Opinion: MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, One Year Later

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Our Score

It’s been a little over a year since my 2009 MacBook Pro died on me, prompting me to shell out for the 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. It was just my luck that the year I needed to upgrade was the year they released the [relatively more] expensive, new redesign. There are things that I’ve come to absolutely love about my new computer, as well as things that I don’t care for at all.

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MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Screenshot: Apple
MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Screenshot: Apple
The Good

One thing that I still can’t get over is just how beautiful the computer is. The design language was updated to reflect a more current aesthetic. The ugly black hinge of my former MacBook Pro is gone. Now the entire computer is uniform in color, with a more subtle hinge. The computer is thinner than its predecessors, and as a result, much lighter than before. The Space Gray color matches the design perfectly, way more so than the silver in my opinion. Despite being thinner, this computer feels a lot sturdier than older models. There is less give when pressing down on any surface of the device.

The Retina display is gorgeous. It allows even the smallest text to look sharp. The colors are vibrant and accurate. The screen is also incredibly bright, so working while next to a window during the daytime won’t significantly reduce visibility. Whereas I used to keep my 2009 MBP on full brightness, I no longer need to do that. The 15-inch model is the perfect size for me, as it lets me fit everything I need onto the screen, as opposed to the more limited 13-inch model. The thinner bezels also give me more screen real estate for less bulk.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Screenshot: Apple
MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

In terms of performance, I haven’t noticed any significant slowdowns. Applications open up in under a few seconds when clicked. I have the 16GB RAM model, but when I have too many programs open, I’ll definitely notice a very slight delay in certain actions and commands.

I loved the trackpad on my old MacBook Pro, and I love the trackpad on this newer model even more. The Force Touch-based trackpad is incredibly responsive, and works flawlessly. The haptic feedback makes it feel like I’m actually pressing down on a physical trackpad. The hard press feature took a week or so to get used to, but once I did, it became really handy for taking quick peeks at links or files without actually opening them all the way. The larger size of the trackpad is also really handy, and gives me more leeway when working, drag-and-clicking, or editing.

I also really appreciate the USB Type-C inputs. I was never really one to trip over my MacBook charger, so the MagSafe didn’t particularly add any value for me. It’s also nice to be able to plug in the charger from either side of the computer with no specific “right side up.” The ports are convenient because most of my devices already utilize USB-C. The ones that don’t, I have a few converters lying around. USB-C will become the standard anyway so it’s nice that Apple went with it (though it makes no sense that they didn’t do the same with their iPhone line).

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.
The Bad

When I first got my hands on the 2016 MacBook Pro, I immediately set up FileVault 2 encryption. However, I noticed that FileVault caused a bunch of graphical glitches during start up. The log in screen would get really laggy, and the screen would get flashes of weird pixelation. I understand FileVault will slightly decrease performance, which is a trade-off I’m okay with when it comes to security. However, on a brand new completely empty computer, this shouldn’t have happened. I traded the computer in and was sent a new one. However, this new one had the exact same graphical error as the first one. Upon research, I found out that this was a common issue, despite every Apple rep I asked denying it. Apparently an update was released that ended up fixing this, but I still see the occasional judder on the log in screen.

The Touch Bar is almost completely unnecessary. I’ve grown accustomed to it, but I rarely have any use for it. And just as some people feared, it has a tendency to glitch out at times; especially when running Safari, which seems counterintuitive since Safari is Apple’s native Internet browser. There have been times when I’ve tried to reduce the volume and couldn’t do anything because the Touch Bar froze. Same as happened with the ESC button.

The Touch Bar was advertised as being great for scrubbing while editing videos on Final Cut Pro X, but I’ve rarely used it for that purpose. Whether you’re scrubbing on the Touch Bar or using the track pad, you’re still relying on your dexterity to move through the clips. The Touch Bar feature doesn’t change anything. The Touch Bar also means that I have to look down to use it every time. The only positive thing I’ve used it for is skipping ads on many videos online; you can scrub through the ad by using the Bar. This has saved me loads of time (though it doesn’t work on YouTube anymore). The Touch Bar is almost entirely a gimmick. In fact, even looking at it upon opening the box, I already pictured myself 5 years into the future commenting about how outdated it looks. This is definitely another year away from looking hideously old and obsolete.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, keyboard.
MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, keyboard.

The keyboard is definitely loud and clacky, but I got used to it very quickly. The one thing on the keyboard that I can’t stand is the arrow keys. The Up and Down arrow keys are slim and positioned way too close together; in fact, the Up and Down keys are half the size of each of the Left / Right Keys. This weird balance makes it extremely awkward to use the arrows, and I always wind up pressing the wrong one.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I definitely love this computer. Nearly seven years of using my 2009 MacBook Pro, especially throughout my whole college experience has really locked me into the Apple ecosystem. The OS itself is very easy to navigate, and the design is top notch. The MacBook’s software and really integrates well with the hardware; except when it comes to the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar is the one thing I sincerely hope Apple excludes from future updates. There is a  13-inch, MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar, but it doesn’t come in a 15-inch model. Plus, the specs are way lower for this computer, and the cost is too high to justify it. This computer has done everything I need it to, and I’m definitely keeping it for the long-term.



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