2016 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar: First Impressions [Sticky]

My new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (Space Grey; 16GB RAM upgrade) wasn’t supposed to arrive until today, but UPS came through and delivered it late yesterday evening (it arrived alongside my Apple USB-C to USB-A #dongle).

For those following closely, I’ve been using a 2012 MacBook Air with 8GB of RAM for the past four years. I never did upgrade to a Retina display MacBook because I was one of “those” people holding out for a 13-inch MacBook Air with Retina. That never came, but with the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro, it’s safe to say my wish has partially come true, albeit in a more expensive package.

For those following us on Periscope, you probably saw our quick unboxing last night. Here are some nitty gritty unboxing pictures taken with our iPhone 7 Plus, which we will then follow with our quick initial thoughts.

The MacBook Pro comes wrapped in plastic, which we removed for this photo:

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There’s a piece of light paper resting atop the keyboard as always, while in the box you’ll get your charging adapter plus USB-C cable (which was neatly coiled together until I took it apart last night to charge the MacBook Pro; note to self: Foxconn would fire my ass if I worked in the cord-coiling department).

Apple this year decided to not include a power adapter extension cable like we’ve seen in the past, instead making customers pay $25 CAD for it. Come on Apple, I just spent nearly three grand on this machine.

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The new 13-inch MacBook Pro is small compared to the 13-inch MacBook Air—Apple really reduced the footprint of this new machine:

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Here’s an image comparing the 13-inch MacBook versus my 2012 13-inch MacBook Air (taken with Portrait mode).

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The bezels are so much slimmer which has made this machine much smaller than before. Look at the size of that track pad:

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When the MacBook Pro is off, the Touch Bar just sits there as a glossy strip:

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Let’s dive into some quick initial impressions of using this machine for less than 24 hours, shall we?

Build Quality and Retina Display

This MacBook Pro feels really well built, with its sharp edges and round corners. It feels really Apple nice and solid in the hands when you’re carrying it. I’m going to eventually get some sort of clear skin to slap onto the top and bottom of the machine, like I did with my old MacBook Air.

I’ve been slumming it with a non-Retina display since 2012—why did I wait this long? This display supports a wide colour gamut which means iPhone 7 Plus photos really pop on the brighter display which has a higher contrast as well.

Keyboard, Speakers and Track Pad

I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews on this new keyboard, which sports a second generation butterfly mechanism first utilized in the 12-inch MacBook. My take? I like it compared to my 2012 MacBook Air keyboard. I find myself typing faster and more accurately with this keyboard. It does have a more “clicky” sound but for the most part, I think it’s great.

The buttons are larger and closer together than compared to my old MacBook Air and it’s interesting have full-sized keys for the left and right arrows. When typing, keys aren’t as ‘springy’ but rather come to a full stop when pressed. It appears this makes typing better for me.

The speakers are loud enough to fill a room and are a massive improvement coming from my old Air. They seem to benefit from reflecting sound from underneath off your desk or table. It’s definitely an improvement and there is actually some bass and music sounds better.

I had concerns about the larger track pad accidentally jumping my cursor whenever the bottom of my palms graced the sides. But I haven’t had one problem with that so far. The haptic track pad has two stages of pressure—one for a light tap and a harder force touch will highlight words and launch the dictionary, for example.

Touch Bar and Touch ID

This is the biggest feature of the new MacBook Pro, as Apple’s answer to change and improve our workflows depending on which app we’re using. Upon turning the MacBook Pro on, I had to keep reminding myself to look down at the Touch Bar to take advantage of what was showing on the slim touchscreen display (which would greatly benefit from haptic feedback in the future).

You never realize how much ‘time’ it can take to move your finger to the track pad, then navigate the cursor to a search field or bookmark. With Touch Bar, these shortcuts are now right above the keyboard, so with Safari it’s really easy to jump back to my Gmail tab with one tap (but there’s no way to access pinned tabs without the track pad?).

