MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (15-inch) Review Editor's Choice

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Sleek, travel-friendly design; Fast overall performance; Gorgeous Retina display; Snappy, comfortable keyboard; Great battery life

The Cons

Frustrating port selection; Runs a bit warm; No major changes from previous models

Verdict

The latest 15-inch MacBook Pro packs a gorgeous Retina display, innovative Touch Bar and speedy Kaby Lake CPU into an impossibly slim design.

There's not a whole lot new about the latest 15-inch MacBook Pro ($2,799 as reviewed, $2,399 to start), though you can argue that there doesn't really need to be. Apple's notebook for power users still packs a gorgeous 15-inch Retina display and innovative Touch Bar controls into an impossibly slim design. And thanks to Intel's latest Kaby Lake processors, the MacBook Pro has gotten even faster.

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However, while the latest MacBook Pro retains what makes Apple's professional notebook great, it also preserves the laptop's few flaws. The Pro's limited port selection makes it hard to get work done without a myriad of dongles, and it still doesn't feel like the Touch Bar has quite reached its full potential yet. But if you're looking for the fastest, most feature-rich MacBook out there, this is it.

Stunning Design, Stunted Ports

Apple's highest-end laptop looks more like a MacBook Air these days, with stunningly slim edges that measure in at just 0.61 inches. That puts it right on a par with the Dell XPS 15 and Microsoft's new Surface Laptop (both 0.6 inches), and is notably slimmer than the Razer Blade Pro (0.88 inches).

The MacBook Pro's sleek aluminum chassis is travel-friendly at 4 pounds, but still feels sturdy and substantial enough to give you a sense that it's made for serious work. I really dig the Space Gray color our unit came in, though there's also a nice-looking Silver option for those who prefer lighter shades.

However, the MacBook Pro's sheer slimness comes at the cost of some convenience. The notebook's port selection is made up entirely of four USB-C connections (as well as a headphone jack), which future-proofs it for the latest accessories but makes using just about anything else a pain.

Want to plug in your iPhone charger or any other traditional USB cable? You'll need a $9 USB-C to USB adapter. Need to copy some files to an SD card? Get ready to cough up at least $11 for a USB-C SD reader. The Pro's hidden costs add up fast, especially for power users who will need access to all types of storage drives, displays and Ethernet cables.

Touch Bar

While I still wouldn't call the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar absolutely essential, it does a lot of neat tricks -- and is simply a ton of fun to use. Replacing the traditional row of function keys, the Touch Bar is an LED strip whose controls will morph on the fly based on whichever app you're using.

I got the most use out of the Touch Bar while flipping through Safari tabs -- it was really nice to see a visual preview of each page I had open. I also appreciated how the bar would provide autofill options any time I was typing, and how easy it was to fast-forward and rewind a video by simply sliding my finger. Creative users could get a ton of use out of the Touch Bar once they mastered it; for example, you can adjust the volume settings of individual GarageBand instruments with a few taps, or quickly split up clips in iMovie without using the touchpad.

However, I don't see the Touch Bar becoming a true game-changer until a lot more third-party apps add supports for it. It currently works with programs such as Photoshop and Microsoft Office, but I'd love to be able to use it with non-Apple browsers such as Chrome -- or even to get some extra control options in my favorite Steam games.

MORE: Siri vs. Alexa: Why Amazon Won Our 300-Question Showdown

Display

The latest MacBook Pro's 15-inch, 2500 x 1600 Retina display is predictably beautiful. On-screen text looked thick and handwritten, and the snowy Sierra mountains in the notebook's default background was startlingly true-to-life.

The notebook made a great showpiece for the latest Wonder Woman trailer. Every shot burst with color, from the flowery fields that a young Diana Prince rode her horse through to the fiery battlefields that she beat up bad guys in as an adult.

The MacBook Pro's impressive color performance was backed up by our lab tests, in which the notebook reproduced an impressive 126.4 percent of the sRGB color gamut with a Delta E accuracy rating of 0.2 (closer to 0 is better). That makes it both more colorful and accurate than the HP Spectre x360 (113, 3.47), but not quite as vibrant as the Dell XPS 15 (188, 1.4).

The Pro registered an ultraluminous 460 nits of brightness on our light meter, outshining the XPS 15 (282 nits), the Spectre x360 (255 nits) and our  average for mainstream notebooks (275).

Audio

The MacBook Pro's speakers are impressively booming, offering satisfying bass and crunchy treble. The menacing guitars and rollicking double bass drums of the Doom soundtrack sounded extra punchy on Apple's laptop. When I made a full 180 to the sunny pop vibes of Paramore's "Rose Colored Boy," I was treated to bouncy bass, bright guitars and especially smooth vocals.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The MacBook keyboard continues to blow my mind by offering seemingly shallow keys that feel better than any I've used on a notebook. Whether I was cramming away at a Google Doc or firing off a quick email, everything felt wonderfully snappy and comfortable. Despite a short travel of 0.81 millimeters, the keys made it easy for me to blaze through the Key Hero Typing Test at 98 wpm with near-perfect accuracy and zero finger strain.

