First the headphone jack on the iPhone, now the MacBook Pro loses almost every port except for the headphone jack. That’s a bit of a head-scratcher, isn’t it?
Yes and no. Apple may be committed to forcing a wireless headphone future into the present of portable audio, but it also knows that MacBook Pros are the tools of audio engineers and video producers all over the world, and telling them to ditch their pro-level cans in favour of Bluetooth is a shortcut to angry Apple users.
So the headphone socket remains, but all of the ‘old’ MacBook Pro’s other connections have been replaced by Thunderbolt 3 ports that double-up as USB-C. And on the entry-level model we’re looking at today, there are only two of them, unlike the four you get if you step up to the next model in the range.
And that’s not the only sacrifice that’s been made for this version of the Pro, because it also does without the sexy, headline-grabbing Touch Bar of the rest of the range. It’s down on power next to its more expensive siblings, too.
Blimey, it’s not looking good for this version of the new MacBook Pro, is it?
Here’s the thing, though - this is still a really fabulous laptop, and for many people will be the pick of the range.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 Design - a dense, diminutive delight
A 2015 MacBook Pro looks practically prehistoric next to this. Why is it so clunky? Why are there unnecessary spaces sandwiching the up key? Why had I not recognised all of these glaring flaws before?
It’s because they didn’t look like flaws before this beautiful slab of engineering excellence appeared to replace it.
It’s so compact. Not just smaller than the device it replaces, but significantly smaller than even the 13in MacBook Air, previously the device in the MacBook range that you’d pick up when you were prepared to accept a reduction in power for the trade-off of extra portability.
The new 13in MacBook Pro means that trade-off is no longer necessary.
It’s practically the same weight as a 13in MacBook Air, too, although it feels way, way more dense. You can tell just by holding it in one hand that this is a chassis with absolutely no wasted space. Not a square-millimetre that’s unused.
You might have thought that the MacBook Pro would get the same colour options as the 12in MacBook that launched last year, but here there’s no gold or rose gold option. Perhaps that’s a move designed to illustrate the more serious nature of the Pro. All I know for sure is that the space grey is gorgeous and is what I’d choose regardless.
Losing the light-up Apple logo on the lid initially seems like a bit of a shame, but I have to admit that the laser-cut, shiny black logo that replaces it just looks that little bit more grown up.
And there’s still a MacBook Pro logo right under the screen so don’t worry, no-one’s going to mistake it for a plain ol’ MacBook.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 Display - increasing the entertainment value
The slimmer bezels give the screen a way more cinematic look, even though it sticks with the same 13in size and 2560x1600 Retina resolution as last year’s model.
Apple has still given it an overhaul, though, with higher brightness and better contrast. You really see the difference when it’s side-by-side with a 2015 version, somehow giving the impression of even greater detail.
Highlights are brighter, bringing your pictures to life. Reds and greens have a particularly pleasing pop, and an episode of Marco Polo on Netflix doesn’t leave you squinting into the darkness.
Chuck in the new stereo speakers and Netflixing and chillaxing is taken to a whole new level. This laptop packs quite the aural punch, despite its dinky dimensions, and because they’re positioned at either side of the keyboard, you get much better sound separation.
I’m the sort of audio snob who’ll usually work in silence if there are no headphones or speakers available, but even I will listen to Spotify through the MacBook Pro’s speakers in a pinch. No, I’m not suddenly going to throw away my Bluetooth speaker, but it’s good to know that when that’s out of battery or I haven’t got it with me I can still enjoy some decent sound.
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 keyboard and trackpad - I've got a feeling
You’ll instantly feel the difference when you start typing on the keyboard, which now uses the butterfly-style switches found in the MacBook.
If you missed that whole furore when the the MacBook launched, here’s what you need to know: the butterfly mechanism significantly reduces the amount that each key travels, while reducing wiggle and therefore making it possible to give them a much greater surface area.
That all sounds great, but some people really struggle with the lack of travel in the keys of the MacBook.
The good news for those people is that the new MacBook Pro actually has a second-gen version of the butterfly mechanism. The keys don’t actually travel any further, but they feel as if they so.
It may still feel a little odd at first, but I was at home with the MacBook Pro’s keyboard within five minutes and within 30 was convinced that it’s the nicest keyboard I’ve ever used. It feels mechanical, has a really satisfying clack to every press, feels perfectly laid-out and reduces typos thanks to the extra space given to each key.
The only flaw is that it’s a little loud compared to Apple’s older keyboards, but I can’t say I personally find that bothersome. In fact, for me that clackiness adds to the feedback in a good way.
For me, it’s actually the TouchPad that’s lacking a little in the satisfaction stakes. Don’t get me wrong; I love its huge surface area, which opens up a whole new world of multi-touch gesture shortcuts, but I do think the lack of mechanical action makes it a little less satisfying when clicking, and that’s regardless of which end of the ‘light’ to ‘firm’ spectrum that I set the Force Touch feedback to. It’s a very minor flaw, though, and one that many users might not agree is a flaw at all.