The first MacBook Pro with Touch Bar models are arriving, and if you were encouraged by the removable SSD OWC found in the entry-level machine, there’s bad news. Owners who have opened them up are finding that the SSD chips in the Touch Bar machines are permanently soldered to the logic board.

This means that, like the 12-inch MacBook, the SSD size you order from Apple is the capacity you’re going to be stuck with for the life of the machine, so you may want to take a fresh look at those rather eye-watering upgrade prices.

The SSD chips are beneath some shielding, but one owner was brave enough to remove it to peek beneath …

While we’ll need to await professional teardowns to verify the identification of the claimed SSD chips (seen in the photo below), this does so far appear to be the consensus on a forum post.

It should be noted that although Apple’s SSD upgrade prices seem extreme, it is using the very latest generation of high-speed NVMe PCIe SSDs, which are frighteningly expensive no matter who you buy them from. And crazy fast.

With the shielding removed, these appear to be the SSD chips

With the shielding removed, these appear to be the SSD chips

Owners have also been noticing something odd about the innards of the new machines: the multiple battery cells all appear to have quite large gaps around them. One Imgur user drew particular attention to this in a series of open-case photos, speculating that Apple may have limited their size to hit a weight target.

The batteries look comically small. The two cells under the trackpad look the smallest in their slots [with] finger-sized ‘moats’ all around the batteries […] Looks like they shrunk the battery as much as possible to hit that 4lb figure.

This photo gives a closer look at those gaps around the batteries.


While there may be many valid technical reasons for having air-gaps around the battery cells, such as allowing room for the batteries to expand, or limiting heat build-up inside the otherwise tightly-packed casing, the discovery is likely to spark controversy given that multiple reviewers have been reporting that they were unable to get anywhere close to Apple’s claimed 10-hour battery-life…and that Apple’s weight specs on these are coincidentally rounded to 3/4lbs.

The figures manufacturers use for claimed battery-life are always under somewhat ideal conditions, usually with reduced screen brightness and continuous use, rather than the more realistic sleep/wake/sleep/wake pattern of mobile use. Apple’s website says that both 13- and 15-inch models offer ‘up to 10 hours wireless web’ or ‘iTunes movie playback.’ All the same, the gap between Apple’s claims are reviewer reports is a significant one.

For example, The Verge reported 5-6 hours.

Apple promises 10 hours, but our tests fell far short of that. Battery life averaged around five and a half hours while I used the 13-inch unit to do my work, which consists of keeping open Slack, Safari, Mail, TweetBot, and TextEdit, watching the occasional YouTube video, and opening various Apple apps here and there for testing. That’s worse than the new Surface Book, which got between six and eight hours of battery life in our use, and it’s significantly worse than last year’s MacBook Pro, which our reviewer got around 10 hours out of on a charge.

Business Insider reported 8 hours under ideal conditions, 6 hours in normal use.

On Apple’s specs sheet for the new MacBook Pro, the company says the laptop gets up to 10 hours of use on a single battery charge. But in my tests with the 13-inch model with Touch Bar, I only got about eight hours if I kept the screen brightness at a lower level. I got a little over six hours with the brightness all the way up, my preferred setting.

That’s a shame because Apple historically advertised battery times that were much more aligned with real usage, even chastising other companies for exaggerating their claims.

If you’ve already received your machine, please let us know in the comments the battery-life you see in real-life use once you’ve had the chance to measure it.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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