Apple revealed their new MacBook Pro for 2016. They released 2 variations, 1 with a normal keyboard and another with the option of replacing the Function keys at the top of the keyboard with a Touch Bar.

I wanted to try out this new Touch Bar with Touch ID so I went online and ordered one. Here’s my take on the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

What’s New?

So what’s new on this 2016 MacBook Pro? Like I said, there are two variants, one with a normal keyboard and the other with a Touch Bar. But that’s not the only thing new.

Apple switched all of the ports on the MacBook Pro to USB Type C ports. The MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar has only 2 ports, one on each side. The Touch Bar laptops have 4 ports, two on each side. Ironically, they kept the headphone jack on this version of the MacBook Pro.

What is USB-C?

USB Type C is exactly what it says, a USB port but a new type (Type C to be exact). But the cool thing about USB-C is the ability to do more than send files between your laptop and a flash drive. USB-C allows for external storage (hard drives, flash drives, etc.) to be connected, and it replaces the HDMI or VGA ports.

The final function USB-C serves on this MacBook Pro is charging (fast I might add, too). No longer do MacBook Pros come with a mag-safe charger. They come with a 1m (~6.5 ft) cord that has a USB-C connector on each end.

Beyond USB-C

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The Touch Bar, the biggest purpose of this, is definitely something different that I look forward to watching the progression of. As I said above, the Touch Bar replaces the Function keys on the standard keyboard.

On the far right side of the Touch Bar is a square section separate from the rest which acts as the power button and is a Touch ID sensor. This makes unlocking your laptop as simple as touching your finger to the sensor, and allows you to pay for things with your fingertip.

Next to the Touch ID and power button, certain buttons show all the time (4 customizable keys and the [esc] button) and if you open a Safari window or a support app/website you’ll see different things on the Touch Bar.

Current functionality is pretty minimal for the Touch Bar beyond simple “oh, that’s cool” things. I use Evernote to take notes in classes and the Touch Bar shows various formatting buttons, but they’re not the most convenient to use.

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I already know the keyboard shortcuts for bolding, italicizing, and underlining (Alt/Cmnd + b, i, u,) so I don’t need those options on the Touch Bar. However, if those functions weren’t up there I would certainly be disappointed.

Making a bulleted or numbered list requires tapping on the list menu then tapping the list type which takes about as long as it would if I used the touch pad to click on the format option.

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Safari actually shows little previews of my open tabs so I can actually see which tab I need instead of switching through all of them if I have too many open. It also shows my favorite websites if I open a new window or tab, and allows playing/pausing and scrubbing through YouTube videos.

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Safari tab preview
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Safari favorites on touch bar
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Safari video scrubbing on touch bar

I’ll type up a separate post to go over the different functionalities of the Touch Bar in-depth.

My Impression

Overall, I like the 2016 MacBook Pro. I like the adoption of USB-C ports, the touch bar is interesting, the large touch pad is a little inconvenient, but the keyboard is mostly not bad.

USB-C is definitely the future of USB and connecting to computers/laptops so it’s good seeing 4 USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2 on the plain MacBook Pro), Having one regular USB on the laptop, or one on each side, would have made sense and eased the migration instead of requiring people to buy all the adapters but Apple likes selling things so more adapters means more sales (and money).

I think the Touch Bar is a nice novelty piece for now. Allowing full customization of what shows all the time, beyond only 4 keys, would be nice. Adoption in other apps (like Google Chrome) or more websites (like Google Drive apps) would be nice and make the Touch Bar more practical.

Keyboard, Touch pad, and Typing

The keys on the keyboard are what’s called butterfly keys. This means the keys move downward very little when pressed so typing is very smooth, but also noisy. Which I think is weird.

One thing I dislike about the keyboard is the up/down arrows are smooshed to take up the same height as the full-sized left/right keys making navigating via arrow keys a little tricky. Another downside to the keyboard is the lack of physical keys due to the Touch Bar meaning I press the far right or esc buttons unintentionally.

This could be due to my large hands, which also leads to my palms taking up the entire space to the left and right of the touch pad, and often times spilling over onto the touch pad making it not move my cursor correctly.

Aside from the keyboard area, the screen is still not touch sensitive which I wish it was from time to time, but it’s not expected to come any time soon. However, the resolution is much better than my current lenovo (so watching 4K videos on YouTube is finally possible, and they’re nice) but the screen isn’t necessarily any better than the 2015 MacBook Pro.

Battery Related Info

Battery life is interesting. It charges quickly (via USB-C) and using the MacBook Pro for typing this blog in Google Docs and Photos reduced the battery from roughly 90% to 60% in 2 hours. But when I was watching videos back-to-back drained the battery pretty fast.

Skype and Facetime will certainly drain the battery quickly, but I usually talk for over an hour and it drops ~50% in those 60-90 minutes.

Minimal battery life is likely due to the drastically reduced size of the battery from last year. The 2015 MacBook Pro has a 74.9-watt-hour battery, whereas the new 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has a 49.2-watt-hour battery. To help you understand just how drastic this is, here’s how a watt-hour is calculated:

If you use 25 watts for 1 hour, you’ve used 25 watt-hours. That means, a 74.9 watt-hour battery can last almost 1.5x as long as a 49.2 watt-hour battery with the same power usage.

Final Thoughts

Do I like this 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar? Sure, it’s a fun little alternative to my 15.6” lenovo laptops and my parent’s 21-inch iMac.

Would I buy this if I wasn’t making a blog to give my impression? Maybe, but probably not. Why? Because even with an education discount (a whopping $100 savings), it still costs $1700 for the bare minimum, bottom end 13-inch with a Touch Bar.

The 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro costs only $1200 and has all the ports that don’t require a dozen adapters.

Would I keep this laptop? Probably not in its current state. More websites and apps need to be able to use the Touch Bar (or use it better) for me to really consider keeping a laptop that cost this much that also requires a dozen adapters. Also, the battery is way too small when you consider the touch bar is constantly on which is going to drain the much smaller battery.

This is a nice start to moving laptops towards USB-C and introducing the Touch Bar.

I think the Touch Bar is going to need some serious innovating to make it worth the cost. But once it has been innovated, it will be to the Function Keys that the cellphone touchscreen did to the T-9 and QWERTY keyboards on phones.

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