MacBook Pro With Touch Bar and Touch ID Announced

New Track Bar Brings Enhanced Productivity

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID
MacBook Pro with new Track Bar. Courtesy of Apple

October is typically an important month in Mac history. It marked the first release of the Mac PowerBook models in 1991 and this October it marked a fundamental change in the portable Mac lineup: the introduction of the new MacBook Pro in 13-inch and 15-inch models, sporting the new Touch Bar and Touch ID.

The new MacBook Pros have some amazing new features, but they're also shaking up the entire MacBook product line.

Gone is the 11-inch MacBook Air, leaving the 12-inch MacBook as the smallest of the MacBooks when measured by screen size. The MacBook Air 13-inch remains in the lineup, but only as a low-cost entry point into the portable Mac family.

Touch Bar

The biggest change to the new MacBook Pro models is the inclusion of a new Touch Bar with Touch ID. The Touch Bar replaces the older function keys we're all used to seeing on our keyboards. Function keys date back to the very early years of computing, when terminals were the common means of accessing a computing system.

The new Touch Bar replaces the function keys across the top of the keyboard with a new multi-touch display strip using Retina technology. The strip is actually an OLED (Organic LED) display that shows contextually based menus, buttons, and control strips, depending on the currently active app.

The Touch Bar offers a new interface component to any app that wishes to make use of it.

Apps can use the Touch Bar to display commonly used functions in the form of keys, much like the old function keys could adjust volume or brightness, undo or redo a command, print, or be used as controls for iTunes.

But if you think the Touch Bar is just a new technological replacement for the old function keys, then you haven’t thought it through.

The Touch Bar is a high-resolution display that supports the multi-touch interface, just like your Mac's trackpad; the Touch Bar can be used in much the same way. Some basic examples that go beyond displaying some function keys with new names include showing app interface control surfaces, such as volume bars for iTunes, contextual menus, rotating sliders, scrubbing sliders for video editors, timeline displays for editing audio or video, and Photoshop tools, such as brush size or color selection.

The most interesting part of the Touch Bar is that it fundamentally changes the user interface from one hand to two. Apps will be able to respond to multiple simultaneous user interfaces; for example, changing brush sizes with the Touch Bar while drawing with the trackpad, which was one of the new capabilities coming to Photoshop.

You may be thinking that they already do react to the keyboard and mouse or trackpad, or to some third-party controller, such as those common in music or video creation. The difference is that now with the Touch Bar, developers can count on this additional input method being available for most users, or at least those with one of the new MacBook Pros.

Users will also be able to customize the Touch Bar to meet their own needs, much like you can already do with keyboard shortcuts.

If a menu item or app control surface has a keyboard shortcut, you can add it to the Touch Bar for easy access.

Touch ID

Also new is a Touch ID sensor built in to the new MacBook Pros. Besides being able to use the Touch ID finger sensor as a way to quickly and conveniently log in or lock your Mac, it will also serve as verification for Apple Pay. This will allow you to use Apple Pay services with your Mac, without having to have an iPhone nearby to authenticate with.

New Trackpad and Keyboard

All of the new MacBook Pro models share in having a new force trackpad that is twice as large as the previous offering, and a new keyboard that uses a second-generation butterfly key mechanism like that found on the 12-inch MacBook.

The butterfly design is said to allow for a nice typing feel even though the keys have very limited keystroke depth due to the thin design of the MacBook Pro case.

Display

Retina displays are standard on all of the MacBook Pro models, with brighter displays (500 nits), a larger contrast ratio, and expanded color space (P3).

Ports

In case you were wondering, there's still a headphone jack available, but four Thunderbolt 3 ports have replaced the USB and Thunderbolt ports. Thunderbolt 3 makes use of USB-C, and can deliver up to 40 Gbps connectivity when used with Thunderbolt 3 peripherals. The USB-C port also supports USB 3.1 gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps), as well as DisplayPort, for connecting to displays. In addition, any of the ports may be used for charging the MacBook Pro.

