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Ta-dah! Touch Bar is the highlight of Apple’s newest MacBook Pro

Roman Loyola | Oct. 28, 2016
Apple finally—finally!—updated its high-end laptop with new keyboard functionality, processors, and more.

It’s been rumored for some time, and it even made an appearance in the macOS Sierra 10.12.1 update, but on Thursday Apple officially revealed a new MacBook Pro. The killer surprise-and-delight feature? It’s called Touch Bar, an OLED panel that replaces the row of function keys usually found on the top of the Apple laptop keyboard.

The Touch Bar does a lot of things, but the headline feature may be support for Touch ID. When you encounter a process that requires you to show your fingerprint (such as Apple Pay), you place your finger on the Touch ID area of the Touch Bar. The Touch ID sensor is integrated with the power button.

The functions provided by the Touch Bar change based on the software you are using. For example, if you’re using iTunes, the Touch Bar lights up with icons representing player controls. During a chat, the Touch Bar can be used to instantly place emoji. In the Photos app, you can access editing functions on the Touch Bar and apply those edits to the photo you’re working on.

touchbar photoshop
Adobe Photoshop can use the Touch Bar to perform image edits.

Customizing the Touch Bar can be done using drag and drop. You can select the functions you want on the main screen, and drag them to the location your want off the bottom of the MacBook Pro’s screen and onto the Touch Bar.

During the Mac event, Apple said that third-party software developers will be able to create Touch Bar controls for their software. Adobe showed how the Touch Bar can be used to perform image edits in Photoshop. Algoriddim demonstrated how a DJ can use the company’s Djay software and the Touch Bar to perform mixes. Apple’s Phil Schiller also said that Microsoft will be offering Touch Bar tools for Microsoft Office.

Apple also updated the Force Trackpad, which is now double the size of the previous trackpad. The new keyboard takes its cues from the 12-inch MacBook; the MacBook Pro keyboard is is based on butterfly switch technology, but Apple called this a “second generation” butterfly switch that’s more responsive to better suit the demands of pro users.

Design changes, Thunderbolt 3

The all-aluminum case design of the new MacBook Pro is thinner and lighter, and available in silver and space gray. The 13-inch model is 14.9mm thin, 23 percent smaller than the previous 13-inch model, and 3 pounds. The 15-inch model is 15.5mm thin, 20 percent smaller than the previous 15-inch model, and 4 pounds.

To help cut down on the weight and size on the MacBook Pro, Apple shrunk down the size of the speakers. But according to the company, there’s no sacrifice in audio performance; Apple claims that the speakers have twice the dynamic range, 58 percent more volume, and 2.5 times more bass response than its predecessor.

 

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