To say that the MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch Bar has caused controversy is an understatement. Digital Trends, who always rated Pros with four stars or more, only gave the 13-inch Touch Bar version three stars.
“We’re disappointed with Apple’s vision of cutting-edge computing. With the new MacBook Pro, Apple has ignored the best features offered by its competitors, while also introducing a Touch Bar of questionable use. The MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar is a great Mac – but it’s no longer a great laptop.”
Besides stating that this is the first MacBook Pro that they can’t recommend, Digital Trends also criticizes the lack of USB-A ports, the Touch Bar (which they think is somewhat of a gimmick), the unsatisfactory keyboard, and the fact that the battery life takes a step back.
This author disagrees with Digital Trends and thinks the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is a four-star laptop that could have been a five if it wasn’t overpriced. Still, it is the best 13-inch laptop you can buy now. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics.
The new MacBook Pro gives the HP Spectre 13 some competition. There is less bezel on the Pro and more screen space this time around. The device, which is super thin, rates somewhere between the MacBook Air and 12-inch MacBook. The speakers, which have plenty of stereo separation and bass, offer the best quality sound that has ever been heard on a laptop.
Then, there is the butterfly keyboard. This author loves it, but others, who want a lot of travel to their keys, won’t. Once you get used to the keys, you get a satisfying “crunch” feeling every time you press one.
It’s too bad that Apple has kept the same “Retina” screen resolution it had in 2012 (2560 x 1600). However, the improvement in the screen is seen in the updated Wide Color Display, which produces accurate colors that pop right out. The Pro is great for viewing pictures and watching movies. You certainly have the option to turn the brightness up so the Pro is blindingly bright, but you’ll likely prefer to set it between 50 and 80 percent brightness, especially to save battery life.
The specs, at least on paper, don’t really live up to the $1799 price tag. Instead of a 7th-generation Intel i7 processor, you get a 6th-generation Intel Core i5 processor that runs at 2.9GHz (3.3GHz Turbo Boost). Instead of 16GB of RAM, you get 8GB. But in the real world, this has been more than enough to edit 4K videos on Final Cut Pro with Photoshop running in the background. It is only slightly slower than the latest Dell XPS 13 that runs the latest Intel Core i7 Processor (up to 3.5GHz), but the battery lasts longer.
The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is supposed to last for “up to 10 hours” on a single charge. This author got a little more than eight hours by turning the brightest up to 70 percent while streaming Netflix videos, using Photoshop, and continually surfing the internet. Considering that this Pro has high-end specs and uses the Touch Bar, the battery life is very good.
This is the most controversial part of the new MacBook Pro, and it’s not a gimmick like some have said. However, it’s not a completely essential feature either — at least for now. Most apps don’t support it now, but that will change with companies such as Adobe and Microsoft claiming they will add Touch Bar functionality with their products. The Touch Bar offers easy ways to enable basic tasks (change volume, change brightness), but is still a little more style than substance.
Yes, Apple makes things difficult to connect (only uses USB-C ports), and they make it even more difficult to justify charging customers $1799 for the new 13-inch mid-range MacBook Pro. However, if you actually shell out the cash, this is a laptop you won’t be able to get your hands off of. The new MacBook Pro will instantly become your favorite ultraportable laptop.
[Featured Image by Daryl Deino]