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Date: 28 October 2016 10:34
Apple has unveiled a a completely revamped MacBook Pro lineup for the first time since giving the laptops Retina displays back in 2012. The 13- and 15-inch models come with a wide array of internal and external upgrades and changes, and they continue moving Apple’s Mac lineup in the direction heralded by the one-ported MacBook last year.
Both laptops are still recognizably MacBook Pros, but in keeping with Apple’s design priorities, they have slimmer profiles and smaller footprints. This is made possible in part by the move to USB Type-C ports like the one in the MacBook, all four of which support Thunderbolt 3. All four ports can be used to charge the system, too. Compared to the measly one port in the MacBook, the MacBook Pros are much more appealing to people who plug lots of stuff into their computers at once. Apple has also made the cowardly decision to retain the headphone jack.
The new laptops are thinner and lighter, with the 13-inch model weighing 3lbs and the 15-inch model coming in at 4lbs. The 13-inch model is 14.9mm thick, the 15-inch version a hair larger.
The single most striking difference between the old and new Pros is that the row of function keys (and, yes, the Escape key) has been removed and replaced with a long OLED touchscreen panel called the "Touch Bar" that can do different things depending on what you’re doing and what apps you’re running. Some users will no doubt mourn the loss of physical keys, though if used well, the Touch Bar should bring some of the versatility of software keyboards to what is otherwise a regular hardware keyboard.
Touch Bar changes the buttons displayed according to the app; when typing, you might get autocomplete suggestions, Safari can show bookmarks, and when working at the desktop, you get the regular brightness, volume, and other keys. To get traditional Function keys (and an Escape key) you hold down Fn. Apple demonstrated a range of integrations with apps, using Touch Bar to swipe through photos, write apps in Xcode, play instruments in Garage Band, and more.
The keyboard itself uses switches derived from the MacBook's keyboard. To the right of the Touch Bar is an embedded Touch ID button that does pretty much the same stuff it does in modern iOS devices—it lets you use registered fingerprints to unlock the system and to use Apple Pay in Safari, a macOS Sierra feature that otherwise requires an iPhone or Apple Watch.
The computers both include Retina Displays made thinner using some of the same technologies present in the Retina MacBook, and like the 4K and 5K iMacs, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, they both support the DCI-P3 color gamut. Referred to as "wide color displays" in Apple's documentation, these screens can show more vivid shades of green and red than the sRGB screens in older models. The screens do maintain the same resolution and density as the old models: 2560×1600 for the 13-inch Pro and 2880×1800 for the 15-inch model.
Both systems include new Intel Skylake processors—dual-core chips in the 13-inch Pro and quad-core chips in the 15-inch model, just like before. The 13-inch Pros ship exclusively with Intel Iris 550 GPUs, while the 15-inch models ship with Polaris-based AMD Radeon graphics at the high-end.
Apple’s choice of CPUs and GPUs may come as a disappointment to people who have been waiting impatiently for Apple to refresh its notebooks, since these Skylake CPUs have all been available for the better part of a year now. But next-generation “Kaby Lake” CPUs suitable for MacBook Pros won’t be out until January, and in most respects they bring only minor improvements over Skylake. The primary addition is hardware encoding and decoding acceleration for 10-bit HEVC/h.265 video, something that you can still get if you buy a MacBook Pro with a dedicated GPU.
For both, Apple claims ten hours of battery life. The 13-inch starts with a 2.9GHz i5, Iris Graphics 550, 8GB RAM, and 256GB storage, and it will cost $1,799/£1,749. The 15 inch starts with a 2.6GHz Core i7, Radeon Pro 450 graphics, 16GB RAM, and 256GB storage. $2,399/£2,349. Two colors are available: Silver and Space Gray. Ordering starts today, shipping in two to three weeks.