I still have a hard time believing that the laptop's Force Touch trackpad has no actual click button, because the haptic feedback it provides is incredibly satisfying. The trackpad's pressure-sensitive functions, such as hard-pressing on a website to preview it, all felt intuitive. While the touchpad is comically huge at 6.1 x 3.8 inches, it left me plenty of room for comfortably navigating web pages and performing gesture-based shortcuts.

MORE: Our Favorite Gaming Keyboards

Performance and Graphics: Now with Kaby Lake

I already knew the MacBook Pro would be a multitasking beast -- the notebook chewed through my heavy routine of running a dozen Chrome tabs and five Twitch streams while downloading an app and streaming music. But how much of a bump does it get from its new Kaby Lake series Core i7 CPU?

A pretty solid one, it turns out. Our 15-inch Pro netted a 15,170 on the Geekbench 4 general performance test, making a notable improvement over last year's model (13,215) while also topping the Dell XPS 15 (13,911; Core i7-7700HQ), the Spectre x360 (8,017; Core i7-7500U) and our  mainstream notebook average (11,068).

The MacBook Pro's 512GB SSD copied about 5GB of files in just 7.6 seconds, for a blazing transfer rate of 653.9 MBps. That trumps the XPS 15's 512GB SSD (339.28), the Spectre x360's 512GB SSD (282.13) and our  average (302.84).

Packing discrete Radeon 560 graphics, the MacBook Pro is well-equipped for graphic-intensive tasks as well as some light gaming. The notebook ran the racing game Dirt 3 at a buttery- smooth 76.49 frames per second, topping last year's Radeon 455-powered model (60 fps) and the Spectre x360 (29 fps; GeForce 940MX), as well as our  mainstream laptop average (53 fps).

MORE: Which GPU is Right For You

Software

The new MacBook Pro ships with the same macOS Sierra software that first launched last year, which means you can look forward to talking to Siri, making Apple Pay payments with your fingerprint, and using your iPhone to unlock your laptop. The Mac experience will soon get even better with macOS High Sierra, which will offer a safer and faster Safari, smoother overall performance and support for virtual-reality applications. You can try out the public beta now, or wait for the full thing this fall.

Webcam

The MacBook Pro's 720p FaceTime camera is as solid as ever, though it feels like time for Apple to make an upgrade. The shooter did a fine job accurately capturing my blue shirt and skin tone, but there was some pretty clear pixelation in my selfies -- even under decent lighting in our lab.

Battery Life

WIth the 15-inch MacBook Pro's impressive endurance, you can leave your charger at home. The laptop lasted a full 10 hours and 59 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That's far ahead of the mainstream laptop category average (6:52), the Dell XPS 15 (8:23) and the HP Spectre x360 (8:36). Last year's MacBook Pro endured for 10 hours and 32 minutes.

MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Heat

The MacBook Pro's beastly performance comes with a caveat: it can get a little warm. After 15 minutes of streaming HD video, the notebook's touchpad rose to a manageable 81 degrees. However, the keyboard got too hot for our 95-degree comfort threshold at 96.5 degrees, and the laptop's underside came dangerously close at 94 degrees.

Configurations

The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts at $2,399, which gets you a 15.4-inch, 2880 x 1800 display; a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7 processor; 16GB of RAM; a 256GB PCIe SSD; and Radeon Pro 555 graphics. You can upgrade the storage to 512GB ($200), 1TB ($600) or 2TB ($1,400), as well as bump the graphics to a Pro 560 ($100) and the CPU to a 3.1-GHz Core i7 ($300).

We reviewed the higher-end $2,799 model, which includes a faster 2.9-GHz Core i7 CPU, a 512GB SSD and Radeon Pro 560 graphics. As with the $2,399 model, you can shell out for more storage or a faster CPU clock.

Bottom Line

If you've been on the fence about getting a MacBook Pro, now's a better time than ever to get one. Apple's highest-end notebook crams a ton of power into a wonderfully slim design, and its 15-inch Retina display is a beautifully bright canvas for getting work done or just kicking back with movies. While not absolutely essential, the Touch Bar opens up a whole bunch of neat control options that make the Mac even more intuitive and fun to use.

The latest MacBook Pro delivers a slight performance bump with its Kaby Lake CPUs, but it's not a drastic enough change to warrant an upgrade from anyone who owns last year's model. There are lots of outstanding Windows alternatives out there -- the Dell XPS 15 packs a 4K touch screen for hundreds of dollars less, while Microsoft's Surface Book ($1,499 starting) offers a detachable display that's great for drawing and note-taking. Still, for creative professionals and power users that prefer macOS, Apple's most powerful MacBook Pro is hard to top.

