I started the new year with a new 2016 Apple MacBook Pro Touchbar. I chose the 13” model, with the 3.3 Ghz Intel Core i7 and upgraded all the other options included 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. I wasn't able to upgrade the Intel Graphics Iris 550 card, which was disappointing. I’ve used it for two solid months and here is my impression. This won’t be about the detailed specs or any speed tests, as there’s plenty of others commenting on that. Instead, this is my experience as a small business owner.
This notebook is incredibly thin and light. It is truly a thing of beauty. But the most asked question is, "how useful is that touch bar?" The Macbook touchbar is a thin touch screen strip placed above the keyboard where the F-Keys were. It places context sensitive functions for the current app being used. For example when showing my work to clients at a café, they love the touch scrub bar that appears for videos. It's extremely responsive and works perfectly. In fact all my apps have some useful options that appear on the touch bar to make my work just a little easier. As I am typing this, words are appearing (completion suggestions) on the touch bar just like they do on my iPhone. The touchbar can be edited to include my favourite shortcuts as well, through the Finder app.
It certainly took some time to get use to this approach. The more I use the touch bar, the more it became something of real value: it's not just a shortcut from using the trackpad. Instead, it shows many useful actions culled from the busy desktop screen.
The keyboard is now lower profile and requires less effort but still has a solid click. The finger ID log in works quickly and is a nice feature, allowing up to 5 different fingerprints. The trackpad is much larger. The entire computer is thinner and lighter. The two thin speakers on each side of the keyboard sound really good.
Now the downside: the beloved magsafe port is gone, all to be replaced with 2 or 4 USB-C/Thunderbolt ports (depending on the model you choose). The only other port is the headphone jack. I have to carry a multi port adaptor with me at all times. The wings on the power brick for winding the the thin cable are also gone as is the extended power cable. That has been replaced entirely with a longer USB-C cable.
So ultimately how useful is this touch bar MacBook Pro? Is it a game changer? Yes and no. If you have the previous generation, I wouldn’t rush out to get this. The performance improvement on it is rather slight. However if your laptop is much older, this machine is going to be a delight. It is light, fast and performs beautifully. Some of my video colleagues are considering upgrading to a loaded previous generation MacBook Pro so they don’t have to fight with dongles. That is certainly a viable option. But like all things in the Mac universe, once initiated, plenty of others tend to jump on board. This is witnessed in the GoPro Hero 5 with a USB-C port. This article may lead you to believe USB-C is the one cable to rule them all. http://www.theverge.com/2015/6/2/8704551/usb-type-c-is-the-future. As apps develop specifically for the touch bar, more and more useful features will appear on it. And just like everything else we get use to, in time, I will likely say that it has become a part of my workflow and I would never go back.