09, Jul, 2019
APPLE'S NEW MACBOOK PRO GOES ALL IN ON THE TOUCH BAR
THE SUMMER IS a time for rejuvenation, don’t you think? A time to reflect on what’s important and what can be let go. That applies also to Apple’s laptop line, which on Tuesday got a midsummer refresh. It involves shuffles and spec bumps big and small, but mostly: If you need a MacBook Pro, hope you like the Touch Bar.
The Touch Bar, first introduced in 2016, had already subsumed most of the MacBook Pro line. But until now, the entry-level, 13-inch MBP retained physical function keys. Its status as a holdout earned it an unofficial nickname: MacBook Escape, after the key that the Touch Bar had banished. No longer! Apple has now outfitted its least expensive MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar and Touch ID, meaning MBP buyers henceforth must resign themselves to a thin OLED strip at the top row of their keyboards. That or get shopping in the refurb aisle.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise; it didn’t make sense for Apple to have such a glaring feature imbalance in its MBP line. But it might come as a disappointment, especially for those who have dismissed the Touch Bar as a gimmick. In practice, it’s at least unlikely to make your daily MacBook Pro experience worse. And having ready access to Touch ID on your keyboard is a genuine boon.
In the meantime, while Apple says it has fixed its butterfly-switch keyboard woes, there’s a possibility that the company will revert to a more reliable scissor-switch version in the not so distant future; it might make sense to see how that plays out before committing to this generation of laptops. Apple will reportedly include these latest MacBooks in its free keyboard repair program, which on the one hand is great, but on the other doesn’t inspire much confidence that they won’t continue to get jammed up.
The new base-level MacBook Pro features less immediately obvious changes as well. It gets an overdue spec bump to Intel’s latest 1.4-GHz quad-core Core i5 chip, along with a True Tone display, which dials the color temperature up or down automatically depending on the ambient light. It starts at $1,300, or $1,200 for college students.