MacBook Pro Review: Revisiting the update to Apple’s most polarizing Laptop release in years

The current version of the MacBook Pro received a processor speed bump and improvements to its GPUs last June–only eight months after it’s release in October of 2016.  The updated 2016 model was a highly anticipated announcement after a longer than usual upgrade cycle.  Positioned for the “Pro” Apple market, it’s still one of the most popular desktop computers on the market today.  However, its release has forged polarizing reactions to some of the new key features.  With the addition of the Touch Bar and the second generation butterfly keyboard mechanism, even some of its bigger supporters have been vocal in their concerns.  With all that in mind, lets look back at our initial review of the MacBook Pro and what we thought of the most anticipated MacBook release in years.

MacBook Pro Review

I make my living as a graphic designer. With that career choice comes the constant need for the latest kit, as new creative tools push the limits of hardware and software. When Apple announced new MacBook Pros in October, I was delighted. My 2011 MacBook Air had taken me about as far as it could. Time to upgrade.

At first I understood the outcry, though I disagreed. Now, after having spent almost a month with the new MacBook Pro, I don’t understand the upset. This machine, I got the high-end 13″ model, does precisely what it set out to do— be a great notebook.

There will always be a need for more. More RAM, better CPU, faster graphics, but there is also a technical pull toward thinner, lighter, more capable. I think this new MacBook Pro strikes that balance better than ever before. Sure, I wish I could load the notebook up with 32GB of RAM, but I also appreciate that it has all-day battery life in a thin and light package.

It is a capable machine, smoothly running all of the Adobe apps I have thrown at it (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign primarily). Only when I fired up Counter Strike GO have the fans spun up past a whisper. Undoubtedly some professional users will push the very limits of the new MacBook Pro. I however, have not been able to at this time, under what I would consider normal use.

Coming from the MacBook Air, the Retina display the new MacBook Pro comes equipped with, is a massive improvement, especially for my line of work. The improved color gamut is a nice addition, but most won’t notice the difference. If you are used to Apple’s Retina displays, this display isn’t world-changing sight. If, like me, you’re coming from a notebook without a Retina display, it is a night and day difference for the better.

The keyboard is a pleasure to type on. I prefer slimmer keys, and these keys are within millimeters of being flush with computer case. The keys feel as if they have the proper amount of travel to them, as well as a great clicky-ness to them. This new keyboard, much like the one featured on the new MacBook line, feel snappy and stable. A great improvement.

Some have panned the Touch Bar as a gimmick. Perhaps it is at the moment. However, I see potential. As an example, Adobe just updated Photoshop to support the Touch Bar. In this instance, the Touch Bar is more useful than the function keys ever were. Different, contextually based, tools are presented for use depending on what the user is doing. Will some Pro users miss the function keys? Yes. But I won’t. Is the Touch Bar a necessity? No, but it sure is nice. You will have to test drive one to fully appreciate the character and depth of this new feature.

From a technical level, the Touch Bar is interesting. It is essentially an embedded iOS device, complete with full 60 FPS animations and transitions. Touch ID on the new Pro is as nice of a bonus as you might expect, though integration throughout macOS doesn’t seem to complete at this time. Still, Touch ID is useful and works in the big ways that you need it to (purchases, and unlocking your machine).

The notebook itself is strikingly thin and light while the Space Grey finish is handsome. The four USB-C ports are both equally great and a nuisance at this time. For all of the peripherals you have that is USB-C equipped (not many at this time, I would wager) it is a dream solution. One faster, reversible connector for everything— a utopian idea that is on the edge of becoming a reality. On the other hand, and though it is a hassle, using a USB-A to USB-C dongle is a simple enough solution to this minor growing pain. In a few years time, when everything is USB-C equipped, we’ll all be happier for it.

In conclusion, the level of performance offered in this thin and light package seems appropriate, even if some Pro users are left wanting more. The display is incredible. The keyboard is snappy. Touch Bar and Touch ID and the USB-C connectors are great new features in the infancy of their functionality. The new MacBook Pro is forward-looking device much like the 2008 MacBook Air was and I think these new MacBook Pros will push the industry forward in much the same way.

 

 

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