MacBook Pro 13-inch (Touch Bar) Laptop Review
The new MacBook Pro is one of the best yet—but is it worth the price?
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There's a lot to love about the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Touch Bar). (available at Amazon) Between the minimalist design, the beautiful display, and the long-lasting battery, it's a superb machine for the home or office. But with an untested—and pricey—design change, Apple's latest may not be for everyone.
Whether you're adjusting the brightness or selecting a fine-tipped brush in Photoshop, the Touch Bar—a long, slim touchscreen situated above the keyboard—allows you to do these things with a swipe or two. While it's a good laptop, especially for creative professionals, it's a bit more than what the average user might need.
The keyboard, which nearly spans the length of the chassis, doesn't offer the most comfortable typing experience. Though the butterfly style keys have a pleasant (if loud) click to them, it still takes some getting used to. The high starting price is another unfortunate drawback, and budget-conscious shoppers may want to look to the non-Touch Bar version to save a few hundred dollars.
Nitpicks aside, the Pro, with its steady performance and powerful speakers, is still a good machine that's worth your time and hard-earned money. The Touch Bar might only appeal to a small portion of people, but it offers some pretty intuitive shortcuts. Depending on your computer needs and budget, the non-Touch Bar models stand as more affordable options.
About the MacBook Pro 13-inch (Touch Bar)
The 13-inch Pro (with Touch Bar) has two configurations and is available in either space gray or silver. The difference between them are the storage options. The base model, which has a starting price of $1,799, comes with a 256GB SSD. The high-end variant, retailing at $1,999, gets bumped up to a 512GB SSD. If you want more memory or a better GPU, you can customize the internals at checkout. Our unit has 16GB of RAM, four Thunderbolt 3 ports, and an Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 GPU. You can check out the full specs below:
Display: 13.3-inch (2560 x 1600) display
CPU: 3.1 GHz Intel Core i5
GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650 1536 MB
Memory: 16GB RAM
Storage: 256GB SSD
If you don't need the Touch Bar, you can save a lot of money. The entry-level MacBook Pro (without Touch Bar) is $1,499 and has a 256GB SSD, which is a good amount of storage. If you're looking to shave $200 off of that, you can always spring for the $1,299 model, though the 128GB SSD doesn't leave much room.
If it's a bigger screen you're after, the 13-inch Pro has a 15-inch sibling. These high-end machines (with Touch Bar) are expensive, though. The $2,399 configuration gets you 16GB of RAM, a 7th-Gen Intel Core i7 processor, and a 256GB SSD. The next option has a starting price of $2,799, which upgrades the storage to 512GB SSD.
What We Like
The Touch Bar is great for creative professionals
The Touch Bar, an OLED strip that replaces the function keys from the keyboard, is a useful tool for creative professionals. It allows for fingerprint login, quick access to volume and brightness, and much more. The light-up interface changes depending on which application you're in. From editing an image in Photoshop to highlighting cells in Excel, it's designed to give you the most intuitive shortcuts.
While it's a cool feature, it's not for everyone. Personally, it doesn't work for me in my day-to-day tasks, as I find it takes some getting used to. Unlike a touchscreen, where your eyes are already drawn to, well, the screen, you have to look down to use it. This is annoying because you have to keep glancing back up at the screen to see the effects of what you're doing. Though I appreciate Apple taking a stab at something new, the feature fell short for me.
The slimmed-down design is attractive as hell
If there's one thing that Apple really nails on the head, it's design. The MacBook line, known for its subtle look and space gray color scheme, still holds up after all these years. Though some may argue the design is too safe, you really can't go wrong with a minimalistic aesthetic. Like a fine wine, it ages well. The Pro's aluminum unibody, available in either space grey or silver, not only looks great, it feels great too.
When I pressed down on the super-flat keyboard, I didn't hear any creaking. The machine felt sturdy enough to handle daily abuse (just don't go chucking it off of a skyscraper or anything). The screen had some twist to it, a little more than I liked, but not enough to be a concern.
The speakers are powerful
The upward-facing speakers that flank the keyboard produce excellent sound. The jazzy music from Cuphead, a new video game that draws inspiration from 1930's cartoons, actually tuned out the construction going on outside my bedroom window. For an ultraportable computer, these speakers are shockingly powerful. Even though the sound won't fill a large room, the quality is still mighty impressive.
The battery will last you a full work day
The Pro offers good battery life. When we put the machine through our Wi-Fi browsing battery test, which cycles through a series of popular websites like Amazon and CNN, it lasted a little over eight hours. That's a full work day. While battery life is fantastic, you still may want to keep the power cord handy if you're traveling overseas.
What We Didn't Like
The starting price is really high
There's no point in beating around the bush. The Touch Bar is a flashy new feature, so Apple's really squeezing it dry. The starting price for the base model is $1,799, which is kind of ridiculous. Unless you're Scrooge McDuck and own a pool that's filled with gold coins, it's not a budget-friendly option. If you can live without the Touch Bar, we recommend opting for those. The entry-level non-Touch Bar model isn't quite as powerful, but it will save you about $500.
The keyboard isn't fantastic
The full-sized keyboard doesn't offer a great typing experience, which is weird because I tend to prefer full-sized keyboards. Between the shallow travel and how it lies super flat on the table, I felt like the overall experience was mediocre. It definitely took me a couple of days to fall into a comfortable rhythm, too. It's not the worst typing experience I've ever had, as the butterfly style keys are clicky enough, but it's not spectacular either. I was managing about 69 WPM, which is nowhere close to my 80 WPM average.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, but the non-Touch Bar option is a better value
If you're looking for an excellent machine, you can't do much better than the Pro. The Touch Bar, a touch-sensitive strip above the keyboard, makes selecting brushes in Photoshop or highlighting cells in Excel super easy. Between the lightweight design and minimalist aesthetic, this ultraportable looks and feels exquisite too. Not only is it thin enough to slip inside a bag, it'll last you a full work day on a single charge. But while there's a lot we love about the Pro, it's probably more than what the everyday user needs.
The Touch Bar is a nuisance to the average user. You can ignore it, but it still costs extra. The keyboard—a shame considering how great past MacBook keyboards are—doesn't offer the most comfortable typing experience. It took me several days to get accustomed to it. If you're looking for a phenomenal typing experience, we recommend the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. That's one heck of a keyboard. If you're not married to macOS, you may want to consider Windows alternatives like the HP Spectre x360 or the Dell XPS 13 9365.
For budget-conscious users who want to stick with a Mac, the non-Touch Bar models are more affordable. The $1,499 version, though less powerful, gets you a 7th-Gen Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM for $200 less. If you're looking to save an additional $200, the entry-level model retails for $1,299, though 128GB SSD isn't a lot of storage. Price aside, the 13-inch Pro (with Touch Bar) is still a good choice for those looking to hunker down and get stuff done.