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Using the Touch Bar is fun. It’s quick and easy to find an emoji for iMessage, while controlling brightness, volume and more is simple to access in the top right. You can also customize the Touch Bar, but I’d like to see more support from third party apps such as Chrome. I rarely use the constant auto correct suggestions though. For now, Touch Bar actually has been pretty handy, as long as you remember it’s there.

One major addition to the Touch Bar that sealed the deal for this major purchase was the addition of Touch ID. This is a long time coming for Mac users. After using Touch ID to login to the Mac, unlock 1Password, authorize app installs, iTunes and Apple Pay is just frickin’ amazing. If you have doubts about a Touch Bar MacBook Pro, getting Touch ID alone for the upgrade is priceless. Trust me.

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Battery Life and Miscellaneous

As for battery life, it’s too early to tell if I’m going to get the 10 hours Apple states. In just over two hours at about 80% brightness, with Safari open and a few other apps (Photos, Messages, iTunes, Deliveries, MarsEdit, Twitter, Skype, Notes, Numbers), battery life is at 64%. The system feels cool to the touch right now and is very comfortable to type on (as it should be, since I’m not pushing it hard).

I’m going to miss MagSafe, as I’m sure our toddler running around here is going to have some fun with USB-C as our charging port (like Casey’s dramatic demonstration!). Also, with MagSafe there was a tiny green/amber LED to show your Mac was charging. Those days are gone. What you have now is an audible tone, the same sound you hear when you plug your iPhone in to charge.

Since USB-C is the future, it’s not quite here today. So this means how we roll at the moment is #donglelife. Below are pics of Apple’s Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter, and their USB-C to USB adapter. If you’re getting a new MacBook Pro, you’ll need to shell out extra. Good thing Apple has dropped prices by 25% until December 31, 2016, so jump on this discount while it’s here.

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We also purchased Satechi’s Type-C USB 3.0 hub ($67; meant for 12-inch MacBook) which has a combo 3-in-1 for USB, microSD and SD, plus a USB-C charging pass through port.

It works as advertised but the problem is it doesn’t sit flush to your desk or table, since it’s meant for a thinner MacBook. It’ll do the job in mean time, but a version for the 13-inch MacBook Pro would be much better. Since there’s a gap, I feel like there’s a good chance I could warp the connector on both the hub and my MacBook.

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I won’t be able to upgrade RAM, the SSD or anything else myself, but this new Mac should last a long time. As for my old Air? It’s now going to be a dedicated machine to Zwift in the garage and backup Mac.

How does it feel to shell out your ‘life savings’ on a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar? So far in my first 12 hours with this machine, pretty good. Maybe that’s because I’m coming from an older 2012 MacBook Air, but for the most part this Mac is a joy to use, it’s fast, and the design and build quality is second to none.

How are you liking your new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar?

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of iPhoneinCanada.ca. Follow me on Twitter, and @iPhoneinCanada, and on Google+.

  • Nov 28 – Dec 6 can’t come soon enough for me and my 15″ ????

  • Travis Pinky Mcdowell

    walked into my local Apple Store and picked up a basic 13in with touch bar today. love it coming from a 2010 basic MacBook Pro. keyboard is going to take a little time and I like how useful the touch bar can be (like when I don’t know the exact spelling to a word)

  • Lakh Jhajj

    Mine coming nov 24. Got a little late about half hour to get online and order and shipping times slipped to 3-4 weeks by then.
    Honestly, it took a lot of “courage” on my part to spit $2500 from my wallet on this machine. I know it will serve me well but still feels overpriced for some reason, may be cause Apple didn’t include the required #Dongles in the box!! Also IMO it’s a bummer from Apple to release TouchBar without haptic feedback. How can they not figure this one out?.

  • Nice! That is coming up fast 😀

  • Yes, the Touch Bar is very handy. I’m appreciating it more as my usage increases.

  • xxxJDxxx

    How long is the supplied charging cord?? Didn’t realize that was another thing they cheaped out on. My current macbook uses the full length of the extended cord, so I guess that would be another accessory to shell out for ($$$).

