15 inch

The Pro-est of the pros, the 15-inch has all the power you could want. Core i7 processors with base speeds of 2.6/27 GHz (Turbo up to 3.6 GHz) up to an optional and upgraded base 2.9 GHz (Turbo up to 3.8 GHz). To be fair, though, the CPU upgrade has rarely been worth it in modern times on Apple’s laptop range. RAM is firmly planted at 16 GB with no upgrade option – a bit disappointing given the $4,000+ plus one could build to order. GPU options come in the form of AMD Radeon 450 or 455 as a base configuration with the Radeon 460 being a paid-for upgrade. Finally, storage starts as low as 256 GB of super fast 3.1 GB/s SSD storage and can be pushed up as high as 2 TB now — all flash.

2016-macbookpro2Port wise it’s a blood bath. You’re getting a headphone jack (hold the laughs) and 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports in USB Type C form factor. While on one hand we’re really annoyed by literally everything needing an
adapter now, the versatility of any and all ports being video, audio, or even power ports is a nice perk.

Despite the brightness being ~2x as bright as the outgoing model and the new display featuring a ~67% wider color gamut, resolution is still only 1920 x 1200 (effective). You can of course manually tweak the settings to get more crammed in on screen, up to 2880 x 1800 (the panel’s native resolution). While we’re on the topic of pixels…the 15″ MacBook Pro can power up to four 4K monitors @ 60Hz (which is crazy) or 2 5K monitors at the same speed.

Force Touch Trackpad – it’s now gigantic(er) than ever before. And yes, it doesn’t move. Just like the 12-inch MacBook, the trackpad is stationary, with vibration motors giving you the impression of tactical feedback.

Pricing starts at $2,399 and climbs quickly. Expect the first models to ship in 2-3 weeks.

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13 inch

For those not needing quite the level of power (or willing to part with quite that much cash) as the 15″ provides, the 13 incher should provide plenty suitable as well. CPU options include an entry level option with a 2.0 GHz base speed (Turbo up to 3.1) and a slightly upgraded 2.4 GHz/3.4 GHz mid-tier option. RAM is hard-set at 8 GB across the board, though storage, which starts at 256 GB (same 3.1 GB/s storage as the 15-inch) can be upgraded as high as 1 TB. There’s no dedicated GPU here, with Apple relying on Intel’s “Iris Graphics”. While Intel graphics have come a long way since the mid-2000’s when integrated graphics were legit garbage, a “Pro” laptop in this price range with no dedicated GPU offering still feels off. Then again, Apple claims even the Iris Pro graphics in these new MBPs can power up to 2 4K displays + the built in laptop display or 1 external 5K monitor.

Force Touch Trackpad – it’s now gigantic(er) than ever before. And yes, it doesn’t move. Just like the 12-inch MacBook, the trackpad is stationary, with vibration motors giving you the impression of tactical feedback.

It’s worth noting that the absolute entry level 13-inch MBP does not include a Touch Bar and it also comes with 2 less Thunderbolt 3 ports. Because of this larger discrepancy, the pricing varies a tad more with the non-Touch Bar model coming in at $1499 while the cheapest Touch Bar equipped 13-inch model starting at $1799.

Battery Life and Thinness

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Being an Apple product, naturally, thinness is always a consideration, sometimes too much so. At ~20% (give or take a few percentage points here) smaller for both the 13 and 15-inch respectively, Apple has still managed to put enough battery inside to get roughly 10 hours of real world usage. In more quantitative numbers that equates to 54.5 (or 49.2) watt-hour batteries for the base 13″ MacBook Pros (non-Touch Bar and Touch Bar models) and a 76 watt-hour battery for the larger 15-inch model. Of course, that will vary fairly wildly depending on what you’re doing. While the base of the laptop is noticeably thinner, the lid is now to the point that the iconic backlit Apple logo is no longer backlit. There’s just not enough space anymore.

In short: at 3 and 4lbs respectively, the new MacBook Pros are some of the thinnest, “desktop replacement” laptops to hit the market and will continue to provide decent to good battery life.

