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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.

This is the third Apple product to feature Force Touch and haptic feedback, the others being the Apple Watch and the upcoming redesigned MacBook. It'll be interesting to see how this tech is implemented moving forward.

Personally, I love the feel of the trackpad; if you're accustomed to Apple trackpads -- which longtime readers know I've advocated over mice and trackballs -- you're going to like Force Touch once you grow accustomed to using it. After experiencing it on the new computer, I've found myself trying to use force presses on my own 15-in. MacBook Pro. The sensitivity of Force Touch can be adjusted in Settings, and for those who don't want it, there is an option to disable the feature -- though I'm not sure why you would want to.

Other new hardware
Besides the trackpad, the internal architecture has been revamped. This year, the 13-in. MacBook Pro features fifth-generation Intel Core i5 (or i7) Broadwell processors. The entry-level laptop -- the one this review is based on -- is equipped with a 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (with a Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz), 8GB of 1866MHz LPDDR3 memory and 128GB of PCIe-based flash storage. An integrated Intel Iris Graphics 6100 processor powers the 2560-x-1600 high-resolution Retina display.

There are two other configurations for the 13-in. MacBook Pro: a $1,499 model that has 256GB of storage; and a $1,799 version equipped with a slightly faster 2.9GHz dual core Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) and 512GB of storage.

You can customize memory and processor configurations for the MacBook Pro on Apple's online store; for example, the entry-level model processor can be upgraded to the 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 for an additional $100 or a dual-core Intel Core i7 clocked at 3.1GHz (and 3.4GHz Turbo Boost) for $300 more. To upgrade to 16GB of memory costs an additional $200 across the board, and the high end 13-in. MacBook Pro can be upgraded to 1TB of storage for another $500.

This year's MacBook Pros come with two Thunderbolt 2 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, dual microphones (for noise-canceling), an HDMI port, an SDXC card slot, and a headphone jack. Wireless support includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

The chiclet keyboard is backlit and automatically adjusts to low-light situations, making it easy to type even in dark rooms. The FaceTime camera is hidden in the black border centered just above the display and works well for video conferencing with FaceTime or Skype.

Day-to-day performance
As I used it, I felt that performance on a daily basis was quite good; between the four-channel PCIe flash storage and the Intel architecture -- working in concert with OS X Yosemite -- app launches were speedy and most tasks happened quite fluidly. This is a great computer for those who want a great balance of power/performance, including running multiple operating systems in virtualization apps such as Parallels, and using resource-intensive apps like iMovie and Final Cut Pro.


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