With their latest MacBook Pro release, Apple shook a few heads, making a number of changes that will decide the fate of the MacBook range in the future, as well as laptops as an entire category.
The first thing that you will probably notice is the new Touch Bar, however, there is a lot more than that in this new MacBook, including USB Type-C/ Thunderbolt 3 ports, a much brighter and better-looking display and all new and faster storage.
That all makes it one of the best laptops of 2016/17 but for those of features you are going to have to pay quite the price.
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Design and Build
Much like Apple’s previous MacBookk Pros, the 2016 edition is most definitely the best-looking laptop that you can buy right now, of course, that is very subjective but we are willing to bet that the unibody aluminium chassis will impress you, especially considering that new Space Grey colour scheme, which comes alongside the classic aluminium colour option.
There’s no Rose Gold colour option available just yet, however, we are willing to bet that might change at some point.
This all comes in a build that is just 1.37kg, is only 0.71-inches thin, meaning it has a much smaller footprint than previous 13-inch MacBook Pros, making it way more portable than what we have previously experienced.
Elsewhere on this new 13-inch MacBook Pro you will find a number of hints about Apple’s new design choices. Probably the most important design change is the removal of the previous MagSafe, USB, SD, and HDMI ports in favour of a total of four USB 3.1 Type-C/ Thunderbolt 3 ports that handle both the charging and the data sync.
These ports mean that the new MacBook Pro is very future proof, right now it may be slightly annoying, but being able to charge from anyone of the ports is a fantastic addition, although we would prefer them to be magnetic, thankfully there are some products that will provide you with that.
Having four Thunderbolt ports also means that you get extremely fast data transfers, along with the ability to use an external monitor with up to a 5K resolution over a single cable. But it does mean you have no access to other connections unless you purchase adapters, including USB devices, SD cards, or Ethernet cables and Apple doesn’t include any in the box, despite the price tag.
But that’s still not all, there’s also that massive new Trackpad and the addition of the Touch Bar and Touch ID module section.
The Touch Bar is Apple’s biggest bet with the 2016 MacBook Pro, it sits at the top of the laptop’s keyboard, replacing the traditional function keys in favour of an OLED touchscreen that can be changed and adapted to provide you with access to various functions for the apps that you are currently using.
It is split into two sections, the major one is the Control Strip which is basically a strip of shortcuts that you have chosen to be shown there all of the time, this could include a range of things from quick volume controls, to brightness controls to anything from a lock button up to a button to bring up the Launchpad.
The second section changes with the apps that you are using and will show a selection of app-specific controls as you open apps that support it, you can also hit a button on the Control Strip to show extended functions or you can change all of it to show the old Fn keys by holding the Fn key on the keyboard, or you can have these show up permanently by changing the setting in the System Preferences.
At the moment, not many applications support this, with the most extensive implementations being from Apple’s own pre-installed apps and a selection of other third party apps, this means that a lot of the time it will simply show generalised MacOS buttons like save/ cancel buttons. On top of that, sometimes the Touch Bar supported things aren’t as complete as we would like them to be, for example, the word correction and suggestion features have not been optimised properly just yet, with the system not being able to keep up with the speed of my typing most of the time, with words generally popping up long after you have finished typing.
But as time goes on we expect that there will be a lot more apps available, with much better integrations than what is currently available.
When you do find an app that supports functions then it will provide you with amazing functionality such as bars to adjust things like colour, white balance, or filters at the touch of a finger, literally. However, aside from the various sliders and colour controls, a lot of these functions could also be done with keyboard shortcuts.
In practice, this works great for gaining quick access to various functions, but it does so with some shortcomings, the Touch Bar is rather narrow and so it can sometimes be hard to gain enough space to actually use these functions and in my opinion, I would much prefer it if they slightly reduced the size of the trackpad and maybe doubled the height of the Touch Bar.
The positioning of the Touch Bar is also rather strange, sometimes you can’t get a very good angle on it. It also creates some problems in that you might sometimes attempt to touch the screen after touching the Touch Bar.
That said, this is probably something that you will get used to eventually. And even if you don’t, that Touch ID sensor that sits next to the Touch Bar is a pretty fantastic feature to go alongside it, it’s something that I have wanted in a MacBook since I got my first one and it works just as I wanted, allowing you to easy log into Apple Pay, applications and into the MacBook itself by just touching your finger onto the sensor.
This implementation is extremely well done by Apple and works almost instantly.
Keyboard and Trackpad
When you are not using the Touch Bar you might find yourself impressed with the new Trackpad and keyboard on the 2016 MacBook Pro.
It uses the same Butterfly technology that Apple included on the 12-inch MaacBook but with a selection of the features that make it a generally fantastic laptop keyboard, it’s super clicky and it features a shallow travel that I particularly enjoy because it creates an overall experience that is very tactile and fast for typing.
