Hardware

Apple MacBook Pro 2016: The smart person's guide

Everything you need to know about the new MacBook Pro, including the new OLED touch panel that redesigns the keyboard, fingerprint ID and an overall smaller package.

macbook-pro-both-sizes.png

The new 13" and 15" MacBook Pro models.

Image: Apple

The MacBook Pro finally had its turn in the spotlight at Thursday's Apple event.

As with all Apple products, rumors were rampant for weeks, nay, months, before the actual announcement. The newest rendition of the MacBook Pro includes everything that was expected, plus a bit more:

  • OLED touch panel? Yes.
  • Retina display? Yes.
  • Touch ID? Yes.
  • Extra large Force Touch trackpad? Yes.
  • High-performance graphics? Yes.
  • Thinner design? Yes.
  • Lighter? Yes.
  • Improved environmental impact? Yes.

Despite all the new additions, the MacBook Pro looks similar to past models, at least when it's closed and the new touch bar is hidden. The first Apple notebook, the PowerBook, debuted 25 years ago on Oct. 25, 1991. The new design is sleek and appealing, but then, so have been all of the recent models.

SEE: Does the Mac still matter? (CNET)

One of the best new features on the MacBook Pro is the new touch bar that replaces the function keys is a useful feature, and it's easy to customize the bar to include the components that you use regularly. It also has faster graphics, and a brighter display. If you tote your laptop around in a bag, it's important to note that each new model is approximately a half pound lighter than the previous model, whether you opt for a 13" or 15" display.

The MacBook Pro is still the go-to choice for many professionals. Read on to find out more about it.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic's smart person's guides (TechRepublic)

Executive summary

  • What it is: The MacBook Pro has undergone a major refresh for 2017 with new 13" and 15" models.
  • Why it matters: This is the first update for the MacBook Pro since early 2015.
  • Who it is for: Business users and consumers who want fast performance and state-of-the-art graphics in a laptop.
  • Why you should get it: If you're in any creative field, Apple knows how to appeal to design professionals.
  • Why you shouldn't get it: You don't want to pay the premium price for a laptop.
  • How to get it: Order online at Apple or visit an Apple Store.
  • The style quotient: The new MacBook Pro is a respectable 7 on the style scale. Its looks are nothing out of the ordinary, but then a laptop doesn't have to be flashy to do the job.
  • What it looks like:
macbook-pro-model.png
Image: Apple

What it is

The new MacBook Pro is one of the go-to laptops for professionals. It's been more than a year since Apple last updated this laptop, and it's been worth the wait with the latest models featuring a touch bar in place of the basic function keys.

The MacBook Pro comes in 13" and 15" models, with the 13" model including an option without the new touch bar, which provides substantial savings but also eliminates one of the coolest features of this new laptop.

The 13" model weighs just over 3 lbs., and the 15" model weighs one pound more. Both are lighter than their predecessors, and thinner as well. They're also faster, and have brighter displays.

Also see:

Why it matters

This is the first refresh for the MacBook Pro since the 13" model was released in March 2015 and the 15" model was released in May 2015. Since the laptop is one of the most popular form factors in computers, it's essential for Apple to release new models on a timely basis, before they become obsolete in the laptop market.

The new touch bar can be easily customized, and allows the user to use system controls such as volume and brightness, and intelligent typing features such as emojis and predictive text. Touch ID is also available, enabling fast payments through Apple Pay.

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Who it is for

Enterprise users and consumers will appreciate the features in the new MacBook Pro, whether they opt for the 13" or 15" models. It features faster graphics, so gamers will appreciate it, too. The 15" model has up to 130% faster graphics and the 13" model has up to 103% faster graphics.

Apple fans who use Final Cut Pro X will appreciate the three full streams of full-resolution 4K video on the 15" model with render speeds up to 57% faster than the previous model.

The 500 nits brightness of the screen, and 25% more colors than sRGB and higher contrast ratio make the MacBook Pro a particularly good choice for graphic artists and photo editors.

