Apple’s New MacBook Pro with Touch Bar: Everything You Need to Know


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At their “Hello Again” event in Town Hall, Cupertino, Apple finally announced the new MacBook Pros. They might not be exactly what you wanted. They might be “too little too late too expensive”. But they’re here. And if you’ve been waiting for the last 6 months for Apple to release new MacBook Pros, you’re going to want to know everything about it before you decide to pull the trigger. Which why we’re here.

The Touch Bar is OLED and Matte

The highlight of the MacBook Pro, is the multi-touch, capacitive OLED strip (2170×60) that replaced the function row.

It shows contextual and app aware shortcuts/controls. That means when you’re in Safari, you’ll see a tab switcher there, when you’re in Photoshop, you’ll see image editing buttons. The controls for the Mac for volume and brightness are still there – docked on the side. You can expand them if you want, or long press to interact with them using multi-touch.

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Oh, and the Touch Bar has a Matte finish. Early hands-on reports say that the Matte finish makes the on screen button feel almost like real buttons. But sadly, unlike the new iPhones, there no Taptic engine in there for haptic feedback (would have been nice to have).

Personally, I’m exited for the Touch Bar. Apple’s philosophy of making simpler interfaces means that obvious buttons end up behind menus. The Touch Bar takes them out of menus and puts them right in front of the user. This is going to be a great thing for power users and “normal” users alike.

The Touch Bar Is Designed For Angled Viewing

Apple designed the Touch Bar to be used in the normal sitting position. So if you’re worrying that you’ll need to hunch over to access it, worry not.

Also, the Touch Bar doesn’t have its own brightness control. There’s an ambient sensor in there, which calibrates the brightness alongwith the backlit lights for the keyboard. Because of which, the Touch Bar feels like an extension of the keyboard, not the screen.

Touch ID for Unlocking, Account Switching and Apple Pay

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At the end of the Touch Bar, on the right is a physical button with embedded Touch ID 2nd Gen sensor (which means it’s pretty fast). You can use the Touch ID to unlock your Mac and to pay with Apple Pay.

If you have multiple accounts running, each with different Touch ID fingerprints, you can now switch accounts simply by placing your finger on the Touch ID sensor at any time.

There’s also a new T1 chip with Secure Enclave that makes Touch ID secure.

Escape Key Is on the Touch Bar

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Along with the function keys, the physical Escape key is gone as well. But it shows up on the Touch Bar when it’s relevant. When you’re in a text editor, for example.

The Displays Are Brighter, Sharper, and With More Colour

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Just like the new iPhone and the iMac, the new Retina displays in the MacBook Pros support the wide color gamuat display, with 25% more colors on screen. They’re also 67% more brighter – they now go upto 500 nits.

They’re Also Power Efficient

The new displays are 30% more power efficient than the ones before. This the price reason why Apple was able to shave off some battery and make the new MacBooks thinner.

The Trackpad Is Twice As Big

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The Force Touch Trackpad in the new MacBook Pros is, and there’s no escaping this, ginormous. On the 15 inch, It’s twice as big as it was before and on the 13 inch, it’s 1.5 times bigger. Early tests show that Apple has built in some intelligent palm rejection software into the new trackpads. Thankfully.

The SSDs Are Much Faster

The new SSDs in the MacBooks are strikingly fast. With transfer speeds upto 3.1 GB/s. That’s up to 50% improvement from the last generation.

The 128 GB Tier is Gone

All the MacBook Pros now start at 256 GB. The 128 GB tier is no more. While more storage is always great, I wish Apple didn’t make this move. If the MacBook Pro could have been $200 cheaper with the 128 GB variant, it might have made a lot of new users happier.

Thinner and Lighter

The new 13 inch MacBook Pro is 14.9mm thin, 17% thinner from the existing 13-inch MacBook Pro. It is also 23 percent smaller in volume and half-a-pound lighter than the existing model at 3 pounds (1.36kg).

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is now 15.5mm thin, down from 18mm thickness of the existing model. It weighs 4 pounds making it 0.5 pounds lighter than existing model.

Shallower Butterfly Gen 2 Keys

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The new keyboard on the MacBook Pros is similar to the Magic Keyboard and the one in the MacBook. This one has the 2nd generation Butterfly keys with a bit more travel. Still, it’s shallower than the keys in the last generation. Don’t expect the same “pop” feeling from this keyboard.

