The new MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch Bar is the biggest redesign of the product since Apple first launched its Retina Display model in 2012. And while Apple has packed a lot of power into an incredibly slim package and integrated some interesting new technologies, the product also drawbacks—especially for power users and creative professionals. We're going to sum it all in five big takeaways. So let's get started.
1. The Touch Bar has big potential
Apple has replaced the function keys with an LED touch panel that morphs based on the program you're running and is highly customizable. This is going to be especially useful with complicated multimedia software like Final Cut and the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite. But it's also going to take some time for the software to catch up, so you won't see all of the benefits right away.
2. Touch ID is a great addition
You can finally log into Mac with your fingerprint now that Touch ID—which has been on the iPhone for since 2013—has been added to the 2016 MacBook Pro. However, it's only in the Touch Bar models since Touch ID is integrated into the right side of the Touch Bar. It works great and is highly secure since it relies on hardware encryption. It will be even better once more parts of the Mac OS and third party programs start using Touch ID instead of the password for security prompts.
3. Big improvements to the keyboard and trackpad
Not everyone liked the low-profile butterfly mechanism in the 2015 MacBook, but I loved it because I felt like I typed faster with it because there was less key travel. However, Apple has split the difference in the 2016 MacBook Pro with a second generation butterfly mechanism that has a little bit larger keys, but is still much more shallow than the previous MacBook Pro keys. Apple has also significantly increased the size of the trackpad, which improves dragging and swiping.
4. Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, and the dongle problem
The most aggressive change in the 2016 MacBook Pro is that it has removed the old ports and replaced them with four Thunderbolt 3-powered USB-C ports and a headphone jack. This will force a lot of professionals to carry a fist full of dongles for old school USB and DisplayPort, VGA, HDMI, and more. Even with dongles, we've also seen problems trying to connect to old monitors, including the Apple Cinema Display. This is going to cause A LOT of headaches.
5. The expansion problem for professionals
Creative professionals have been the bread-and-butter for Apple for decades. Unfortunately, these power users have been increasingly marginalized as Apple products have become more popular and the company has focused on broader demographics. That's the case once again with the 2016 MacBook Pro. The pro in this product is more prosumer than high-end professional. The MacBook Pro 2016 is a very fast machine for the money, but can only go up to 16GB of RAM. That will be limiting for designers, photographers, videographers, and even developers who want to run a bunch of VMs. The RAM is soldered to the motherboard so it's not upgradeable. The hard drive is also very difficult to replace, which will limit the ability of power users to upgrade to bigger, faster SSDs as they're released.
All in all, there's a lot to like about the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. But if you're true high-end professional, you'll need to be aware of a few of the key comprises and that may lead you to consider Windows or Linux alternatives.
Let us know if this has been useful in evaluating whether the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is a good fit for you. Jump in the comments below.
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Jason Hiner has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Jason Hiner is Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He's co-author of the book, Follow the Geeks.