Apple's new entry-level MacBook Pro that is likely to woo MacBook Air users looking to upgrade without pushing the budget too hard.
In a slightly confusing move, Apple has launched various different models in its new MacBook Pro family. If you're interested in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, then be sure to check that out too.
Can a MacBook Pro, without Apple's new all-singing all-dancing Touch Bar, still excite though?
Apple MacBook Pro (2016): Exterior design
Coming in silver or grey, the new entry-level MacBook Pro 13-inch model features the same exterior design as the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. It is considerably smaller in size than the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro (which is still be available) weighing 1.37kg and measures 14.9 x 304.1 x 212.4mm.
In real terms it is 3mm thinner than the previous MacBook Pro making it roughly the same thickness as the base of the older model. It is lighter too, around 200g, thanks to a reduction in the physical battery in the chassis.
- Apple MacBook Pro (2016) vs Apple MacBook Air: What's the difference?
- Apple MacBook Pro (2016) vs MacBook Pro (2015): What's the difference?
Gone is the glowing Apple icon on the back - it's about saving space and battery power - and gone is the menagerie of ports and connections down either side.
Yes, like the new MacBook launched in 2015, which Apple describes as the Genesis to this model, the MacBook Pro entry-level model features just two Thunderbolt 3 sockets and a headphone socket.
There is no Magsafe power charger, no SD Card reader, no HDMI socket, no USB, or DisplayPort options. The removal of these ports is to save space and in many cases, if you want to use existing cables or devices, you'll need a range of new cables or adapters.
Apple hopes the move will spearhead an industry movement to away from the multitude of different cable offerings, will mean that in the future you can serve a number of connection needs with little effort. All of these connections types - DisplayPort, HDMI, USB, etc - are supported on each Thunderbolt 3 port.
As we've found with the MacBook that ditched the sockets to adopt USB Type-C, it is possible to embrace a port free life, but you will have to make some compromises along the way.
Overall the design is very smart, especially the space grey model. It still retains the core design ethos of the MacBook Pro range of recent years, but manages to incorporate elements and lessons learnt from the 2015 MacBook. It isn't a radical design change like the Lenovo YogaBook or the Surface Book, it's a familiar evolution of the MacBook.
Apple MacBook Pro (2016): Opening it up
Raise the lid and you immediately notice Apple has redesigned and re-engineered the MacBook Pro here too. With the entry-level model you don't get the Touch Bar or Touch ID unit, but you do still benefit from the new tighter keyboard, a much bigger trackpad, better speakers, and 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution display which claims to be 67 per cent brighter than the previous model. Side-by-side it certainly feels brighter and more colourful than the older MacBook Pro.
The keyboard is stiff like the smaller MacBook model with a very small amount of travel. If you are using a 2015 MacBook Pro you'll immediately notice the difference. Everything is much more "stable". We've also noticed that each key now gets its own individual LED backlight for greater light control and the move to a tighter keyboard has also meant that the keys are physically bigger too.
Beneath the keyboard is a much bigger (almost twice the size) Force Touch trackpad which is as long as the iPhone 7, but wider. It is noticeably larger. Like the previous MacBook Pro and MacBook, it doesn't move and comes with haptic and 3D touch support. It's very nice and very responsive and ultimately gives you a lot more space to interact.
The keyboard is now sandwiched between two speakers that run the height of the keyboard and deliver a louder, clearer, cleaner noise which is considerably more rounded and bassy than the previous outings. That's achievable because Apple has changed the speaker technology moving away from bouncing the sound off the display, instead placing the direct firing speakers either side of the keyboard.
This model doesn't come with the Touch Bar or Touch ID and instead delivers a no frills traditional row of Fn keys as you will be familiar with on all MacBook models previously.
Apple MacBook Pro (2016): At the core
It's not just about the exterior, the internals get a refresh too with new processors, new graphics, and faster storage.
The starting model which we're using features a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.1GHz, 8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD storage. It will cost £1,449 making it a very pricey upgrade from the £900 12-inch MacBook or £949 MacBook Air, but you are getting a lot of powerful tech for your money. You have to ask whether you need all that extra horsepower, screen technology, and size reduction.
In terms of performance it's no slouch. We've had no issue running a range of different apps on the laptop, and any fears that this is underpowered compared to the Touch Bar model should be disregarded.
The entry-level MacBook Pro delivers a flagship laptop design from Apple that many will be happy with, without getting caught up in the new Touch Bar and Touch ID option.
The looks, design, new keyboard and trackpad are all lovely. The screen is delicious too, certainly in comparison to the MacBook Air, making this a great entry-level (if you can say that for a £1449 laptop) machine.
It would have been nice to have Touch ID, regardless of the Touch Bar, and the lack of port options may give you some headaches. Talking to MacBook users over the last year, ports are something you do learn to adapt to. Whether that fits into your existing workflow or not is a different question.
If you must have all the latest new toys, you'll want the more powerful MacBook Pro with Touch Bar model, but for many, including those looking to upgrade their ailing MacBook Air, this will be a fantastic option if you can stretch your budget. This definitely looks to be a worthy upgrade from the MacBook Air.