2017 Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, 2.9GHz , i5) Review

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2017 Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (13-inch, 2.9GHz , i5) Review
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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’. 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.

As before, this Macbook retains the previous ultra-thin. 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 $388,Voltage : 100V – 240V AC, Frequency : 50Hz ~ 60Hz, Operating temperature : 10 ~ 35, Storage temperature : -24 ~ 45, Relative humidity : 0% ~ 90% Non-condensing, Operating altitude : 3000m to the test, The maximum storage height : 4,5000m, Maximum shipping altitude : 10,600m,Operating System,OS : Mac OS Sierra

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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.

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.

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

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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