The things we love and the things we don't about the new entry level MacBook Pro

Early thoughts on the Touch Bar-less MacBook Pro after 12 hours with our sample

The star of the Cupertino show was undoubtedly the MacBook Pro with the all new Touch Bar and Touch ID, but holy heck it's expensive!

But there was a modicum of good news for those of us who aren't the CEO of a tech startup - you can get a new MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar for a rather hefty saving.

The Touch Bar is of course the bell of Apple's 2016 ball, but having now spent around 12 hours with my review sample of the entry-level Pro, I'm starting to think that maybe, just maybe it's actually the real-life pick of the bunch.

Bear with me while I work through the pros and cons.

Pro #1: It’s got the same compact design

It may not have the same set of features as the Touch Bar-toting Pro, but it does have the same, delicious design.

This is a Pro-level MacBook that's smaller than the 13in MacBook Air, and you really do feel the difference. For a roving tech journalist such as me it's an absolute godsent because it's small enough to be taken anywhere, light enough to never be a burden, and powerful enough to edit photos and video wherever I am.

Every journalist at the next Apple event will be using one. Mark my words.

Con #1: It’s got less power and fewer ports

This Touch Bar-less version of the new MacBook Pro gets a 2.3GHz i5 processor as standard or can be upgraded to a 2.4GHz i7. Both options are a big step down from the base Touch Bar version, which has a 2.9GHz i5. In fact, on paper it's a bit slower than last year's entry-level MacBook Pro.

Admittedly, in the few hours I've had with the new Pro I've experienced no lag at all, and it certainly doesn't feel slower than my old Pro, but whether that will still be the case once I've filled it with millions of apps, photos and videos remains to be seen.

Also, unlike its sexier sibling the entry-level Pro only has two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, and some will find that a bit limiting.

Pro #2: It has the same bright, beautiful screen

Apple's once again refusing to be drawn into the pixel war and is sticking with the Retina resolution of the old MacBook Pros for the entire range of new ones.

What has changed is that this screen is brighter and has more contrast than before, displaying the wider P3 colour gamut that makes colours pop off the screen. Reds look a little richer, greens a little lusher, and it all looks a little different when placed side by side with my MacBook Pro (2015). Especially if you're constantly editing photos on your MacBook Pro. 

Considering the only place that you stare at constantly on your laptop is your screen, I think these are very worthwhile upgrades.

Con #2: It doesn’t have the magic of Touch

This is the reality of the price difference. The entry-level MacBook Pro doesn’t have Touch ID or the newfangled Touch Bar.

Sure, it's only going to be of limited use in the early days and maybe you won't miss something you've never had anyway.

Nope, you're right - the lack of Touch ID and the Touch Bar is a real shame, especially for tech lovers like you and I.

Pro #3: It has the same new keyboard

I might not have the Touch Bar, but the entry-level MacBook Pro does get the same keyboard as its more premium siblings.

Instinct might suggest that this would be a bad thing, given that it uses the butterfly mechanism that's had a mixed reception on the 12in MacBook.

This is the second-generation version of the tech, though, and there's a good deal more travel to each key, which makes it feel more like you're tapping on a more traditional keyboard - just one that's got wider, quieter keys.

On top of that you get the spacious new Force Touch trackpad to make your gestures more expansive.

Pro #4: It's a born entertainer

This entry-level has the same powerful new speakers as its privileged big brothers, and at maximum volume they're amazingly punchy and loud. Honestly, I thought I was going to wake the neighbours. No small feat given the machine's petite frame.

Combine the vastly improved sound with the thinned down bezel around the screen and you've got quite the immersive multimedia experience. No external displays or speakers necessary.

Pro #5: It’s loads more affordable

This is the big one. While the Touch Bar-enabled Pro starts at a pretty prohibitive S$2588.

Without the Touch features, though, this computer is S$400 cheaper. That's no small change.

So should you cough up S$400 more for features you aren’t even sure you need? Or, when you think about it, does the entry-level version actually do everything you need for a lot less cash? Exactly.

But should you upgrade to the entry level MacBook Pro?

But what if you've already got a MacBook Pro? Should you upgrade to the entry-level MacBook Pro? Is it even an upgrade?

Honestly, I think it is.

In power terms there's no improvement, but I don't believe it's the stepback it looks like on paper, either.

Besides, as a thing it's a significant improvement. If the perfect laptop is one that you can take anywhere and do anything with, the new Pro's combination of form and function makes it a real winner.

Sure, you'll have to get a whole load of new Thunderbolt 3 adapters in the early days, but before long it and USB-C will be the norm and you can be Captain Smug at the crest of the wave.

What I can tell you is that my short time with the new MacBook Pro has rendered my 2015 model feeling old fashioned and clunky, so if you want to avoid that fate befalling your existing MacBook, it might be best to stay clear of your local Apple Store.