The rivalry in the tech world between Apple’s macOS(X) and Microsoft’s Windows reminds me of the battle between Pepsi and Coke. I myself use to be a die hard Windows user. Just the word Apple use to get me in a defensive posture where I would spout off the number of ways that Windows was superior. One day I broke down and bought a iPhone. Then shortly there after a Macbook Pro to use at school. I have since purchased a Windows laptop, but miss my Macbook. I no longer find myself in one camp or the other, but a completely neutral observer.
At Apple’s October 2016 Keynote, the company revealed the Macbook Pro 2016 line of laptops. Although the Pro line has been updated a few times over the past eight years, the company has yet to offer a proper refresh. Many of the company’s customers have been calling for a refreshed version for quite some time, but does the features of the new Macbook Pro constitute a refresh of the line?
The Macbook Pro line now includes three models: the base 13-inch, 13-inch with Touch Bar and Touch ID, and 15-inch with Touch Bar and Touch ID. The Touch Bar is an OLED strip across the top of the keyboard that allow both software and users to manipulate a row of personalized function keys with the added ability to use your fingerprint (or Touch ID) to login to the computer. During the company’s keynote, the Touch Bar was touted as the defining feature of the new line.
Additionally, the overall form factor of the laptops have been reduced. The weight of the 13-inch models have been reduced by a half a pound down to 3-pounds and are 17% thinner at 14.9 mm putting it on par with the Macbook Air. All models come with the new second-generation butterfly keyboard, which was first introduced on the Macbook 12-inch. Although this keyboard allows for a reduction in the size of the laptops, its keys have very little travel and have been a source of frustration for many customers. Moreover, the Force Touch track pad is now double the size of the 2015 models, which will allow for easier gestures. The displays are still Retina IPS panels, but are now 67% brighter, with 67% higher contrast ratio, and 25% wider color gamut. The improvement in display panels will allow for much easier viewing in direct sunlight.
On the inside, the laptops have been updated to Intel’s six-generation sky lake processors along with an increase in graphics performance. The base non-Touch Bar 13-inch model has a 2.0GHz dual-core i5-6360U processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz, 8GB 1866MHz RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 540, and a 256GB SSD. In contrast, the base Touch Bar 13-inch model has a 3.1Ghz dual-core i5-6267U processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz, 8GB 1866MHz RAM, Intel Iris Graphics 550, and 256GB SSD. Additionally, the PCIe based solid state drives are twice as fast as the 2015 models. These internal upgrades come together to add a substantial performance boost. This increase in performance has not impacted the battery life if the 10 hours claimed by Apple is accurate, which their battery life estimates tend to be.
One area in which Apple has caught a lot of flack is in the reducing the amount of ports. As it did with the Macbook 12-inch, the company is attempting to push us into the future kicking and screaming. The base 13-inch Macbook Pro has two USB-C ports on the left side and one 3.5mm headphone jack on the right. In contrast, the 13-inch model with Touch Bar adds an additional two USB-C ports on the right side of the device. Yes, that is it. The USB-C port is the future there is no doubt about that. The problem is that it is just that… the future. The vast majority of devices still use the USB-A connectors. For my use, this would not create a problem, but I completely understand the frustration. I only use my external hard drives at home where a small dongle wouldn’t be an issue to pull out of my desk drawer. The one thing that I don’t understand is the lack of an SD card slot. Macbook Pro users are known for media editing, so removing this slot does not make much sense.
The final area that has customers upset is the price of the devices. So, what is all of this aluminum and glass industrialized modernness going to cost you? Well, the base 13-inch model will set you back $1499 USD and the base 13-inch with Touch Bar starts at $1799 USD. Most consumers (and rightly so) are pointing out that the base model is now $200 higher than last years and $500 higher with the addition of the Touch Bar. Although I feel that the Macbook Pro 2016 line is finally a proper refresh, the increase in cost is in my opinion not justifiable.
Do you think the 2016 Macbook Pros are a refresh to the line? Do you think they are worth the increase in price? Leave a comment below.