The New MacBook Pro: A Perfectly Fine Laptop For No One In Particular

Apple's new top-of-the-line laptop is impressively lightweight, but it may not be the home run longtime MacBook Pro users were hoping for.

The all-new MacBook Pro is the laptop that loyal MacBook Pro users have been waiting for since 2012. But it might not be the one they were expecting.

Apple’s new laptop, which starts shipping in mid-December, is lighter and thinner than its predecessor. There’s a model with a tiny touchscreen called the Touch Bar, and a 13-inch model without, aimed at replacing the MacBook Air.

When the fourth-generation Pro was announced in October, the first major redesign for the premium laptop line in four years, the Maclash was very strong.

Gone is the strip of physical function keys, MagSafe charger, SD card reader, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, and USB ports. It's all been replaced USB-C ports – and the only legacy connection that remains is the headphone jack (OMG!!).

Apple has removed the ports that some thought made the MacBook deserving of its Pro moniker.

“I’m out of apologia juice for defending Apple,” tweeted David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails web development framework. “Those complaining about Apple’s current Mac lineup are not haters, they’re lovers. They’ve spent 10+ years and 5+ figures on Macs,” tweeted @lapcatsoftware, a self-described longtime Mac developer.

Meanwhile, some Mac users complained that the the new MacBook Pro appears to be underpowered for its price. The machine runs on last year’s Intel Skylake chip, and not the more recent, slightly more powerful Kaby Lake (which the chipmaker claims is about 12% faster in raw performance).

So, were the complaints warranted?

In my week and a half-ish with the new MacBook Pros, I found the laptops to be impressively fast and lightweight, but perhaps not quite the home run for which diehard MacBook Pro users had hoped. I tried both Touch Bar and non-Touch Bar models. The 13-inch non-Touch Bar laptop is clearly a win for those looking to upgrade aging Airs, as it’s lighter, thinner, and more powerful than the Air line.

But it’s not clear who exactly the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is for — other than early adopters who won’t mind toting around a handful of dongles in order to push USB-C, the port of the future, forward.

The MacBook Pro’s marquee feature is the Touch Bar, a new Retina, multi-touch screen that displays a set of additional controls that change according to what apps you have open.

Other Touch Bar functions, like tab preview in Safari, seem more forced.

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When your system bugs out, Touch Bar can be frustrating. I was playing a Facebook video full-screen in Chrome when the display and Bar froze at the same time. Audio was blasting at full volume and I couldn’t mute or press ESC to minimize and escape the horrors. The future is v loud! When I brought this up to Apple, a representative said that it may be because Chrome isn't fully compatible with the newest MacOS yet.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to assess how meaningful the Touch Bar may or may not be, as the palette of app use cases to evaluate is currently very small. But, as it stands now, the Touch Bar seems more of a nice addition than a must-have feature — even for pros.

The more exciting new feature, in my opinion, is Touch ID.

Fact: This laptop is damn pretty.

The new MacBook Pro has larger, flatter keys that aren't as bouncy as traditional keyboards and help keep the machines as slim as possible.

The trackpad is massive.

The display is the same resolution as the 2015 model, but it's brighter and offers wide color gamut.

The new MacBook Pro has the same 2880-by-1800 pixel Retina display as the previous generation, but it’s brighter, at 500 nits (vs. 300 nits) and can display wide color gamut, which means that it can portray colors beyond the standard RGB range (most computer screens are limited to displaying colors defined by varying red, green, and blue values, hence RGB).

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are capable of wide color capture. In other words, the devices can photograph a wider, more true-to-life range of colors, and you’ll be able to view that full wide color gamut on a new MacBook Pro display.

The speakers are impressive, especially on the 15-inch.

Battery life was all over the place.

For people who work with different types of media, the USB-C adapter nightmare could be a pain point.

Okay, let’s talk about what makes this laptop a Pro: its performance.

The bottom line: I’m not quite sure who to recommend this MacBook Pro to.

Let’s look at the good first. The Touch Bar wasn’t as gimmicky as I thought it would be. Touch ID on the Mac might be my favorite feature of all time. The display, which is brighter and offers wide color gamut, will be a huge plus for designers and photo editors. The audio quality was impressive. Being able to charge on either side of the laptop was great. The MacBook Pro’s industrial design, as always, is unparalleled for a laptop. Space gray did not disappoint.

And now, the meh. The shallow keyboard will be a hard sell for some people. The USB-C ports will be a bummer for professionals who work with a lot of media in the field and don’t want to carry around adapters. Performance is adequate, but not dramatically improved. The battery life is the same (if not worse??).

Most meh of all is the new MacBook Pro’s pricing scheme. The entry-level MacBook Pro, a 13-inch version without the Touch Bar aimed at replacing the MacBook Air, starts at $1,499, while the early 2015 13-inch MacBook Air with the same amount of storage is $1,199 (you can, however, buy less Air storage for $999). The next tier, a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, starts at $1,799, while the previous generation started at $1,299. The most premium tier, the 15-inch with Touch Bar, starts at $2,399, compared with the 2015 model’s $1,999.

It just got a lot more expensive to get a new Mac. The barrier to entry for the latest laptop from Apple is much higher than it was when the Air first came out.

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