  • BigCat

    Hi Garry,

    Really hoping you will be able to comment more on battery life. I also have a 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar coming.

    Thanks for the sneak peek!

  • Too early to tell but I’ll update this post and let you know in the comments. Just ran the battery down to zero tonight and will see how a fresh charge goes.

  • Joker Eh

    I still don’t understand the point of haptic feedback on the touch bar. Why would I need to know I pressed something? I am pressing it and I can see on the screen the action worked or not.

  • Renegader

    There’s just no way I can justify spending that much money on a computer. But wait, I have to spend more money on dongles and an extension cord. Mac’s to me are moving more towards what an iPad is, and I have no interest in that. I’ve been a Mac user for over a decade but it’s looking more and more like I’ll be going the Windows way with my next purchase.

  • The cord is two metres from my guesstimate. Not long.

  • The Touch Bar is slippery and some buttons would feel a lot better if there was feedback when tapping the bar. ???? (emoji sent from Touch Bar)

  • Chris Kim

    I got mine yesterday too – 13″ w/ Touch Bar, 16gb ram, 512gb SSD. Didn’t have that much time to play with it yet, but was on it a bit and I really was impressed with the build. Used the touch bar minimally (primarily in Safari for switching tabs) which was helpful.

    It really is a beautiful machine! Only “dongles” I got was the nonda USB-C to USB-A adapter (the same one you used Gary – I’ll be careful plugging/unplugging that one due to your issues!) and a USB-C to Displayport dongle (US$14.99+shipping from Monoprice), as Apple doesn’t have one (to connect my 27″ 4k LG monitor). I also got the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad 2 for use in closed clamshell mode, so I think just 2 “dongles” will be enough for my needs. I may or may not get a TB3 dock later on, but will wait and see what new ones come in coming months (I’m not a huge fan of the OWC TB3 dock, pricey and has a lot of things I don’t need).

  • Keenan

    Went to the store to get a 13 inch touch bar model but got the base 15 instead and so glad I did love the big screen and the performance is more then I will probably ever need

  • Keenan

    But the MacBook will last for 4 -5 years for me and wanted the specs so it won’t slow down and the touch bar changes the game you wouldn’t think but in just two days would really miss it if I didn’t have it I think

  • Just keep the extension from your current MacBook. Tell the next owner you don’t have it anymore.

  • kb

    I have the following setup: 13″ with Touchbar and a few Apple dongles (not 3rd party). The multi-port works good – connects via HDMI to a monitor. I also (mistakenly) got a mini Display Port adapter into which I plug another HDMI dongle. I’m going to switch to another multi-port.

    Problem is: the second monitor doesn’t work and connecting that dongle causes nothing but problems – machine freezes, can’t change WiFi networks, the update the OS wants to install for it does not complete, etc.

    My fix will be to not use two dongles – rather, get another multi-port. This is just a heads up for everyone else to be wary of double dongling.

  • Bob Langevin

    Very fair review Gary, I also came from a 13″ 2012 Air and got the 15″ MBP and feel exactly the same way about everything

  • Cheers Bob. So far after using the computer more, Touch Bar and Touch ID are a big deal.

  • Albert Calzaretto

    Can you give us more of an update on battery life?

  • So far it’s okay, not super impressive by any means. Need to do some more tests.

  • Update: Amazon one-day Lightning deal on AUKEY’s USB-C hub, which has 3x USB 3.0, ethernet, charging port for $23.99 http://www.iphoneincanada.ca/news/amazon-lightning-aukey-usb-c-hub/

  • Bafoon

    Okay – pls find me a comparable windows PC with specs like this and cheaper price points. I’m guessing you’re going to start with the Surface book, amirite – oh wait…

  • Renegader

    Actually, no I wasn’t going to start with that. All I said is that I will be looking at a Windows computer for my next purchase (whenever that may be). The trolls and “Bafoon’s” are alive and well on this site. Forgive me for expressing my opinion.

  • Touch Bar and Touch ID are the real magic, I really impressed by this features.