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Should you upgrade to the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2018)?

Apple has unveiled the all-new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2018) and with it a bevy of new features … but not all the ones everyone was hoping for. If you've been waiting to upgrade from a MacBook, MacBook Air, or previous generation MacBook Pro, is now the time to do it? Let's take a look!

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Small and light

Almost every Apple product is the thinnest and lightest ever. There are two main reasons for that. First, thinner and lighter products are easier to pack up and carry around. Second, transportation regulations only allow for batteries to get so big, so as everything else shrinks or reaches its technological limits, the casing naturally gets smaller around them.

In other words, some of us might want thicker MacBooks Pro with bigger batteries, but Apple couldn't ship 'em to us, and we couldn't fly with them, so that all goes into desktops and we get ultralights.

That means a 13-inch that's 17% thinner and 23% smaller than the 2015 model MacBook Pro notebook. It's also 12% thinner than the MacBook Air and the same weight!

  • If the size and weight of your previous MacBook or notebook was too much for you, you might want to upgrade.

Wide color display

The MacBook Pro has had high-density Retina display for years now, but the latest model is all about wide color. It's DCI-P3, the same digital cinema gamut introduced with the 5K iMac and the iPad Pro, iPhone 8, and iPhone X.

Since iPhone 8 and iPhone X can also capture photos in DCI-P3, and macOS can manage profiles across devices, it means you can shoot in wide gamut on your phone and edit it on your MacBook Pro, and those reds and greens will stay looking bright and crips.

MacBook Pro also has the most advanced display Apple's ever made on a notebook, passing even the 12-inch MacBook. It uses many of the same technologies, including TFT, variable refresh, brighter LED with larger pixel apertures, UV photo-alignment for deeper blacks, and a higher contrast ratio.

Once you see this display, you can never go back.

  • If the quality of the display is important to you, and you want wide gamut, you might want to upgrade.

Big trackpad

Force Touch Trackpads on MacBook Pros

Force Touch Trackpads on MacBook Pros (Image credit: iMore)

A couple of years ago, Apple ditched the mechanical trackpad and went Force Touch. It let them remove the physical hinges, the buttons, and the previously powered clicks. It also made it possible for Apple to make the entire surface "clickable".

Now, with the new MacBook Pro, they're using those advantages to scale up and fill almost the entire front with a Force Touch trackpad. 46% more than the 2015 model.

For gestures, it gives you a much broader canvas to work on. You can swipe, scroll, pinch, and zoom taller and wider than before. You can also Force Click across a much bigger surface.

It's not transformative by any means, but it's luxurious by trackpad standards.

  • If you enjoy yourself some trackpad, this is Apple's biggest MacBook Pro trackpad to date.

Keyboard

Back in 2015, Apple introduced the new 12-inch MacBook and a new dome and butterfly mechanism keyboard to go with it. Ever since opinions have been hotly divided. Some like it, some hate it, and others don't like it as much as the previous, scissor-switch version, but it's not a deal-breaker for them.

The new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2018) uses the third-generation of that same dome and butterfly mechanisms for a keyboard with roughly the same travel as their predecessor. Apple says it's more responsive and more comfortable, though.

The new MacBook Pro uses those dome and butterfly mechanisms for a keyboard with roughly the same travel as their predecessor. Apple says it's more responsive and more comfortable, though.

  • If you love the 12-inch MacBook keyboard, you'll love the new MacBook Pro keyboard.
  • If you hate the 12-inch MacBook keyboard, well, you might want to avoid this one too.

Speakers

Apple has seriously upped their speaker game with the latest MacBook Pro. They're back on the sides, even on the 13-inch model, and they sound great — both louder and clearer.

  • If you want great sound on your MacBook Pro, you want these speakers.

Performance

Both 13-inch and 15-inch MacBooks Pro with Touch Bar have been updated with Intel Coffee Lake processors.

With this processor upgrade, the 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar have added a couple of cores, too. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar doubles up to a quad-core while the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar now sports a 6-core coat.

The MacBook Pro with Touch Bar 2018 also gets more memory with up to 32GB instead of just 8 0r 16GB. You can blame that on the processor. The 13-inch MacBooks Pro without Touch Bar uses Intel Kaby Lake processors which don't support more than 16GB in low power configurations.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro has Intel Iris graphics, the 15-inch has AMD Radeon Polaris graphics. They're still not enough to drive VR, but they're an improvement over the previous generation.

Storage performance — how fast Apple reads and writes to the SSDs inside the new MacBooks Pro — continues to impress. You can also get up to 4 TB of SSD in the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar now, though at an incredibly steep price.