Spec Bumps

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15-inch MacBook Pro models come with Intel’s Core i7 processor, 16 GB DDR4 RAM running at 2133MHz, and AMD’s Radeon Pro GPU that is based on 14nm fabrication process.

13-inch MacBook Pro, it comes with dual-core Core i5 or i7 processor and 8 GB RAM. It comes with Intel’s Iris GPU that is up to 2x faster thanks to the presence of 64GB eDRAM.

The processors are all Skylane versions. Kaby Lake is not yet read for the laptop models.

Because we haven’t seen any benchmarks, we don’t know how much of an improvement the new chipsets are. At the event, Apple touted that the graphics in the new 15 inch are 130% faster than the older model.

They Can Finally Power 5K Displays

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All that new power, plus Thunderbolt 3, means that you’ll finally be able to power a 5K display using the new MacBooks. The 13 inch MacBook can power a single 5K display while the 15 inch can power two (along with the built-in Retina display).

Apple doesn’t offer a 5K Cinema display yet. But you can buy an LG UltraFine 27 inch 5K monitor from the Apple Store for $1299.

There’s also a 21.5 inch 4K version for $799.

These displays come with three USB-C ports and the ability to charge your Mac via the same USB-C cable that powers the display. So you can use the external display as a dock as well for all your peripherals.

The Speakers Are Louder

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The speakers aren’t exactly bigger. But they now have twice the dynamic range. Which means the end result is that they end up being much louder.

The Apple Logo Doesn’t Illuminate Anymore

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The side effect of getting so much thinner is that the illuminating Apple logo – an icon – is now gone. It’s been replaced by the shiny anodized aluminum logo that was first introduced in the 12 inch MacBook.

Comes in Space Grey and Silver

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There’s no Gold or Rose Gold option yet but hey at least we get Space Grey. It’s a first in any MacBook Pro model. Personally, I’m waiting for the iPhone 7’s Black shade to get to the MacBook Pro.

The Design Is Similar, Yet Evolved

The MacBook Pros kind of look like the ones the replace. But you’ll notice that edges have been tightened up and now that the devices are thinner, they have a much more cornered look. Instead of plastic hinges and edges, it’s now all metal. And that does give the new MacBook Pros a distinct look.

The combination of the new Space Grey shade, mixed with a smaller profile, along with he new logo, manage to make the MacBook Pro seem fresher.

There Are 4 USB-C Ports. And That’s It

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All the ports you’re familiar with in the MacBook Pro – HDMI, USB-A, SD card reader, Thunderbolt 2 – are gone.

Replaced by 4 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports. Only two of those ports are Thunderbolt 3, so you’ll need to be careful when you use Thunderbolt 3 accessories like docks and 5K monitors. Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C compatibility is also weird. All USB-C accessories will work with this new port. But not all Thunderbolt accessories will work with all 4 ports.

The Headphone Jack Lives

The only other kind of port on this device is the headphone jack. Apple removed it from the iPhone 7 but thankfully, on a pro machine like the MacBook Pro, where things like audio latency are very important, the 100 year old port still lives.

10-Hour Battery Life

Even after all that weight loss, Apple is still promising all day (10 hour) battery life for all new MacBooks. Those figures aren’t always accurate but if we can get 7-8 hours at mid-high use, it’s still a winner (my current Retina MacBook rarely makes it till 5 hours).

MacBook Pros With Touch Bar Start at $1799

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The 13-inch base MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID starts at $1799 for the 256 GB. The 15-inch version starts at $2399 for the 256 GB config.

There’s A Non-Touch Bar and Touch ID Version

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If you’d rather not live in the future, but just want to put your right leg in, there’s a variant of the new 13 inch MacBook Pro that comes with the standard function keys (without the Touch Bar and Touch ID).

It starts at $1499. But you get a slower CPU (starting at 2 GHz) and two fewer USB-C ports. The upside? This version is shipping right now.

Starts Shipping in 2-3 Weeks

You can order the new MacBook Pros with Touch Bar right away but you won’t get them for around 2-3 weeks.

The Last Generation Survives

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The last generation (2015) 13 and 15 inch MacBook Pros still live. Apple’s selling the base version (configurable) of both models in the store. And they’re being sold at the same old price as before – $1299 for 13 inch and $1799 for 15 inch – no price drops whatsoever.

Are You Upgrading?

Now that you know everything there is to know (so far) about the new MacBook Pros, what do you think? Will you be upgrading? Share with us in the comments below.

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