Apple special events are always a high point in the Jigsaw24 calendar, but last night’s was particularly rewarding, yielding up two new MacBook Pro 13″ models (one for function key fans, one with the aggressively cool new Touch Bar) and an all-singing, all-dancing 15″ model.
Held at Town Hall, Cupertino, Apple’s latest set of announcements features demos from Adobe, Twitter, Algoriddim and the Final Cut Pro team, the launch of a new Apple Accessibility site and news of a new TV app that turns your Apple TV into a hub for all your digital content, but nothing could distract from the real stars of the night: the all-new MacBook Pro lineup.
After years of incremental improvements, it’s great to see Apple really give some love to the pro end of their notebook line. The new lineup features a standard MacBook Pro 13″, which was explicitly positioned as ‘the MacBook Pro for people thinking of buying a MacBook Air’, a MacBook Pro 13″ with Touch Bar and Touch ID, and a 15″ model with Touch Bar and Touch ID, plus four Thunderbolt 3 ports with integrated USB-C.
What is Touch Bar?
See that row of function keys at the top of your keyboard that you only ever use to adjust the volume? Apple has taken them away and replaced them with a multi-touch Retina Display quality mini display that knows what programme you’re in and displays the appropriate controls automatically.
When you’re working in the finder, you’ll see the brightness and volume keys you’re used to. Open Mail, and they’ll instantly change to shortcuts for sending, forwarding and moving your emails, among other tasks. Go into Photoshop, and you’ll see common shortcuts and a scale for adjusting properties like brightness and contrast. You can even scrub your video timelines in Final Cut Pro and make edits to audio and video clips using multitouch gestures, right on the Touch Bar.
All this means that whether you’re working with images or in productivity apps, you don’t have to leave off typing to use a trackpad or mouse to find common shortcuts; they’re right there for you on the keyboard, and you can even customise what Touch Bar displays in each app to ensure maximum productivity gains. Rather than having to take a step back from your images to find menus and palettes, you can work full screen and use one hand on Touch Bar and another on the Force Touch trackpad to edit without pauses or distractions.
MacBook Pro gets a new keyboard, trackpad, screen and more…
The 12″ MacBook’s butterfly keyboard and Force Touch trackpad have both been moved to the MacBook Pro, although the butterfly keyboard has become more responsive on the way and “gives more sense of keyboard travel”, which we’re not fully sure we understand but which we are excited to experience.
The new trackpad is twice the size of that on the current MacBook Pro, giving you double the space to work with gesture controls. In combination with the new Touch Bar, Apple think this larger trackpad will allow creatives to develop a two-handed on-notebook workflow way of working, with one hand on the Touch Bar and another on the trackpad, without the need for mice or external pen tablets.
Other good news for creatives (and those of us who watch all their TV on our computers now) is that the MacBook Pro lineup now has a new and improved screen with 500 nit brightness, 67% higher contrast and a 25% wider colour gamut. If you’re more an audio type, you’ll like that speakers are now twice as loud and now have a much wider dynamic range.
Apple’s Touch ID security has made its way from iOS to macOS, powered by a new T1 chip that handles Touch ID and Secure Enclave. This means that not only can you lock your MacBook Pro geometrically, but you can also use Apple Pay to make purchases online. All you need to do is select ‘Pay with Apple Pay’ on the relevant listing, then tap Touch ID to authorise payment.
Most interesting for businesses, schools and other environments where machines may be shared is the fact that Touch ID can remember multiple fingerprints, and that if a user other than the one logged in taps the Touch ID button, the computer will automatically switch to their account, with all their apps and windows open as they last left that – a great productivity boost if you’re hot desking or use a shared pool of notebooks for any projects.
Thunderbolt 3 with integrated USB-C
You may remember USB-C as the somewhat controversial port that Apple added to their lineup with the 12″ MacBook. Combining multiple standards into a single port, USB-C can act as VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort or a power port with the right adapter – and now includes Thunderbolt connectivity as well.
These more versatile ports mean that you can connect your MacBook Pro to high-end displays, RAID storage, docks and third party creative hardware to transform a notebook into a full blown creative workstation.
MacBook Pro 15″ with Touch Bar and Touch ID
The new MacBook Pro 15” is powered by a 2.6GHz (3.5GHz with Turbo Boost) Intel Core i7 quad core processor, configurable to 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 Quad Core processor. With a 2TB 3.1GBps SSD and 16GB of 2133MHz memory at its heart, performance on the new generation MacBook Pro 15” is up to 50% faster, while new thermal architecture ensures cool running. Despite this improved performance, it offers up to 10 hours battery life.
Graphics are powered by a Radeon Pro Polaris graphics card, which gives you up to 4GB VRAM and 2.3x faster graphics performance overall. This translates to a 130% performance boost with regard to 3D graphics work, 57% for video editing and 60% for gaming.
MacBook Pro 15” features 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports, with support for USB 3.1, Display Port connectivity and charging.
MacBook Pro 13″ with Touch Bar and Touch ID
The MacBook Pro 13” is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor (2.9GHz, up to 3.3GHz with Turbo Boost enabled), configurable to a 3.7GHz Intel Core i7 Dual Core processor. Fast response times come courtesy of a 265GB PCIe-based SSD and 8GB of 2133MHz memory. An Intel Iris 550 graphics card with 64MB of eDRAM provides twice the graphics performance of the previous generation, delivering 103% better performance when you’re gaming, and 76% better when you’re editing video or working with 3D graphics. MacBook Pro 13” features four Thunderbolt 3 ports, with support for USB 3.1, Display Port connectivity and charging.
MacBook Pro 13″
MacBook Pro is powered by a 2.0GHz Dual Core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost support that can reach speeds of up to 3.1GHz, configurable to a 2.4GHz Dual Core Intel Core i7 processor. A 256GB PCIe-based SSD and 8GB of 1866MHz memory ensure fast response times, while Intel Iris 540 graphics give you superior graphics performance. MacBook Pro 13” features two Thunderbolt 3 ports,with support for USB 3.1, Display Port connectivity and charging..
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