When you think about it, this new MacBook Pro is a bit of a bargain.
No, I’ve not gone completely bonkers. Yes, £1449 is still an awful lot of cash to drop on a laptop. But hear me out.
If you’d have walked into an Apple Store before WWDC, you’d have picked up a laptop with last year’s CPU, last year’s graphics and last year’s SSD. Still quick, but not the best.
Now, though? You can get the same laptop, with a faster CPU, more powerful graphics and an even quicker SSD, for no extra money. Don’t need 256GB of storage? Step down to the entry-level 128GB version and you’ll save £200. That’s a steal.
It’s a combination that turns an already great laptop into a truly excellent one. Here’s why.
APPLE MACBOOK PRO (2017) DESIGN & BUILD
Are you getting a feeling of deja vu? That’s probably because this 2017 MacBook Pro doesn’t look any different to last year’s model.
It’s got the same svelte, all-aluminium chassis that feels immensely sturdy, same Space Grey or Silver colour choices, and same shiny Apple logo etched into the lid. The light-up logo of old is dead and buried, I’m afraid.
At a little under 1.4kg, it’s not so light that you won’t notice it sitting in your bag, but it won’t give you back strain just lifting the thing either. It’s only 15mm thick, which is significantly skinnier than the previous generation design.
Sure, there are lighter and thinner laptops out there - Apple’s own MacBook, for one - but few of ‘em can match this for power as well as portability.
Also unchanged for 2017 is the lack of connectivity at the sides. That’s right: you’re going to need to pick up some dongles, as you only get a grand total of two USB-C ports. They double up as Thunderbolt 3 ports, so are super-quick when you plug in a compatible bit of hardware, but all your old gear is worthless without some kind of adapter.
APPLE MACBOOK PRO (2017) SCREEN & SOUND
OK, so it might not take the overall resolution crown, but the MacBook Pro’s 2560x1600 pixels are plenty, thank you very much. The 13.3in panel is absolutely bursting with detail, and even the macOS desktop looks pin-sharp.
Photos and videos are bursting with detail, but it’s colour vibrancy and accuracy where the screen really stands out. It covers the DCI-P3 wide colour gamut, y’see - the same colour space all of today’s blockbuster films are mastered in.
It really shows, with brilliantly bright hues, crisp pure whites and deep, inky blacks all sharing screen time together. Graphics pros will be more than happy with complete sRGB coverage, too. If there’s a better quality laptop screen, I haven’t seen it.
Brightness is impressive as well: Apple says it can hit an eyeball-searing 500nits, but whatever the figure, I could work on it outdoors and still see everything onscreen clearly.
The 0.7MP FaceTime HD camera built into the screen bezel could be better, though. Colours are decent enough, but even brightly-lit shots come out a little grainy - not what you’d expect given the price.
At least audio is on par with the screen. The last-gen 13in MacBook Pro didn’t have room at the sides of the keyboard for speakers, but Apple has managed to squeeze a pair in here. They can really pump out sound, too, with ample volume and clear vocals.
You can hook up a pair of headphones, as the good ol’ 3.5mm port is still present and correct, but the speakers are decent enough for just about anything other than critical listening or audio production.
APPLE MACBOOK PRO (2017) PERFORMANCE & BATTERY LIFE
You’d needs to crack open the 2017 MacBook Pro to see what really separates it from last year’s model. Or, y’know, look in System Preferences, if you don’t fancy voiding your warranty.
Essentially, Apple has made the jump to Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake processors, which squeeze a little more performance out of the silicon than last year’s Skylake CPUs, without sapping any extra electricity from the battery.
This £1449 review sample has a Core i5 chip that usually ticks along at 2.3GHz, which is perfect for day-to-day stuff like web browsing and writing, but it can boost up to 3.6GHz when you need some extra grunt.
Even with a gaggle of Mac apps running in the background, multiple Safari tabs and a YouTube video streaming at 1080p, everything felt super-smooth. Don’t expect to see any slowdown, even when you’re chopping up multiple 4K videos in Final Cut.
