Apple unveils new Touch Bar MacBook Pro models

October 28, 2016 // 9:59 a.m.

Tags: #apple #imac #mac #macbook #macbook-air #macbook-pro #mac-mini #mac-pro #magsafe #thunderbolt-3 #touch-bar #touchid #usb-type-c #watchos

Apple has formally unveiled its refreshed MacBook Pro hardware, including models featuring an interactive Touch Bar replacing the traditional physical function keys at the top of the keyboard.

Announced at an event which will have disappointed anyone hoping for updates to Apple's MacBook Air, Mac Pro, iMac, or Mac Mini ranges, the new MacBook Pros come in three flavours: 13in models with or without the new Touch Bar, and a 15in model which is only available with. It's the Touch Bar that was the highlight of the event: Replacing the function key row, the Touch Bar is an entirely separate computer powered by Apple's WatchOS software which communicates with the host laptop via USB. Its touch-sensitive display strip can be used to show shortcuts and functions of the running software, and includes the same TouchID fingerprint recognition technology as the iPhone family for authentication and Apple Pay functionality. It does, however, come at a cost: the new design does away completely with dedicated function keys, even going so far as to remove the Escape key in favour of a software-driven icon which appears on the Touch Bar when appropriate. The base technology is similar to Microsoft's Adaptive Keyboard from 2010, but lacks the continuation of the display portion to the underside of the keys for full customisation.

Internally, the redesign is a rare win for AMD: the top-end 15in Touch Bar MacBook Pro comes with a choice of AMD Radeon Pro 450 2GB or Radeon Pro 460 4GB graphics processors backed by 2.6GHz to 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 processors depending on configuration chosen. Storage is available from 256GB to 2TB, but memory is fixed at 16GB. A 76Wh battery provides a claimed ten hours of run time, and drives a 15.4in 2,880 x 1,800 display.

The 13in Touch Bar MacBook Pro, meanwhile, does away with the dedicated GPU in favour of Intel Iris Graphics 550 integrated into the Core i5 or i7 processor options. Storage from 256GB to 1TB and memory choices of 8GB or 16GB are available, with a 49.2Wh battery providing a matched 10 hours of active use for the 2,650 x 1,600 13in display. The non-Touch Bar model, meanwhile, features a different design with fewer ports - two Thunderbolt 3 ports to the Touch Bar's four - and lower-end processors with Intel Iris Graphics 540.

The ports are worth further investigation: following on from Apple's USB-C-only MacBook launch, all new models of MacBook Pro come exclusively with two or four Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C ports and a single 3.5mm analogue audio jack. Like the MacBook, the MacBook Pro uses these ports for everything from peripheral and display connectivity to charging, meaning anyone looking to use their existing USB peripherals will need adaptor dongles. It also spells the end of Apple's long-running MagSafe power jack, which used magnets to detach safely in the event of a tug on the power lead.

Other modifications to the design include a new trackpad twice the size of the old model, but it's the pricing that has seen the biggest overhaul: the entry-level non-Touch Bar MacBook Pro 13in starts at £1,449, while the 13in Touch Bar version fetches £1,749; the MacBook Pro 15in with Touch Bar, meanwhile, starts at a whopping £2,349. These prices represent a considerable markup over the models they replace, and similar rises are seen across Apple's existing hardware too: despite no changes to specification, the Mac Mini has gone from £399 yesterday to £479 today, the Mac Pro from £2,499 to £2,999, the iMac 4K from £1,199 to £1,449 and the iMac 5K from £1,449 to £1,749. The 13in MacBook Air has also seen a price hike, though this comes with a shift from 4GB to 8GB as the minimum memory option, and the 11in MacBook Air has been retired from sale altogether.

More information on the new MacBook Pro models, and the revised pricing structure for Apple's other hardware, can be found on the official website.
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