Apple Announces New MacBook Pro Laptops

Posted on October 27, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, iOS with 81 Comments

Apple Announces New MacBook Pro Laptops

Apple today announced a new generation of MacBook Pro laptops in both 13- and 15-inch form factors. But the firm didn’t deliver a 13-inch MacBook as was also expected.

“This all-new generation of MacBook Pro is the biggest leap forward yet,” Apple senior VP Phil Schiller said in a bit prepared hyperbole. “With the groundbreaking new Touch Bar, the convenience of Touch ID, the best Mac display ever, powerful performance, improved audio, blazing fast storage and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity in our thinnest and lightest pro notebook yet.”

It was also a long time coming: Apple hasn’t updated its MacBook Pro line in years, and in a weird twist, these product include last year’s Intel Core “Skylake” chips, not the current generation “Kaby Lake” versions. So they’re out of date right from the start.

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That said, Apple’s design prowess always shines through, and the new MacBook Pro is no exception. The body of each version is familiar, and immediately recognizable, but each and is also thinner and lighter than before. The 13-inch is 14.9 mm thick, a reduction of 17 percent. And the 15-inch is 15.5 mm thick, or 14 percent thinner. The 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs in at 3 pounds, while the 15-inch is 4 pounds.

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Those are laptop weights, not Ultrabook weights, but then that’s the point: Where Apple’s 12-inch (non-Pro) MacBook and aging MacBook Air utilize lower-end mobile processors, the MacBook Pro models offer more power and more expandability.

That expandability has changed a lot this year, too: Instead of more traditional full-sized USB and miniDisplayPort ports, the new MacBook Pros feature two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, and these ports can do multi-duty between charging, dual display, storage, and more.

But the marquee feature of the new MacBook Pro is of course the Touch Bar, a multi-touch enabled glass strip that appears above the keyboard and replaces the row of function keys. The Touch Bar is dynamic, and can change on a per-app basis, and while it may seem functionally similar to an idea that Lenovo briefly tried on the ThinkPad X1 Ultrabook, Apple’s version looks like it has legs.

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As good, Apple has finally added a TouchID sensor to the MacBook Pro too, so you can sign-in to the device using a modern, reliable, and proven technology.

I’m curious about the new keyboard, which looks exactly like the terrible keyboard Apple uses on its (non-Pro) MacBooks. But Apple says this one is a second-generation design with better key stability (whatever that means) and, presumably, a better key “throw”, given the thickness of the case. The Touch Trackpad is also bigger, though I find Apple’s trackpads to be pretty large as it is.

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The new MacBook, though overdue, looks great, and it’s available in both standard aluminum silver and a darker space gray color . But it’s going to cost you: A base 13-inch model with a Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of SSD storage will set you back $1500. And the 15-inch version starts at $2400. These are of course Pro tools.

In many ways, I was looking forward more to a 13-inch MacBook, which would have replaced the ancient MacBook Air. That will eventually happen, of course, but for now Apple’s cheapest laptops are woefully out of date.

Apple is also expected to eventually update its equally out of date iMac lineup of All-In-One PCs. Given Microsoft’s Surface Studio announcement this week, that next iMac will be closely scrutinized to see how it matches up.

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42 Comments
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  1. 2 | Reply
    lightbody Alpha Member #2190 - 1 month ago

     I read elsewhere that they've removed the SD Card slot.  Which seems complete madness when so many photographers use it with their Macs.

    1. 0 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to lightbody:

      Plus, no standard USB ports so using a SD Card reader for USB will require a dongle making it harder to use.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Abazigal Alpha Member #2152 - 1 month ago
    3. 0 | Reply
      robincapper Alpha Member #2080 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Abazigal: Elegant, not

       

  2. 2 | Reply
    woodward5418 Alpha Member #1629 - 1 month ago

    I am a long time Mac guy that also spends a lot of time in the Windows world. I have a quite a bit oppressed gear and was looking to replace my MacNook Pro from 2010 (still doing well though) to go along with my Surface Pro 4, and iPad Pro 9.7. I was curious to see what they did today as I purchased an HP Spectre x360 (newest one) a few days ago. Been wanting USB-C nice light weight, decent power, and good battery life. I am so happy with my choice as quite honestly this refresh is a big yawn. I have come to want touch. Hoping the active pen from HP is caparible as they (hp) say it should be. I knew the new macs would not have touch but otherwise a pretty lackluster change compared to what they are replacing. A refresh of the ports is not ground breaking and is to be expected, but man, not much to even see here. Quite honestly, the touch strip doesn't get my pulse going like just looking at the new HP I got that has a ton more power at right around their entry level machine without the touch strip. And my wife wonders why I keep migrating to the Windows side?

