Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, 2017) review: Faster but still expensive

macbook-13-2017-header.jpg
  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent
  • $1,779.00

Pros

  • Ultraportable, slimline design
  • Weighs 1.37kg
  • Bright, colourful Retina Display
  • Kaby Lake processor update

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • No discrete GPU
  • USB-C connectivity only

It's barely six months since Apple revamped the entire MacBook Pro range, introducing the eye-catching Touch Bar on several models -- along with eye-watering price rises, courtesy of Brexit. So the new models introduced at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference this month merely provide what Apple terms 'a refresh'. There was a new 'entry-level' version of the MacBook Pro - a 13-inch model without a Touch Bar that now starts at a still hefty £1,249 (inc. VAT). The high end of the range gets a boost with improved GPUs on the 15-inch models, reflecting Apple's belated discovery of virtual reality. However, the mid-range 13-inch MacBook Pro reviewed here merely gets a bit of a speed-bump, courtesy of Intel's 7th generation Kaby Lake processors.

There are two 13-inch Touch Bar models, as before, both of which retain the impressive slimline design of their predecessors. At just 14.9mm thick, 304mm wide, and 212.4mm deep, the MacBook Pro is quite a bit smaller than my ageing 13-inch MacBook Air, and only fractionally heavier, at 1.37kg. Prices start at £1,749 (inc. VAT, £1,457.50 ex. VAT, or $1799) with a dual-core Core i5-7267U processor running at 3.1GHz -- compared to the 2.9GHz of the 2016 edition -- along with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive.

macbook-13-2017-main.jpg

There are two Touch Bar-equipped 13-inch MacBook Pro models. Both have a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports. Storage is either a 256GB or a 512GB SSD.

Image: Apple

We tested the second configuration, which simply doubles the solid-state drive to 512GB, and costs £1,949 inc. VAT, £1,624.17 ex. VAT, or $1,999). Apple's build-to-order options are always pricey, but the lack of upgradeability means that it's wise to purchase the highest specification you can afford. Options available here include 3.3GHz or 3.5GHz processors for an extra £90 ($100) and £270 ($300) respectively; you can also double the memory to 16GB for a further £180 inc. VAT, £150 ex. VAT, or $200).

The attractive 13.3-inch Retina Display remains unchanged, with 2,560-by-1,600-pixel resolution (227dpi), although it still relies on Intel's integrated Iris Plus 650 for graphics work. That's our main criticism of the 13-inch MacBook Pro models, since a laptop costing well over £1,700 really ought to have a discrete GPU -- especially if Apple genuinely wants to be taken seriously by VR developers. And if you're going to charge a premium for a professional-quality display that supports features such as the DCI-P3 colour-space, then you need to provide professional-level graphics performance to match.

That said, Intel's integrated GPU acquits itself well, managing a respectable 41.6 frames per second when running the Cinebench R15 graphics benchmark. The Kaby Lake update for the main CPU is no slouch either, producing single- and multi-core Geekbench 4 scores of 4409 and 9255 respectively, compared to 3797 and 7540 for its Skylake predecessor -- an increase of almost 23 percent for multi-core performance.

Battery life is respectable, but not outstanding, and Apple's claim of 10 hours seems a little optimistic. The 500-nits Retina Display is so bright and clear that we were able to lower the brightness to 50 percent during our battery tests, which allowed the MacBook Pro to last for seven hours and fifteen minutes when streaming video off BBC iPlayer. If you're not online all day long then you should certainly get a full day's work out of the laptop, although the 10-plus hours that I get from my MacBook Air is still hard to beat.

macbook-13-2017-keyboard.jpg

The Touch Bar includes an integrated Touch ID sensor, and the 65-key keyboard is backlit.

Image: Apple

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Conclusions

The Kaby Lake update provides a welcome speed-bump for the various MacBook Pro models, and this 13-inch model is impressively slim and light for a laptop that packs a heavy-duty processor and a high-quality Retina Display. However, it remains extremely expensive, and we can't help thinking that many users would happily swap the Touch Bar's eye-candy for a discrete GPU that would turn the 13-inch MacBook Pro into a truly portable graphics workstation.

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Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Processor / Chipset
CPU Intel Core i5 (7th Gen) 3.1 GHz
Max Turbo Speed 3.5 GHz
Number of Cores Dual-Core
64-bit Computing Yes
Features Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
RAM
Memory Speed 2133 MHz
Configuration Features provided memory is soldered
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 8 GB
Memory
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Speed 2133 MHz
Display
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
Widescreen Display Yes
Monitor Features Wide Color Gamut
Type LED
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size (metric) 33.8 cm
Display Resolution Abbreviation WQXGA
Environmental Parameters
Humidity Range Operating 0 - 90% (non-condensing)
Audio & Video
Graphics Processor Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650
Sound Stereo speakers, three microphones
Hard Drive
Type SSD
Specific Type flash storage
Capacity 256 GB
Input
Type Force Touch trackpad, Touch Bar, keyboard
Localization & Layout English
Features Multi-Touch Gesture Recognition, Touch ID sensor, ambient light sensor, force click, multi-touch touchpad, pressure sensitivity
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2
Optical Storage
Drive Type no optical drive
Type none
Processor
Type Core i5
Generation 7
Manufacturer Intel
Clock Speed 3.1 GHz
Battery
Capacity 49.2 Wh
Technology lithium polymer
Run Time (Up To) 10 sec
AC Adapter
Input AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)
Output 61 Watt
Connections & Expansion
Interfaces 4 x USB-C/Thunderbolt 3
Headphone output
Header
Brand Apple
Product Line Apple MacBook Pro
Model with Touch Bar
Localization English
Country Kits United States
Packaged Quantity 1
Miscellaneous
Color silver
Case Material aluminum
Included Accessories power adapter
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Monitor
Diagonal Size 13.3 in
System
Notebook Type notebook
Platform Apple Mac OS
Hard Drive Capacity 256 GB
Introduced Mid 2017
Dimensions & Weight
Width 12 in
Depth 8.4 in
Height 0.6 in
Manufacturer Warranty
Type 1 year warranty
Environmental Standards
ENERGY STAR Certified Yes
Physical Characteristics
Weight 3.02 lbs
Power
Min Operating Temperature 50 °F
Max Operating Temperature 95 °F
Operating System / Software
OS Provided: Type Apple OS X 10.12 Sierra
Type Apple AirDrop, Apple AirPlay, Apple Automator, Apple Calculator, Apple DVD Player, Apple Dashboard, Apple Dictionary, Apple FaceTime, Apple Font Book, Apple GarageBand, Apple Image Capture, Apple Keynote, Apple Launchpad, Apple Mac App Store, Apple Mac OS X Chess, Apple Mission Control, Apple Numbers, Apple Pages, Apple Preview, Apple QuickTime, Apple Safari, Apple Stickies, Apple System Preferences, Apple TextEdit, Apple Time Machine, Apple iBooks, Apple iMovie, Apple iTunes, Calendar, Contacts, Dictation, Drivers & Utilities, Game Center, Maps, Messages, Notes, Notification Center, Photo Booth, Reminders, Siri, iCloud
Video Output
Graphics Processor Intel Iris Plus Graphics 650
Graphics Processor Series Intel Iris Plus Graphics
Input Device
Backlight Yes

Topics: Laptops, Apple, Mobility, Reviews

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Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, silver, 2017)

Part Number: MPXX2LL/A

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