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MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, A Comprehensive Review

With the arrival of the newest, new, most innovative, best-ever, MacBook Pro of all time, I was ready to upgrade my lowly late-2013 build 15″ Retina MacBook Pro.

Enter in, my new 2016 15″ Retina MacBook Pro…

Macbook Pro with Touch Bar

My journey with Apple laptops started with the massive 17″ MacBook Pro back in 2005. Since then, I’ve always had a trusty MacBook Pro by my side. In fact, since 2005 I’ve owned ten MacBook Pro laptops (and not because I was starting a circus act where I juggled laptops).

Why share this with you? Seemed fun. Let’s keep going.

Leading up to this latest Apple event I wasn’t in dire need of a new computer, but I firmly believe in investing in good hardware. As a solopreneur who has as many businesses as most people have pairs of underwear, a few extra seconds saved while loading Photoshop or Final Cut Pro X can go a long way.

Here’s the side-by-side comparison of the specs of my previous MacBook Pro and the brand new, all-new, life-changing MacBook Pro:

Old MacBook Pro vs New MacBook Pro

New on the left. Old on the right.

As you can see in the specs, these two machines were fairly maxed out given the options at checkout on Apple’s website. Kind of like the cars on Pimp My Ride. I really miss Xzibit putting hot tubs and Viking stove ranges in the back of Toyota Tercels.

Anyhoo…

Let’s get superficial and start with the looks of the newest Apple MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro Touch Bar Review

I like my dock icons small. Deal with it.

Space Gray MacBook Pro

If my new laptop was a model, these would have been the “sexy” photos.

This laptop would get a 9.8 on HotorNot.com.

It’s dead sexy.

I was skeptical about the space gray color, but it’s really nice. Think about it like this: The older silver MacBook Pros are George Clooney. He’s great. He’s handsome. Everyone loves George. But these new machines? Ryan Gosling all the way. Sharp edges, but not too sharp. Well proportioned. A look that’s timeless, but also sophisticated.

A missed opportunity to call this the MacBook Gosling? I think so, but hey, that’s just one man’s opinion.

The trackpad. It’s reaaaaally big. (twss)

MacBook Pro Trackpad

Hmmm… Being that I’m the person writing this review, I have to review it from the perspective as a large human being with extra large hands. How extra large you ask? Go to the gorilla exhibit at any zoo and find the bronze gorilla hand you can put your own hand on top of. You know how your hand looks childishly small in comparison to a gorilla’s? Mine is pretty much the same exact size as the gorilla’s. I’m not kidding.

As soon as I started to type on my new MacBook Gosling, my gigantic left thumb graced the top left edge of the enormous trackpad. Did my mouse just move on its own? Is there a ghost in the machine? Neo??

Nope. Giant trackpad is giant.

The more I used applications and typed on the keyboard, the more my left and right hand seemed to touch the trackpad at the same time. Pretty soon I was in zooming, swiping, and even ending up in the completely useless Mission Control app launcher thing without my express written consent.

Seriously though, who uses that dumb Mission Control thing? You should have gotten rid of that Apple and let us keep our MagSafe connector instead (more on this epic tale of sadness in a moment).

Hands on keyboard

Gorilla hands are gorilla hands. I’m sorry if you thought I was lying.

A quick trip to system preferences and I turned off all gestures. Maybe I’m not the use-case for these gestures, but I’ve simply never found them helpful and have never once pinched to zoom on my MacBook Clooney.

That’s the bad of the trackpad.

The good? Force touch works well. Especially if you’ve upgraded to an iPhone 7 and have spent time getting accustomed to it on the home button. If you’ve never used force touch before, it can be a little weird at first.

The keyboard is L-O-U-D, but nice…?

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar Keyboard

As a gentle giant, I am very aware of how loud I walk, talk, and impact the world around myself. I immediately noticed how loud the butterflies were that lived under these new keys.

