First Look: 13-inch MacBook Pro

After attending the Mac Event at Apple’s Cupertino headquarters yesterday, I met with company executives to get a closer look at the new MacBook Pro. It is more impressive in person than the demos were able to portray.

I left the meeting with a 13-inch MacBook Pro, but sadly this model doesn’t have the much vaunted Touch Bar. I did, however, get to spend some time playing with the Touch Bar in the Hands-On area after the keynote, so I will be able to give you some thoughts on that new feature.

I’ve only been using the MacBook Pro for about eight hours (and still have over an hour of battery left), so it’s certainly not enough time to give you a full review or even my finalized thoughts. I will tell you some of the things I like about it so far. In a future review, I’ll talk more about the Touch Bar and using the computer on some more CPU intensive tasks like recording music.

Let’s get to it…

We might as well talk about the Touch Bar first. Going into the keynote, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the Touch Bar. However, having used it a bit, I like it a lot more than I thought I would.

Touch Bar is more contextual than just changing for apps—it can change for the different things you do inside of the app as well. This makes the Touch Bar infinitely more useful because you’ll be able to do things in each app and with each task.

The Touch Bar is smart too. For instance, if you want to turn the volume down, you can tap on the volume button and then touch on the slider to control the volume level. Pretty simple. But you can do it even quicker—you can tap and hold on the volume button and just scrub left or right to control the volume level. The volume slider still appears and moves when you scrub your finger, but it’s much quicker to just tap and hold.

You can scrub through a lot of things including, songs, video, pictures, and I’m sure many other things in Apple’s built-in apps.

The types of things you can get in the Touch Bar seems to be very wide ranging. Emojis, buttons, sliders, scrollers, pictures, timelines, and the list goes on.

Since the Touch Bar is configurable, exactly how people use it will become a personal choice. It’s impossible for me to say how much use I’ll get out of it with the limited time I had yesterday, but I can see using it a lot, especially with music.

The Touch Bar has an ambient light sensor built-in so it’s always at a comfortable brightness for the conditions you’re working in. When the computer is not in use, the bar will dim after 60 seconds and then go dark after about 75 seconds. Touching the keyboard will wake it up instantly.

The Touch Bar is designed to be seen at a normal working angle when sitting at the computer. In other words, you don’t need to be looking straight down at the computer to see it properly.

There are a lot of details in the Touch Bar that exemplify Apple’s attention to detail. This is exactly what we expect from the company.

Let’s talk about something else I was very happy to see come to the MacBook Pro: The new keyboard.

MacBook Pro gets an updated version of the MacBook keyboard. The new wider keys with the butterfly mechanism is a fantastic keyboard. I loved it when it came out on the MacBook and I love the one on the pro.

It seems to me that there is a little more travel distance when you press down on a key with the newer keyboard. I actually like that a bit better. After using both, the MacBook keys didn’t have enough travel. This one feels much better to me.

I still have the same problem with the arrow keys as I had with the MacBook keyboard—together they form a rectangle, which makes it difficult to tell, just from feel, where you are on the keyboard.

The Force Touch Trackpad is 46% larger than the previous generation, but it is so quiet. My MacBook makes an audible sound like older trackpads did, but the sound on the pro is different. It’s a more subtle sound—it’s there, you can hear it, but it seems quieter, more subdued.

Being a music guy, I have to mention the speakers. They sound really good, even at high volume. Most notebook speakers will tend to crack a little bit at high volume, but these sound really clear. I fed some Ozzy through them today and they really seemed to like it—as they would.

The stereo separation was very noticeable on songs like the beginning of “Crazy Train,” which was impressive.

I didn’t try any Thunderbolt accessories on the MacBook Pro. There wasn’t enough time to do any real testing anyway, but I’ll get to that in a later article. I’ll also test out some music creation to see how the CPU does under some guitar recording stress.

The last major feature is the display. This is Apple’s first MacBook that features the use of a wide color gamut. They’ve used it in the iPhone 7 and iPad Pro, but it’s important that Apple also used it in the MacBook Pro—this is the computer that photographers and film people will be using, so it should be there.

The display is 30 percent more power efficient than the previous generation and it’s also brighter and has a higher contrast ratio.

There is nothing I’ve seen so far that gives me any pause about the new MacBook Pro. It has tons of power, an amazing display, an innovative Touch Bar, and plenty of inputs via the Thunderbolt ports. There is no doubt that I’ll be getting one of these.