The New MacBook Pro is a whole new kind of laptop

Apple announced a new MacBook Pro last week at an intimate event in Cupertino, along with small refreshes of a couple of its other laptops. The Air is the cheapest MacBook, and the MacBook is the thinnest MacBook, but the MacBook Pro is the best and most important MacBook!

Finger Work

The new Pro, which comes with either a 13- or 15-inch screen, does look like the last model. Which is to say, it still looks like a laptop. But as soon as you open the thing up, crack your knuckles, and put fingers to keys, you won’t be confused anymore. Actually, you’ll figure it out before even that, as soon as you see that massive new track pad. But the keys really sell the change. The new Pro has the same keyboard as the super-thin MacBook, though it’s been tweaked a bit from the smaller model, and has a surprisingly satisfying amount of travel, but there’s no doubt your fingers are going to have to get used to a little less clack. Those shallow butterfly keys feel somewhere between the traditional mechanical keyboard and the on-screen keys on your iPhone.

Speaking of on-screen keyboards! Instead of function keys, the row of F1-F12s you don’t care about and media controls you do, the new MacBook Pro has a small touch-friendly strip that apps can use to display quick controls and information. It’s called the Touch Bar. There’s a Touch ID fingerprint reader on the right side of the strip, too right above the Delete key. That feels dangerous.

The whole idea is going to take some getting used to: each app does different things, in different ways, to different effect. In Mail, you can quickly tap on the Touch Bar to compose a message; in Pages, it’s a super-fast way to access a bunch of formatting options. In Photos, you can use the Touch Bar to quickly scrub through a bunch of images, and it’s a really nifty way to move through a timeline in Final Cut.

Moving Pictures

One thing’s for sure, though: the tech is solid. The slightly raised platform is remarkably responsive, and the screen is so vibrant it almost looks like Apple slapped a sticker over it. There’s virtually no lag as you swipe or tap—it’s just a touchscreen, really, with support for up to 10 fingers. Why you would ever put all 10 of your digits on the tiny stripe, I don’t know, but it’s nice to know it’s possible. In general, the Touch Bar is a clever way to marry the tactility of a physical keyboard with the capability of a touchscreen. You could argue that a full-on touchscreen would be better, but Apple sure doesn’t think so.

Other than the keyboard, the MacBook Pro is exactly what you’d expect from the long-overdue update. It’s lighter, it’s thinner, and it’s definitely feels faster. It’s a little heavier than a MacBook Air, but quite a bit smaller. The screen is brighter than ever, and so are the speakers and thermals and everything else because that’s what you do when you upgrade a laptop. And, yes, there’s a headphone jack peeking out as well. It’s nice to see that little guy.

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