I don’t think that Apple has put out a product that has attracted so much negative press as the 2016 MacBook Pro. It’s ports force you to live what has become known as “the dongle life”, it is apparently short on battery life, and it’s more expensive. So I managed to get my hands on one for a week to see if all of this is true or not.
The model that I got was the 15″ MacBook Pro. It came out of the box with these specs:
15.4-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology and 2880-by-1800 resolution
2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz
- 16GB of RAM (which is not upgradable)
- 256GB SSD (which is not upgradable)
Radeon Pro 450 with 2GB of memory and Intel HD Graphics 530
- Four Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports
- 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2
All of this sounds pretty decent. And it comes in a package that is thinner and lighter than the 2015 MacBook Pro that I currently own. But in my week with the 2016 MacBook Pro, I find that I have to give up a lot or seriously make changes to my workflow if ever wanted to use it as my daily driver. For example, there’s no SD card slot. That’s an epic fail as this is a “pro” machine, and many pro users need an SD card slot to transfer video and/or pictures to their MacBook Pros for editing purposes. So to do that here, I’d need a SD card adapter. Now I know that Apple really wanted to make this laptop thin. But seriously, adding an SD card slot doesn’t add bulk.
Pro users also typically use external monitors to do editing. This despite the fact that the built in display that comes with the 2016 MacBook Pro is absolutely outstanding. Thus you need another dongle for that. In fact you need a lot of dongles that are of the USB-C variety as you will not be able to use any Thunderbolt 2 dongles that you might own. You’ll grumble and complain. But you’ll buy them and get over it. Plus, in a couple of years, USB-C will likely be the standard and this will not be an issue. But today is not that day which will be frustrating for users of this MacBook Pro.
Another thing that was really puzzling was the lack of a MagSafe adapter. The fact is that MagSafe adapters are designed to disconnect if the cables are tugged, saving your expensive Mac from flying across the room. It’s omission and replacement with USB-C while understandable on one hand, is something that is going to cost users money in the long run in the form of broken laptops that could have been saved by a MagSafe adapter.
Now there are some things that are cool. Touch ID is one thing that is included with this MacBook Pro and I loved having it. You can use it to unlock your Mac if it is already booted, or to purchase things using Apple Pay. Then there’s the touch bar which I was skeptical of at first, but I loved having. It replaced the function keys and it also gives you a dedicated Siri button too. I suspect that as developers exploit the capabilities of the touch bar, it will become even more useful. The rest of the keyboard feels very comfortable. In fact it was more comfortable than the keyboard on my 2015 MacBook Pro.
Performance was mixed. While I found that I could edit 4K video with ease, opening 15 browser tabs in Safari could make it stumble. That was very odd to me. The other thing was the battery life. When I set up the MacBook Pro, I let it sit for a couple of days as per this Apple support document and then used it as my daily driver. I used it to answer e-mail, use Microsoft Office and write blog posts which are the typical things that I did while on battery on my 2015 MacBook Pro. I never got more than 6 hours of battery life. Apple promises 10 hours which is one hell of a difference that previous MacBook Pro users will notice immediately. In my case, If this was my 2015 MacBook Pro I would get around 7 to 8 hours which is close to the 9 hours that Apple promised on that notebook doing exactly the same things that I tried on the 2o16 model. And that is the biggest reason that I didn’t plunk down my credit card to get one and decided instead to hold on to my 2015 MacBook Pro.
So, what’s my bottom line? It’s thinner, lighter, and has an outstanding display. You’ll get over having to live “the dongle life.” But it’s mixed performance from a power perspective, the lack of an SD card slot, and it’s rather disappointing battery life make it difficult to recommend. I’d say that you should skip this iteration of the MacBook Pro until Apple gets these issues sorted so that it deserves you spending your hard earned money on it.