New MacBook Pro: Worth the Upgrade?

There’s a lot to like about the new MacBook Pro lineup. While I haven’t gotten my hands on one yet, I do have some thoughts as to whether or not you might want to upgrade from a previous MacBook.

The most attention-grabbing new feature on the new MacBook Pros (well on two of the three models, not counting the low-end option) is the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar is basically a thin strip of a touchscreen that takes the place of the function keys. Depending on the app you are running, the Touch Bar will change what it displays to be contextually relevant.

Here’s what I think about the Touch Bar. It’s really cool. It’s one of those things that (now that it exists) seems like an obvious addition in retrospect because it seems useful and makes a lot of sense. At the same time, if Acer, HP or another PC maker had included something similar in one of their laptops I really think it would’ve felt (and been, in reality) a gimmick. But Apple seems to have done it right having gone all in.

As a person who does a lot of video editing I see real value in what the Touch Bar offers. I think other types of professionals will likely feel the same way about apps they use often. It looks like a good way to breathe new life into staple (ahem, stale) apps we’ve all grown accustomed to.

And the addition of the Touch ID sensor on an Apple laptop is very welcome. This is the kind of small convenience that people will wonder how they lived without once they’ve gotten used to it. Could you go back to an iPhone without a fingerprint sensor? Me neither.

So, as I said, the Touch Bar is a cool feature — but I don’t think it’s a must have (still, I think people are really going to want it). As of right now (and this may change once I’ve played around with it) I’d say the Touch Bar isn’t worth upgrading for in and of itself because, let’s face it, you could get by without it if you needed to (I’m doing so right now and the world isn’t ending).

What is worth upgrading for all on it’s own is the upgrade in power and performance — especially in such a slim form factor. The fact that these new laptops can power two external 5K monitors AND two RAID systems simultaneously is simply awesome.

In years past I gravitated to the 13” MacBook Air. I wanted an extremely portable Apple laptop. I used the 13” MacBook Air for a long time but ultimately ended up selling it in favor of a 9.7” iPad Pro. The problem with the Air was that it just wasn’t powerful enough. Like many people are saying now, the new 13” MacBook Pro is the MacBook Air people always craved.

So if your old laptop — be it a MacBook or something else — is running slower than you’d like (or than your sanity can handle) I think upgrading to the new MacBook Pro is absolutely worth it (and the fact that you’ll get the new Touch Bar is just some seriously delicious icing on the cake).

The improved Retina screen is a nice addition, as are the upgraded speakers, but they aren’t nearly as important as more power (at least for someone like me). Like the Touch Bar, they are cool nice-to-haves.

But what sparks more interest for me are the better keyboard and larger trackpad. More the keyboard than the trackpad, actually. As someone who does A LOT of typing I can sincerely say there’s nothing like a great typing experience: it really can make a big difference in the overall enjoyment of laptop. When it’s great you hardly notice it but when it’s bad it’s all you can do to try not to use it. I’ve still got an older 15” MacBook Air laying around the office and I despise typing on it.

Finally, the new Matte Black color is super-cool. Like many of the new MacBook Pro features it’s not a must-have though.

So my advice is pretty straight-forward, actually: upgrade to the new MacBook Pro when you need more power (unless you have money coming out of your ears — if you do then by all means, upgrade immediately… and maybe go see an ENT doctor on the way home from the Apple store).

I doubt the Touch Bar or any of the other new features will feel life-altering, though I’m sure they will certainly feel like solid improvements. Again, take my advice with a serious grain of salt since these are merely my first impressions without going hands-on as of yet.