When you think about it, this new MacBook Pro is a bit of a bargain.
No, I’ve not gone completely bonkers. Yes, S$1898 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 S$290. 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.