    1. 0 | Reply
      Max Daru Alpha Member #372 - 1 month ago
      In reply to woodward5418:

      I'm pretty sure the Kaby Lake HP Spectre x360 doesn't have pen support. See: https://youtu.be/JZLEm3o9R5A

  3. 2 | Reply
    krisarthur Alpha Member #319 - 1 month ago

    I'm thinking these models are expensive for what you get. Not that Apple always hasn't been that way but Paul is right the last gen chip and they are still this expensive? Looking at a Windows 10 laptop this time around...

  4. 2 | Reply
    Kvbex Alpha Member #1798 - 1 month ago

    "The new MacBook Pros feature two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports": the 15" model has four ports, two on either side.

    1. 0 | Reply
      Jaxidian Alpha Member #791 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Kvbex:

      Yup, I think only the cheapest option has no touch bar and only 2 USB ports but all others have 4 USB Type-C ports.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Kvbex Alpha Member #1798 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Jaxidian:

      You're right. Only the cheapest option, without the Touch Bar, has two ports.

    3. 0 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Kvbex:

      But no regular USB ports, so once again Apple has banished users to "dongle-ville"  What's up with this stupidity?

    4. 0 | Reply
      Jaxidian Alpha Member #791 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Narg:

      Easy. More need to buy their over-priced $35 dongles. The markup on those are probably about 1000% - very nice profit margins there.

    5. 0 | Reply
      Abazigal Alpha Member #2152 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Jaxidian:

      The road to the future has always been paved with dongles and adaptors. 

  5. 2 | Reply
    Kevin Bae Alpha Member #160 - 1 month ago

    Did anyone notice how awkward it looked when people were using the Touch Bar? Everyone had to ball up there hands and use their index fingers in what looks to be an uncomfortable hand position.

    I'm not against a customizable screen for the function key area of the keyboard but I think they tried to cram too much functionality into that thin strip.

    1. 0 | Reply
      jwpear Alpha Member #2194 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Kevin Bae:

      I thought the same thing.  Seemed especially limiting and cumbersome during the DJ demo.  My impression was that it seems to be a fairly small target to hit and you pretty much have to look at it in order to hit your target since there is nothing physical to provide clues as to where you're tapping. 

      I do think this is a nice feature for Macs given the lack of touch screen.  It might even be better than a touch screen in some instances.  Will have to wait and physically try one out.

      My 2012-era non-retina MacBook Pro is working just fine, so I don't plan to pick a new one up until mine falls into the unsupported group.  I hope they have not ruined the keyboard going thinner.  I do truly love the keyboard on my MacBook Pro.  The keyboard on the 12" MacBook truly sucks.

  6. 1 | Reply
    Patrick3D Alpha Member #994 - 1 month ago

    The whole event felt like an hour of 3rd parties poorly advertising their latest gimmick and Apple overly concerned about trying to justify the Touch Bar to consumers. The only thing I watched the event for was to see new hardware across Apple's entire, outdated, lineup. Instead I sat through an hour+ long marketing demo for one slightly updated laptop. Complete waste of time and a stumble on Apple's part. For lack of a better word, Microsoft pwned them.

  7. 1 | Reply
    shameermulji Alpha Member #1515 - 1 month ago

    "In many ways, I was looking forward more to a 13-inch MacBook, which would have replaced the ancient MacBook Air."

