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13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) review

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MacBook Pro 13 2016 review
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  • MacBook Pro 13 2016
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  • MacBook Pro 13 2016
  • MacBook Pro 13 2016 1
  • MacBook Pro 13 2016 2
  • MacBook Pro 13 2016 1
  • MacBook Pro 13 2016 2
  • MacBook Pro 13 2016
  • MacBook Pro 13 2016 1
  • MacBook Pro 13 2016 2
  • MacBook  Pro vs Dell XPS geekbench

Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Stunning design and build quality
  • Pro-quality screen
  • Super-fast SSD
  • Silky-smooth macOS

Cons

  • Middling processor
  • Where are the ports?
  • Too expensive given performance

Best Deals for Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016)

  • ebay

Key Features

  • 2-3.1GHz Intel Core i5-6360U processor (upgradable to 3.4GHz Core i7)
  • 8GB 1,866MHz LPDDR3 memory (upgradable to 16GB)
  • Intel Iris Graphics 540
  • 2,560 x 1,600-pixel Retina display
  • 2 x Thunderbolt 3/USB Type-C combination ports, 3.5mm headset jack
  • 256GB PCIe SSD (512GB and 1TB available)
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2
  • 15mm thick
  • Weight: 1.37kg
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £1,449.00

What is the 13-inch MacBook Pro?

The MacBook Pro line has long represented the pinnacle of stylish and sturdy laptop design, and the overhauled 2016 edition is a huge refinement on Apple's already great formula.

However, when it comes to value for money, the MacBook Pro is less appealing than ever. For creatives, the 13-inch MacBook Pro base model is the cheapest up-to-date entry into the macOS ecosystem – but that doesn’t mean it offers the best value.

Note: this review is for the 2016 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar. Click here to see the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar review .

Watch: 13-inch MacBook Pro video review

Related: Best Laptops 2016

13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) – Design and Build

After years of crying out for a serious makeover for the MacBook Pro, Apple has finally delivered. This is the most beautiful laptop on the market today and sets a new standard for other manufacturers. MacBook Pro 13 2016

The unibody design, machined from a single piece of aluminium, is as attractive as ever. To the delight of my colleagues Apple sent in the new, Space Grey option for review, but my personal preference is still for the classic, lighter-coloured design. However, greater choice is always a good thing.

The MacBook Pro is incredibly light at just 1.37kg, although it’s far from the lightest in its class. The Dell XPS 13 takes that honour, with its equivalent, non-touchscreen model weighing in at only 1.2kg. That machine also has a smaller footprint thanks to its tiny bezel.

Related: Intel Core i processors explained

Closed, the MacBook Pro still looks significantly smaller than your average 13.3-inch laptop – Apple has achieved this by trimming the fat around the bezel. The lid itself is thin, too, and this is likely the reason Apple has ditched the famous, light-up Apple logo for a tinted mirror in the same shape.

In terms of connections, the laptop includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports that double up as USB Type-C 3.1 ports, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. MacBook Pro 13 2016 2

Related: USB-C explained

Sounds simple? Not exactly. Apple has done that Apple thing of completely embracing a new connection format without a graceful transition period. While all its rivals now include one Thunderbolt port alongside a couple of regular, old-fashioned USB ports and an SD card reader, Apple has ditched the lot and expects you to deal with it. Whatever the justification, unless you’re starting afresh, you'll have to spend extra cash on adapters while you make the transition.

Of the two included ports, one is likely to always be occupied for charging, unless you buy an external dock. Since launching the MacBook Pro, Apple has cut the price of its adapters, but this offer will expire at the end of 2016. I won’t go through the full list of adapters and docks available, but if you’re buying from Apple – and you purchase a couple of them – then you'll likely end up adding between £40-100 to your bill.

If you opt for third-party hardware, my advice is to pick a reputable brand; there are all manner of no-name accessories out there that might damage your new machine.

Let’s not forget, however, that Thunderbolt 3 is an amazing standard. It can send and receive huge amounts of power and up to 40GB/secs of data, meaning it can hook up to high-end storage arrays and monitors directly. Nobody can deny it’s an impressive piece of tech and having two on a laptop is actually pretty rare. Most laptops these days have one or none.MacBook Pro 13 2016 1

I can live with the change, but I can’t live with Apple’s refusal to include any adapters in the box. A simple USB Type-C to USB or Ethernet adapter would have been a welcome addition to the package.

13-inch MacBook Pro (2016) – Keyboard and Touchpad

Apple has overhauled both the keyboard and touchpad on the MacBook Pro.

The most obvious change is the trackpad: it’s huge. Measuring in at roughly 13.5cm wide and 8.5cm deep, it's the biggest touchpad I've ever used. There’s effectively limitless room for your fingers to swipe, tap and gesture. I never once bounced off the side or had to reposition my digits. MacBook Pro 13 2016

Frankly, it feels almost too big, but since the size of the trackpad isn’t compromising any other part of this machine’s physical build, it’s a fine addition. Apple has done decent work on palm-rejection tech, too, so even if your palms rest on the touchpad, it shouldn't register an input.

