Apple’s ‘Hello Again’ event was a trip down memory lane for the company’s portable Mac computers, as the category completed 25 years of existence this October. After taking a look at some of the popular models throughout the years, the event focused on the new, redesigned MacBook Pro. To jog your memory, the last major exterior change the MacBook Pro received was during June 2012, with the introduction of the 15-inch version Retina-display (a smaller 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro was released later that year). These computers launched in 2012 were thinner and lighter than the original aluminium unibody MacBook Pros from 2008.
The MacBook Pro 2016 is, as is the tradition with Apple products, thinner and lighter than its predecessor. The new MacBook Pro 13-inch model is 14.9mm thick, making it a little thinner than the current MacBook Air, the ultraportable in Apple’s lineup, which measures 17mm at its thickest point. It also weighs the same as the Air, at 1.37kg. The 15-inch version is also thin at 15.5mm, and weighs 1.83kg.
From a design standpoint, the 2016 MacBook Pro models may not appear very different from the outside, with the exception of the new ‘Space Grey’ finish along with the typical Silver colour we’re used to seeing on the various MacBook variants. Sorry Rose Gold lovers. If you compare other dimensions, the newer models also have a smaller footprint than the generation prior, due to a decrease in the height. Width-wise, they’re more or less the same.
But open them up and the changes are more visible. For starters, the high-end SKUs of the 2016 MacBook Pro 13-inch and 15-inch models have a multi-touch display in place of the function keys. There’s also an entry-level SKU that has typical function keys, along with some difference in specs, which we’ll get to in a bit. The ‘Touch Bar’, as it is called, aims to show contextual controls for the app that’s in the foreground. For example, opening an image editor will bring up image-editing shortcuts, that you otherwise would’ve had click on the screen with the mouse. Same goes for video editors, audio manipulation tools, office suites, and so on.
Even in traditional applications like a note-taking app, the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro 2016 will show auto-correct suggestions and the ability to manipulate text on screen. In a messaging app it will show emojis that you can append to the conversation without having to go into the menus on screen. Finally, right next to the Touch Bar is the ‘Touch ID’ fingerprint scanner, which makes it easy to unlock the Mac or even apps that could have protected content (like the Notes app), and make payments where Apple Pay is supported.
Next, the trackpad on the MacBook Pro 2016 is visibly larger than previous generations (which by themselves had fairly large trackpads if you compare them to other laptops in general). This is to enable easier multi-touch gestures that are an essential part of the macOS operating system. The trackpads are Force Touch enabled, meaning just like before, the surface doesn’t physically click but you’ll get a simulation of a click thanks to the vibrating Taptic Engine underneath. The keyboard borrows from the MacBook 12-inch model, which means the height of the keys is lower than previous models, and they also sport a 2nd gen butterfly mechanism which Apple claims has been refined for better click feedback. The keyboard might be a big shift for people used to typing on typical Mac keyboards; but it appears that the new keyboard design is here to stay.
The speaker grilles next to the keyboard are new; some of the older models didn’t have grilles as the sound emanated from underneath the keyboard. Apple claims the speakers are louder and richer than before, which is going to be music to the ears, because the prior generation was already pretty loud. The display, although the same in resolution, now is brighter, has better contrast and supports a broader range of colours than before, bringing it on par with the iPad Pro and the iPhone 7. On the sides, you’ll see four USB Type-C ports and a headphone jack. Any of these ports can be used to charge the laptop with the bundled USB C charger, similar to the Chromebook Pixel.
This also suggests the impending phasing out of Apple’s famous magnetically-latching charging ports, known as MagSafe. Also, there’s a good chance you’ll need to buy adapters to connect peripherals like external storage (most of which still work with older USB ports) or external displays (like HDMI or VGA) with your 2016 MacBook Pro. Photographers will also need to buy a separate card reader, as the new MacBook Pro skips the SD card slot that was on previous versions. Finally, even if you’ve just bought the newest iPhone 7, you’ll still need an adapter or a Type-C to Lightning cable to be able to connect your phone to the new MacBook Pros.
Talking about computing-related specifications of the MacBook Pro 2016 models, as mentioned before, the base model of the new MacBook Pro 13-inch variant doesn’t have a Touch Bar. It also has a relatively slower 2.0GHz Intel 6th generation ‘Skylake’ Core i5 processor. The 13-inch model with the Touch Bar has a faster 2.9GHz chip. Both models have 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s good to see Apple making 256GB the base storage variant in high-end MacBooks, similar to how it made 32GB the starting storage capacity newer iPhones. There’s also a 512GB storage option on the more advanced SKUs. All 13-inch models come with integrated Intel Iris Graphics. There’s WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 support.
In terms of battery life, the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 models claim the same 10 hour battery life, despite the thinner design, the extra display strip above the keyboard, and a considerably smaller battery of around 50 watt-hours (the older MacBook Pro 13 had a 74.9 watt-hour battery). We can assume the power optimisations of the 6th Generation Intel processors and other components such as the display are maintaining the parity on battery life, but we’ll know for sure once we try the new Pros out.
Moving on to the 15-inch MacBook Pro 2016, the differences lie in the processor, which is a quad-core Core i7 6th Generation Skylake chip, running at 2.6GHz or 2.7GHz configurations. The first configuration gets you 256GB SSD storage, the second one, 512GB. Both computers have 16GB of RAM and an AMD Radeon Pro 450 series graphics chip with dedicated 2GB of graphics memory. There’s also a low-power Intel HD 530 Graphics chip built-in, and the computer switches between the two depending upon requirement. This model too boasts of 10 hours of battery life despite a smaller 76 watt-hour battery (the last generation had a 99.5 watt-hour battery). Apple claims that the newer graphics chips on both 13-inch and 15-inch models deliver more than two times the performance of the last generation.
As for pricing, the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 with the typical Function Keys starts at an MRP of Rs. 1,29,900 in India. Apple still lists the last generation Retina MacBook Pros, with the 13-inch model priced at the same Rs. 1,06,900. The 13-inch Touch Bar version starts at Rs. 1,55,900 for the 256GB version and Rs. 1,72,900 for the 512GB one. The 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at Rs. 2,05,900 and goes all the way up to Rs. 2,41,900. The previous generation 15-inch model is still on sale for a comparatively lower Rs. 1,62,900. The laptops will be available in India "soon".
Looking at the pricing, it’s safe to say that the 2016 MacBook Pros, more than ever, are aimed at professionals who will see value in investing in these computers. As for mere mortals, the MacBook Air is now available only in the 13-inch variant (the smaller 11-inch model is discontinued) and is priced at the same Rs. 80,900. If you’re looking to buy something smaller, the 12-inch MacBook is also available at a starting price of Rs. 1,12,900. Let us remind you that the prices mentioned are Maximum Retail Prices (MRP) and that you should be able to find them at lower prices, typically via e-commerce stores.