    You kind of did get that. If you look at the new 13" MBP model - there's 2 (an entry-level model with no Touch Bar and a higher-end one with Touch Bar).  That 13" entry-level model at 3lbs is essentially your 13" MB but with a much faster U-series processor

    " in a weird twist, these product include last year’s Intel Core “Skylake” chips, not the current generation “Kaby Lake” versions."

    When it comes to the 13" / 15" MBP (both with Touch Bar options), the Kaby Lake processors designed for those specific units are not out yet. They will be out Q1 of 2017. The 13" MBP utilizes 28W Dual-core processors and the 15" utilizes 45W quad-core processors.  As far as I know, the only PC systems using Kaby Lake processors are ones that are utilizing the low-power 4.5W & 15W Kaby Lake processors, which are not designed for Pro machines

    Heck, even the new 14" Razer Blade and 17" Razer Blade Pro that just came are also using Skylake processors. 

    1. 0 | Reply
      Vivant Alpha Member #1099 - 1 month ago
      In reply to shameermulji:

      Agree with your points about the reason why Apple used Skylake due to unavilability of quad core Kaby Lake. I guess the question is why they didn't use the dual core i7-7500 in the 13s and taken advantage of the power reduction (15w v 28w) for the same (or slightly better) performance. Possibly it was due to the issues in explaining why one had the newest gen processor while the other was on an older generation?

  8. 0 | Reply
    captobie Alpha Member #2479 - 1 month ago

    I disagree with your comments on the 12" MacBook's keyboard, I used one for 15 months and loved it. It does take some getting used to, but once I did I found that I typed faster and more accurately than my previous laptop. I think that most people who complain about it have never used one outside of an Apple store or BestBuy.

  9. 0 | Reply
    bbold Alpha Member #669 - 1 month ago

    Reasonable review! (I like that you're not an Apple fan boy reviewing the Apple event, which makes it a real review.) What I thought was missing from the KeyNote today was an upgrade/update for the Mac Pro. That's the black trash can device that they haven't updated in over 1,000 days. I guess they've decided to kick that particular can to the curb? Also, no mention of updating the iMac or their accessories - Time Capsule, Airport and Airport Express are all years old and outdated at this point. Also, while the MacBook Air was mentioned (they said they would still continue to sell it, without updating it, which is weird to me) they didn't mention how the Airpods have been delayed another month or more.

    Also, didn't Microsoft "invent" the "touch bar" years ago? I saw a pic of it on another site on a black keyboard. Hrm. Another stolen Apple 'invention.' See: https://mspoweruser.com/as-usual-microsoft-did-the-touch-bar-first-but-actually-thought-better-of-it-video/

    Overall, an ok update, but the new i7 Surface Book STILL blows these out of the water. Compare the specs.

    Plus, Windows is just... amazing, and much more capable than OS X, Chrome or iOS.

    I also wanted to add, I think it's a shame that "Groove Music Maker" wasn't discussed at all yesterday during MS's event. Even if it weren't fully ready, they did show like 3 pics of it in their commercials, and that would be a great app to showcase for 'music creatives' who may want to purchase the pricey Surface Studio.

  10. 0 | Reply
    mattbg Alpha Member #293 - 1 month ago

    Would be interesting to know why you think this touch strip would succeed after the Carbon X1 attempt failed. Genuine question - as it was rejected quite swftly by the thinkpad users.

    1. 0 | Reply
      Abazigal Alpha Member #2152 - 1 month ago
      In reply to mattbg:

      Won't that be like asking why a fingerprint sensor would succeed on an iphone when it failed on the Motorola Atrix phone? 

      The iphone wasn't the first touchscreen smartphone. Why then did it succeed while all its predecessors fail?

      The answer boils down to these three words. "Better user experience". 

      I have never tried the thinkpad version, but if I were a betting man, I would daresay that the implementation likely sucked, and it lacked 3rd party support. 

    2. 0 | Reply
      mattbg Alpha Member #293 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Abazigal:

      Having read a bit more about it, it does seem like the MacBook version is more versatile and capable of things other than just button replacements. It almost looks like it can function as a control surface (which is supported by the claim that the bar is essentially an integrated Apple Watch).

