Firstly, I just finished setting up a shiny new 15-inch MacBook Pro almost maxed out (I couldn’t afford the 2TB SSD storage but sprung an extra $100 for the Radeon Pro 460 with 4GB of GPU RAM); the one with a Touch Bar and Touch ID built-in. Total price? $3,299. Which is exactly $300 less than a comparably equipped iMac with 27-inch 5k Retina display, and about $100 more than the highly acclaimed and comparably equipped Microsoft Surface Book.
Secondly, it screams. No. It’s more than a screamer. It’s the fastest Mac I’ve ever owned, despite the 16GB RAM limitation. Whatever Apple is doing to those SSDs is akin to magic or otherworldly elements, despite some Benchmarks that say otherwise. Quad-core Intel i7 CPUs on the high end iMacs, and the multi-core Mac Pros perform better on multi-core Benchmarks, but you’ll never notice the difference unless you’re running Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, or other apps that take advantage of all that power.
What the 2016 MacBook Pro does is create a blistering fast package that is lighter and thinner than predecessors but, sorry, within the confines of Intel’s slowing CPU development. Our friends at Bare Feats have a nice comparison of both the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 15-inch model. More cores matter, but read-writes on those fast SSDs are similar. The extra few hundred dollars for the 15-inch model renders a 40-percent to 110-percent increase in CPU and GPU performance.
Now, beyond fast, how does it feel? The screen is the best I’ve seen, including the iMac with 5k Retina display. Bright, crisp, sharp, with a wide gamut and wide viewing area. No complaints. None.
Keyboard? That’s a different story. Keyboards are a personal thing. If you’ve used a new MacBook keyboard with the butterfly contraption below the surface, you’ll only notice a bit more noise in the MacBook Pro. Noise? Alright, maybe it’s just louder sound. New keyboards require some effort to reach a good feel.
Touch Bar? No, it’s not a gimmick. Apple took the static Function keys and made them truly functional and contextual for each application. That means the app itself provides additional controls and more apps are showing up every day as ready for the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar. What about that crazy Escape key? It’s there. Why it doesn’t line up completely to the left of the keyboard is beyond me. Steve Jobs would have fired someone for such an oversight. But it works.
Touch ID? Automatic retina scanner and voice identification might be an improvement, but this works just like it does on the iPhone and iPad. Set up your fingerprint, touch the Touch ID button, and your Mac unlocks. How cool is that?
Trackpad? It’s huge. It’s Force Touch. That means you keep the click but you can click anywhere on the trackpad to perform whatever you need it to do.
Cameras? I don’t understand Apple here. Nearly every other high end notebook that competes with MacBook Pro models has better cameras– at least, better in the megapixel race– than Apple, and that’s the case here, too. Yes, the camera image is good and you may not notice much difference between it and a Windows PC competitor, but why doesn’t Apple have the best?
Battery Life? How long a battery works will depend upon the work you’re doing, of course, with more GPU or CPU work impacting overall life. Writing, browsing, email, and just mucking around on the MacBook Pro got me over nine hours, while running multiple benchmarks reduced that by a couple of hours.
Macworld has a good set of benchmark comparisons between the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models that mirror my own experience. If there’s one thing I’ve gathered already it’s that we’ve reached something of a plateau on personal computer performance in 2016, with Intel squeezing ever smaller incremental improvements on hardware that usually runs far faster already than how we need applications to perform.