I’m writing this review about 8 feet from my lovely girlfriend who is using a 15″ Retina MacBook Clooney and I can hear her typing. But, it’s a different sound. To best describe the sound differences would be to say the MacBook Clooney keys sound like you’re typing on a keyboard (very familiar sound). The MacBook Gosling’s keystrokes sound like you’re breaking boards to achieve your yellow belt in TaeKwonDo (which, I was a very proud owner of when I was 13 years old).

The keys are loud. Maybe not louder per se… Maybe just different loud. I love the feel of the keys. That shouldn’t be overlooked. They feel wonderful. But, the loudness of them is distracting right now. I’m sure I’ll get over it, just like I got over realizing I’d never be able to fit my enormous hands in a soothing pair of Isotoner Gloves™.

Arrow keys on MacBook Pro

Oh, small note: Why did they make the left and right arrow keys so damn big? They didn’t need to do this and it just makes the up and down arrow keys jealous and very self-conscious.

The USB-C/Thunderbolt Whatever/No more regular ports/#DongleGate2016

MacBook Pro with USB-C

MacBook Pro old vs new

Macbook Gosling atop Macbook Clooney. A dream come true for some.

Getting rid of the MagSafe connector for the power cord sucks.

Yeah yeah, I know some tech wizards are making adapters that you can use for USB-C ports that will make them MagSafe, but I buy Apple products to not have extra gizmos and doo-dads (and whosits and whatsits galore!)

Let’s get right to it: DongleGate2016

When Apple removed the CD/DVD drive, people went ape-shit. Well, not really, only people in Arkansas who still loaded their 24 FREE AOL CDs into their computers.

Getting rid of the CD/DVD drive made sense, it was a completely outdated technology.

USB, HDMI, Mini DV (sometimes), and SD Cards are not outdated. In fact, they are quite abundant and used by many. Dated, some would say.

I primarily used the USB ports and the SD Card slot on my MacBook Clooney. If I had to tell you how often I used them? The USB daily, the SD Card 2–3 times per week. The other ports, meh, not a big deal to see them go (at least until I need them, upon which I’ll freak out and punch the nearest toddler — I’m totally joking, I’d just ask the toddler if his parents have an extra dongle).

I ordered two USB to USB-C adapters from Apple and an SD Card to USB gizmo. The $44 spent wasn’t that painful and now I simply have these things to carry around:

Apple Dongles

Dongles on dongles on dongles.

In the grand scheme of life, #DongleGate2016 will not be as big of a deal as people are making it. And I will give Apple credit, the sides of the laptop look exponentially better without the icons and different port sizes.

One thing I wanted to touch on: Unplugging cords from my shiny new MacBook Gosling SUCKS.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s my oversized fingers that struggle to grasp such a small cord, but I know i’m going to miss the quick connect/disconnect of MagSafe dearly.

And it’s worth mentioning, hello there headphone jack! So nice of you to exist. You are convenient and about 6 billion people on the planet use you. You make sense! Please don’t ever leave us, like you did on the iPhone 7. I am a little bummed you moved across the street (the other side of the laptop). I’ve tried plugging you in multiple times in the wrong spot and it’s made me feel like someone trying to drink out of a straw but missing multiple times.

We've all been there

Impressive GIF searching, I know.

Now, the feature you’ve been scrolling to read about: Touch Bar

Touch Bar emojis on the MacBook Pro

Let me be as crystal clear as crystal: I WANTED to love the Touch Bar. I really really really wanted to.

As much fun as it is to scroll through emojis on the keyboard, it’s faster and more intuitive to just press control+command+space bar on the keyboard and pop up the emoji menu (which you can also search through!)

The Touch Bar is not helpful and it’s mainly because of its size.

It’s, at best, 1/2″ tall and we all know how much 1/2″ gets you, amiright?? Wait, what?

Touch Bar is not helpful. You know what’s helpful? The giant trackpad. That’s a 4×6″ clickable, scrollable, swipe-able, drag-able, get-things-done touch area.