      However - we don't know if this the Apple attempt will succeed yet. It might help if they rolled it out universally (rather than just on MacBook Pros). I don't know to what extent F-keys are important to the Mac experience, but it's hard to imagine that any bar in this area could do anything useful enough to encourage me to give up my F-keys on a Windows PC.

  11. 0 | Reply
    robincapper Alpha Member #2080 - 1 month ago
    Are all the product shots done with a black background image to minimise the still present screen bezel?
  12. 0 | Reply
    zorb56 Alpha Member #2215 - 1 month ago

    Two things:

    1. The trackpad will soon be larger the keyboards.  On this model they are roughly the same size.  Like damn!

    2. I think it's telling that major PC makers aren't going with the newest chips every time.  I think Intel may be struggling with regaining trust after some reliablility issues early in Skylake (a la SP4).

  13. 0 | Reply
    feinburg Alpha Member #917 - 1 month ago

    The base model is $400 more than the last year base model of the 15 inch. It would not be an issue if it hadoesn't a 512GB SSD drive but a 256GB I can't see why I would buy that much for it. I'm really need to change my Middle 2012 MacBook Pro 15 but do they know if I can justify the exact $200 more for a 512GB at $2599.

  14. 0 | Reply
    Jaxidian Alpha Member #791 - 1 month ago

    I really don't understand why they couldn't have left a physical ESC key and just made the touch bar a teeny tiny bit shorter. Also, still no touchscreen. I understand the last year's CPU decision - they're going with cheaper hardware to maximize profits. But they could have easily left an ESC key and added a touchscreen, charged yet another $100, and continued to rake in the profits. I don't get some of their decisions - those two make no sense to me. Hell, make the touchscreen a $300 upgrade option and enough people will cough up the money for it. :-/

    1. 0 | Reply
      Narg Alpha Member #420 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Jaxidian:

      Seems to me Apple has lost it's direction with the end user.  Removing well used and wanted ports, changing keyboards, failing to update to better hardware.  Not good for users in general.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Vuppe Alpha Member #1076 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Jaxidian:

      Apple is still adamant touchscreens don't belong on computers, only phones and tablets. Why they take that position, I don't know.

    3. 0 | Reply
      jgraebner Alpha Member #1129 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Vuppe:

      Apple's position is pretty easy to understand if you look at the market shares of MacOS and iOS.  They don't want to potentially cannibalize iOS sales by acknowledging that there is value to having a touchscreen with a full laptop/desktop OS since an awful lot of those sales would go to Windows-based devices.  They need to keep hammering home the message that if you want touch/tablet capabilities, you are better off with a mobile OS.

    4. 1 | Reply
      bbold Alpha Member #669 - 1 month ago
      In reply to jgraebner:

      Exactly. Greed and money is the reason.

    5. -1 | Reply
      MutualCore - 1 month ago
      In reply to Vuppe:

      Because honestly until the Surface Studio with ability to bring the screen down to a 20 degree angle, touching your screen made no sense. But for a $3000-$4200 price tag I'm still not sure it makes sense. Apple's OLED Touch Bar is pretty f-en genius stuff.

    6. 1 | Reply
      JudaZuk Alpha Member #2098 - 1 month ago
      In reply to MutualCore:  A maxed out MacBook Pro 15" cost almost $4300 a Maxed out Surface Studio cost $4500, yet for some reason the Surface Studio is considered expensive?  Just getting an equivalent wacom system would set you back $2500 easy, and then you still would need to buy a computer 
      Sacrificing real keys for a touch bar is the dumbest thing I have seen in a long time. 
      If you are a professional you want to keep your focus on the screen, not down on your keyboard.  You know where they keys are and you can feel they are there.  With a touchbar you loose that..  for what?  A pointles gimmick.  Touch is great on a full screen, but not on a tiny strip above the keyboard. Because you will need to switch focus from the real screen to the tiny screen to check what damn icons are showing up this time, and where.  It is beyond dumb if you ask me. 
      They are removing useful keys, and messing up the whole keyboard in the process, for zero benefit. What is the point of that?  With a touch screen on a laptop you can use it , or not use it..that is up to you..with this MacBook Pro they give you no choice.. really .. you will have to use it if you ever want to use an Esc button ever again (if you dont add an external keyboard but then, why buy a laptop?)
      Only good thing is that they finally are adding a fingerprint reader...but of course Apple beeing Apple just had to place it at the worst possible place they could. As far away as posible from where your fingers naturally will be if you are browsing online and want to buy something with Apple pay, or login to something with it, or similar.
      If you are using the touch pad to navigate , your fingers will of course be below the keyboard,  so  why not have the finger print reader there?  nope .. just have to put it as far away as possible.  Sure I get that is lets you login as you power it up, but that is about it .  Why not have a normal keyboard , with function keys, Esc,  and a proper powerbutton,  and add a fingerprint reader at the botton that also can wake up the computer. It is not rocket science. 

