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I tried the new MacBook Pro, and it makes typing fun again

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Apple (AAPL) hasn’t touched the MacBook Pro’s design in four years — an eternity in Silicon Valley — but the tech giant finally changed that on Thursday by giving its widely used notebook line a much-needed overhaul.

Available for pre-order on Thursday, the all-new 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro start at $1,799 and $2,399 respectively. The most striking innovation on these MacBooks is a thin OLED display at the very top of the keyboard called the Touch Bar, which replaces the row of old-school function keys on older models.

A version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro without the OLED display and a more traditional keyboard will also be sold for a somewhat more affordable $1,499.

As for those nitty-gritty tech specs? You can expect the 13-inch to sport a dual-core 2.9 GHz Intel Core i5 processor to start, with 8 GB of memory, a 256 GB solid state drive, four Thunderbolt 3 ports and Touch ID.

The 15-inch model will sport a beefier quad-core 2.6 Ghz Intel Core i7 processor to start, with 16 GB of memory, a 256 GB solid state drive, four Thunderbolt 3 ports and Touch ID. Both sizes will be available in the standard silver, as well as space gray. Unfortunately, no luck for those hoping for gold or rose gold options.

I spent a half-hour with the new MacBook Pro. Here are my impressions:

Apple says the new MacBook Pro models are thinner even than its bestselling MacBook Air line. Source: JP Mangalindan/Yahoo Finance

It’s thinner than a MacBook Air and just as light

During Thursday’s event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., the company emphasized just how much more evolved the new MacBook Pro is, particularly the 13-inch model. It’s supposed to be 12% thinner than the 13-inch MacBook Air and, at 3 lbs., equally as light.

That translates to a laptop that feels incredibly sturdy, yet light enough to toss in your bag without thinking twice. And because it features a Retina Display that’s brighter and more colorful — and driven by Intel processors significantly faster than what was in the MacBook Air — you don’t feel like you’re skimping on the screen or performance, either.

The all-new keyboard on the MacBook Pro sports a thin OLED display up top for different use cases. Source: JP Mangalindan/Yahoo FInance

Typing feels fun again (for now)

Apple made a big fuss over the MacBook Pro’s new keyboard, and for good reason. At the very top of the keyboard sits a sharp, new OLED display that replaces the physical function keys like those that once controlled speaker volume or screen brightness.

To some, the so-called “Touch Bar” may sound like a gimmick. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… right?

But spend a few minutes tinkering with this so-called Touch Bar, and you’ll find there’s a lot of potential there, provided developers tap into it. On top of controlling basic items like volume and brightness, you can use the Touch Bar to quickly scroll through a large collection of images in Apple Photos software. Likewise if you’re using Messages, the Touch Bar fills with different kinds of emoji. That sounds basic, to be sure, but expect the Touch Bar to help enhance your experience day-to-day as developers figure out how to take advantage of it.

People will also notice the rest of the keyboard has changed, too. The keys now closely resemble the flatter keys used by the 12-inch MacBook, introduced last year. The “butterfly” keyboard, as it’s called, didn’t have enough “travel” on the MacBook for my tastes. In other words, I felt like I was typing away on a nearly flat surface, which isn’t satisfying for a typist like me, who loves the tactile nature of banging away on keys.

Perhaps taking that to heart, Apple brokered something of a compromise: the MacBook Pro uses the flatter “butterfly” keyboard, but made sure your fingers travel a bit more when they tap on keys. It’s too early to tell whether someone like me will enjoy the MacBook Pro’s keyboard in the longer term, but it’s a noticeable change I appreciated on first blush.

There are more ports (sort of)…

What Apple giveth, it also taketh away. In the case of ports, that means there are four Thunderbolt 3/USB 3-type ports — two on each side of the MacBook Pro models — but no more MagSafe charging port. There’s also no SD card port, either.

Many people will decry the death of the MagSafe adapter, that nice little design feat that used magnets to keep your charging cord attached to your notebook. The best part? If you tripped over the cord, the MagSafe cord fell away effortlessly, with no harm done to your computer.

The new MacBook Pros follow in the footsteps of the 12-inch MacBook, which uses USB-C now to juice up. On the one hand, that means more versatility where ports are concerned. Any of those four Thunderbolt 3 ports can be used for any kind of compatible device. Likewise, you can use any of those ports on either side of the MacBook to charge.

The downside? You’ll have to be much more careful about those cords. Tripping over them will likely send your brand-new computer into a nosedive.

For more thoughts, stay tuned for Yahoo Finance’s full review of Apple’s new MacBook Pro in the coming weeks.

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.  

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