ll have to wait for our full review.

Sourse: techradar.com

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32 Comments
  1. Reply mindpower October 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Is it just me or is that trackpad *too* big? I can easily see myself accidentally brushing it with my thumbs. And why do you need such a big trackpad anyway, it’s not like you can do precision drawing with it the way you can with a stylus.

    • Reply Pawel October 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Yeah, I have the same concerns. And I am 100% that when writing I will accidentally put my thumbs there, like I am doing now on much smaller Lenovo touchpad. But maybe Apple has a system to prevent/skip this.

  2. Reply DecimationPro October 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

    How can the price not be a negative for the reviewer, the $2799 15″ device has 512 GB of SSD, an i7, 16 GB of RAM, a 2GB GPU and a 2800×1800 px screen.

    It is cheaper then the new surface book but it can’t be used as a tablet and isn’t for professional use in my opinion (who would use a 15″ laptop for CAD, Development or Art).

    Frankly both are way overpriced, I can understand the Surface Studio for professionals but not these two outdated devices.

  3. Reply Edward Davies October 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Pfffft…. boring and overpriced. Enjoy Fanboys.

  4. Reply memtronic October 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Dumb move Apple. Apple is not an innovator anymore. They are not even trying to catch-up, ’cause they are trying to fool anyone that their vision is the best. Odd vision: asking a lot more just for subtle design change, and some gimmick? How much iSheep herd will take this s__t?

  5. Reply Don Draper October 28, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Not really the mind-blowing thing we were expecting…

  6. Reply MattMe October 28, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I love how the ‘Pro’ laptop has ditched all ports in favour of C. I mean, it’d be a great place to be in say 10 years when everyone’s devices have moved to the new standard, but not in 2016 where there’s barely more than a handful of options that are compatible with USB C. Even cables and chargers are risky unless you know they’re good.

    My favourite bit is the Lightning port. iPhone 7 users have been truly bummed here. I mean, it’s not as though anyone with a clue didn’t see it coming. The iPhone 7 doesn’t come with a cable to connect it to the new MBP. The iPhone 7 doesn’t come with headphones that will work on the MBP without an adaptor. MBP and iPhone7 users will have to carry bags of cables and adaptors and hubs and really, it’s too much for me to take in.
    Are people seriously buying into this? It’s the biggest example of an inward-facing company being so self-absorbed that it fails to even recognise it contradicts itself. Too busy trying to sell headphones with propitiatory ports…

  7. Reply Face Star October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Not much has improved. Who for God sake is using Laptop keyboard when at home or at work ? Laptop should be docked and connected to monitor. I almost never use laptop keyboard and I am a software developer. So laptops is what I do my work. So improvements to internal keyboard is irrelevant for me. And let me tell you, if having an additional screen on keyboard made any sense it would already be implemented by keyboard manufactures. None of them doing something similar as people just do not need it.

    Regarding size. Old MacBook Pro was getting pretty hot under the heavy use. Now it is getting even smaller. Do you think Intel CPUs that pretty much are the same of what they used to be will become any cooler ? No they still need a space for air flow. And there is less space available. I will see how this is addressed.

    Ports. I am happy that Apple is pushing for new standards and updating ports all at once but there are so many legacy devices that need a standard USB port so expecting everyone switch all at once to mini USB is ridiculous. Now I would need to carry with me a USB hub ? Dash it. I will use old MacBook Pro.

    • Reply VulpineMac October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Item 1: I will agree that many laptops in corporate use tend to have external keyboards attached; but by no means all. For many, that laptop IS their desktop and if an external monitor is used, it’s usually at the personal expense of the user. The same goes with an external keyboard.

      Item 2: I suggest you either view the announcement video or study the “x-ray” imagery, as the MacBook Pro has two squirrel-cage fans designed with the specific purpose of pulling air in through any opening (keyboards, connection ports, etc.) and vent them out the back. For as thin as they are, there are specific heat-management components within the computer.