New Additions: Space Gray, Touch Bar, and Touch ID

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Normally a simple color option isn’t much to writ home about. But for a long time now, prospective MacBook Pro buyers have clamored for a colored version of Apple’s all aluminum MacBook Pros. Finally that option is here. Both the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros have a space gray option. And while it’s not the simple, dark, matte black of the iPhone 7/Plus, it is a much appreciated option. Needless to say, a lot of new MacBook owners are going to be sporting darker hued computers by the end of 2016.

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More important than a basic color choice, though, is the new Touch Bar. While many will simply write it off or scoff at it much like 3D Touch was scoffed at, there is real potential to be had. Apple demoed quite a lot of added functionality (however minor) during the keynote. And since there are APIs for developers to tap into, we are only seeing the beginning. That said, there are apparently a healthy, lengthy list of rules per Apple that restrict what developers can/should do with the Touch Bar. Really, it reads like some arbitrary and heavy handed list of “Don’ts” from middle school:

  • Use the Touch Bar as an extension of the keyboard and trackpad, not as a display
  • The Touch Bar shouldn’t display alerts, messages, scrolling content, static content, or anything else that commands the user’s attention or distracts form their work on the main screen.
  • Avoid animation. The Touch Bar is considered an extension of the keyboard, and people don’t expect animation in their keyboard.
  • Use color tastefully and minimally. In general, the Touch Bar should be similar in appearance to the physical keyboard.
  • In general the Touch Bar shouldn’t include controls for tasks such as find, select all, deselect, copy, cut, paste, undo, redo, new, save, close, print, and quit

What a bunch of kill joys. Seriously – Apple needs to stop with this BS. But I digress. Gripes aside, I’m very excited to try out the new Touch Bar as well as see what developers (approved or non-approved) come up with. It adds a whole new dimension to macOS at a level that is even more “open” to experimentation than 3D Touch on iOS was/has been thus far.

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Finally, Touch ID. There’s not a whole lot to say on this subject other than…yes. Touch ID built into the MacBook Pro has a lot of legitimate scenarios that naturally tie into authentication for logging in all the way up to paying for things. Apple also demoed on stage a quick-switching user profile action that can be done by tapping the Touch ID “button” (in quotes because it doesn’t actually press down). It’s also worth pointing out that in going with the team of consolidation, the traditional power button is gone – it’s hidden underneath/within the Touch ID non-button.

LG 4K & 5K Monitors

2016-macbookpro-lgMany rumors have swirled around what Apple would do about the monitor situation. They discontinued the Thunderbolt display leaving a glaring hole in their lineup. Especially with their focus on high quality video, not having a quality monitor didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Contrast that with the fact they sell 4K and 5K monitors – they just so happen to have computers crammed into the back of them and also carry the name “iMac”. But fret not, pixel lover, Apple isn’t going without something.

At the keynote Apple took a few minutes to show off new 4K and 5K monitors developed in conjunction with LG. While they’re a little stark and perhaps a tad utilitarian by Apple’s traditional display design standards, they’re not terrible and they’ll certainly get the job done. At $700 and $1300 for the 4K (21.5-inch) and 5K (27-inch) respectively, they’re certainly not cheap. But if the most pixels is what you’re after, the 5K in particular is where it’s at. Also take note that each monitor has a single cable the plugs nicely into your new MacBook Pro’s Type C ports. In my opinion, unless you’re looking at the 5K option, don’t even bother with the 4K one. At that price point you can get bigger 4K monitors – curved 4K monitors even – albeit they will have less color range than these new LG options (P3).

Needless to say, given that it’s been a few years since Apple has paid much attention to their MacBook Pros, everyone who has been waiting can now collectively sigh in appreciation (or disappointment). At the very least, the waiting game is over. Now it’s time to enjoy…in 2-3 weeks when the new MacBook Pros start shipping, of course.

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets and mobile technology since 2008 and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors and playing guitar and drums. I'm always up for a good conversation so feel free to drop me a line on any of my social accounts or via email.