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
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.