That’s partly down to the uprated Intel Iris Plus 640 onboard graphics, which are better suited to decoding 4K video. This chip is also capable of some light gaming, if you’re realistic with the graphics options. Hankering for some Hearthstone at the native resolution? Not a problem, but for anything more demanding you’ll need to drop those details.
The 8GB of RAM and crazy quick 256GB PCIe SSD help keep macOS running to speed, with file transfers finishing before you can blink.
It never gets toasty, either: even after a full working day of Photoshop, video playback and furiously wrestling with the Stuff.tv CMS, it stayed fairly cool to the touch. You’ll be able to use this on your lap without roasting your unmentionables.
You won’t need to stay hooked up to the mains while you do it, either. For web browsing, word processing and other basic jobs, the MacBook Pro consistently gets close to ten hours of battery life.
Trickier tasks like image editing and video will drain it quicker, but I consistently squeezed eight to nine hours out of a single charge. That’s not quite as much as some of the Windows-based competition, but it’s still enough to leave the power adapter at home while you get on with your day.
APPLE MACBOOK PRO (2017) SOFTWARE
Pick up a MacBook Pro today and it’ll arrive with macOS 10.12 Sierra. Apple’s last big update landed in 2016, and added useful extras like Siri and Picture-in-Picture mode. It also gave us excellent iCloud integration throughout the operating system, which was very handy for anyone with an iPhone or iPad.
It’s just as slick to use as it has ever been, but macOS is in line to get some more significant changes later this year.
10.13 High Sierra is on the way, and will give Safari a privacy-oriented overhaul, add better support for 4K video, and speed up file transfers with the new APFS file system - while also saving you storage space at the same time.
Not bad at all for a free update. You can bet we’ll be installing it as soon as it arrives, and will update this review with more details once we do.
APPLE MACBOOK PRO (2017) KEYBOARD & TRACKPAD
When it comes to getting work done, there’s nothing quite like the MacBook Pro. It’s all down to the fantastic backlit keyboard, which uses Apple’s custom butterfly switch design.
Each key has a minuscule 0.7mm of travel, but needs more force than a regular keyboard to activate, so typos are rare. This second-gen version has slightly more travel than last year’s MacBook Pro, so is even more comfortable to type on. I was more than happy to bash out review after review, without once thinking about plugging in an external keyboard.
Almost the entire board uses full-size keys, with only the shortcuts at the top and the arrow keys in the bottom right being shrunk to fit. This non-Touch Bar model has physical function keys, which might not be as fancy or futuristic, but they aren’t draining your battery just by sitting there, which is a bonus.
The absolutely giant Force Touch Trackpad will take a while to get used to, especially if you’re coming over from Windows or don’t use an iPhone. You’ve got to half-press to drag-and-drop, relying on haptic feedback to let you know when you’ve applied enough pressure.
Stick with it, though - this Trackpad stomps all over anything you’ll find on a Windows machine for accuracy, and you can adjust the level of feedback through the Settings menu if the defaults aren’t enough for you.
APPLE MACBOOK PRO (2017) VERDICT
With massive amounts of power, a gorgeous display and one of the best keyboard/touchpad combinations in the business, the MacBook Pro is an absolute joy to use. Even more so than last year, thanks to that new CPU (which doesn't cost any more cash).
The fancier Touch Bar-equipped model might look cooler than LL Cool J encased in a block of ice, but this standard version feels like the ideal combination of price, portability and performance.
OK, the Windows-based competition might be cheaper (sometimes significantly so), and a few extra ports would have been nice while we’re waiting for the rest of the non-USB type-C world to catch up, but otherwise it doesn’t really put a foot wrong.
With macOS High Sierra set to arrive later in the year and streamline performance even further, this absolute workhorse of a laptop will be able to handle anything you can throw at it today, and will still be ticking over years down the line.