Apple has finally delivered new MacBook Pros that are truly for professional users. Retaining the previous and somewhat contentious form factor, the new range of 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros are built for the peak of portable performance.
My 13-inch review unit in Space Gray looks and feels like the last MacBook Pro I reviewed way back in 2016, when this form factor was new and the Touch Bar was the key new feature.
Touch Bar’s existential crisis. Two years later, the Touch Bar is still searching for an identity (or perhaps, multiple identities). The mighty morphin’ strip of OLED smartness was billed as an almost precognitive feature that created buttons and controls when you needed them, before you needed them. But did we need them?
My biggest issue with the schizoid Touch Bar was that it drew attention away from the display or the keyboard. Many folks seem to have learned to live with this. I have not.
Some users still find the Touch Bar a touch distracting. Like a looping banner ad, or a buzzing neon billboard. Some users still miss the ESC key.
One great thing about the Touch Bar is Touch ID, which brings fingerprint authorization to the portable line. Siri is also there, but very few people use that feature consistently.
The rest of the MacBook Pro is familiar, Apple has chiseled the previous generation’s design to a skinny yet solid slab. In terms of dimensions, it is recognizable and iconic. There’s no distinguishing feature to separate it from the past two previous iterations.
Trackpad, keyboard, and True Tone display. A giant glass trackpad stands out for gestures, or to make up for the lack of a touchscreen. The much-vilified butterfly-keyboard is back but is now dampened by a protective membrane to keep offending crumbs and bits of dust out.
Typing on this nearly flat keyboard is marginally better and markedly quieter. If you didn’t love the butterfly keyboard before, there’s very little here to change your mind.
Blazing performance. Firing up the MacBook Pro brings us to the latest version of macOS High Sierra. With the onboard 16GB of RAM, this MacBook simply flies through most tasks. The 2TB SSD is crazy fast and capacious, I suddenly see a mobile computing future devoid of external hard drives, even for serious video editing tasks. It simply inhales data transfers, including large video files.
The display of the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a bright LED with IPS panel. Featuring a 2,560 x 1,600 native resolution with 227 pixels per inch. No 4K, though, which bites if you need to edit 4K video.
They’ve now added True Tone functionality (and on the Touch Bar, too). This is an awesome feature on the iPad Pro, which adjusts the display to counteract external lighting conditions, great for reading on a tablet.
True Tone on tap. True Tone is less essential on a Pro laptop and can be a bit distracting once the display spasms through changing light conditions on a cloudy day. That said, it is a feature I value, especially when reading through a lot of text.
The design of this MacBook Pro is probably the least endearing Apple portable in recent history.
It is a stark slab of aluminum with sharp edges and certain limitations that you have no choice but to live with and work around.
Dongle fever. I do not have “dongle fever” and dislike having to pay more to carry extra gear just to read an SD card, plug in my Lightning cable, hook up to Ethernet, or an external thumb drive or SSD. In this case, less is not more.
MagSafe is gone, the pulsing charging light that made older Macs feel alive, is gone. Even the familiar startup chime from macOS has been expunged, like every vestige of sentience from older, more endearing Mac laptops.
What we have here is an unapologetic and purposeful production tool that’s designed to get things done quickly and efficiently. Apple’s outfitted the new MacBook Pros with enough processing power and bandwidth to easily replace most desktop systems. Considering how thin the enclosure is, that’s quite a feat.
The four USB Type-C connectors can power and charge the MacBook Pro as well as offer full 40Gbps Thunderbolt throughput. No other laptop today features these many full-throughput ports.
Good notebook, great desktop Mac. While it is a formidable Pro notebook, the MacBook Pro works even better when docked and connected to an external 4K monitor and matched with a proper keyboard and mouse. In desktop mode, the potential is even greater with the addition of external GPUs to enhance video output or enable virtual reality or augmented reality design.
For most consumers, the sheer power and performance of the new MacBook Pros will be wasted; like a Lamborghini Aventador plowing through rush hour traffic.
These are production-grade portables designed to perform, they can be pushed to peak limits and they carry the accompanying price tag.
The state of Apple laptops today. There now seems to be a power and performance chasm between the entry-level MacBook Air, the uneasily dangling 12-inch MacBook, and the new MacBook Pros.
If you’re a pro user who dabbles in serious photo editing, Final Cut Pro video editing, or needs a supercomputer to crunch code, these new MacBook Pros are answered prayers.
If you’re a long-suffering MacBook Air user wanting to jump to a Retina Display or needing the latest processors, graphics, and specs, as desirable as the MacBook Pros are, they are priced way out of most consumer’s spending orbit. What’s the option? Look at the latest Surface devices or HP or Dell’s new offerings. If you can’t live without macOS, then it best to wait to see what Apple releases in the fall.
The price of power. My review unit, which is the most powerful laptop I’ve tested, features the 8th-gen Intel Core i7quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage. It’s priced at CAD$4,749 (the local 13-inch model’s price starts at P114,990)! For a “base” model with an Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD is priced at $2,399.00. If you plan on buying one, do invest in AppleCare because these laptops can only be serviced by Apple and components are usually replaced.
For true professionals and creatives, who charge by the hour and need the absolute fastest gear, Apple has truly delivered. These MacBook Pros will likely pay for themselves while they elevate capacities and accelerate workflows.
Display: 13.3” LED IPS (2,560 x 1,600 resolution), True Tone
Operating system: macOS High Sierra
Processor: Up to Intel Core i7 quad-core 2.7GHz, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz, 128MB eDRAM
GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655
Memory: Up to 16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 RAM
Storage: Up to 2TB SSD
Connectivity & I/O ports: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 5.0; 4 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 3.5mm audio jack
Battery: Built-in 58-watt-hour Li-Po
Other features: Touch Bar, Touch ID
Dimensions & weight: 0.59 x 11.97 x 8.36”; 3.02lbs
Price: Starts at P114,990