3 Months With A New Apple MacBook Pro…

At the start of 2017 I purchased a new Apple MacBook Pro.

For those who know me this would be a moment that would pass almost unnoticed if it wasn’t for the touch bar, but more of that later.

You see I am a slave to the Apple brand. Someone who in years gone by was the first to rise in the morning to beat the queue online for the Apple iPad Version 1, pre release of course!

It all began back around 2002 when a good friend, a designer who had lived with Apple computers for a decade before, showed my his iPod Classic one evening. My world was never going to be the same again. The excitement of carrying almost my entire music collection on a device small enough to fit into my pocket was an early sign of the portability and ‘everything with me’ world in which I now exist.

Nowadays it’s common place of course to have everything at your finger tips, in your pocket and able to satisfy your every whim almost instantaneously. But then, it was a revelation to the early pioneers of the more consumer-centric Apple strategy.

So in the last 15 years I have enjoyed a range of Apple products from the might of the Apple Mac Pro, the beast of a desktop cabinet with four hard drives and in all its glory, the Cinema Display, through to most versions of the iPhone through to its latest incarnation the iPhone 7 Plus. And for that, another review at another time.

For now it’s about the simple transition from the MacBook Pro to the MacBook Pro with TouchBar. Yes as simple as that and perhaps a hard justification of the price tag of some £2,000 for a product to replace a perfectly functioning older machine that has been my companion for a total of 2,088 hours in the last year alone.

I have to admit that is quite a strong relationship and I still consider the 15 inch screen and nicely worn keyboard which silently accepts my rapid yet unusual typing style to be the standard by which I rate other devices.

So in steps the 2017 MacBook Pro 15 inch with retina screen and touch bar. Just how good is this machine?

Well fresh from the box and the unwrapping process that is now so much part of the Apple experience I am pleasantly surprised by the solid, weighty and confident feel. It does have the touch and gravitas that suggests there isn’t a millimetre of space to spare anywhere inside this gun metal finish case. The colour is truly awesome. A deep gun metal grey that is both contemporary and subtle and yet noticeable from a distance as something a little more special than the light aluminium gloss of the earlier models.

Opening the MacBook up and the two most noticeable differences are the size of the trackpad (significantly larger) and the reduced footprint of the keyboard. Now with my unusual typing style the balance works perfectly but I have heard reports from friends who say the balance takes a little getting used to with the keyboard feeling a little further away from the leading edge of the product.

But those are semantics and as with all new products the differences soon become the norm as your brain adjusts and normal service is resumed before you know it.

However there is something very different to previous machines and this is Apple’s Touch Bar. The intelligent, touch sensitive, illuminated, control bar which is in fact a mini-touch screen strip. The simple fact is that it’s a gorgeous piece of technology.

Very quickly you adjust your screen brightness and system volume with a swipe of your finger. As you move around the applications on your computer the Touch Bar adapts and offers up instantaneous suggestions for words, instructions and actions that you may find helpful. Each app is different and the Touch Bar is there almost within milliseconds to present to you touch sensitive options to speed up your transactions and interactions with your computer.

In the far right of the Touch Bar there is the Siri button that appears with most apps allowing for voice control and search. As I spend much of my working time in public spaces like cafes and trains I rarely use this feature which is a shame because it is so much more than a gimmick.

I mentioned earlier that the beauty of the human brain is that it quickly adjusts to new opportunities and features. However after nearly three months of living with the Touch Bar I honestly don’t think my behaviour has changed as much as I had hope and I rarely (in some apps, never) glance at the bar to see what options are available.

So can I really justify my upgrade to the latest MacBook Pro on the basis of the Touch Bar alone? The answer has to sadly be, no.

Can I justify it with Siri access to apps and search? Again, no.

Is my keypad nice and smooth and silent yet? No.

But do I love the robustness and finish of the new machine and am I happy that the operating system does actually feel as though it was properly designed for this version of the product? Yes.

So would I recommend the current Apple MacBook Pro 15 inch with retina screen and Touch Bar? Yes if this is your first Apple laptop product, but no if you have a perfectly working earlier model.

The choice is yours…. visit your local Apple Store and try one for yourself.

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