Desktops

Apple Unveils New Macbook Pro Laptops

After four years of incremental updates, Apple has performed a significant redesign on its Macbook Pro laptop line.

The new 13- and 15-inch models unveiled Thursday at the company's Cupertino, Calif., headquarters promise to be thinner, lighter, and faster to use. And, instead of function keys, the updated keyboard now offers a customizable “Touch Bar.”

New Macbook Pro

The slim aluminum unibody case—a mere 14.9mm for the 13-inch model and 15.5mm for the 15-inch version—is the sort of design feat we've come to expect from Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive and his colleagues.

The company claims the two new laptops are up to 17 percent thinner than the models from the last generation. It also boasted of shaving close to a half-pound from each one. The new 13-inch Macbook Pro weighs three pounds. The 15-inch Pro weighs four.

But it was the Touch Bar that took center stage at the event.  

It's essentially a miniature, touchscreen display squeezed into the narrow space at the top of the keyboard, where the volume and brightness controls used to be.

In fact, those old function controls will still occasionally appear on the Touch Bar. But it will continually morph to offer shortcuts tailored to the application you're using. If you're working in your web browser, for example, the Touch Bar may display your favorite bookmarks. If you're typing, it will present you with emojis or predictive text.

For the average user, this may simply be an interesting perk. But the company took pains to demonstrate the many functions the Touch Bar could perform for those who use editing software such as Final Cut Pro for video, Photoshop for photos, and DJAY Pro for music.

The Macbook Pro's power button has a new feature as well—a Touch ID sensor that functions much like the one on the latest iPhones. It lets you use your fingerprint to log onto the computer securely, and also utilize Apple Pay for online purchases. It can even differentiate between the fingerprints of multiple users, automatically switching from one account to the next.

In true Apple fashion, the new computers do away with a familiar detail, in this case the Magsafe chargers that have come with the company's laptops since 2006.

In place of the old USB connections, the models have four Thunderbolt 3 ports, which also operate as USB-Type C ports. (This means that many consumers will need to invest in additional adapters.) These offer a smaller footprint and can be used to connect peripherals such as external drives and ultra high-definition displays while also charging the laptop or other devices. 

According to Apple, the new Retina screen has a 67 percent higher contrast ratio and is capable of displaying 25 percent more colors than the one on the previous Macbook Pro. Additional upgrades include a trackpad twice the size of the original, a full-size keyboard with a thinner profile, and dual speaker grills along the sides of the keyboard for stereo sound.

Despite the increase in processing power, the new laptops will deliver 10 hours of battery life, says Apple.  

A low-end 13-inch version of the laptop with just two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports and no Touch Bar is available immediately, starting at $1,499. The Macbook Pro models with the Touch Bar are available for pre-order and will ship in two to three weeks. The premium 15-inch model starts at $2,399.

We'll test the new Mac laptops as soon as we get them in our labs.

The company also had some Apple TV news. The streaming device received a new app that corrals all available content from your other video apps and subscriptions. And the Siri feature on Apple TV may now be a little smarter, gaining the ability to find live broadcasts from third party apps offering content such as newscasts and college football broadcasts.

Copyright © 2005-2016 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.