A Review of the Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (2016) with Touch Bar



PROS
- Screen
  -- The screen is bright. colorful, and has a high resolution.  One of the best screens I have ever seen.

- Keyboard
  -- The keys are very flat, but surprisingly they are actually quite good once you get used to them.
  -- The keys are spacious and my precision is as good as when typing with a mechanical keyboard.
  -- Pressing the keys can get quite noisy and other people may notice.
  -- The backlit keys are good. The brightness of them can also be adjusted.
  -- The up/down arrows are a bit small though, so that's annoying.
  -- Palm rest is spacious and comfortable.

- Speakers
  -- Many laptops have crappy low-volume speakers, but I can say that the MacBook Pro's speakers are very good. They provide plenty of volume, and the quality of audio is great. I have not felt the need to use external speakers.

- Weight and Size
  -- The system is light and thin. This is a system that is convenient to carry around.
  -- Overall the aesthetic aspect of this system are great. You can fit in with any of your most smug hipster friends. ;)

- Main Drive
  -- The built-in drive is very good. If I compile programs the performance of the SSD is so fast that waiting times are reduced -- those access times make this a worth-while investment for people like programmers.
  -- I also have the 512GB version, which is sufficient for having a Windows partition with plenty of space.

- Built-in Apps
  -- Safari is a good browser. Unlike Edge and Internet Explorer I have not felt the need to download Google Chrome or Firefox.
  -- Calendar app has been useful.
  -- The built-in calculator is basic. I would like to find an app similar to MS Mathematics for more complex operations.




MIXED FEELINGS
- TrackPad
  -- The trackpad is quite good. The surface is smooth and it's comparable to most other modern laptop touch pads. The palm rejection is good.
  -- Most gestures have been unused by me, but some are very useful (like switching among desktops and apps, going back on the browser, etc).
  -- I did notice that the trackpad Mac OS X experience is far better than the Windows side.
  -- My issue is that this is by no means the best system for mouse-input -- the better way seems to be the TrackPoint as seen in Lenovo systems. Apple's solution to the mouse input issue seems to be to just make the trackpad bigger (the 15-inch model has an even bigger more monstrous trackpad...). The TrackPoint, even though not perfect, offers a far better way of maintaining your fingers on the keys which at the end of the day helps your productivity.

- Touch Bar
  -- I enjoy using the touch-bar for adjusting volume, fast-forwarding in videos (you can fast-forward YouTube ads!), and adjusting brightness.
  -- One can customize features of the touch-bar. Although the built-in options are quite limited.
  -- Sometimes I find myself accidentally touching the touch-bar and invoking something I didn't want.
  -- The touch-bar is a bit glitchy. The bar freezes, and sometimes leaves portions active while others remain dark. Also, there are times when one needs the function keys... but one cannot access them because the touch bar has frozen -- very bad.
  -- In a way I agree with other people, the novelty of the touch bar tends to go away in many areas. I presume this is partly because the majority of applications that I run do not support it -- or they offer features that I could access with a keyboard shortcut anyways.
  -- The touch-bar has great potential but at the moment I don't think it makes the system spectacular. Further development and customization could help it become better -- the fact that it is context-sensitive is attractive because now the MacBook can adjust to improve your productivity based on the app you are currently using.

- Touch ID
  -- This finger-print reader is useful when dealing with not having to retype your password when making system changes (like installing apps). However, one must type the password after every system shut-down -- annoying. It also doesn't seem to be useful for websites (which is where it could be put to good use).

