Apple MacBook Pro 2016 weeklong review: TouchBar is the best new feature – The Indian Express
Is there an ultimate computing device? Well, that’s a tough one and the best you can say that the most expensive ones must be the greatest. But then there are some brands that have pretty much had the go-to devices for most users, especially those with really taxing requirements from their computers. Apple’s MacBook Pro has been up there as this go-to device for many high-end users. Now, the MacBook Pro has been upgraded, and Apple has added much more than sheer power and muscle.
This week, we will try and live with the new MacBook Pro and take a deep dive into its features to see if it still manages to stay at the top when it comes to laptops.
Day 2: Touching base with the TouchBar
The one feature that is new and unique in the MacBook Pro is the TouchBar. Before I got hold of the review device, I had a different perception of this feature. I thought someone like me who does not use video or photo editing software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Photoshop will not have a lot of use for this new strip above the keyboard. I was wrong.
The TouchBar replaces the function key and those set of functions is the basic use case for the bar. But that is just the beginning. It integrates with whatever you are doing and offers a set of options on any app or software you are using.
Even on the desktop, you will turn to this smooth little strip to adjust brightness or volume or even turn on Siri. Writing this piece on Notes, I can see the option to start a new note, change font and even predictive text on the bar. It gets the context every time and hence is unlike anything we have seen before.
For my use case, I loved how the bar worked on Safari. I usually have dozens of tabs open on the browsers and with the bar I can swipe through the open tabs by just moving my finger on it. When I am on the new tab option, it shows the icon from the Safari speed dial. Also, it offers an easy way to escape from the full-screen browser and shift to something else that’s in the background.
On professional software like FCP, editors will get the option of shifting frame by frame using the TouchBar, and their dependence on the mouse or trackpad could reduce. Also, while picking a specific colour, the bar will offer the options for you to sift through. It will be a new way to work. However, we will need to wait a while to see if it will be the smarter and more efficient way to work. Also, as with a lot of these technologies and features, people will need to get the better of muscle memory in order to adapt to what’s new.
The right edge of the TouchBar has the TouchID built into it. So when you are logging into the Mac the strip lights up asking you to use your finger to unlock. This feature works really well, every time. Also, the Touch ID lets you buy apps of the store like on the iPhone and soon you will have apps that will authorise purchases the same way.
The TouchBar is also fully customisable. You can easily drag and drop elements you want to show in the bar. Also, to remove an element you just need to pull it out.
This is undoubtedly the best new feature in the MacBook Pro. However, it is a new feature and I am not sure there will be widespread adoption right away. What it does show is that a lot of stuff you hope to achieve on a laptop with a touchscreen can actually be executed well, and maybe better, with a feature like the TouchBar.
Someone asked the relevance of a TouchBar at a time when laptops have touch screens. The question is very relevant. I would just say that we need to see if it becomes more relevant than the touchscreen itself. The touchscreen has gradually gone out of favour with laptop manufacturers who have realised that not a lot of people actually end up using it despite paying a premium to own the same. It has been one of the struggles for Windows 8 and Windows 10, both of which were designed with the touch interface in mind.
My feeling is that similar input methods could soon find its way into other laptops. But such devices will remain niche for a long time.
Day 1: Design and Display
The 2016 MacBook Pro is no regular upgrade. It ushers in some radical design changes. To start with the MacBook Pro 13, which I’m reviewing, is thinner and smaller than my 2015 MacBook Air. That is quite an achievement given that the MacBook Air itself is such a thin and sleek device.
The other radical change is the charging port. Now, the MacBook Pro has four Thunderbolt 3 ports, all of which can help charge the device and transfer data. But there is no dedicated charging port like earlier Macs. So there is no time spent on figuring out where to plug the charger. The USB Type-C cable will plug into any of these ports to charge the Mac, transfer data or power a 4K monitor with video output. While this new feature is a convenience, households with multiple MacBooks will no longer be able to share chargers like before.
However, the one thing that sets the new MacBook Pro apart from any other computing device in the market is the Touch Bar with TouchID. This is a strip of multi-touch sensitive display, that replaces the functions keys above the keyboard.
I initially thought this works only with specific apps, but the truth is that as you can use the strip to access additional functions on anything you are doing on the Mac; right from frame by frame search on Final Cut Pro to just multi-tab browsing on Safari. We will delve more on this topic in the coming days.
Sending out my first tweet from the new Mac, I was startled by a whoosh sound that swept across from the right to left across the device. That was much before I set up iTunes and started to stream radio from Apple Music. Yes, Apple has brought in the kind of audio quality that makes the iPad Pro sound stunning, to the Mac as well. So this one is louder than any other Mac, and the sound is richer and deeper too. The speaker strips are now on both sides of the keyboard with grooves at the bottom, ostensibly to let the drivers breathe. However, these grooves are a bit awkward when your fingers reach under the laptop. But you can live with that.
There is a reason why video and photo professionals the world over prefer to use Macs for their work. Macs have traditionally had great, vibrant displays that have tried to make images look as natural as possible. Now, the new MacBook Pro takes it a notch up by making it brighter, richer and sharper. At 500 nits it is really bright, and you might not need to keep the brightness up unless you are working under the sunlight. For those working on images and video, it couldn’t have gotten better.
There are changes to the keyboard beyond the Touch Bar. The keys now coming with a new butterfly mechanism. It does feel different compared to my MacBook Air. The response is different, and I’m not sure it’s so in a good way. The keys seem to hit a flat at the end of its travel, and send a small kick up the fingers, which will take some getting used to. Meanwhile, the trackpad has become really big and easy to work with. This large trackpad has been incorporated to let users easily drag stuff from one end of the screen to the other. See, Microsoft, you don’t always need a touchscreen.