The touchpad works seamlessly with macOS, with no delay at all between gestures and the action being relayed on-screen. It also uses Force Touch, which means clicks are simulated by a haptic feedback motor under the keyboard. It's also pressure sensitive so if, for example, you press harder on the fast forward arrow on QuickTime the video will move forward more quickly than with a light touch. Force Touch actions give you extra contextual actions such as previewing a link in Safari or peeking at an app in the Launchpad.

Unlike some laptops, where it’s impossible to register a physical click a the top of the touchpad (because it’s where the hinge goes), you can click anywhere on the touchpad and get a response.

As good as Microsoft-certified Precision Touchpads have become, Apple still has the edge here.MacBook Pro 13 2016

Above the trackpad is Apple’s new Butterfly 2 keyboard. It’s an ultra-low-travel key switch design that's unique to Apple, similar to that used on the 12-inch MacBook.

Butterfly 2 is greatly improved here, with a much more positive and definite action. It’s also quite noisy if you hit the keys with any force, but near-silent with a more gentle approach. The keys are large and tightly packed, but their grippy texture and slightly concave moulding meant I never missed a stroke.

It won’t suit everyone, and I strongly suggest you try it out in an Apple Store – but for me, the keyboard on the MacBook Pro is the best I’ve ever used.

Best Deals for Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016)

  • ebay

Ton

November 11, 2016, 4:01 pm

"hile all its rivals now include one Thunderbolt port alongside a couple of regular, old-fashioned USB ports and an SD card reader" actually most c type ports are usb only without thunderbolt support

Hassan Jalil

November 11, 2016, 9:58 pm

It would be interesting if you did the export in FCPX instead of adobe premier. I know it wouldnt be an apples to apples comparison. But if you are editing videos on MacOS you are most probably using FCPX. And you might get faster render times than Dell XPS 13 running premier. At the end of the day you want to edit videos, both softwares are good enough for the task. So a FCPX on macbook Pro vs Premier on Dell XPS 13 does make an interesting comparison

Dave

November 12, 2016, 12:14 pm

Epic Apple fail overpriced and average

sguyx

November 13, 2016, 11:28 am

not really. fcp used to have a price tag around 1000dollars and made only for osx, so it must support hardware well from the beginning. and it does. it is well known that fcp works well with osx and much faster than premiere.

compairing fcp to adobe doesnt make sense. you are still trying to compare a product with its reduced price (300dollars, used to be 1000dollars) to a product for typical home users (50dollars). the difference is that the fcp has the history of being available only for pros with its high pricetag and it was made to support osx and hw well.

most of the time you wont use apples own softwares and it is more interesting to know the the typical usage rather than a single program with well sw/hw support.

Rob

November 14, 2016, 12:54 pm

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, I don't think the high price is really a fair criticism when it's only come about because of the appalling, post-brexit vote exchange rate. Apple have had to increase the UK price of their products across the board, not just the new MacBook Pro.

Paul

November 14, 2016, 4:24 pm

Tried one of these at currys the keyboard is superb but I cant justify buying one at 1450 quid right now with old Intel CPU's

Paul

November 14, 2016, 4:24 pm

actually I have used one and it is a lovely Laptop just way overpriced.

LeeTronix

November 15, 2016, 7:18 am

Rip-off.

Pete Snowdon

November 16, 2016, 9:01 am

I edit video professionally and have been waiting for 6 months for this to come out. The first thing I did after looking into it was go out and buy last year's model which I am delighted with. No ports (or rather masses of ugly connectors) is a big issue as is magsafe.

Bob Washburn

November 17, 2016, 11:49 am

I will evaluate the 2016 MBP at my RI Apple store this week if it comes in. I expect I won't see the advantages over the 2015 MBP 13 and get it. Your 2015 review was positively glowing. Your review of the 2016 not so much. I miss Steve.

Henk van Ess

November 27, 2016, 9:06 am

One of the most underrated aspects of this machine is it's blazingly fast SSD. The big one, 1 Tb, is even speedier than the 256 Gb because it has more chips. For my work, I have to manipulate files a lot and this machine delivers. Love the Touchbar because I make a lot of Keynotes - a killer app if you make a lot of presentations.

It's an ideal machine if you come from, as I do, a MacBook 12. That last one didn't work on my Apple display, this one does (yes, I know, after buying a cable to DOWNGRADE from Thunderbolt 3 to 2).

The only thing I am disappointed about is the erratic battery life , or should I say prediction of battery life. The industry must find a solution to improve prediction of battery life because it needs to manage expectations of users. If after one minute of surfing the battery life is still 100% , after 1 hour video editing it is 61% and 2 minutes of browsing it goes up to 65% you do need to address this. One of my suggestions would be to include a new system of battery prediction based on user behavior.

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