It’s been over 500 days since Apple updated its MacBook Pro. Now, the wait is over. And while the company’s new line-up of high-end laptops looks awfully similar to the previous version from the outside, there’s a world of difference, starting with what Apple calls the “Touch Bar.”
First, the laptop itself, which comes in 13 and 15-inch varieties, and which retains the same basic look that has defined the Retina MacBook Pro for years now. There are some key differences in the form, though, especially when you look up close. The new MacBook Pro comes in a Space Gray option, for starters. It has a brighter, more colorful display. It’s also a bit thinner, with a redesigned hinge to accommodate the size change.
It also follows the recently overhauled MacBook in embracing USB-C, to the tune of four (four!) ports. There’s no HDMI here, no SD card reader. Just next-generation connectivity that not even the iPhone has embraced yet. Prepare to dongle, at least for the next year or two.
You didn’t come here for physical iterations, though. You came here for the Touch Bar.
As has been rumored for what feels like decades, the new MacBook Pro ditches the function keys at the top of the keyboard for an OLED strip. Why, you ask? Why, indeed! It looks cool, certainly, but it also allows the keyboard to show situationally distinct options. If you’re in a music player, for instance, you could have more expansive control of your tunes. Switch over to Photoshop, and you could call up a variety of tools. When you’re browsing the web, it shows a search field and navigation buttons. It works in Pages, Keynote, Garageband, Terminal, and XCode. And of course, it makes the perfect home for an emoji keyboard.
A lot of the Touch Bar’s utility is going to depend on developers, but Apple already has several partners on board.
Another key aspect of the Touch Bar? It comes with a TouchID fingerprint reader where the power button currently resides. That alone isn’t anything special; laptops have had fingerprint readers for years and years. What makes Apple’s unique, though, is that it’s going to enable Apple Pay on the web with the touch of a finger. No more entering your personal information or your credit card number, no more autofill and the attendant security risks. Just press to pay.
If all of this sounds bonkers to you and you just want a new machine with real function keys, Apple has one of those too. There’s a 13-inch version of the new MacBook Pro that’s spec’d a little lower but has traditional keyboard with function keys intact.
The new MacBook Pro will start at $1,799 for the 13-inch and $2,399 for the 15-inch, and are available for preorder Today. The Touch Bar models will ship within three weeks. The non-Touch Bar 13-incher costs $1,499 and ships now.
It’s been a while, but these new machines certainly seem worth the wait.