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December 2, 2016

Pros and cons: Our quick verdict on the new MacBook Pro

by John_A

Good news: Apple finally revamped the MacBook Pro, after sticking with the same design for more than four years. The bad news: It’s not quite the notebook we at Engadget had been waiting for. Though the refreshed MBP ushers in a series of improvements — faster SSDs, a thinner and lighter design, a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, brighter screen, more robust audio — loyal Mac fans will also probably have to make some changes to the way they work. For starters, there are no full-sized USB ports here, and no SD card reader. That last point will sting for any of the “pros” who use capture devices to record lots of photo, video and audio files. As for the USB ports, get ready to use a dongle if you typically connect an external monitor or even external storage drive.

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the addition of the Touch Bar, which replaces the traditional Function buttons (even the Escape key) with a touch strip whose shortcuts change depending on the app you’re using. Though Apple has released an SDK to developers, so far most of the apps that support it are from Apple itself. So far, then, the use cases are fairly limited and superficial in nature. Meanwhile, you can no longer just press a button to adjust the volume or brightness. (Get used to a series of taps and swipes, which is simply less efficient.) Also, in our testing, the Siri icon that now sits above the Delete key frequently got in the way. Grr.

If the Touch Bar sounds annoying, the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro comes without it for $1,299, and has longer battery life. The problem is, you get two USB-C ports instead of four, and you forfeit the Touch ID sensor, which is one of our favorite things about the new MBP. If you want Touch ID, though, be prepared to spend at least $1,799 (yikes) and, you know, come to terms with the Touch Bar. Basically, then, there’s lots to like here, and we suspect many of you who have been holding out for a new MacBook Pro will buy this. It’s a shame, though: The laptop we really wanted is more a mashup of last year’s model and this year’s.

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