First look: Apple's new 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

By David Flynn, October 28 2016
First look: Apple's new 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Apple’s newest MacBook Pro represents a significant overhaul for the flagship notebook family in just about every measure.

Launched overnight and on sale in Australia by late November, the high-powered 13 inch and 15 models will start at $2,699 and $3,599 respectively.

Short on time? Here's the road warrior rundown.

The Touch Bar

As expected, a narrow touchscreen strip replaces the top row of the keyboard, which is mostly given over to function keys.

This multi-touch Retina display – based on iPhone and iPad technology and powered by its own nimble low-power processor – will offer app-specific shortcuts based on the application you're using.

These are flanked by a set of standard system controls such as power, volume, brightness and an escape key accessible at times.

These shortcuts will first appear in the Mac OS – for example, when using the Safari web browser you'll see a colour thumbnail image of all open tabs, while bookmarked sites are shown with a site logo.

When writing emails there are formatting shortcuts...

... and in the Messages app, colourful expressive emoji icons.

Apps like iMove not only show editing controls but a timeline overview of your project.

You can expect pretty much every app to quickly issue updates to park their own time-savers on the Touch Bar, and users will be able to customise the Touch Bar to suit their own needs.

Tap to unlock

There's also a Touch ID sensor baked into the Touch Bar's power button, so you can finally use your fingerprint to log into your Mac (it'll also work with making online purchases using Apple Pay).

Hands on

A revamped keyboard design adopts the thin profile and 'butterfly' movement of the 12 inch MacBook, with a massive trackpad perched directly below.

It's all about USB-C

The new MacBook Pro is good news if you love the modern USB-C ports – and that must be a very small fan club – and bad news for everybody else.

There are four high-speed USB-C ports, two on either side of the laptop's skinny chassis, set up for Apple's Thunderbolt technology.

Those will power the MacBook (sadly, Apple hasn't fitted the power cable with a magnetic MagSafe-style plug), connect to a desktop display and hook up to almost anything else – provided you've got a suitable USB-C to whatever-else adaptor.

Standard-sized USB ports used for thumb drives, external hard drives and the like? Not a one to be seen, which means you'll need to stump up for compact USB-C hubs.

Thankfully there are already many of these on the market in the wake of last year's USB-C 12 inch MacBook, and you can bet there'll be even more in the wake of the new MacBook Pro release.

But shelling out up to $100 for one extra bit of kit to carry around – and maybe a second to leave on your desk – is not something to be joyous about.

Also put out to pasture: the HDMI socket and SC card slot. As a result, anything you want to hook up to the new MacBook Pro needs to be via USB-C or wireless.

Thinner, lighter

It was pretty much a given that the new MacBook Pros would come in at a lean but punchy flyweight against the bantamweight of its predecessor.

You're looking at an average of 1.5cm skinner around the waist, 20% less volume based on on overall dimensions and a slight 200g shaving off the scales.

More powerful

Another foregone conclusion: of course the latest MacBook Pro line-up will outgun whatever came before it.

But this time not just about Intel's latest processors, which kick off with the dual-core 2.9GHz Core i5 in the 13 inch model and the quad-core 2.6GHz Core i7 in the 15 inch version.

The new SSD module (which tops out at a whopping 2TB of storage) is faster than before, with a speedier Intel graphics chip on the 13 inch model and an ATI Radeon Pro 450 on the 15 inch model.

For all that, Apple's pledge is up to 10 hours of battery life in wireless Web-browsing mode.

Back to basics with 13 inches

In addition to the 13 inch and 15 inch MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar, Apple is also selling an entry-level 13 inch MacBook Pro sans Touch Bar.

It's got the same core features as its big brothers but a slightly more modest spec set – a 2.0 GHz Intel Core i5 chip and just two USB-C ports – with a lower $2,199 price tag and available from today.

Also read: Is Apple getting ready to axe the MacBook Air?


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

28 Oct 2016

Total posts 2

Really high price bump from previous year


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 353

Sticking with my MacBook Air, it's not the 'latest and greatest' but it still has great battery life, light weight, normal USB ports and an SD card slot for my camera. Would like to see a MacBook Air with the new Touch Bar and new keyboard but I'm sure Apple would insist on moving to USB-C ports, silly move for a 'made for travel' laptop because you're so often using normal USB ports and devices!

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 377

Does it have a head phone jack? ;)

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