MacBook Pro with Touch Bar Review Roundup: What You Need to Know

Apple’s new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is here, and it's getting mixed reviews. The laptop, which starts at $1,799 for the 13-inch model and $2,399 for the 15-inch version, comes with several compelling features, including Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, a revamped design that makes it notably smaller than its predecessors, and support for Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint scanner technology.

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The reason Apple calls the MacBook Pro its biggest computing innovation in a long time is its support for its Touch Bar. The feature, which sits above the MacBook Pro’s keyboard, is a multitouch glass strip that lets you interact with software with customized function buttons. It’s essentially Apple’s answer to touchscreens found in Windows-based laptops, and is aimed at making the experience of using the company’s new MacBook Pro far more appealing.

But does it actually achieve that goal? Can the Touch Bar really make customers want to plunk down thousands of dollars? Many reviewers have their complaints about the new MacBook Pro, but it might prove to be a winner. Here’s what several reviewers – including our very own editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer – have to say about Apple’s latest notebook.

Laptop Mag

Score: 3.5 stars out of 5

Laptop Mag editor in chief Mark Spoonauer took the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for a spin, and found its Touch Bar to be "innovative" and capable of delivering a "fresh way" for users to interact with the computer's software. He was also pleased to see a high-end display, a solid display, and listen to its "great speakers.

Still, there were some shortcomings in Apple's computer, including Apple's omission of a full-size USB port and SD card slot. He also noted that the smaller battery in this model delivers an hour less battery life than the entry-level, 13-inch MacBook Pro. In one of the most common complaints from reviewers, Spoonauer also noted that the MacBook Pro is expensive and the total cost of ownership will increase when dongles and adapters are thrown in.

In sum, he says the overall MacBook Pro experience doesn't quite match its price tag.

The Verge

Score: 7.6 out of 10 (13-inch); 8.2 out of 10 (15-inch)

It was a similar story over at The Verge, where reviewer Jacob Kastrenakes tried out Apple's latest machine. He, too, liked Apple's decision to reduce the MacBook Pro's size and make it more portable. He was also impressed with its "wonderfully vibrant screen." And overall, he says the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar can deliver a better experience than the 13-inch model.

However, he noted that the MacBook Pro is overpriced, and he believes the 13-inch version is "underpowered" for what folks are getting. What's more, the battery life is a little on the disappointing side, and he was displeased with the need for dongles to get the full computing experience. And while he liked the Touch Bar, he acknowledged that it still "needs time to grow" to reach its full potential.

Ars Technica

Score: None given

Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham was pleased with Apple's decision to bundle four Thunderbolt ports in the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, saying that they deliver far more convenience than users might think. He agreed with many others in saying the MacBook Pro's smaller design is nice, but broke from many other reviewers and believes the computer's battery life is "good." He was also pleased to find strong storage performance and called the device's stereo speakers "non-terrible."

However, he found several reasons to dislike the MacBook Pro. Chief among them is the MacBook Pro's "expensive" price tag. He also called the computer's need for adapters and dongles "inconvenient" and doesn't like Apple's decision to make it so hard to upgrade or repair the MacBook Pro.

Still, Cunningham ended with a parting thought that might make Apple feel a bit better, saying that he likes the MacBook Pro "a lot."


Score: 8 out of 10

One of the best features in the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is its much-larger trackpad, which Wired reviewer David Pierce says, can never be "too big." He also liked the MacBook Pro's ability to be charged from any of its four ports and says the machine is "prettier" than its predecessors. Perhaps most importantly, Pierce touted the Touch Bar, saying that it's "remarkably well-executed" and creates a better user experience than Apple computers lacking the feature.

On the other side, though, Pierce also took issue with the Touch Bar. He said that it still needs better customization features, and he believes it should come to the computer soon or risk the possibility of annoying fans. What's more, he questioned whether the use of USB Type-C in the machine was really a smart move, saying that most people just aren't ready to start using the technology. And like so many others, Pierce had trouble with the MacBook Pro's price: "Laptops aren't supposed to be this expensive, are they?"


Score: 4.5 out of 5

CNET's Dan Ackerman generally liked what he found in the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. He called the touch interface in the computer "inventive" and says it makes it easier to do work. What's more, he says, Touch Bar can save "clicks." Beyond Touch Bar, he was happy with the MacBook Pro's design, thought its components delivered better performance, and called the Touch ID inclusion "handy." And although it takes some getting used to, he thought the keyboard could ultimately prove to be an important addition.

There were a few gripes. Like the other reviewers, Ackerman didn't like the "hefty premium" customers would need to pay for Touch Bar, and acknowledged that many apps still don't work with the feature. He also noted the common complaint about dongles and adapters, and thought Apple should've offered "high-end graphics" in the 13-inch model. Still, he believes the 13-inch model is a worthy buy.


Score: 4 out of 5

Like the others, Macworld reviewer Susie Ochs acknowledged that the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is an expensive computer that some customers might not like spending so much cash on. However, Ochs was seriously impressed with the device's Touch Bar, which she says, is "surprisingly delightful to use." Ochs also likes the MacBook Pro's "thinner, sleeker case, and says that in general, the new MacBook Pros are "more fun to use." All of that makes the MacBook Pro the Apple computer to buy, Ochs says.

However, Ochs was quick to point out that the MacBook Pro is expensive and went so far as to say that their price is their "biggest weakness." The starting price is bad enough, she says, but add that to the extra $600 for 1TB of storage before any other customization is made, and the MacBook Pro's price can skyrocket. And although Ochs generally liked the MacBook Pro's new, smaller design, she was quick to point out that Apple's decision to remove the light-up Apple logo on the clamshell was a "bummer."


Score: 86 out of 100

Over at Engadget, reviewer Dana Wollman tried out the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. Like so many others, she thought the device comes with an "attractive" design that's both thinner and lighter. Wollman was also quick to note that the computer's Retina display is quite nice, and thought the disk speeds were impressive. Wollman also liked the Touch Bar and thought it had some promise, and believed the Touch ID fingerprint sensor could prove to be an important addition in the computer.

However, Wollman found the Touch Bar was a bit too easy to hit when trying to reach for the Delete key, and was displeased with Apple's decision to remove the SD card slot and only include USB-C ports. Add that to a disappointing battery life test and the lack of a MagSafe port for charging, and Wollman found the MacBook Pro to have its fair share of troubles. And in what might be the biggest complaint for the MacBook Pro, Wollman, like all the others, says the computer is just too expensive.

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