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First Look: The no-Touch Bar MacBook Pro still delivers speed, style

Michael deAgonia | Nov. 7, 2016
The entry-level 13-in. model -- the only one currently shipping -- makes a compelling case for itself

Apple unveiled three new radically redesigned Apple MacBook Pro laptops last week, two of which feature a cutting edge function-key replacement -- the new Touch Bar, including Touch ID -- and one of which did not. Guess which one I have?

I'll have a look soon at the Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro (which isn't shipping for two or three weeks), but first, let's talk about the entry-level 13-in. model, unveiled Oct. 27.

For price-conscious buyers, this model still represents a good choice. At a reasonable 3 lb., 0.58 in. thick when closed, and with a smaller footprint to boot, it's apparent that the 13-in. MacBook Pro is what the MacBook Air dreams to be when it's in sleep mode. Compared to the Air, the new 13-in. Pro has a higher-quality display; a better, faster Core i5 processor; faster, modern USB-C ports for connectivity; a much faster SSD; and the first case update in four years.

mbp family
The 13-in. MacBook Pro (center) next to a MacBook Air (left) and an older 15-in. MacBook Pro (right).

I'm a big fan of the MacBook line. I love the balance of power and portability; I love the aesthetics (especially the Space Gray MacBook); I love the glass multitouch trackpad; and I even love the keyboard -- the stiffer, larger key design and the shorter key-stroke throw really works for me. (Other Mac users disagree, and feel the keys are too shallow.)

When I reviewed the first MacBook last year, I said that users who lamented the lack of standard (USB-A) ports and those that needed more processing power should instead focus on the MacBook Pro lineup. That advice no longer holds, since the new MacBook Pro no longer has standard USB ports. (The older model is still being sold, however, should you really need USB-A.)

mbp port keyboard
The entry-level MacBook Pro gets two USB-C Thunderblot 3 ports and an updated keyboard like the one in the MacBook.

This new MacBook Pro takes last year's advances from the less expensive MacBook and moves them to Apple's Pro line-up. At $1,499, the base model's price lines up well in Apple's notebook strategy, as it costs a couple of hundred dollars more than the MacBook, and it's $300 less than the cheapest MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar. (That one starts at $1,799 and will be available later this month, likely at the same time the larger 15-in. model arrives.)

The MacBook Pro does offer quite a few major changes, with design decisions obviously influenced directly from the MacBook. Aside from what's new, it's important to highlight what's gone: Every bit of connectivity found in the last-generation MacBook Pro (USB-A, the MagSafe power port, the SD card slot). In their place are two Thunderbolt 3 ports -- four in the Touch Bar models -- and the headphone jack. The good news is that USB-C should be around for a while, and the Thunderbolt 3 ports Apple uses support very fast transfer rates (up to 40Gbps). The downside: You're going to have to invest in dongles. Or a hub. Or both.


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