In a comparatively low-key event today at its Cupertino campus, Apple lifted the veils off the next iteration of its MacBook Pro. While many had been speculating the reason for such a sudden announcement as being a long due upgrade to its MacBook lineup in time for the upcoming Holiday Season (which is partly true), Apple as it turns out, also did it to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first notebook, the Power-Book launched by Apple two and a half decades ago.
Just as was the case with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, most of the details were leaked prior to the event, The MacBook Pro comes in two sizes – 13-inch and 15-inch. The 13-inch model is 14.9 mm thin as compared to the previous iteration’s 18 mm. It is 17% thinner and 23% smaller weighing in at about 3 pounds against the previous one’s 3.5 pounds. In contrast, the 15-inch MacBook is 15.5 mm thin and is 20% smaller than the previous generation’s MacBook at around 4 pounds.
Perhaps the most significant upgrade to the MacBook is the omission of the hard-bound row of function keys at the top. Apple Marketing head Phil Schiller one again took stage and explained the function keys were more of a legacy system that were used in earlier mainframe terminals. Just as it did with the 3.5 mm Headphone Jack in the iPhone 7 earlier this month, Apple has yet again decided to ditch an industry-wide standard in favor of something new – a touch panel. Called the Touch Bar, it changes its interface depending upon the requirements of the application and places several important shortcuts on the touch panel itself.
Demos showed the use of the Touch Bar for composing email, where shortcuts for compose, send, reply and attach along with some others appeared on the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar also shows auto-correct suggestions which can be tapped to appear on the screen similar to the phones. Image previews are shown and the user can slide them across akin to how it’s done in touch screen phones. Likewise, videos can be scrubbed through forwards or backwards without exiting the full screen on the Mac. The Touch Bar will supposedly be used by several other apps and the shortcuts shown can be customized. Some others that were demoed on stage include Final Cut Pro by Susan Prescott, VP, Apple Products Marketing demonstrating the use of the Touch Bar to apply effects and scrub past edited footage and Photoshop by Bradee Evans, Experience Design Manager who made a live Photoshop of a mountain climber working in tandem with the Trackpad and the Touch Bar and Algoriddim’s DJ Pro which invited quite many cheers. Apple also said that Microsoft will be developing versions of its Office software that utilize the new Touch Bar feature.
The MacBook Pro also includes a Touch ID sensor for fingerprint unlocking. In a rather cool feature, multiple fingerprints can be configured for authentication by multiple accounts and, should another user use the Touch ID while a different user is logged in, the screen will flip horizontally like a 3D cube and bring forth this new user’s session.
Specs-wise, the 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with a Quad-Core Intel Core i7 at 2.6 GHz, with 16 GB of RAM and Radeon 450 Pro graphics chip. The hard drive seems to be a 256 GB SSD although a hybrid drive with up to 2 TB capacity is also supported. The 13-inch Pro has a slightly lower Core i5 at up to 2.9 GHz supporting the same 16 GB RAM with integrated Intel Iris Graphics. There are four USB Type-C ports that can be used for a multitude of functions, including charging.
Earlier in the event, Apple announced a unified TV Experience through the new TV App that aims to provide a streamlined TV interface across the Apple TV, iPad and the iPhone. It brings in a redesigned simple interface showing most recently watched programs and recommendations from Apple TV as well as from other installed apps. The App will be available for free via a software update this coming December. It also announced that 60% of Apple Devices are using the latest iOS release iOS 10 as compared to Android where only 20% of devices are using Android 6 and above with the remaining 80% running a much older version of Android, a problem bound to occur given Android’s high fragmentation.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro is available in two variants – without and with the Touch ID and Touch Bar – for $1499 and $1799 respectively. The 15-inch Pro on the other hand will retail for a steep $2399. While the 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar and ID starts shipping today, the other two variants are expected to start shipping in 2-3 weeks.