Apple Unveils Thinner MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Touch ID, More

| Analysis

Apple used its “hello again” event to introduce new MacBook Pro models Thursday. Smaller, thinner, and featuring four Thunderbolt 3 ports, the signature feature is a “Touch Bar,” a Multi-Touch, Retina Display strip above the keyboard that offers users context-aware controls, keys, and other user-interface features.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Apple’s New MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Thinner and Faster

Apple said the new 15-inch MacBook Pro is 17% thinner than the previous model. It also occupies 23% less volume. Apple achieved part of that thinness by ditching the see-through, lit Apple logo on the cover. The device weighs four pounds, a full half-pound less than the previous model.

It features up to 10 hours of battery life, and is powered by a quad-core Core i7 Intel processor starting at 2.6GHz. The 13-inch model is stuck at a dual-core i5 processor starting at 2.9GHz. A third 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar features a dual-Core i5 starting at 2.0GHz.

New Stuff

Apple’s new MacBook Pro models have what Apple says are faster SSDs with read speeds over 3GBps. That’s gigabytes per second. RAM is faster, too, and it has four Thunderbolt 3 ports. Those ports use the USB-C connector for connecting and charging whatever you’d like.

Unlike iPhone 7, both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros have headphones jacks.

The trackpad is redesigned, as well, and is larger—”46% larger on the 13-inch MacBook Pro and twice as large on the 15-inch MacBook Pro.”

Apple also integrated Touch ID into the power button. Like iPhone and iPad, the Touch ID sensor includes a sapphire cover.

Touch Bar

Touch Bar is the signature new feature on which Apple hung its “hello again” monicker for Thursday’s media event. I’ll write separately about that, but the key takeaway is that Touch Bar is Apple’s solution to 2-in-1 convergence devices. Rather than touching the display to manipulate user-interface elements, one touches the dedicated strip above the keyboard with context-aware commands and buttons.

It’s also where the function keys have been moved, as well as the Escape key. That’s part of the whole context-aware aspect of Touch Bar, as only those controls relevant to the task and app at hand are displayed.

Display

Apple said the Retina Display on MacBook Pro is as thin as the display on the 12-inch MacBook. But, it’s brighter, with 500 nits of brightness. The company said that’s 67% brighter with 67% more contrast than the previous MacBook Pro display.

Pricing & Availability

There are essentially three base configurations: 13-inch, 13-inch with Touch Bar, and 15-inch with Touch Bar. Below are the starting prices for each with basic specs. Availability has been highlighted.

  • The 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at US$1,499, features a 2.0 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1 GHz, 8GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage, and ships today.
  • The 13-inch MacBook Pro with the revolutionary Touch Bar and Touch ID starts at $1,799 (US), and features a 2.9 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.3 GHz, 8GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage, and ships in two to three weeks.
  • The 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399 (US), features the revolutionary Touch Bar and Touch ID, a 2.6 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.5 GHz, 16GB of memory and 256GB of flash storage, and ships in two to three weeks.

9 Comments Add a comment

  1. archimedes

    The flash storage speed and size and the new GPU with 4GB should be nice upgrades. The possibility of a single-port docking connection for display, power, and data is also nice.

    I will miss MagSafe – MagSafe-equipped laptops have been pulled off my desk exactly zero times. And the illuminated Apple logo has been my friend since its semi-accidental appearance years ago in ghostly, inverted form. It is too bad that they haven’t (yet?) added a 32GB RAM configuration for these new MBPs, but one can always dream… I also dream of Apple shipping a 5K display to replace the discontinued Thunderbolt display!! The giant trackpad is intriguing… but after using the Apple Pencil I don’t really want to use anything else for drawing.

    I think it’s clear that the 2012 retina MacBook Pro was a landmark product that changed the design an entire industry. Once you experience a high-resolution display and fast flash storage, you really never want to go back. And it’s not really surprising how many laptops (and other computers) have changed their design to look more like Apple devices.

  2. I seriously think Apple is headed in the wrong direction with these new MacBook models. They are less customizable and less repairable. I wouldn’t buy one for myself and I think that more naive computer shoppers will be disappointed after they purchase one. I could be wrong but I’m worried about loss of market share going forward.

    Open question: Why is Apple doing this? Are there good engineering reasons to reduce customizability and repairability? If so, I am not privy to the reasons. Would appreciate any feedback to educate me.

  3. domsin
    Technically replaceable RAM and HDD are a bit more prone to failure. Coming unplugged and that sort of thing. Practically that hardly ever happens. Technically the sockets take up space so soldering everything together makes for a more compact system.

    In reality I only see accountancy and marketing here and I think it’s going to backfire. I expect Mac sales to continue to decline in the face of competition from Win10, which is vastly better than 8 or even 7, and other computer manufacturers that are bringing out very impressive, indeed much more impressive hardware for less money.

  4. This is quite literally the first time I have been actually sad about an Apple product announcement.

    We are in the market for 1 or 2 new computers in the next year, and I was hoping these machines would be the fix for that. We have a 2015 MBP with 512GB SSD, 8GB RAM, 2.7Ghz/3.1 boost that was USD1699 retail.

    Our upgrade path for the same $$ is either: the non-bar MBP with 512GB, 2.0/3.1GHz
    or the bar MBP with 1/2 the storage and faster processor for an extra $100. And many times, this machine is operating closed-lid.

    I see absolutely no reason to even think about replacing this 18 month old machine.
    We have a second machine in the office, (2011 MBP) which won’t see this upgrade either.

    I have upgraded my 2008 MB with RAM and SSD to still make it very usable, but as everyone knows is now getting left behind (it IS 8 years old, I’m not complaining). But to keep pace with the rest of the office, it needs to be replaced. I just can’t see shelling out for this. I was also considering an iMac as the office replacement, but I will not buy a machine full price at the end of its cycle. I was hoping for some desktop announcement, but so much for that.

    For the first time ever, I’m just not happy with the offerings.

  5. From a discussion released yesterday. One topic brought up was the price.

    “But we don’t design for price, we design for the experience and the quality people expect from Mac. Phill Schiller

    Unfortunately these systems won’t provide the experience for a lot of people. Either they will have to settle for less than the computer they wanted/needed because they can’t afford more, or will have to forgo a Mac entirely. I found it more than a little ironic that they opened with Apple’s commitment to Accessibility in a presentation where the prices of the systems make them inaccessible for a lot of people.

    FWIW I just checked out places that sell Linux Systems. I can get a 15″ i7 KabyLake system with 16GB RAM, TWO! 512 GB SSDs, and an equivalent video card for half of what the Mac I was looking at costs. I don’t want to go Linux. I like the Mac environment, how everything just works, how my iPad and iPhone and Mac share documents through iCloud, the App store and iTunes store. I like that.

    But economics like this are hard to argue with.

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