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MacBook Pro 15-inch (2016) review

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Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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  • MacBook Pro 15
  • MacBook Pro 15

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Stunning screen
  • Top-notch processor
  • Classy design
  • Excellent connectivity
  • MacOS continues to be brilliant

Cons

  • Inconsistent battery life
  • Fairly weak graphics performance

Key Features

  • Quad-core 2.6-3.5GHz Intel Core i7 processor (upgradeable to 2.9-3.8GHz)
  • 16GB memory
  • 4x ThunderBolt 3/USB-C connectors
  • AMD Radeon Pro 450 (upgradable to 460)
  • 256GB PCIe SSD (up to 2TB)
  • Weight: 1.83kg
  • 2880 x 1800-pixel screen
  • Touch Bar
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £2,349.00

What is the 15-inch MacBook Pro?

Apple’s MacBook Pro line is traditionally topped out with an ultra-powered multimedia machine with the best laptop components you can find. The latest model is no different, and, like the two 13-inch models Apple introduced in 2016, it’s benefited from a complete design overhaul along with a huge specifications boost.

It’s the most powerful laptop in Apple’s lineup, with the excellent MacOS on-board along with some as-yet unbeaten specifications. It has some exceptionally strong yet cheaper Windows-powered rivals, including gaming laptops such as the Razer Blade and premium laptops such as the Dell XPS 15.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is a unique proposition, and it’s one of the most technically impressive laptops I’ve ever used. It won’t be for all – very few, in fact – but those who need it will love it.

Apple is expected to update the specs of is MacBook Pro line-up in June, so it might pay to wait and see whether you can get better specs for the same money or a little discount on a 2016 model.

Related: Best laptops

15-inch MacBook Pro – Design, Build and Features

It’s easy to wax lyrical about how impressive the MacBook Pro is in terms of design. The chassis is made from a single piece of machined aluminium, meaning there are no gaps or screws on the top or sides of the device.

Smooth corners, sharp edges and acres of aluminium give the Pro a premium feel. Despite its all-metal design, it actually weighs a little less than the Dell XPS 15, at just 1.83kg. This isn’t slight by any stretch, but it’s a full 200g lighter than the XPS 15 (with the recommended 97Wh battery) and has the added advantage of coming with a lightweight USB-C power brick.

Around the edges of the laptop are four USB-C/ThunderBolt 3 connectors. All of them run at the maximum speed the ThunderBolt 3 standard can muster, which is up to 40Gbps. This, for me, is the first place where the Pro moniker can really be seen. There’s no other laptop on the market that offers this level of connectivity, and while the absolute maximum performance here will surely only be used by those working in creative environments – such as audio and video studios – these ports are future-proof.

But, as is now customary to mention, Apple doesn’t ship any adapters in the box to let you hook up your legacy equipment – including Ethernet and old-fashioned USB Type-A. Apple-approved accessories are relatively expensive – £20 for a USB-C to A and £69 for a HDMI, USB and USB-C adapter – although in the context of a £2300+ laptop, these costs do pale into insignificance somewhat.

15-inch MacBook Pro – Keyboard, Touchpad and Touch Bar

The keyboard on the 15-inch MacBook Pro is superb, although it won’t be suitable for everybody. It uses Apple’s so-called Butterfly technology, which prioritises tactile feedback over how far the keys actually travel when you press them. For fast typists it’s excellent; although it’s fairly easy to pick up pace anyway thanks to the quick action. It takes some getting used to, though, so I’d recommend popping to your local Apple reseller and trying one out.

MacBook Pro 15

Above the keyboard is the fabled Touch Bar. I wrote about this feature at length in the 13-inch MacBook Pro review, and it’s the same setup here. The OLED panel above the keyboard effectively adds another row of customisable and contextual keys. The more I use it, the less I like it, because it adds a layer of complexity to everyday apps that I don’t really need.

In apps such as Photoshop, it does have some use, adding buttons and options to within a finger’s reach of the keyboard. But it takes a huge amount of getting used to, and since the huge touchpad on the 15-inch MacBook Pro is so utterly excellent, it almost always feels easier to use that instead.

More often than not, I have found myself simply keeping the classic list of actions open on the Touch Bar, so I can easily adjust brightness, volume and music tracks without having to think about it.

I do love the fingerprint scanner that's integrated into the power button, though. You can simply tap the button, wake up the laptop and log in without any faff.

MacBook Pro 15

As mentioned above, the touchpad is the best in the business. Not only is it huge, it’s sensitive, accurate and provides access to all manner of easy gestures, such as swiping between virtual desktops, scrolling, Mission Control and your basic clicking and dragging. There’s nothing not to like here. Windows touchpads have come a long way, but Apple is still way ahead of the game here.

15-inch MacBook Pro – Screen

The second pro-level feature on the MacBook Pro is its screen. It’s simply unmatched by anything else I’ve seen. It displays incredibly deep blacks, blindingly bright whites and pitch-perfect colour accuracy.

Related: IPS screen technology explained

To put that numerically, we’re looking at a screen that can nudge the better part of 500 nits of brightness; by comparison, even the brightest of laptops won’t go much over 350 nits. Colour coverage is immense, with 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and 99% of the cinema standard DCI-P3 gamut covered.

It’s a 15.4-inch panel with a resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels, which equates to 220 pixels per inch. Images are packed with detail, and macOS does a great job of scaling programs to make everything legible, while ensuring high-resolution pictures and video can be seen in their full glory.

Themetris

May 26, 2017, 2:39 pm

Have you actually used this fetid abomination that is the 2016 MacBook "Pro"? Here's an honest review:

The screen contrast/black point, Touch ID and the quality of the audio DAC are the only redeeming factors (ironic, considering Apple has a newfound allergy to audiojacks). Performance is marginally better than my previous (maxed out 2015 15" MBP). Peanuts, really. Connectivity is impossible without hubs and dongles, which still render some of my peripherals unusable. In fact, one of my external hard drives is toast, because who knew plugging into AC can cause a surge into the connected hub. No Magsafe and only a pathetic whimper to indicate charging. The touchbar is a silly gimmick, either left alone or causing various errors because I'm used to rest my fingers on the F-key row (and no, Apple, I don't want to activate Siri on OSX, not now and not ever). The jumbo trackpad is nonsense, and the palm rejection often fails leading to errors when using keyboard shortcuts.

Battery? What battery? It's over in less than 3h. I've already had to return my first 2016 MBP due to incessant kernel panic errors, and my second often randomly creaks at the hinges. The keyboard took a learning curve and I have to turn my hands into claws to avoid the touchbar and trackpad for the previous reasons (when not ditching altogether for a third party keyboard at least). The screens in our office are incompatible and won't run on native resolution. I get RAM alerts and beachballs often.

Couldn't care less about slimness and lightness. I'd rather have ports, battery and 32GB RAM. I use it for work, not to look upwardly mobile at Starbucks.

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