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Deep-dive review: New 13-in. MacBook Pro brings Force Touch to the trackpad

Michael deAgonia | April 1, 2015
Apple's newest laptop offers a trackpad that delivers new features and abilities, together with improved performance.

mbp 13

The last time I reviewed the 13-in. MacBook Pro, I was quickly won over by its size, portability and performance. The solid build of the aluminum chassis wrapped around the high-resolution Retina display, in concert with great performance and battery life, led me to confidently recommend that computer.

I have now spent some time with the 2015 version of the entry-level 13-in. MacBook Pro, and I'm more impressed than the last time I reviewed this model. This notebook, which starts at $1,299, shares the same weight (just under 3.5 lb.) and dimensions (12.35 x 8.62 x 0.71 in.) as last year's, but offers improvements to the internal architecture, including a faster PCIe-based flash storage system and improvements to battery life.

Force Touch trackpad
But the most notable addition is the inclusion of the new Force Touch trackpad.

Superficially, the new trackpad feels like any other Apple trackpad. It is still coated in a layer of glass (which provides an excellent tracking surface), still takes up a third of the area available for palm rests and still supports multitouch actions and gestures. But longtime users will notice a different feel to the clicks when they're pressing on it.

What makes this new trackpad different is that it has been built around four force sensors that detect how much pressure is applied against it. In addition, Force Touch is contextually sensitive and offers different features depending on the application in use.

For instance, a hard press on an icon's text in the Finder allows you to edit its name, while a hard press on the icon itself brings up a window with a preview of the picture, video, or document, information about the file, and the option to open the file in the appropriate app. Another example: In the QuickTime app, the speed at which a video clip rewinds or fast-forwards depends on how hard you press on the trackpad.

Safari also supports Force Touch: Pressing down on the trackpad while the mouse pointer hovers over a word will display that word's definition and thesaurus entries, while pressing down on a link will display a preview of that page in a pop-up window. You can scroll through the page or add it to your Reading List for later; clicking the preview page will open it in the browser.

The trackpad also supports pressure sensitivity in apps that support it; right now, Mail supports thin or thick strokes, depending on how hard you press when you sign your name.

In addition, the Force Touch trackpad offers haptic feedback. Currently, the only app I was able to test this with was iMovie 10.0.7 -- when you reach the end of a clip, you feel a subtle tap from the trackpad.

 

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