Apple's Latest MacBook Pro Machines Arrive Thinner, Lighter, Faster

Apple's new 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros feature a customizable Touch Bar, which reacts to applications, and have Touch ID capabilities.

Apple, MacBook Pro, Retina display, laptops, notebooks, Apple TV app, Tim Cook, Touch Bar, USB-C

Apple unveiled three new redesigned and rethought MacBook Pro models on Oct. 27, bringing key improvements and enhancements to its popular laptops, from thinner and lighter profiles to a new Touch Bar that replaces the top row of clickable function keys with a touch-screen keyboard strip that enables deep customization options.

The latest MacBooks arrive in three versions—a 15-inch model (pictured) with a sixth-generation Intel Core i7 quad-core 2.6 GHz processor, 16GB of 2,133MHz memory, up to 2TB of SSD storage and the new Touch Bar; a 13-inch model with a choice of sixth-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 dual-core processors, 8GB of 2,133MHz memory and the new Touch Bar; and a second 13-inch model that comes with a standard row of function keys instead of the Touch Bar.

The innovative Touch Bar reacts to taps and swipes and works with various applications to give users custom menus and keys that are specific to different applications, such as graphics options keys for editing programs. Since the Touch Bar is a touch-based Retina display, the keys can change on the fly for different programs, adding a wide array of capabilities for users. The Touch Bar works with applications including Mail, Finder, Calendar, Numbers, GarageBand, Final Cut Pro X and more, as well as with third-party apps.

The new Touch ID sensor, which had not been in previous MacBook Pro models, is located to the right of the Touch Bar and includes a sapphire cover glass, bringing users a higher level of security for their machines.

Also included are brighter Retina displays; improved, more responsive keyboards; upgraded audio capabilities; and larger Force Track touch-pads for ease of use. The latest machines run macOS Sierra and provide up to 10 hours of use on a charge, according to Apple.

The 15-inch model can be configured with Radeon Pro 450 graphics with up to 4GB of video memory, while the 13-inch models are equipped with Intel Iris 550 graphics chips.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,399, while the MacBook Pro 13-inch model starts at $1,799 with the Touch Bar, or at $1,499 for the standard model without the Touch Bar. The basic MacBook Pro 13 is available immediately, while the other two models will ship in two to three weeks, according to Apple.

All three models include aluminum chassis and are thinner and lighter than previous models. The 13-inch MacBook Pro models are 0.59 inches thick, which is 17 percent thinner than the previous model, which was 0.70 inches thick. The 15-inch model is 0.61 inches thick, compared to 0.70 inches for the previous version. The 13-inch models weigh 3 pounds each, down a half pound from the previous version, while the 15-inch version weighs 4 pounds, also down a half-pound from the earlier version.

The new MacBook Pro machines will be available in silver or space gray.

Also new for the MacBook Pro lineup is the inclusion of USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, with two ports on the basic 13-inch model and four ports on the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBooks that sport the new Touch Bar. Each port can be used for power, Thunderbolt, USB, DisplayPort, HDMI or VGA connections.

"The new MacBook Pros are the best notebooks we have ever made," Tim Cook, Apple CEO, said during the company's product announcement event, which was live-streamed from Apple headquarters. "We couldn't be more excited about having our best product line ever heading into the holiday season."

For comparison, Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said that the new MacBook models are an astounding 6.8 million times faster than original Apple PowerBook 170 portable machine that was offered in 1991.

"We think our [MacBook] Pro customers are going to love them," he said of the latest devices.

Jan Dawson, chief analyst with Jackdaw Research, told eWEEK that the new MacBooks give Apple "the most compelling and coherent lineup of laptops it's had in several years," but the machines "no longer enjoy the kind of big hardware advantage they've had in the past."

The new machines show "an increasingly stark difference in the philosophical approach taken by Apple and Microsoft in relation to touch on devices," he said, especially after Microsoft earlier this week announced its latest products, including a re-emphasis on touch displays for Windows PCs with the Surface Studio.

"Apple reserves full-touch displays for its iOS devices and focuses on the horizontal plane when it comes to interaction with Macs," said Dawson. "The Touch Bar and larger track-pad reinforce this sense that Apple thinks you want to interact with your laptop while keeping your hands down rather than constantly reaching up and touching the screen."