15-inch MacBook Pro 

15-inch MacBook Pro With Track Bar and Touch ID Specifications

Base Price

$2,399

$2,799

Colors

Silver & Space Gray

Silver & Space Gray

Display

15.4-inch Retina Display

15.4-inch Retina Display

Processor

2.6 GHz Quad-Core i7

2.7 GHz Quad-Core i7

PCIe Flash Storage

256 GB

512 GB

Memory

16 GB

16 GB

Graphics

Radeon Pro 450

Radeon Pro 455

 

Intel HD Graphics 530

Intel HD Graphics 530

Ports

4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)

4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)

Wi-Fi

802.11ac

802.11ac

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Camera

720p FaceTime HD

720p FaceTime HD

Audio

Stereo speakers

Stereo speakers

Microphone

Three built-in mics

Three built-in mics

Headphone

3.5 mm headphone jack

3.5 mm headphone jack

Battery

76 watt-hour lithium-polymer

76 watt-hour lithium-polymer

Weight

4.02 lbs

4.02 lbs

Custom configurations available

13-inch MacBook Pro

13-inch MacBook Pro With Track Bar and Touch ID Specifications

Base Price

$1,799

$1,999

Colors

Silver & Space Gray

Silver & Space Gray

Display

13.3-inch Retina Display

13.3-inch Retina Display

Processor

2.9 GHz Dual-Core i5

2.9 GHz Dual-Core i5

PCIe Flash Storage

256 GB

512 GB

Memory

8 GB

8 GB

Graphics

Intel Iris Graphics 550

Intel Iris Graphics 550

Ports

4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)

4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)

Wi-Fi

802.11ac

802.11ac

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2

Bluetooth 4.2

Camera

720p FaceTime HD

720p FaceTime HD

Audio

Stereo speakers

Stereo speakers

Microphone

Three built-in mics

Three built-in mics

Headphone

3.5 mm headphone jack

3.5 mm headphone jack

Battery

49.2 watt-hour lithium-polymer

49.2 watt-hour lithium-polymer

Weight

3.02 lbs

3.02 lbs

Custom configurations available

13-inch MacBook Pro Without Track Bar Specifications

Base Price

$1,499

Colors

Silver & Space Gray

Display

13.3-inch Retina Display

Processor

2.0 GHz Dual-Core i5

PCIe Flash Storage

256 GB

Memory

8 GB

Graphics

Intel Iris Graphics 540

Ports

2 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)

Wi-Fi

802.11ac

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.2

Camera

720p FaceTime HD

Audio

Stereo speakers

Microphone

Two built-in mics

Headphone

3.5 mm headphone jack

Battery

54.5 watt-hour lithium-polymer

Weight

3.02 lbs

Custom configurations available

New Mac Portable Lineup

With the introduction of the three new MacBook Pro models, Apple has reorganized the portable lineup. The 11-inch MacBook Air is gone, leaving five models with the following baseline prices:

13-inch MacBook Air: Starting at $999

12-inch MacBook: Starting at $1,299

13-inch MacBook Pro with standard function keys: $1,499

13-inch MacBook Pro with Track Bar and Touch ID: $1,799

15-inch MacBook Pro with Track Bar and Touch ID: $2,399

Who Are the New MacBook Pros For?

Although Apple introduced three new MacBook Pro models, the lowest price model, the one without the Track Bar, seems to be mostly aimed at hitting a marketing target, one that lets Apple offer a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display at a price point below $1,500.

However, it achieves this target price by eliminating two of the Thunderbolt 3 ports and dropping the Track Bar and Touch ID. Its target, then, is the value market, which wants a Retina display but needs more performance than the 12-inch MacBook offers.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Track Bar and Touch ID seems to be just the right configuration for professionals that don’t need higher end graphics to get their jobs done.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro has it all; superior graphics, at least compared to other MacBook Pro offerings, the new productivity-enhancing Track Bar, and the security of Touch ID. It's easy to see that these Macs are targeted directly at the professional content producer, as well as those looking for high-end performance for the work or play they participate in.