All this with all models hitting 10 hours of battery life.

  • If you want Coffee Lake performance, you might want to upgrade to a Touch Bar MacBook Pro.
  • If you want AMD Radeon Polaris graphics, you might want to upgrade to a 15-inch model.
  • If you want a system with more RAM and more powerful graphics, you might want to think about the Touch Bar models, which have extra cores and extra RAM.
  • If you want 10 hours of battery life on a MacBook Pro, you might want to upgrade.

Ports

MacBook Pros

MacBook Pros (Image credit: iMore)

Real talk: You're losing USB-A, Thunderbolt 2, HDMI, and SDHC. You're gaining 2x or 4x Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C. And, yeah, you're keeping the 3.5 mm headphone jack.

If you have a lot of legacy displays, drives, and other peripherals, and are used to plugging your iPhone or iPad in with the cable that came in the box, you're not going to be happy with all the adapters you'll need to buy.

If you've been eying all new displays, drives, and other peripherals, and are okay buying a few new cables, then you'll be in heaven.

You can throw away dongles when you no longer need them. You can't transform a legacy USB-A or Thunderbolt 2 port to a modern USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 port when you want more of them.

The low-end 13-inch gets 2x TB3/USB-C. The high-end 13-inch gets 4x TB3/USB-C but only 2 of them are full-speed. The 15-inch gets 4x TB3/USB-C and all of them are full-speed.

And, oh yeah, that means the 15-inch can drive up to two 5K displays.

  • If you have a lot of legacy gear and hate dongles, you may not want the MacBook Pro.
  • If you've been waiting for the speed Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C bring, you might want to upgrade.
  • If you want four full-speed TB3 ports, you want the 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Touch Bar

The higher end 13-inch and every new model 15-inch MacBook Pro includes the new Touch Bar.

Apple still hasn't evolved macOS to be touch-friendly and still doesn't believe multitouch belongs at a distance, and vertically, on a laptop screen. So, instead, we get a second screen where the function keys used to be.

OLED with a matte finish that matches the feel of the keyboard keys, it can display Esc and function keys, and system and media controls, just like the old function row. But it can also display curated, context-sensitive shortcuts for whatever app you're working in at the time. That includes volume sliders, content scrubbers, color selectors, and anything else a developer can dream up.

The latest and greatest 2018 model MacBook Pro with Touch Bar also got a lot of love with the faster Coffee Lake processor, 32GB RAM upgrade, and two more cores for each size.

Plus, the 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar now has a True Tone display (including on the Touch Bar itself) and improved third-generation keyboard.

  • If you want a traditional function key row, Apple has a lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pro for you.
  • If you want a faster processor, more cores, more RAM, True Tone display, and a more reliable third-generation keyboard mechanism, you want the 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

Touch ID

To the right of the new Touch Bar is Touch ID. Once exclusive to iPhone and iPad, now you can have it on the Mac. It works off an updated Apple T2 chip, which is like a tiny, integrated iOS device embedded right in the MacBook Pro. It handles the secure enclave and secure presentation of Apple Pay information, but that fusion is hidden away.

All you see is the sensor. Place your registered finger on it and you're authenticated! You can even use it for fast account switching.

  • If you've always wanted Touch ID on your Mac, you want to upgrade.

Who shouldn't upgrade?

If you need graphics capable of running VR or high-end gaming, or have tons of legacy cables to plug in and you hate, hate, hate dongles, you might want to wait a while or look elsewhere.

Who should upgrade to the 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar?

If you want a new MacBook Pro, like the 13-inch size, but have no interest in the Touch Bar, or you've always wanted a MacBook Air with Retina Display but don't want anything more, than the 2-port, function key-festooned version is for you.

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Who should upgrade to the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar?

If you want all the latest technology — at least as much as can be packed into a device with 10-hours of battery life — but you want to keep it as portable as possible — if you want a faster processor, more cores, more RAM, True Tone display, and a more reliable third-generation keyboard mechanism, you want the 13-inch 2018 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

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Who should upgrade to the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

If you want the most muscle Apple can currently cram into a MacBook Pro, with dedicated graphics, six-core Coffee Lake processor, up to 32GB of RAM, four full-speed Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports, Touch Bar, and Touch ID, then you want the 15-inch MacBook Pro 2018.

