Excited about the new MacBook Pro? Better start saving your shekels. Apple’s keynote speech had many rumors swirling around it that were conveniently leaked in the days prior, but there was still some buzz. That buzz was mostly unfounded, as the most surprising feature of the new MBP is the price: starts at $1500 and goes all the way to $2900! The “Pro” definitely needs to be emphasized, as that level of pricing only makes sense if you can write it off as a business expense. We’ll see what we’re dealing with in a moment, but let’s first cover the other events of the speech.
The event opened with a video highlighting the accessibility features of Apple’s products. Check out their new site for more details. The video (available on the site) is absolutely beautiful and I highly recommend watching it.
Tim Cook came out swinging with an Apple TV app: TV. No, that’s not an error. This app is sort of a meta-app, managing your numerous subscriptions to various video streaming services. It serves basically as a hub; if you have Netflix, Hulu, and HBO GO, TV shows you where you left off or suggests the next episode on each show or movie within those services. So, if you were halfway through a Game of Thrones episode, selecting it in the TV app opens up the HBO GO app and resumes playing. We don’t envision it being used too often (except for streaming service power-users with 3+ subscriptions) but it is a neat concept. Siri on the Apple TV gets a boost but nothing mindblowing beyond learning the names of NFL teams. Speaking of NFL, watching games on Apple TV now allows you access to an on-screen curated Twitter feed about the game, showing blurbs and stats from major sports news outlets as well as humorous reactions from celebrities. Gimmicky? Yes. Cool? Also yes. If they bring that feature to NHL games, so I can see all sorts of derogatory memes against my beloved Maple Leafs, I’m on board.
Now the main event: 13” and 15” MacBook Pro. Here’s a quick run-down of what’s new:
- New trackpad that’s twice the size of the previous models, utilizing Force Touch (for hard-presses, similar to iPhone 3D Touch) and presumably some form of the Taptic Engine for feedback.
- A new Retina display with 67% brighter and a 67% higher contrast ratio while consuming less power.
- Four Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, and any of them can be used for charging, docking, etc.
- 10 hours of battery life.
But the most important (to Apple) new feature is the Touch Bar, a multi-touch-sensitive Retina display across the top of the keyboard where the function keys normally are. The Touch Bar features context-sensitive buttons, providing handy shortcuts depending on what is currently happening on screen. You can do anything with the Touch Bar!, Apple is trying to say. To demonstrate this, they had a DJ perform a 30-second song using it with djay Pro, a photographer do some slick editing tricks in Photoshop, and a videographer assemble a short film on Final Cut. There are features in more commonly used apps, such as Safari: Touch Bar will show shortcuts and open tabs. Less impressive were an autocomplete feature, which is useless when all 10 fingers are typing at once, and an emoji list.
On the far right of the Touch Bar is a Touch ID button, serving as both a power button and fingerprint verification. That’s right, Apple Pay comes to MacBook (new security specs to match). This also serves as a fast switch between users; just press your finger against it and, if you’re an authorized user, it quickly switches you over to your account.
Hardware-wise, it’s impressive but nothing mindblowing. No one buys MacBooks as high-end gaming computers so the specs should be sufficient.
The prices, however, are absolutely absurd. The 13” goes for $1799 and the 15” starts at $2399, with reports coming from Europe and Canada as costing up to twice as much there. It’s a massive price increase over the previous models without much to show for it. Apple is discontinuing the MacBook Air, for a good reason (the 13” model is lighter and thinner than the previous Air) but still impacting those who want a somewhat affordable MacBook without the high-end specs. The MacBook Pro is designed, and now definitely priced for, professionals, hence the Pro in the name. But there’s no new option for the casual user, save for Tim Cook’s half-mumbled consolation of a 13” model with only two Thunderbolt ports and no Touch Bar for the “bargain” price of $1499. You’ll be much better off repairing and/or upgrading your current MacBook and still saving a lot of money.
This last point seemed off. Apple is compromising? I feel as if the old Apple wouldn’t have offered a MacBook that did not include the centerpiece feature of the new line; sort of an “adapt or die” attitude that defined the company. I’m not one to start a whole “Steve Jobs Apple vs Tim Cook Apple” debate, but it seems very un-Apple to talk about innovation for an hour and then give the option of opting out of said innovation.