The new MacBook Pros really want you to touch them

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Fans of Apple’s portable powerhouse notebook computer, the MacBook Pro, have been clamoring for an update… and their wish has finally come true. Apple’s unveiled three new MacBook Pros, two 13in models and a 15in one. As we’d expected there’ve been various updates under the hood, but there are two new features (on one of the 13in models and the 15in) that really leap off the spec sheet, and they both involve you touching the MacBook Pro in a way you’ve never, um, touched a MacBook Pro before.

First up, there’s integrated Touch ID for the first time on a MacBook, which means you can choose a sys-admin-pleasing monster of a password, but seldom have to use it. Touch the spot where the power button used to be and voila, your MacTop unlocks. Also, in countries where Apple Pay is available, you can use the new Touch ID sensor to make payments. Great news for Etsy sellers, potentially terrible news for chronic impulse buyers.

new-macbook-pro-touch-barWait, “used to be”? Yeah, so long physical power button, we’re sorry to say you’re now passé. But so are your buddies, the F buttons. That’s right, the whole top row of buttons has been given the boot on the top end 13in MacBook Pro and the 15in version in favour of a multi-touch OLED strip called the Touch Bar. And it looks downright fantastic.

Touchy feely

The Touch Bar is app sensitive, so when you use it with Finder, you’ll get useful shortcuts on it. Those shortcuts will change when you’re using any Apple app (like Mail, Safari or Photos) — and with supported third-party software like Photoshop, Final Cut Pro — to provide pertinent shortcuts when you need them.

It also means you can use all sort of apps in fullscreen mode and still have critical controls to hand. And, because it supports multi-touch, you can fiddle multiple sliders at the same time on the Touch Bar. Expect to see every major software maker supporting it soon. Even Microsoft has promised to update its Office suite accordingly.

More pad to track

The Force Touch trackpad we saw on the last generation of MacBook Pros has also had an update, and it’s gotten even bigger. That should make using gestures (you do use gestures, right?) even easier, and make slogging a mouse around even more superfluous than it already is with a MacBook.

macbook-pro-force-touchWelcome in any port

As much as we like the 12in MacBook, we hate the fact that it only has one USB-C port. And we’re clearly not alone. The new 13in and 15in MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar both include four Thunderbolt 3 ports, two on either side. The ports have the same dimensions as a USB-C port, but can support power and data transmission, so you can plug power, USB 3, or Display Port connectors into any of the four ports. We’re probably more excited about this than we should be.

Heir to the Air

The non-Touch Bar 13in model keeps the physical function keys of the 12in MacBook and MacBook Air, but is slimmer than the MacBook Air and includes two Thunderbolt 3 ports. It’s going to be a pretty compelling option for those wanting the portability of the Air with the power of a Pro (and with an extra port over the 12in MacBook’s measly single offering). It also suggest that MacBook Air might never get the Retina Display update its fans have been hoping for. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t get updated at all but instead gets consigned to the history books.

MacBook Air 13in on the left, 13in MacBook Pro on the right

MacBook Air 13in on the left, 13in MacBook Pro on the right

Take my money already

If you’re in the US you can get the two-port 13in MacBook immediately, but orders for the four-port 13in and 15in models will only ship in two to three weeks. No word on when we’ll see them in South Africa, but we imagine it should be before the end of the year. Each of the three new MacBook Pros is available in a range of configurations, and pricing varies accordingly, but the entry-level 13in model starts at $1,499 and the 15in at $2,399… so we’d best start eating packed lunches and counting the contents of our change jars.

The only obvious downside of the new MacBook Pros? No more glowing Apple logo on the lid. Wait, that might actually be a bonus, depending how much you like to advertise your largesse/brand loyalty.

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