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Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

55 Comments
  • I would truly love one of these computers. But with the Canadian dollar so low compared to the US, they are just out of my price range. I grabbed a 13" MacBook Air i7 refurb. It came two days ago. I'm very happy with it, even without a retina screen.
  • If the MBP 15 can drive 2 5K monitors, it will have no trouble driving 3 monitors at lower resolution? If so, I just need that dock now.
  • I do that now with my current 15" rMBP (late 2013), so yeah. Multiple 1080p, or a 4k w/ a few 1080p should be fine. Just keep in mind, the more pixels you push, the more you can strain the GPU..
  • Do you have a dock you could share or your setup?
  • Good points were made on Mac Break Weekly this week. I'm not happy with the direction Apple has been taking with their laptops since the new MacBook came out. Even for the MacBook the price seems so high but I remember how the price of the MacBook Air's were also so high at first. Its just sad how as an Apple user, there is such a limited selection for products now that these changes are spreading across the laptop line. Ports disappearing, keyboards shrinking, prices rising. I'm not personally in the market for a MacBook Pro though, I have a Mac mini at home and it does my main desktop needs. I am in the market for something mobile now and I am desperate for the 13" MacBook Air now, in fear it will go away and nothing will be left for me, my needs and budget. I tell myself part of this fear and panic is due to change. Maybe I will ease my pain in time, but these changes are so drastic. I fear what will happen to the next Mac mini now. Without these lower priced options, I wouldn't of been able to get into the Apple world. Just like with the new iPhone SE, it finally let me afford a iPhone. Please Apple, I hope you will keep a lower more affordable line like the Air. Or reduce the price of the current MacBook 12". I'm so confused about where Apple is going right now and the future of the existing products I love.
  • same here i was waiting for a MacBook with more ports thicker and power. just what i wanted maybe a MacBook air with retina display. just for home use perfect.
  • Ports disappearing isn't a bad thing though, they're replaced with a new, standard port. USB-C is fantastic, 1 port that can do so many things at a great speed. I can't wait to be buying accessories and devices where I can use the same cable to plug them all in. Sure there's a lot of adapters to deal with now but they will soon go away
  • I don't understand the touch bar yet, but I haven't used it, so maybe that'll change once I get my hands on it. It is a little funny to me though, that Razer, who completely copied the MacBook Pro look for their gaming Razer Blade laptops, had something similar to the touch bar in earlier editions of their laptop, but they dropped it this year because I suppose not enough developers adapted it. They just don't have the user base of Apple. So the same year they drop their trackpad/context sensitive trackpad, Apple introduces their touch bar, which will of course take off. Either way, I want one because I'd love to go back to Mac. Man, they're especially expensive this year though.
  • For editing programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, Final Cut Pro, Illustrator, Premier, etc. the touch bar is like a dream come true. Being able to customize those keys to oft-used shortcuts will help with work flow and efficiency. Scrolling through a video project's timeline, or scrubbing through a color meter - these are things I'm really looking forward to. Also tying shortcuts to specific keys for specific apps is going to be very cool. As for the price, it's not much different at all compared to when I last purchased my MBP 15" retina back in 2013. For the higher end processor, max ram, 512Gb SSD, and an upgraded graphics card I paid about $3200. This year I'll be paying $3099 for a comparably upgraded machine. For the high end stuff with Apple you're always paying a decent amount for it, but I can't say those prices have increased for quite a while now.
  • No mention of price in the article? I'm at best going to wait for one more upgrade at, hopefully, this new price point before I buy another new one. FWIW,
  • I have a 12 inch macbook, and I can say that the keyboard absolutely SUCKS!!! I talked to an apple employee and he said it sucks too and a lot of people don't like it. What a shame that they had to ruin the macbook pro with this garbage.
  • I can't believe you bought an item north of $1000 without even trying it first.
    If you did try it and still bought it, then your decision becomes even stranger.
  • I tried the new keyboard and told the salesman that I didn't like it. He said that's the direction Apple is going and I should try it but return it within the return period if it didn't grow on me. It didn't grow on me and I returned it.
  • why didn't you return your laptop right away if the keyboard is THAT awful? I swear that message boards are the only complaints I see about this keyboard
  • I beg to differ. I tried the new MacBook yesterday and the new keyboard is better than MacBook 12" and definitely not garbage
  • +1
