For me, this upgrade isn’t enough. I’ve never been a fan of Apple’s flat butterfly switch keys, since they have no depth. If Microsoft can squeeze a decent amount of key travel out of the Surface keyboard cover, Apple has no excuse. Instead, it seems more intent on trying to replicate the feeling of typing on an iOS virtual keyboard in the real world.
We tested the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which features Apple’s mainstay 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display. The resolution hasn’t changed over the past few years, but at least the display can finally take advantage of Apple’s True Tone technology, which made its debut on the iPad Pro, and which relies on an ambient light sensor to change the white balance of the screen and Touch Bar depending on your environment. That’s meant to make screens appear more natural, as if you were looking at a piece of white paper. Again, we’ve seen it on iOS devices before, and it’s helpful on the Mac in reducing screen fatigue.
In more disappointing news, since the MacBook Pro has the same case as before, we’re still stuck with four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connections. At least that seems less egregious than it did two years ago. You won’t have to try too hard to find USB-C cables and accessories these days, but it would still be nice to have one traditional USB port and an SD card reader. That would be useful for creative workers who invested in expensive accessories and now have to lug around bundles of dongles. The Touch Bar is, well, the Touch Bar. It’s useful sometimes, but I still miss the reliability of physical function keys.
The biggest upgrades are under the hood: Apple is finally using Intel’s eighth-generation Core processors, which launched last year. The 13-inch model features quad-core i5 and i7 chips with Turbo Boost speeds up to 4.5GHz, while the 15-incher has six-core i7 and i9 processors that can reach 4.8GHz. The bigger model can also be configured with more elaborate hardware, including up to 32GB of RAM; a 4TB SSD; and dedicated Radeon Pro 560X graphics. In comparison, the 13-inch machine maxes out with 16GB of RAM; a 2TB SSD; and integrated Intel Iris Plus 655 graphics.
Finally, the laptops feature Apple’s T2 chip, which makes booting and file encryption more secure by bringing things like the audio and SSD controllers into a single location. It also lets you shout “Hey Siri” to a Mac for the first time. Voice commands work about as well as they do on the iPhone and iPad, but you’ll have to shout if you’re far from the computer. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t add any far-field microphones to make it easier to talk to Siri from far away. That’s a shame, since we’re seeing it on Windows laptops like the Dell XPS 13. Siri also isn’t very smart on Macs: If you have an iPhone nearby, she’ll pop up on both devices and get confused whenever you shout a voice command.