- Operating System
  --The stability of Mac OS is better than anything I have seen in Windows. I have not had any major issues with freezing, locking, "blue-screens of death." There are random restarts sometimes though.
  -- There is a tremendous amount of consistency in the OS. The System Preferences is well-done.
  -- No built-in key customization. It seems that Mac is fairly restricted on allowing customization of keys. For example, I would like to use CapsLock + jikl keys to be used as arrow keys for some applications. Furthermore, I would like to specify certain keys to be used for mouse clicks which would help a lot when using my Mistel Keyboard with TrackPoint.
  -- Really crappy built-in side by side windows mechanism -- it looks like one has to use a third-party app, like Cinch, to get the windows snappy behavior.  Also, SizeUp is another great app for windows management.
  -- Finder is one crappy Explorer. I can say that Windows Explorer is better because you can copy/paste from the address bar easily. Finder just frustrates me.
  -- Spotlight Search is a good way to find files and apps, so they got this right.
  -- There are many customizations for the Dock, so I'm happy with that.
  -- The Menubar  is unfortunately fixed at the top position. There are times when I would like to move it to the bottom side. The Menubar can be auto-hidden if that's something you wish to have.
  -- Dashboard, a place in which you place small apps, has been mostly useless.
  -- Siri has proven to be mostly useless, although at times entertaining. Most of what I think I can do with Siri I can already do with a browser.
- Sometimes windows "disappear" when moving them from monitor to monitor -- which is very annoying.

- BootCamp
  -- I think it's awesome that you can run Windows if you need to. The software is there and I felt that installation was easy.
  -- However, and this may be part of the OS, but it seems impossible to share a third partition that can be accessed by both Mac and Windows OS -- having a third partition would make it easy to share files among the two operating systems. So far it looks like one has to connect an external drive to accomplish this (bummer!).

- USB-C / Thunderbolt 3
  -- I understand that we are in a state of constant "advancement." The USB-C ports (4 of them) have a lot to offer. However, it looks like at the moment you are going to have to buy adapters in order to make the system compatible with a variety of accessories. Yes you must buy adapters for sd-cards, external displays, anything USB really. This is a horrible situation for many people and will add to the overall cost from the user.
  -- One neat feature of the USB-C ports is the fact that you can charge your MacBook Pro with any of the four available ports.
  -- The capability of the USB-C means that you could have a dock that fulfills every need. Also, imagine having a single external monitor that requires only one cable.  You could simplify your desk quite dramatically.

- Power Charger
  -- Apple gives you a brick of a power charger. The device is quite small, but its design takes over room when plugging to an outlet -- so you have to keep that in mind because you may have difficulties plugging anything extra to that outlet.
  -- The charging of the laptop is quite fast.




CONS
- Heat
  -- The laptop can get hot and I think this is due because of the poor ventilation. Furthermore, the metal housing conducts heat (which is great for dissipation of heat from the CPU to the outside world). However, because metal is a conductor it also absorbs heat from the outside (think of room heaters in your house). A laptop cooler or stand may be a good purchase if you wish to prolong the lifetime of a laptop with this highly closed body design.

- Battery
  -- The battery life on this system is overall quite poor. Obviously if you push the system the battery life won't last more than 3 to 4 hours. Adjusting brightness of the screen and using less intensive apps will help extend the battery life... but I don't think you can go anywhere without feeling the need to grab the power charger. With doing a lot of adjustments (turning off wifi and BT, low brightness, no backlit keys) I got about 7 hours of life -- which is great for offline work but frankly it's not a pleasant experience
  -- n the past you had swappable batteries. The mechanism added volume to the system, but permitted you to easily swap a bad battery for a another one. Most modern systems have built-in batteries... so replacing a bad battery may be an expensive issue.

- Dual Core
  -- The 13-inch version only has an Intel dual-core i5 (2.9GHz base, 3.3 GHz with TurboBoost). I'm used to having quad-core systems. The dual-core is not necessarily bad, it means that it can do things well when not too many programs are open. I don't think I would ever do any major work with it though (as in rendering videos, having too many tabs open on browsers, 3D work, etc). The 15-inch version does have a quad-core CPU, a GPU, more memory -- which may be the better system for the intensive purposes.
  -- I do notice poor performance when running Windows. The system performs quite well with Mac OS X.

- Price
  -- I don't think $1999 is the correct price for this system. It's way too much...


OVERALL

I think it's a good system but obviously it could have a few improvement. But I'm quite happy with it and think many who buy it will also be satisfied. The stability of the operating system is good, the touch-bar's stability isn't.

Links:
- Official Apple MacBook Pro website.
- Support this blog by purchasing MacBooks via Amazon or other Apple accessories.

Published: Mar 23, 2017

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Hi. My name is Jesse, and I'm a technology enthusiast. I play with technology and share what I find on this blog. If you have any questions then please use the contact form below. I'll get back to you as soon as I can.


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