  • I'm trying to figure out which 4k monitor to buy to go with my MBP 15" I preordered. My possibilities are to get a really awesome displayport based monitor that I can convert to usb-c, or try to stick with a usb-c based monitor that will most likely have a hub of some kind built in. If I get a display port based monitor I can always get a separate hub to convert the display port to usb-c and then have some extra usb ports to hang off other peripherals (drives, etc) - I'm thinking of the belkin hub that hasn't been released yet. I will have a usb-a -> usb-c adaptor that I'll use to plug in my keyboard and mouse (yes I still have wires for them!). Am I missing anything? I'm basically just using this for iOS and macOS development, so I'll want accurate representation of objects on the screen, but I'm not going to do any photo/video editing, so I don't need the best monitor in the world or 5k really.
  • I'm just confused on the fact that they released a MacBook Pro that out of the box correct me if I'm wrong cannot charge a iPhone or let it sync to iTunes without the use of a dongle.
  • You are correct.
  • Incorrect. Wifi sync to iTunes. I'm surprised more people don't realize this. Photos, contact, mail, notes etc are all on the cloud - the camera is getting closer and closer to "professional grade" on the iPhone. I don't completely agree with Apples direction - but, its crystal clear to me. Rene actually said he uses AirDrop for his photos which is also odd to me.. why not just use iCloud Photos? As far as charging with your laptop - not efficient.
  • Some people don’t or can’t used cloud solutions.
  • In which case, use AirDrop
  • I am very disappointed that Apple didn't introduce their own 5K display last week. I have been using my 24-inch Cinema display for the last 8 years with each of my MacBook Pros. It is a beautiful companion to Apple's equipment. The LG might be great on features, but it certainly doesn't look as attractive as something with Apple's industrial design. The lack of a new Apple monitor alone may cause me to wait another year for my next MacBook Pro. My current version is 3 years old, and it is a great computer. I was completely ready to jump to a new model, even believing that I would have issues with dongles, if Apple paired the new MacBooks with a monitor that was a quality visual companion. Steve Jobs used to care about this stuff -- the inside of the Macs were nice and orderly, the back of the iMacs looks better than the front of other computers. Why should I have an ugly monitor in the most obvious place -- on top of my desk? It just doesn't make sense to me.
  • I love Apple products, but I'm not that blind. I'll probably just wait until black Friday sales and buy an older Macbook Pro model or check out Windows laptops(cant believe I said that).
  • It's completely moot, but this simply isn't true: "In other words, some of us might want thicker MacBooks Pro with bigger batteries, but Apple couldn't ship 'em to us and we couldn't fly with them, so that all goes into desktops and we get ultralights."
  • I'm just gonna stick to my old MBP and upgrade the RAM and HDD drive to an SSD drive
  • so many people are not happy. there is this keyboard or function keys people just like. 32 GB is also a must for some. i also have not the time to run to a store when i forgot a dongle. so what is the deal make it same thick and give me those things. is not hard or? apple became an iPhone company and thats all what counts.maybe someone at apple realized owe still can make a new MacBook.
  • What it really comes down to is, does your current Macbook do what you need? We need to get away from the idea of upgrading all the time. The era of constant upgrades is probably at an end. The only real reason to upgrade is if you need the Thunderbolt 3 speeds. CPU, GPU and memory upgrades are pretty marginal.
  • And also if you think the Touch Bar might be a benefit to you too
  • I think there's a lot of short sightedness on what actually is happening with the ports the MBPr is now fitted with, you have darn near limitless expansion going on, in fact I was looking at the Thunderbolt 3 project website and the Apple support article on Thunderbolt 3, you now have 2 or 4 ports that can handle up to 6 devices each. Yeah it does change how you connect what you already own in a way, you don't have to adapter yourself to death though, you could simply go for a hub, most power users can really reach out with that, like the Belkin Thunderbolt 3 hub as an option. I get it change is not good for a lot of people, but think forward, a lot of people kept saying Apple wasn't making "real" updates then they did it and people are saying "they didn't update how I wanted" Oh and least we not forget that's still USB-C on that single port, so you could grab a Lightning to USC-C cable for your iPhones, which also means if you have a iPad Pro, faster charging cable/dual versatility going on. I grabbed that early on with my iPad Pro, now I'm glad.
  • I’d rather have a slightly larger item with a slightly larger battery, 3.5mm jack, 2 x TB3, 2 x USB-A, 1 x SD and 1 x RJ thanks.
    I’d suggest lots of others are the same.
  • If they want to be stuck in the past then sure, but other people actually want technology to move on and experience the benefits of USB-C
  • USB type a
    Hdmi
    Sd card slots are not the past they are the present USB type c is the future we are not in the future yet hence the word future
  • USB type C exists, so it's the present. HDMI is replaced by USB-C, and barely anyone was using the SD card slot so it was removed, but photo storage can still be transferred via USB or Wi-Fi
  • I don't have to read the article. At this price it doesn't worth