13-inch MacBook Pro review: Too many tradeoffs – Macworld

The wait for overhauled MacBook Pros is over, so let the shakeup begin. This entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 2GHz Core i5 and function keys is a great replacement for my 13-inch MacBook Air. Whether it’s powerful enough for MacBook Pro power users is another story, and depends on your exact needs.

It does have some significant trade-offs compared to the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros with Apple’s new Touch Bar, which I think is the more compelling purchase, at least this cycle. After using it for a little over a week, this entry level model feels more like an itertion of the 12-inch MacBook or 13-inch MacBook Air than a true successor to the MacBook Pro.

Physical changes

Physically, the MacBook Pro got a pretty dramatic overhaul, even though this model keeps the row of function keys along the top of the computer. The MacBook Pro is thinner and lighter than previous generations—this one weighs just a hair over 3 pounds. While weight savings are always welcome, I would rather have a thicker laptop with a better keyboard than a computer this thin with keys that barely travel. Apple should optimize the experience of actually using the Mac, not just of carrying it around.

macbook pro late2016 function keys opening Apple

Yep, it’s thin. Personally, I’d trade a little extra thickness for a better keyboard, but that isn’t an option. 

The keyboard uses the new butterfly-switch mechanism Apple introduced in the 12-inch MacBook in 2015, with low-profile, low-travel keys. Apple says this is the second generation of these switches; the company used different materials in an attempt to improve the feel, even though the keys don’t actually travel any farther. In practice, though, I can’t tell the difference between this and the first-gen MacBook keyboard.

I can type on both just fine, but I’m not a fan of this style—every time I had to switch back to my MacBook Air for a few minutes, its old keyboard felt better immediately. With the MacBook Pro’s new keyboard, I find myself typing extra hard, like my brain isn’t convinced the keys are even going to go down unless I really pound them. For what it’s worth, I don’t have this problem with Apple’s wireless Smart Keyboard.

Below the keyboard, the Force Touch trackpad is just huge. Apple says it’s 46 percent bigger than the trackpad on last year’s MacBook Pros. It might be too big—I find that my thumbs accidentally brush it while I type sometimes, if I’m not maintaining good typing posture, and when that happens the cursor will fly up a couple of lines, so suddenly I’m typing in the middle of another word. Apple says it worked on palm rejection when expanding the trackpad’s size to avoid this problem, but when it doesn’t work perfectly, it’s quite frustrating. I’m trying to train myself to keep better hand position when typing, which should help.

macbook pro late2016 speakers Apple

Apple’s illustration shows off the new, more powerful speakers. 

Apple overhauled the speaker system in the MacBook Pro, and it’s significantly louder. I can stream a track from Soundcloud with the volume set to about 75 percent, and it’s plenty loud enough to fill my bedroom with music. I’m not even drowning it out when I pound on the low-travel keyboard.

The 3.5mm headphone jack is still on every MacBook Pro model this year, in case you were worried it would vanish like it did from the iPhone 7. While I exclusively use this port to connect headphones, it’s also an audio-in/out for connecting mics or instruments.

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