I’m so excited to write this article. This post was indeed written on a 15” MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, configured to the top-spec 2.9 GHz quad-core Core i7 and 4 GB AMD Radeon Pro 460 GPU. I’m writing this on a beast, about the beast.
I have used a MacBook Pro for over 4 years now, and because I’m just 18 years old, I’ll call myself a seasoned Mac user. My first (and previous) MacBook was a 13” baseline MacBook Pro from 2012, and it did not have a Retina Display, nor did it have a dedicated graphics unit. In fact, it sported only 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB HDD until I recently upgraded it to 8 GB of RAM and an SSD. The new MacBook Pro is the biggest piece of tech I’ve owned, and now that I’m using it, it feels unbelievable.
First impressions: It is powerful, extremely sleek and has by-far one of the best laptop displays I’ve seen in such a slim form factor. I am getting used to the keyboard and Touch Bar and I have started liking it.
Anyways, here’s my take:
The Touch Bar brings some amazing functionality right to the tips of your fingers - be it the Touch ID sensor or the emoji. It has the right combination of elements to make it a great feature. It is located ergonomically and has a bright, colourful OLED display that grabs your attention, as if it is almost asking you to use it. In classic Apple fashion, the touch and feel is smooth and responsive, and the customizability is not overdone. The apps that utilize the power of Touch Bar make this strip of touchscreen a palette of new options.
The downside, primarily, is that it’s hard to get used to. A lot of you (and I) type without looking at the keyboard at all, and the quick type suggestions seem to come and go and not be noticed. Paying attention to what you are producing on screen, while manipulating another display touch display, is the initial challenge the Touch Bar - actually, your brain - needs to overcome to make this feature truly useful. The bigger picture is that not many applications still support the Touch Bar as yet, and while companies like Microsoft and Adobe are updating their applications to use the Touch Bar, not many developers are going to pounce on this. The lack of Touch Bar support isn’t hampering an application, considering that applications on the Mac are also meant to work on all other non-Touch-Bar Macs.
That said, I personally enjoy the Touch Bar. Trimming videos in Final Cut Pro X is a breeze, editing text and fonts on Evernote right at your fingertips is a boon, and typing emoji into iMessages on a Mac provides a feeling of unparalleled satisfaction. I’m all in for the Touch Bar, and the hopes are high.
(scroll down to the slideshow below for more pictures of the Touch Bar)
As the spec sheet reads, this 15” MacBook Pro roars power. From my short experience with this MacBook, I would only comment that it is really, really quick. The SSD on the MacBook Pro lineup can read and write at speeds of over 2 GB/s. As for CPU and GPU performance, I could load up multiple streams of 4K footage onto Final Cut Pro X and edit without any hiccups.
I did notice that macOS is not yet fully optimized of the MacBook Pro. There are bugs here and there (especially with Touch Bar), and while none of them are obtrusive, there is some work pending. I’m not worried about it though - the next update should patch a lot of those performance bugs.
There isn’t much to say about the MacBook Pro’s design. It is ridiculously thin and light for its powerful processor and GPU. Built quality is top notch, especially with the metal hinge between the base and the screen. The trackpad is huge, and I had to push myself to use it to its fullest. This new 15” MacBook Pro is visibly smaller than its older brother, thanks to the shrunken bezel. It is, in all ways, the best MacBook in terms of build quality, closely matched by the 12” MacBook. Plus, I love the Space Grey colour option!
Coming from the mid-2012 13” MacBook Pro (without Retina Display), the new 15” MacBook Pro’s display gave me chills in my spine. The screen is superbly crisp and bright, and individual pixels are almost inseparable to the human eye. The 2880x1800 pixels resolution gives the 15” MacBook Pro a pixel density of 220ppi. Watching high resolution videos and photos, editing video and even typing down this article feels like a charm. The new display is also a definitive upgrade from the older Retina Display that the MacBook Pro's since 2012 wore. The 67% brighter display also has an expanded colour gamut, similar to the 9.7” iPad Pro.
Battery life matters. Apple promises 10 hours of battery on the new MacBook Pro, and it delivers. With moderate use, my 15” MacBook Pro did a good 5-6 hours with 50% battery to spare. According to me, anything more than 7-8 hours of battery on a full charge is good, so I’m satisfied with the battery life this Mac provides.
In his article on The Verge, Mossberg did complain about an inconsistency in battery life of the 13” MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. One of his test gave him 11 hours and 38 minutes of battery life, while another gave him just 8 hours and 22 minutes. Advice? If you need all day battery, the Pro is not for you - and nothing beats the 12 hour battery of the MacBook Air.
Ports (or lack thereof)
The lack of ports on the MacBook Pro is a compromise that only Apple can explain, and they did.
In an interview with The Independent, Phill Schiller explained why they removed the SD card slot:
"Because of a couple of things. One, it’s a bit of a cumbersome slot. You've got this thing sticking halfway out. Then there are very fine and fast USB card readers, and then you can use CompactFlash as well as SD. So we could never really resolve this – we picked SD because more consumer cameras have SD but you can only pick one. So, that was a bit of a trade-off. And then more and more cameras are starting to build wireless transfer into the camera. That’s proving very useful. So we think there’s a path forward where you can use a physical adaptor if you want, or do wireless transfer."
… and this about the 3.5 mm headphone jack that is present:
"These are pro machines. If it was just about headphones then it doesn’t need to be there, we believe that wireless is a great solution for headphones. But many users have setups with studio monitors, amps, and other pro audio gear that do not have wireless solutions and need the 3.5mm jack."
The lack of ports has been of great debate on the Internet. People have disliked the lack of ports so much, that they consider the MacBook Pro to no more be a Pro computer. While I do miss the SD card slot, I honestly don’t care about the lack of USB ports. In the next 1-2 years, most companies are going to switch to purely USB-C solutions. USB-C is already the standard on Android smartphones, and most new laptops at least have one USB-C port in parallel to USB-A. Personally, I use a Bluetooth mouse and wireless headphones, and the only reason I need USB is to connect my Time Machine backup drive - which I will do with a simple adapter.
All said, the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is a step in the right direction in the evolution of the MacBook Pro, and the Mac lineup. A big new feature (Touch Bar), performance improvements, a slimmer design and better display and an overall ergonomic Pro machine seems to be the obvious transition, and I like it. Then again, it’s not for everyone, thanks to that price tag. The baseline 13” MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts at $1,799 and the top spec 15” MacBook Pro with 2 TB SSD costs an unreasonably high $4,299. Right there, it is obvious that not many are going to pick up such a costly computer for everyday use.
The MacBook Pro is the ultimate Mac available, and if you can afford it (actually, save up for it), this is a brilliant upgrade.