That said, it’s not something that everyone will get used to.
Underneath the keyboard, you will find the new trackpad which has grown in size since we last used it, in fact, the best way to describe it is by calling it gigantic.
That size does come with a number of advantages, because of the huge size you get a lot of estate to travel around in order to make your way around MacOS and you can click anywhere on that trackpad.
It also features Apple’s Force Touch technology to allow you to feel and hear the click from the haptic feedback motors, despite the trackpad not actually clicking.
This also allows the trackpad to be pressure-sensitive, meaning that you can press harder on the trackpad to gain access to extra functions such as opening a preview from a link in Safari or pushing harder in QuickTime to fast-forward.
On top of the Touch Bar, keyboard, and trackpad Apple had to go all out with the display on the 2016 MacBook Pro, it the same resolution as the 2015 model with a 13.3-inch 2,560 x 1,600-pixel Retina display, however, this display is a lot more than that.
It features a brightness that is higher than any other laptop on the market at 550 nits, with a 99.9% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut and 98.3% coverage of the DCI-P3 cinema gamut.
This results in more vibrant colours displayed on the screen with a result that is more faithful to the source material that is being shown on the display, making it a great option for professionals or just people who like a nice display.
The speakers, microphone, and webcam
Flanking the left and right of the laptop are a pair of speakers, which are considered as some of the best speakers on any laptop on the market, they are extremely loud, are full of bass, and have great stereo separation for awesome audio on top of that fantastic display.
It has also been fitted with a great-sounding microphone, I used it in a range of situations where the microphone recorded my voice fine whilst filtering out background noise nicely, without any kind of hissing or echo.
This should make pretty good for video calling, but sadly, the webcam isn’t as good for video calling, with the ability to only record at 720p, it isn’t the best webcam on the market.
That said, it will do fine for most people.
If the Touch Bar isn’t enough for you to choose this model over the base model then you might want to choose it because of the better performance upgrades, particularly for the processor, which goes from a 2GHz Core i5 to a dual-core 2.9GHz Core i5 in the Touch Bar model that can boost up to 3.1GHz.
And you can upgrade this further when you choose your model for even higher clock speeds, the version that I choose had a 3.1GHz installed, sadly, there’s no option to get a quad-core or an i7 in the 13-inch model.
But you still get fantastic speeds from this 13-inch model. The version I have scored 6540 in Geekbench 4 software.
Inside of the 2016 MacBook Pro, there’s also an Intel Iris Graphics 550 integrated GPU, which is also an improvement from the 540 that is found in the base model, this will get you through most tasks on the MacBook, however, it isn’t going to game well.
As standard, you will also get 8GB of 2,133MHz RAM as standard, which is an upgrade from the base model’s 1,866MHz RAM, however, you can also upgrade that to 16GB if you so choose so. That is gonna cost an extra £180, but you cannot game after the fact.
And that’s still not all, it also includes one of the fastest available SSDs in a laptop, topping out 2,000MB/sec read speeds and 1,700MB/sec write speeds in the CrystalDiskMark benchmark software, which is incredibly fast.
As standard it comes with 256GB of storage, however, you can also upgrade to 512GB or 1TB if you so choose to.
The battery life on the 2016 MacBook Pro is somewhat controversial and people are really unsure whether or not to believe Apple’s claims that the MacBook Pro will last 10 hours.
Personally, I got a decent amount of battery out of the new MacBook Pro, with an easy seven hours with my personal use case, which is usually quite a lot browsing, a lot of emails, web browsing, and some video watching.
If you up the brightness and consume more battery intensive applications (particularly Chrome) that won’t be anywhere close to the case.
Overall I found myself very impressed with the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, sure the Touch Bar isn’t quite what we want it to be, however, it is still an extremely cool thing to have.
We would have also preferred it if the Touch Bar was slightly larger, however, I really like the Touch Bar, it’s a great way to get some use out of the top row of my keyboard, which I only previously used for media controls and the odd Fn function, now I use that top bar for pretty much anything that I want.
The new 2016 MacBook Pro also features a truly fantastic display that is super bright, extremely vivid and has a slightly thinner bezel than previous MacBook models. I also really like the new Touch ID function, which is probably a little over indulgent, but definitely provides a much better experience thanks to easier logging in, the fewer passwords, the better..
That super clicky keyboard is also great, I found myself being able to type much faster on this new keyboard, which feels truly great to type on, while sounding great in the process, however, to gain that experience you do need to get used to it.
If you have the money for it then we would definitely recommend picking up a 2016 MacBook Pro w/ Touch Bar, it’s simply one of the best laptops in the world.