New Apple MacBook Pro 2017 review: Kaby Lake makes this the upgrade you’ve waited for
New MacBook Pro review: Display
The screen is delicious. As with the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple is moving from sRGB to the wider DCI P3 colour gamut for the new MacBook Pro displays, and the result is that everything looks a touch richer and fuller in colour. The maximum brightness of the screens has leapt upwards, too: the 15in brings up the rear with a maximum brightness of 505cd/m2, the non-Touch Bar 13in model reaches 542cd/m2, and the 13in Touch Bar soars up to 591cd/m2. Contrast is exceptional across the board, with every single model breaking the 1,400:1 mark and every panel covers 99.3% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut. Regardless of which model you buy, you’re guaranteed to be looking at a truly exceptional screen.
New MacBook Pro review: Keyboard, trackpad, connections
The MacBook Pro’s Marmite moment is its butterfly-switch keyboard, seemingly borrowed in all its shallow-keyed glory from the diminutive 12in MacBook. I’m well aware this won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but try it, and I suspect it may grow on you. Personally, I don’t mind the shorter travel at all and found it rather easy to get used to here. Indeed, the travel on the MacBook Pro feels somewhat more positive than on the MacBook, which helps keep typos to a minimum. Whichever model you choose, though, the keyboard is the same size and layout – barring, of course, those absent function keys on the pricier models.
Likely to be less controversial is the bigger trackpad. It’s twice the area on the 15in MacBook Pro and 46% larger on this 13in machine. Given that Apple has always led the way when it comes to making trackpads bigger, this isn’t a surprise, and as always it’s a great-quality trackpad, complete with its haptic, non-mechanical “click” and Apple’s gloriously responsive and intuitive multitouch gestures.
And if you’re worried about constantly moving the cursor with your palms while typing, then don’t be – the palm rejection is first-class. With the touchpad effectively occupying almost half of the wrist rest, and the touchpad a mere 4mm away from the bottom of the keyboard, your thumbs are constantly nearby, or resting upon, the top edge of the pad’s surface. Perhaps in acknowledgement of this fact, the MacBook Pro ships with tap-to-click disabled (as it has for some time, now, in fact), but even with this feature enabled I’ve found incidents of the cursor jumping around the screen miraculously low in frequency. Overall, it’s still fantastic – macOS’s multitouch gestures feel more fluid and natural than ever.
It’s tougher to put a positive spin on the MacBook Pro’s lack of ports. I’m quite used to connecting an HDMI monitor, two USB 3 devices and a pair of Thunderbolt peripherals to my current MacBook without the need for extra adapters. The new MacBook Pro, however, cuts almost all of that out. In fact, the 13in base model has only a pair of USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 3-enabled sockets on its left-hand edge – it’s not until you pay the extra for the Touch Bar models that you get the full complement of four ports. Right now, this means that buying a MacBook Pro guarantees that you’ll need to budget for a clutch of essential USB Type-C adapters, and most likely a docking station. Or, maybe, just one of those new fangled USB Type-C-ready monitors. The benefit? One single USB Type-C cable can transmit 100W of power, gigabytes of data, and carry video signals to a series of outboard monitors. Once USB Type-C is ubiquitous, which probably won’t be that far into the future, Apple’s madness may begin to seem a little more like genius. Time will tell.
New MacBook Pro review: Verdict and price
There’s no doubt that Apple’s new MacBook Pro is a sizable step in the right direction. They’re universally slimmer, lighter, faster and more pleasant to use than their predecessors. There is a price to pay, however: the cheapest MacBook Pro you can buy is £1,249. To put this into context, that’s £120 more expensive than the equivalent Dell XPS 13, and that laptop comes with a touchscreen and a better selection of ports. There’s a cheaper, non-touchscreen XPS 13, too, on offer for £899.
And if you want the 13in Touch Bar model, you’ll be paying even more at £1,749. Want a 15in version? You’ll pay at least £2,349. That’s a heck of a lot of money, and that’s not even for the top-of-the-range machine – the “entry-level” 15in comes with 256GB of SSD storage, which feels pretty mean.
Right now, the move to USB Type-C at the expense of everything else seems slightly bonkers – but in a year or two, I suspect you’ll find USB Type-C cables trailing from every monitor and self-respecting peripheral. Right now, it’s a pain, but like it or not – this is a step in the right direction.
And despite the understandable pangs of loss for SD card slots and USB Type-A, these are without question the most refined, high-end laptops I’ve ever used. If you can stomach the increased prices and single-minded connectivity, and you just so happen to be sold on the macOS way of doing things, then there’s simply nothing to touch them. And even if you’re a die-hard Windows fan, don’t be afraid – the new MacBook Pros might be just the change you’ve been waiting for.