MacBook Pro 13 Review
Apple MacBook Pro 13 Review – A touch of genius.
It’s faster and more powerful than before, yet remarkably thinner and lighter. It has the brightest, most colorful Mac notebook display ever. And it introduces the Touch Bar — a Multi-Touch enabled strip of glass built into the keyboard for instant access to the tools you want, right when you want them. The new MacBook Pro is built on groundbreaking ideas. And it’s ready for yours.
main competitors: Dell XPS 13
The two models of the new Apple MacBook Pro 13 are – as expected – similar in many respects. This includes the excellent chassis, which is still extremely sturdy despite the diet. You also get one of the best and brightest displays on the market, independent of the model. This is also the case for the trackpad, which is now much bigger than before. The keyboard is also identical – except for the Touch Bar. Because of the shallow key travel, the input will require a learning period, but it convinces with very good precision in practice. The implementation of the Touch Bar was well-executed by Apple, but the success will depend on the software support in practice. Right now, it is more of a gimmick in our opinion, and it can actually make things a bit more complicated when you just want to use the normal function keys or special function like brightness control, for example. One handy new feature is the Touch ID sensor in the power button though.
Apple basically defines the more expensive model by the Touch Bar. If you look inside the chassis, however, you will find a completely different system. The cooling solution was adjusted for the more powerful components (28 vs. 15-Watt TDP) and we like it a lot, components were moved and the battery capacity is a bit smaller. This also affects the battery runtimes, especially under load, where you will have to charge the device after little more than one hour. The more expensive MBP 13 is also beaten by the model without Touch Bar in the practical tests, but the determined runtimes are still good. A bit half-hearted is the implementation of the two additional Thunderbolt 3 ports. Contrary to the bigger MacBook Pro 15, you cannot use their full bandwidth, so it might have been better to implement other ports.
This brings us to the problems. It is pretty much impossible to use the new MacBook Pro 13 without adapters in practice. Four – admittedly – very universal ports make the system pretty future-proof, but two would have been sufficient in our opinion. The lack of the SD-card reader will also be a No-Go for photographers in particular. Then there is the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi issue, because there can be connection problems when a USB-C device is attached. It is questionable if there will be a software solution. Similar to the sibling, we therefore deduct 2 % from the final rating. Unfortunate, especially since the small device manages very good transfer rates.
Finally, there is the price, or the additional price over the smaller model, respectively. A base price of $1799 is already quite a lot, and whether the Touch Bar and the slightly higher performance are really worth $300 is at least questionable. Both systems are very fast with everyday tasks, and whether pro users will be satisfied with the comparatively small performance advantage (no quad-core, no dedicated GPU), is another question.
All in all, Apple’s new MacBook Pro 13 Touch Bar is a very good subnotebook. But can it justify its “Pro” designation? Well, this mainly depends on your usage scenarios. It is the benchmark in some categories, but many users will most likely have a problem with the lack of proven (and still modern) standards.
I wasn’t convinced by the base model MacBook Pro, but the the Touch Bar model has done a good enough job to justify its high cost. Processor performance is far better than on the base model, the number of ports included is far more generous, and the Touch Bar is a bonus feature that could become essential for some.
All that, plus the same amazing build, screen, keyboard and touchpad as the base model and you have, quite simply, the best laptop on the planet right now. It doesn’t get the full five stars because I still have concerns about the awkward Thunderbolt decisions Apple has made – but make no mistake, this is the best laptop I’ve used this year.
If you’re looking to edit photos and HD video then the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is the best option available – if you can afford it. If not, consider the Core i7 Dell XPS 13 instead.
As you’ll have seen in our long-term review on the first page, battery life inconsistencies might be a problem, but equally might not affect you at all. At worst you’re looking at a six-hour machine. With such great processing performance, I think it’s an acceptable, if slightly annoying compromise, but not everyone will agree.
I’m one of many Mac owners out there who has been waiting for Apple to upgrade the MacBook Pro line. Now that it finally has, I find the new laptop isn’t quite what I wanted. For me, the ideal MacBook Pro is actually a mashup between this and last year’s model. Let me keep my full-size USB ports, and my function keys, and my longer battery life, but stick with this thinner and lighter design. Stick with this improved display, Touch ID sensor, fast disk performance and more robust audio quality. For me, this is both a step forward and a step backward.
I’m sure Apple disagrees, and not just because its job is to sell lots of computers. Apple seems to earnestly believe it knows how people should be getting work done — so much so that it has the chutzpah to ask loyal customers to unlearn old habits. Get used to using dongles to attach your existing accessories. Say goodbye to your memory card slot, creatives. Resign yourself to adjusting the brightness or volume with taps and swipes, instead of a simple button press. Accept the risk that your existing Thunderbolt 3 peripherals might not work.
As I said, there’s ultimately a lot to like about the new MacBook Pro. But it’s designed for someone who I’m not sure exists outside Apple’s fantasies of how professionals use computers. The MacBook Pro I want to see is built around real people’s work habits. I still recommend it, and I imagine many of you who have been waiting patiently will indeed buy this. But I’d enjoy it more if it were designed for people like us.
The 13in MacBook Pro could be a wonderful computer, but it isn’t. Is it great to use? Absolutely, it’s brilliant, it’s beautiful, it’s almost everything Apple said it was, I absolutely love it … until it runs out of battery. Or you have to dig out yet another dongle to use a sodding USB flash drive, or a card reader, or attach a display. Or you realise that you spent a month’s mortgage money on a computer and are having your house repossessed.
And that is the 13in MacBook Pro’s biggest flaw. It is very expensive for what it is. It hasn’t got the latest processors or graphics, it has limits on the amount of RAM you can pay to shove in it and you can’t change anything after you’ve bought it. That’s not such a problem for a general computer, but a minimum of £1,749 for a general computer, even a post-Brexit referendum Apple computer, is a lot of money.
So then it’s “for the Pros”, who justify spending large sums of money on working machines. But it’s not capable of getting through a journalist’s day on battery, let alone anyone who does anything more intensive than browse the internet, write in a basic text editor and edit the odd photo. It’ll saddle you with iPhone 7 syndrome – constantly in search of a power supply or chaining you to using it as a small desktop surrogate.
Perhaps all-day battery life shouldn’t be a thing we expect, but previous Apple computers could do just that and more.
And there’s the question of power. For almost two grand you’d expect a machine to last four to five years. For a demanding user who must have a “Pro” the RAM cap of 16GB isn’t going to cut it in two years time, which again, wouldn’t be a problem if the machine cost £1,000 not £2,000.
The 2017 Macbook Pro offers the blisteringly fast speed that professionals need, as well as a superbright and colorful display. The speakers are also impressive. However, this laptop would be even better if Apple had offered a wider variety of ports and a more affordable starting price for the Touch Bar model. If you’re willing to live without the Touch Bar, consider the $1,299 MacBook Pro, which has two Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of four, less storage and a slower CPU.
But if you’re not married to the macOS platform, you can save a lot of money by getting a Windows 10 machine instead. Opting for a Core i5 HP Spectre x360 with comparable specs (and a touch-screen display) will save you a whopping $810, and a similarly configured Dell XPS 13 is $700 less. You can even save $300 by going with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which has one of the best keyboards we’ve seen in a laptop. But the MacBook Pro outperforms all of those systems.
Still, if you can afford it, this MacBook Pro offers plenty to love.