      Item 3: The ports are called Thunderbolt 3 but are virtually identical to USB-c which has been announced as a new standard for several months now. You may need adaptors in the short term, but new devices are going to be more likely to already have USB-c cables as the standard becomes more ubiquitous.

      Meanwhile, I have to ask why most people need laptops anyway. They’re essentially nothing more than very portable desktops and desktop computing makes use of much larger screens for ease of viewing. If you need a mobility device, a tablet is a much more logical choice, making the need for a keyboard and pointer device optional equipment.

      • Reply Face Star October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

        People need laptops as they work a) in the office b) at home c) in some other not known ahead of time places. Sure enough I would settle with a more powerful super charged desktop if I never need to leave my home. I am not alone – pretty much every developer I know is about do the same thing -works at office sometimes and sometimes at home.

        Regarding external keyboard – productivity matters. External keyboard allows to enter more characters per minute. Period. There is no discussion here. No matter how fast person type using minified laptop internal keyboard this person will type more using more ergonomic external keyboard. So if you use internal keyboard when there is an option to use external one your productivity suffers. If you can afford it – good for you. I could not and as per my observations not many people can.

        The same apply to touchpad. I use it only if mouse was forgotten at home and it happens extremely rare. And it is not matter of preference. It is matter of productivity. I might like touchpad or might like simplicity of using internal keyboard but it is less productive. Less productivity means less money I make at the end of the day. So using monitor, keyboard and mouse is preferable choice when laptop is used for work.

        • VulpineMac October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

          What I’m reading is a lot of excuses. A laptop keyboard is a full-sized keyboard, albeit perhaps missing those right-side keys that some seem to think are so critical. No, if you have a problem with a laptop keyboard it’s not the size you’re complaining about, it’s the style of keys. Me, I type faster on “chicklet”-style keys than I do on full-motion keys, so the laptop keyboard is by no means a limiting factor to me.

          I also prefer the touchpad and have always complained that they were too small. The size of the MacBook Pro touchpad is probably the best I’ve ever seen.

          But as I said before, a laptop is nothing but a portable desktop. I understand that a lot of people use them as desktops, especially if they work from both an office and from home. BUT, that is not everybody. A lot of people carry laptops when they would do just as well if not better with a decent sized tablet similar to the Surface or the iPad Pro.

          How you use your tools is your business. But that doesn’t mean your way is the only way. I see a lot of people grossly under-utilizing their laptops simply because they feel like they need a full-powered PC for everything.

  8. Reply Paul T October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I can see Apple likes the idea of pushing technology forward, but not at the expense of connecting to the world as it currently is! Having ONLY USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports is not great. The current Mac I’m using is connected to wired network via TB adapter, projector via HDMI or VGA, audio card USB-A and USB based storage and moves around quite a lot. I have a plethora of adapters already – having things many adapters hanging off the computer makes the whole thing rather delicate in confined spaces were I usually work. I could probably live with charging via USB-C but not a single USB-A port means when someone comes along with memory stick I’ll have to find an adapter. I resigned to having to carry around a Thunderbolt dock should I get one of these Macs – which undermines having a thin light laptop in the first place.
    The large price hike (and lack of latest CPU) are another reason why I might not buy one for now..

  9. Reply Dr. Stephen Falken October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Removing the magnetic power connector is a HUGE mistake. That have saved my laptop many many times.
    Stupid move even if they go for a standardised USB-C connector.

    • Reply Ikigai October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      I have an iPhone connector from ASAP that has a short lightning connector with a magnetic connector the other, thus doing for the phone what the magsafe does for my macbook air. I believe they are wrking on a usb-c version now

  10. Reply sguyx October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    a year old processor, and not even qc in 13″, only dc cpu. Price tags are ridiculous.