Touch Bar in Final Cut Pro

Touch Bar in Final Cut Pro. Incredibly… not useful.

One of the most frustrating things about the Touch Bar is that for the past decade of using Apple laptops, you could easily increase/decrease screen brightness, skip/play music, and hit the ESC key when things go awry and you accidentally make something full screen (ugh, THE WORST).

I totally understand what Apple is trying to do with the Touch Bar. But as a strip across the top of the keyboard? It’s a failed attempt.

You know what would have been revolutionary with this MacBook Gosling? Replace the entire keyboard and trackpad with a Touch Area. The entire thing. No keys. No trackpad. Talk about making a technological leap. The Touch Bar, instead, feels like a technological toe tap (and don’t even get me started on trying to use your toes to operate the Touch Bar!)

Final thought on the Touch Bar: 99% gimmick, 1% usefulness.

Touch ID on MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The 1% usefulness of the Touch Bar, that only works with like 5 websites/things right now.

Some final thoughts, observations, and the answer to the BIG question: Should you buy a MacBook Gosling?

MacBook Pro and LaCroix

Disclaimer: I prefer Pamplemousse LaCroix, but ran out. Coconut is not an acceptable flavor.

Screen brightness

The MacBook Gosling has a noticeably brighter screen. Kind of like Ryan Gosling has had noticeably less girlfriends than George Clooney. I’m not sure that joke even makes sense.

Battery life

I spend a good part of my day on Skype video calls, creating and syncing fairly large files in Dropbox, and editing audio or video in Final Cut Pro. I wouldn’t say the new MacBook Pro’s battery is way better, but it is better. I’d guess I get an extra 1–1.5 hours of normal usage time.

Fingerprints

It may be the newness, it might be the space gray color, but I‘m seeing a lot more of my greasy fingerprints on the cover of the laptop and on the keyboard.

Opening the laptop when it’s on

This is WAYYYY faster. If the laptop is on, you close the lid, wait a minute or two, flip it open, it seems to fire up immediately.

The light-up Apple logo being gone

Yeah. If you didn’t know, the Apple logo on the lid no longer lights up. It’s just shiny and chrome. This doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers other people.

Touch Bar

Did I mention that the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro/Gosling really isn’t useful? Ugh. I keep trying to find it useful, I honestly do.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar GIF

So…….Should you buy a MacBook Gosling?

IF you own a MacBook Clooney, the previous build of MacBook Pro (late 2013–2015), and you aren’t low on storage space or feel like your laptop runs slowly, you probably don’t need to upgrade*.

IF you own an older MacBook Pro or any generation MacBook, and want a more powerful machine, you should upgrade. Skip the Touch Bar option and spend that money on RAM, storage, and an upgraded graphics card.

IF you own a fairly new iMac, don’t upgrade. Unless you’re tired of carrying your iMac and cords into your local coffee shop and looking like a weirdo. Then definitely upgrade. And stop being a weirdo.

IF you own a PC of any kind (Dell, Samsung, Sony Vaio, Windows Surface, etc), you should have upgraded years ago and us Apple owners are ashamed of you. Just kidding. But not really.

*This was my use case. I did not NEED to upgrade, but I felt the slight increase in efficiency was worth the investment. I can’t completely judge that in just a few days of use, but I’m not unhappy with my purchase either.

Final, last, ending, closing this down, being done reviewing thought…

A fantastically well-designed laptop. Not a revolutionary laptop.

Apple is no longer in the business of being revolutionary. They are in the business of being profitable. Much like big car companies, Apple is releasing incrementally updated products. This new MacBook Pro and the iPhone 5, 6, and 7 were not revolutionary. They were profit generators with some additional hardware and visual improvements.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset at Apple. I still use, love, and will purchase their products. But Apple is no longer in the business of shocking us with mind-blowing technological advances.

This is the end of the yellow brick road. If you want to read more articles mosey on over yonder.