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 So they’re out of date right from the start.
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.
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.
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.
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.