  11. Reply newfguy October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    whine, whine , whine. Apple is such an easy target for tech bloggers who could always do it better in their dream world of achieving something

    • Reply sguyx October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      we dont need bloggers, there are already Asus, HP and Dell.
      Zenbook, Spectre, XPS and even with 7th gen cpu (kaby lake).

      apple only use 6th gen cpu… 1-1,5 year od cpu…

  12. Reply Octavian October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    The only things Apple has as advantages are build quality and service. However, Dell, Lenovo, Asus, HP, and even Acer are catching up. How long can Apple maintain this charade? When will they show us something truly innovative? Incremental improvements are leading the company to go the way of Polaroid and RCA.

    • Reply sguyx October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      asus zenbook has a very good quality, full aluminium body. and hp spectre is such a beauty

  13. Reply justcurious1 October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    We’ll see about the touch bar but it seems like a gimmick to me. From a pro user’s perspective, the specs are fine, but the lack of upgradability is bad. If they had announced compatibility with the iPad stylus and eGPU options, I would have been way more impressed.

  14. Reply Ikigai October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    You are saying that the 13 inch is upgradeable to 1TB…on the UK Apple store I don’t see any option to upgrade from 256gb…and the 15 inch has an upgrade to 1TB, but not 2.

    • Reply VulpineMac October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      I suggest you look again, Ikigai. While I admit I can’t go to the UK store to confirm your statement, the US store clearly has 2TB available. However, I recall from the announcement yesterday that the machine as a whole with the Touch Bar would be US only for a few months.

  15. Reply John October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    Ridiculous price. Pure Apple profiteering.

  16. Reply BenWizards October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I still can’t believe that they’re shipping laptops at this price point with NON-UPGRADEABLE RAM and it’s only 8 or 16GB!!

    • Reply Dr. Stephen Falken October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Probably because most people never upgrade the memory in their laptop?

  17. Reply Jonathan Fox October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I’m out Apple. A Macbook pro for the same price as a used small car with all the ports removed. You must be having a laugh. I feel the tide is turning for apple here, they’ve gone too far. Shame really.

  18. Reply MattMe October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

    I love how the ‘Pro’ laptop has ditched all ports in favour of C. I mean, it’d be a great place to be in say 10 years when everyone’s devices have moved to the new standard, but not in 2016 where there’s barely more than a handful of options that are compatible with USB C. Even cables and chargers are risky unless you know they’re good.

    My favourite bit is the Lightning port. iPhone 7 users have been truly bummed here. I mean, it’s not as though anyone with a clue didn’t see it coming. The iPhone 7 doesn’t come with a cable to connect it to the new MBP. The iPhone 7 doesn’t come with headphones that will work on the MBP without an adaptor. MBP and iPhone7 users will have to carry bags of cables and adaptors and hubs and really, it’s too much for me to take in.
    Are people seriously buying into this? It’s the biggest example of an inward-facing company being so self-absorbed that it fails to even recognise it contradicts itself. Too busy trying to sell headphones with propitiatory ports…

    • Reply VulpineMac October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      You seem to forget how Apple pushed the adoption of the original USB bus by making that the only communications bus on the first iMac. To me it’s a good thing and will help drive future standards.

    • Reply Octavian October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

      This is a very apt analysis. Apple hasn’t come up with anything truly original since the iPhone, and even that was a clone (a better clone, but still a clone). All they do is increment, and hope nobody notices that their devices are outclassed and outgunned by Dell, Lenovo, and others.
      How can I justify spending upwards of $1000 extra for the MacBook Pro 15 versus a similarly equipped Dell XPS 15? Same logic applies for the 13″ model.

      • Reply VulpineMac October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

        I wonder how many people remember having to use cardboard templates to identify the old function keys for specific apps? This does that PLUS allows an analog-style control for many different audio and visual applications and could even include such for gaming.

        • Octavian October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

          This may have been useful 30 years ago, but it’s redundant now. It’s new for the sake of having something new to present every year, not for the sake of functionality.

        • VulpineMac October 29, 2016 at 9:00 am

          Personally I will disagree and note that the odds are high that other brands will attempt to copy the concept soon enough, starting with Microsoft likely putting their “Ribbons” onto it the way they have with the Mac version of Office for this model.

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