       

    7. 0 | Reply
      Jaxidian Alpha Member #791 - 1 month ago
      In reply to JudaZuk:

      So I'm torn on whether the Touch Bar is a good idea or not.

      1. It's painfully obvious and I think we can all agree that an improvement would be to make the Touch Bar a tad shorter and still have an ESC key. I'm absolutely not torn about this - that would be a universal improvement.
      2. I think the Touch Bar would be good if it *only* replaced media keys. Now this is a moot point since the Macbook Pro didn't have any dedicated media keys.
      3. I think the Touch Bar would be good if it was an addition to the old Macbook Pro keyboard. I think we can all agree with this, and that there was plenty of room to add one as well - the top of the clamshell has plenty of space for this. It would take some engineering effort to make it work but Apple has some smart people working there and they could figure it out.
      4. I'm not sure the Touch Bar is a good thing to replace physical Function keys (F1-F12). I personally don't like it but for the masses, I could entertain arguments that they're not an effective use of keyboard space. Still, I don't like it but I could see that argument.

       

      Overall, I don't like this implementation. Add to the fact that we now have Macbook-style keys and it's painfully obvious that I would MUCH prefer the keyboards of the previous generation over this generation even if I must lose the Touch Bar. No doubt about that!

    8. 1 | Reply
      bbold Alpha Member #669 - 1 month ago
      In reply to MutualCore:

      Not really all that genius. Microsoft actually invented it years before:

      https://mspoweruser.com/as-usual-microsoft-did-the-touch-bar-first-but-actually-thought-better-of-it-video/

  15. 0 | Reply
    drewidian Alpha Member #2219 - 1 month ago

    I still want to the the Microsoft Adaptive keyboard come to production.  It could revolutionize the keyboard input category. See Below.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojusRO38Tdc

  16. 0 | Reply
    krabago Alpha Member #231 - 1 month ago

    The images (colorful powder) on the displays reminds me of that used on the Surface Studio :)

  17. 0 | Reply
    Vuppe Alpha Member #1076 - 1 month ago

    Incrimental. As are all Apple events recently. Baby steps.

     

    1. -2 | Reply
      MutualCore - 1 month ago
      In reply to Vuppe:

      Innovation is incremental improvements. Apple killed it today as usual.

    2. 1 | Reply
      JudaZuk Alpha Member #2098 - 1 month ago
      In reply to MutualCore:

      No, that is not really what innovation is .. and only thing Apple killed was their chance to show anything relevant..  But they did manage to piss off a lot of professional photographers with the lack of a SD Card reader 

  18. -1 | Reply
    abdulla77 Alpha Member #107 - 1 month ago

    I think the one point missed here is the price.. Surfacebook starts $2399 while Macbook Pro 13 starts at $1499. I'm starting to see that these 'Pro' devices are getting more expensive, ironically, with Microsoft. There was a time when Apple was the one with the high price-tag when it came to laptops.. not anymore.  Oh, and the Skylake chip and being out of date right from the start, isn't the new Surfacebook also using Skylake?

    1. 2 | Reply
      digiguy Alpha Member #2015 - 1 month ago
      In reply to abdulla77:

      you didn't understand the new Surface Book. It's not a Surface Book 2, it's just a new variant of the top of the line. You cannot compare it with the base line. It's an i7, not an i5. Surface book starts at $1499 exactly like the MBP 13