Apple MacBook Pro 2016 connectivity - Houston, we have a port-blem
We can probably agree, however, that having lots of ports is better than not having many, which is why there will definitely be some grumbling about what the MacBook Pro offers in terms of inputs and outputs.
Firstly, there’s the format of the ports: you get Thunderbolt 3 and a headphone socket.
Secondly, there’s the number of them: two of the former and one of the latter.
How much of a problem either of those two factors is depends entirely on how you personally use your laptop. For me, the lack of an SD card slot initially feels like a real issue, but when I actually think about it I probably pop an SD card into my computer about once per month. It’s probably the same sort of frequency for USB sticks these days as well, now I come to think of it.
I know, I know: the point is that you never need these things until you do, and then their absence becomes a real issue. I’m sure that will happen to me at some point, and I’ll just have to hope that I have the relevant adaptor to hand when that time comes.
I think it’s up to every potential MacBook Pro buyer to think about how they use their laptop now and how they expect to use their laptop in a future in which USB C is inevitably far more prolific, even ubiquitous.
Still think it’s a problem? The new MacBook Pro isn’t for you.
Think you’re willing to buy a couple of adapters now (for there is one available for practically every conceivable scenario - and they’ve recently been reduced in price) to tide you over until that USB C-flavoured future? Keep reading.
If your issue is more related to the quantity of ports, there is a MacBook Pro for you: it’s the Touch Bar-enabled model, which we’ll be reviewing a little closer to its release date (1-2 weeks from date of publication). Personally, I don’t have a big issue with leaving an adapter hub at work, which is where I use a second monitor, a keyboard and mouse. At home or on the move I just don’t plug anything into my laptop.
There are things I find unnecessarily annoying - having both ports on the same side of the laptop seems a missed opportunity for some added flexibility, and having to buy an adapter so that you can plug your iPhone into your MacBook just feels a bit daft on quite a basic level - but on balance and having now used the Pro for a little while, I know the ports issue just isn’t really an issue for me. Only you can decide if it is for you.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 power - a pretty punchy performance
This MacBook Pro is entry-level in performance as well as price. Here you get a 2.0GHz i5 or 2.4GHz i7, whereas the Touch Bar-toting version opens with a 2.9GHz processor and can be specced much higher if you don’t mind Apple’s notoriously steep upgrade prices.
The spec-nerds among you will notice that the processor clock speeds of this new entry-level MacBook Pro are actually down on those of the old version, but fear not, overall performance is up.
Apple claims that all intensive applications now perform better, with gaming, 3D graphics and video editing all performing between 53-81% faster, and I’ve found no reason to doubt those numbers.
Kicking off with a fun bit of benchmarking (you mean you don’t find benchmarking fun?) GeekBench 4 gives the new MacBook Pro a higher multi-core mark of 7263 compared to the 2015 MacBook Pro’s 6664. That’s pretty significant.
In everyday use the performance has been flawless, even with ‘only’ 8GB of RAM. With Spotify and VLC running in the background and switching between 22 tabs opened in Chrome (with two of them playing video), the Pro never once faltered.
The Pro doesn’t disappoint in terms of storage speed, either. Transferring a 2GB folder took 6 minutes on my old MacBook, but it took less than two here. That’ll be the faster PCI-Express SSDs in action, then.
Of course there are video editors and 3D producers out there who will find the limits of the entry-level MacBook Pro, but that’s because they’re not entry-level users. The rest of us will hardly, if ever, find the most affordable Pro underpowered.
As for battery life, Apple reckons the new Pro will run for up to 10 hours on a full charge, and it delivers. I’ve been getting a full day of use out of every charge, and that’s with my Rick and Morty streaming addiction thrown into the mix.
In short, if you’re planning on taking advantage of the new MacBook Pro’s added portability, you can probably leave the charger at home.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 operating system - macOS Sierra
This is a Mac, which of course means macOS. It’s running the latest version, Sierra, right out of the box, so it’s got all the goodies already available to everyone that upgraded their existing kit back in September.
That includes Siri voice controls, copy and paste between your iOS devices and your MacBook, automatic unlock of your MacBook if your iPhone or Apple Watch is nearby when you lift the laptop lid, and Apple Pay built into Safari.
There’s also a handy new Optimise Storage feature, which automatically removes iTunes movies and TV series once you’ve watched them. Need more space? Store your files in iCloud when you’re running out of space. It’s a lot more clearer this time than trying to figure out how best to free up space.
Not that you should run out in a hurry, what with 256GB of built-in storage as standard.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 - the verdict
The Touch Bar version of the new MacBook Pro is understandably the one getting all of the internet attention, but this less glamorous entry-level model is actually a real gem in the overall MacBook range.
It’s got more power than most users will ever need and crams it into a beautiful shell that’s more compact than a MacBook Air. The power to portability ratio is strong in this one.
Of course you can go up the range to improve that ratio even further (the 13in Touch Bar version has more power but is identical in size and weight), but it’s a RM1300 step-up, and while it’s undeniably cool, there’s still a question mark over how useful the Touch Bar will be in the weeks and months to come.
You can of course go cheaper and lighter and opt for the RM5499 MacBook. It sure is a lovely thing, but you’re far more likely to bump up against its power limits than you are with the Pro.
And no, you probably shouldn’t consider the Air at this point. In comparison to these other MacBooks it looks very tired and weedy, and is almost certainly not long for this world.
That makes this entry-level model a wonderfully balanced bit of kit when looked at in the context of the MacBook range.
Yes, I know that Apple’s prices have gone up across the board, but it’s far from the only tech company to make such a move, and when I look at what else you can get for similar money to this entry-level MacBook Pro I don’t see a great deal of temptation. Sure the Surface Book will tick more boxes for a certain type of user, but I’d say that this is the more universal device.
I know one thing’s for sure: it’s going to feel like a big step back in time when Apple comes to collect this new MacBook Pro and I’m left with the chunky, ungainly 2015 model that I was still in love with just a few short days ago.