Also see:

Why you should get it

If you're a loyal Apple customer and you've been waiting to upgrade your MacBook Pro, or if you're using a MacBook Air, then the new MacBook Pro is the one to get. It has interesting features such as the touch panel that's replaced the function keys, and it allows you to logon with fingerprint ID, and seamlessly switch between users if you share with a co-worker or family member.

It's also significantly thinner and lighter than the previous MacBook Pro, and is 6.8 million times faster than the first Apple notebook 25 years ago.

If you work from a desktop, you can connect two 5K displays and two RAID systems to a 15" MacBook Pro for a useable workstation.

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Why you shouldn't get it

As always, the MacBook Pro is priced above that of competitors with similar products, with the 15" model ranging between $2,399 and $2,799, with upgrades, including more storage, that can tack on an additional $1,500, and pre-installed software such as Final Cut Pro X for $299.99, or $199.99 for Logic Pro X.

As always, Apple is a premium-priced product.

Also see:

How to get it

The MacBook Pro is available online at Apple, with shipping in 2-3 weeks, or from an Apple Store.

Also see:

What it looks like

SEE: Photos: A first look at Apple's brand new MacBook Pro and Apple TV features (TechRepublic)

macbook-pro-image.png
Image: Apple

Also see:

Tech specs:

13" MacBook Pro and 13" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Display: Retina display - 13.3" LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch

Finish: Silver or Space Gray

Price: $1,499 for 13" MacBook Pro; $1,799 or $1,999 for 13" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Touch Bar model: Integrated Touch ID sensor

Processor on 13" model - 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz, with 4MB shared L3 cache; Configurable to 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz, with 4MB shared L3 cache

Processor on 13" Touch Bar model - 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz, with 4MB shared L3 cache; Configurable to 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, with 4MB shared L3 cache; or 3.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz, with 4MB shared L3 cache

Storage: 256GB or 512GB (only on 13" Touch Bar model)

Memory: 8GB

Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 540 and Intel Iris Graphics 550 (only on 13" Touch Bar model)

Charging and Expansion:

On 13" model, two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports with support for:

  • Charging
  • DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps)

On 13" Touch Bar model, same, but with four Thunderbolt 3 ports

Keyboard: Fully backlit keyboard - 13" model includes 12 function keys; 13" Touch Bar model includes Touch Bar with integrated Touch ID sensor

Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible. Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology

Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera

Audio: 13" model - stereo speakers, two microphones, 3.5mm headphone jack; 13" Touch Bar model - stereo speakers, three microphones, 3.5mm headphone jack

Battery and Power: Up to 10 hours wireless web, up to 10 hours iTunes movie playback, up to 30 days of standby time. Built-in 54.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery on 13" model, built-in 49.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery on 13" Touch Bar model.

Size and weight: .59" height, 11.97" width, 8.36" depth, 3.02 lbs.

Operating System: macOS Sierra

15" MacBook Pro

Display: Retina display - 15.4" LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2880-by-1800 native resolution at 220 pixels per inch

Finish: Silver or Space Gray

Price: $2,399 or $2,799

Touch Bar model: Integrated Touch ID sensor

Processor: 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, with 6MB shared L3 cache; or 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz, with 8MB shared L3 cache

Storage: 256GB or 512GB

Memory: 16GB

Graphics: Radeon Pro 450 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory and automatic graphics switching and Intel HD Graphics 530, or Radeon Pro 455 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory and automatic graphics switching and Intel HD Graphics 530

Charging and Expansion:

Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports with support for:

  • Charging
  • DisplayPort
  • Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)
  • USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps)

Keyboard: Fully backlit keyboard with Touch Bar with integrated Touch ID sensor

Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11 ac Wi-Fi wireless networking; IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n compatible. Bluetooth 4.2 wireless technology

Camera: 720p FaceTime HD camera

Audio: Stereo speakers, two microphones, 3.5mm headphone jack

Battery and Power: Up to 10 hours wireless web, up to 10 hours iTunes movie playback, up to 30 days of standby time. Built-in 76.0-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

Size and weight: .61" height, 13.75" width, 9.48" depth, 4.02 lbs.

Operating System: macOS Sierra

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About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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