Apple looks ahead with the new MacBook Pro
My MacBook Pro is on its last legs. The anti-glare laminate began bubbling up some time ago, spreading across the screen like an untreatable rash, fogging up the webcam in the process. The hinge is loose, so the screen shakes when someone walks by. The little black rubber bumpers have fallen off the bottom and, every so often, there’s an audible buzz of a fan rumbling from under the hood that can only be silenced with a swift smack by the heel of my hand. Also, the battery’s been having issues for a while.
My 2012 MacBook Pro has been through a lot. It’s traveled the world in a carry-on and survived several Apple live blogs and CESes, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. I’ve promised to put it out to pasture many times over, patiently awaiting the company to offer a truly meaningful refresh of the line, but each year I’ve held out, largely unimpressed by what the company has had to offer as it diverted resources to other product lines.
Now, finally, the time has come. A full four years after the last major upgrade, the new MacBook Pro is finally here. It’s slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, while maintaining a majority of its iconic aluminum design language. The internals have been souped up, along with the keyboard, touchpad and speakers. There’s a lot to like here.
The ports have been — well, they’ve been changed, in typical Apple fashion, a move toward future-proofing with a fair bit of growing pains, like the SCSI and Ethernet ports, optical drive and headphone jack before it. Courage. In a few years, perhaps we’ll laugh about all of this, wondering what we were so up in arms about, content with the uniformity and ability to charge from each and load up our desks with giant 5K monitors. The road to transition, however, will be paved with adapters.
And then, of course, there’s the Touch Bar. Far and away the most compelling addition to the system, the skinny touchscreen Retina display offers a new input paradigm. It’s a way for the company to continue to avoid the Windows 10 route, eschewing full touchscreen functionality while still offering the ability for users to touch-poke a swipe at a proxy.
It’s a sort of halfway point between a touchpad and touchscreen that lets Apple have its cake and eat it too. It also opens up the system to some compelling new workflow and computing possibilities as more parties develop for the feature.
After four years without a fundamental refresh, Apple has returned with a system that builds up some of the system’s strongest selling points, while introducing some tricks, and a few pain points along the way.
The MacBook Pro has been a lot of things to a lot of people over the years, but the word “sleek” has never really applied. That was never really the point. The MacBook Pro has always been about being a powerhouse. It’s right there in the name, a product targeted toward the company’s base of creative professionals looking for something more portable than a desktop. Of course, that appeal has spilled over into other users simply looking for something with a little more under the hood than an Air.
The latest upgrade maintains much of the design language of its predecessor, while taking a few cues from the standard MacBook, with smoothed out lines and even fewer parts making up its unibody exterior. That long black plastic strip on the rear of the computer is gone. So too, interestingly, is the iconic glowing Apple on the lid, replaced, for better or worse, with a mirror version.
And, as ever, the new MacBook Pro doesn’t come cheap, with a starting price of $1,799 (for the 13-inch Touch Bar version) all the way up through the fully packed model that goes well north of $4K. But let’s be honest, users have never bought Macs because of their rock-bottom prices.