Welcome back ports and MagSafe; so long Touch Bar.Photograph: Apple
To build a MacBook Pro for the future, the company has gone back to what worked in the past.
For six years, Apple has chiseled features off of the MacBook Pro, seemingly in pursuit of sleekness at all cost. It started ditching most ports in 2015 and abandoned its cheerily detachable MagSafe charger soon after. And then there’s the Touch Bar, a 2016 addition that didn’t make things thinner but did fail to capture the hearts and minds of developers and customers alike. The Mac has spent half a decade becoming prettier but less usable. , Apple reversed course.
The new MacBook Pro comes in two sizes, runs on a high-powered Apple processor, and has been redesigned to incorporate some of the more useful elements of a “pro” grade computer. It’s expensive, sure, and its performance claims still need independent reviews to back them up. But what’s immediately evident in this overhaul is that Apple has remembered that people who use laptops—especially with a Pro moniker—sometimes need to prioritize function over form.
Macs have had other problems over the past five years, although Apple has been loath to admit them. A new version of the MacBook Pro introduced in 2018 suffered poor performance due to overheating and CPU throttling, which took a software update to fix. Apple eventually backed down on its much-maligned butterfly keyboard as well, completing its retreat back to a more conventional scissor-switch design last year.
The MacBook Pros that Apple released, though, are the most comprehensive admission yet that the line was headed in the wrong direction. By incorporating the company’s latest efforts in desktop silicon—the M1 Pro and M1 Pro Max chips—they also get Apple closer to finalizing its divorce with Intel. In the process, it may have just won a whole lot of actual pros back. And Apple’s reinvention of the Mac also comes at a time when demand is sky-high for PCs, as the pandemic has driven people back to laptops in droves.
The all-aluminum enclosure of the new MacBook Pros might look familiar at first glance, but Apple has swapped out its 13-inch and 15-inch Pros for 14-inch and 16-inch models. The displays have a higher resolution, with reduced bezels along the edges and an iPhone-style “notch” for the laptop’s camera. The camera has been upgraded, too, to a 1080p HD sensor.
And yes, Apple has dumped the Touch Bar; these new MacBook Pros have good old-fashioned function keys instead of a barely used light-up, touch-sensitive strip. The actual keys have more travel. Presumably, the keyboard is more satisfying to type on, though we haven’t tried it yet.
Both the 14-inch and 16-inch models have three Thunderbolt 4 ports, an SD card slot, an HDMI port for connecting external displays, and a headphone jack. Minus USB-A, this is a welcome return to the MacBook Pro port types of the mid-2010s. For a while, Apple tried convincing consumers that two USB-C ports were sufficient; that carrying around a MacBook so small it could be mistaken for an iPad was a fair trade-off. Not so much.