U.S. Markets closed

The New Macbook pro: Thinner, lighter, faster and pricier

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Apple’s new MacBook Pro

Apple has finally unveiled a major overhaul of its MacBook Pro line of premium notebooks after years of anticipation. Revealed during an event at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., campus on Thursday, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch and MacBook Pro 15-inch feature slimmer designs and more powerful components. Most interesting of all, the new MacBooks have a touch-screen display above their keyboard called the Touch Bar.

Step up to the bar

The Touch Bar is a thin Retina Display strip that provides you with basic controls like the classic Escape key, as well as screen brightness, volume and a dedicated Siri button. But what’s truly impressive is Touch Bar’s ability to provide program-sensitive controls depending on the application you’re running.

So, if you open mail, the Touch Bar will provide you with Mail-specific apps. Open Photos and you’ll be able to scrub through your entire photo library, edit pictures and more. And if you’re in Safari, your Touch Bar will populate with your bookmarks, as well as your address bar and back button.

Apple demonstrated several other scenarios in which the Touch Bar can be helpful, such as by moving controls normally hidden in toolbar menus, so they’re easier to access on-the-fly.

The Touch Bar also incorporates Apple’s second-generation Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which you can now use to unlock your MacBook, as well as authorize online payments.

Bigger track pad, better keyboard

Besides the Touch Bar, one of the biggest changes you’ll notice when you open your new MacBook Pro is how freaking huge its trackpad is. To call it big is an understatement. It’s damn near monolithic.

Naturally, the track pad uses Apple’s Force Touch technology, which means it doesn’t actually depress when you press it. Instead, it produces a vibration that simulates a click. In addition to the new trackpad, Apple has equipped the MacBook Pros with the company’s second-generation butterfly switch mechanism.

It’s essentially the same type of keyboard found in the ultra-thin MacBook, but Apple promises improved key feel and travel. That’s especially important, as the MacBook’s keyboard has been criticized for its lack of feel.

Thinner and brighter

Of course, Apple had to shrink the size of both the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros. The 15-inch model is now 14% thinner and, at 4 pounds, 0.5 pounds lighter than the previous generation. The 13-inch Pro, meanwhile, is 17% thinner than its current iteration and is also 0.5 pounds lighter at 3 pounds.

Apple also says the new MacBook Pro’s displays are 67% brighter and offer 67% greater contrast ratios, as well as 25% greater color gamuts. That means images will look brighter and more colorful than ever before.

Putting a price on power

In terms of performance, the 15-inch Pro comes with a 6th-generation 2.6-Ghz, quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and AMD graphics chip. The 13-inch MacBook Pro gets a 2.9-GHz, dual core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and built-in Intel graphics..

There’s also a base MacBook Pro 13-inch that has a slightly less powerful Intel Core i5 processor and no Touch Bar.

Both the 13-inch MacBook Pro and 15-inch MacBook Pro feature four Thunderbolt 3 ports, which also function as USB C ports. That means you’ll have to buy an adapter for your old mouse. Oh, and your iPhone, since Apple’s only its latest iPhone 7 and 7 Plus with standard USB to Lighting cables. So yeah, enjoy that.

The basic 13-inch MacBook Pro comes with just two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

As far as battery life, Apple says both the 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pros will get an impressive 10 hours of battery life each.

Then there’s the pricing. The base model MacBook Pro 13-inch starts at $1,500, while pricing for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts between $1,800 and $2,000 depending on your configuration. You can, however, still get the older 13-inch Pro for $1,300.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at either $2,400 or $2,800 depending on your configuration. But as with the 13-inch, you can get last year’s 15-inch Pro for $2,000.

So are the new MacBooks worth your cash? We’ll find out soon enough.

More from Dan:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.