MacBook Pro Overview Updated August 24, 2016

MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro family currently includes two separate product lines: the MacBook Pro ($1,099 and up from the Apple Store) and the MacBook Pro with Retina display ($1,299 and up). Apple is clearly focusing all its attention on the Retina models, as the standard MacBook Pro hasn’t been updated in years.

Premiered in 2012 as a successor to the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display is sold in 13.3″ (2560×1600-pixel) and 15.4″ (2880×1800-pixel) versions, the latter at a $700 premium. Both models are lighter than the regular 13″ MacBook Pro, with the 13.3″ Retina Pro weighing only half a pound more than the 13.3″ MacBook Air. These models require few performance compromises: they have faster Core i5 and i7 processors than any other Apple laptop, much higher-resolution (and more color-accurate) screens, twin Thunderbolt 2 and twin USB 3 ports, plus an HDMI port and dual noise-canceling microphones.

As of the last (March 2015) hardware update, the 13″ Retina MacBook Pro starts with a dual-core 2.7GHz Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM, and features 10-hour battery life. By comparison, the 15.4″ Retina MacBook Pro was updated in May 2015, sporting a quad-core 2.2GHz Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM, now with up to 9 hours of battery life. Both Retina models feature Force Touch pressure-sensitive/haptic feedback trackpads, plus 802.11ac wireless, but continue to lack DVD/CD drives and mechanical hard drives in favor of 128GB to 1TB of flash storage.

First released in 2006 and last redesigned in 2008, the non-Retina MacBook Pro was at one time known as the “MacBook,” and is currently available only in a 13″ version. Thicker and 1/3 heavier than the 13.3″ MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro includes a substantially faster Intel Core i5 processor, offset by a much slower 500GB hard drive and a lower-resolution 1280×800 screen. It is now the only Apple laptop with a DVD/CD drive, integrated FireWire 800 port, and Gigabit Ethernet port, all features dropped from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina Display. However, while it has two USB 3 ports and a Thunderbolt 1 port, it lacks HDMI output, 802.11ac wireless, and Force Touch, delivering only 7 hours of battery life.

The MacBook Pro with Retina display remains Apple’s best overall performer for the dollar, laptop or otherwise. Though more expensive and a little larger than the MacBook Air, it delivers much more horsepower and a hugely better screen; there are even reasons to prefer the Retina MacBook Pro over an iMac for daily use unless you really need a much larger (and non-portable) display.

Apple is rumored to release a new MacBook Pro in late 2016.

296 MacBook Pro stories

August 2010 - August 2016

MacBook Pro Stories August 24

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Apple has supported USB 3.1 since 2015’s single-port MacBook release, but both it and the updated 2016 model feature the Gen 1 flavor of USB 3.1. Despite its name, USB 3.1 Gen 1 is basically rebranded USB 3.0, also known as SuperSpeed USB. That means that like USB 3.0, transfer speeds max out at 5 Gbps.

With the upcoming release of macOS Sierra, however, there are strong indications that rumored new Mac hardware will support faster USB 3.1 Gen 2 speeds. expand full story

A Kickstarter campaign which got fully-funded on day one is offering a choice of two external GPUs for MacBook Pros that offer up to ten times the performance of the top-end built-in one. Connected via Thunderbolt 2 or 3, the Wolfe Pro gets you an NVIDIA GTX 970 GPU for $599, with estimated delivery in March 2017.

The GTX 970 has 1664 cores operating at 1050MHz, for a peak computing power of 3.49 teraflops, with rendering speeds almost ten times higher than a maxed-out 15-inch MacBook Pro with AMD R9 M370X GPU. Frame rates exceed 70 frames per second, creating a machine suitable for high-end gaming and VR applications.

The company also promises that backers will be given the option of upgrading to the even more powerful GTX 1060 when available …

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MacBook Pro Stories August 11

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There has been a lot of talk about the OLED touch bar rumored for the upcoming MacBook Pro refresh expected this fall. But how exactly will the touchscreen work for users?

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MacBook Pro Stories August 10

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MacBook Pro concept by Martin Hajek
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A new Bloomberg report says that the new range of MacBook Pro models will have a smaller footprint than existing models, and will be thinner but not adopt the wedge shape of the MacBook Air and 12-inch MacBook. The trackpad is also slightly wider than current models. All of the info  lines up with previous reports and a set of leaked shells from earlier this year.

The machines are said to already be ‘in advanced testing’ but will not launch until after the iPhone event in September, confirming earlier reports that said that the laptops were scheduled for release in quarter four.

The report also confirms what we’d speculated about the OLED touch strip replacing the function keys …

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MacBook Pro Stories August 8

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Asked why Apple had never made a touchscreen Mac, Steve Jobs said back in 2010 that it would be a usability fail.

We’ve done tons of user testing on this, and it turns out it doesn’t work. Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical. It gives great demo, but after a short period of time you start to fatigue, and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off.

There’s no doubt that he was right – if you’re talking about a primary form of input. For computers, a trackpad or mouse is just a better solution.

But the distinction between a computer and a tablet today is much fuzzier, with even Apple touting the iPad Pro with keyboard a full PC replacement. And it appears we’ll be seeing a new touch interface on future MacBook Pros, in the form of a touch-sensitive OLED function-key panel and Touch ID power button.

So has the time come to look again at a touchscreen MacBook … ?

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A source who has provided reliable information in the past has informed us that the new MacBook Pro models, expected to be launched in the fall, will feature a Touch ID power button as well as the previously-reported OLED touch-sensitive function keys.

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