CPU 2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i7,
Operating System macOS Sierra
RAM 16GB
RAM Upgradable to
Hard Drive Size 512GB
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type PCIe SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 15.4
Highest Available Resolution
Native Resolution 2800x1800
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card AMD Radeon Pro 560
Video Memory 4GB
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 6.1 x 3.9
Ports (excluding USB) USB-C
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
USB Ports
Warranty/Support One year limited-warranty
Size 13.75 x 9.48 x 0.61 inches
Weight 4 pounds
Company Website www.apple.com
Add a comment
18 comments
  • Nitesh Singh Says:

    Hard drive speed test shows one label called "DO NOT USE" ;)

  • Fernando Scheps - ITCentralPoint.com Says:

    Personally, I think this is a very nice machine and I am planning to buy one to return to the Mac world.
    I´ve had the 2013 MacBook Pro 15 int the past as my first and only Mac till now. Then I sold it 2 years later and decided to go back to Windows.
    I purchased the XPS 15 9550 and it was a disaster, long ago were the times were Dell was offering good support, I even purchased a Thunderbolt 3 dock at the time which never arrived to me because they cancelled the shipment due to a recall. The machine had screen flickering when in lowest brightness, the dedicated video card never works properly and all videos where flickering. A technician came to my house, changed screen and motherboard, all the same problems. I sent it back.
    The I tested the Ms. Surface Pro 4 and it was OK in general without the extra power and dedicated graphics card, still was behaving strangely when using the Ms. Dock and an external Dell screen, returned the Surface Pro 4 and bought an Asus UX501VW which was the closest to what I was looking for, out of the box one of the keys on the keyboard failed and when pressed too on the side the key would remain tilt. Then there is this annoying noise called "Coil Whine" that sounds like an old hard drive, (I have 2 SSD´s so I know its not from that) and contacted Intel about it, they said I need to talk with Asus. I contacted Asus, they told me they are not able to guarantee that this problem wouldnt occur in another model. I have to execute warranty on this thing and then sell it.

    As you can see, I purchased the top recommended options of Windows computers and was unsatisfied with all of them. I could test the Razer Blade which looks very good, but its as expensive as the Macbook Pro, so I am going for the later again.

    The build quality of the Apple MacBook Pro has no competitor. Hope to see a company building high quality products with long warranty by default due to its confidence on their building quality. I just wished they would incorporate the 1060 Nvidia cards instead of ATI Radeon...

    I just hope I can get used to MacOS again when at work I need to work with Windows (still 7).

    Or maybe I just use the Mac for everything :)

    Fingers crossed.

  • Hick M Says:

    MacBook Pro 2017 here. The battery life is a blatant lie from Apple's part. No matter what I do, in normal use I can't extract more than 4h of battery life (and that is if I'm lucky).

  • Mike C Says:

    I've had the 15 this machine for about 6 months now. It works OK. I appreciate its lightness, the sound is great and like the wide color gamut screen. Its not a fast machine as far as comparisons with PCs go and one can't realistically do video editing on it without being attached to power and cooking the bottom. This said, my beef with as a BUSINESS machine is twofold 1) it is so difficult to put together and repair, that when it goes give trouble, it takes awhile to fix. I had a broken key and Apple Care failed me big time compared to what was available 5-10 years ago. (You can't just replace a key, they have to change the entire top case and that's a messy job). 2) the non-standard ports cost me big time. I was giving a presentation at a convention which uncharacteristically used HDMI outputs. My VGA dongle could not be patched to the system and fortunately there was a nearby Apple Store that was only too happy to swallow up 73 bucks. All in all, I'm neutral about this machine. My old 2014 MBP Retina serves as a trusty backup. I would strongly suggest to Apple to rethink its 'thin is better philosophy'. Business users might be willing to trade off on that for a more robust machine which is less of a hassle to repair and to connect to.

  • Karlos Rodriquez Says:

    LOL they're not leaving anyone behind, more like dragging people forward into the future. Before you trolls bash this magnificent piece of engineering, name one laptop that makes a close alternative. Trick question -
    There isn't any!

  • Joe Napp Says:

    I've been using my 2016 Macbook Pro 15" (with every option possible) for a few months and I cannot believe how much slower it is than my late 2013 MBP. I'm going back to it and giving the 2016 to my wife.

  • peter magu Says:

    mac book pro is suitable but try and upgrade on processor

  • BiggusDickus Says:

    The TouchBar is actually OLED, not LED which is incorrectly stated in your summary.

  • Comrade L Says:

    What kind of site is this who doesn't correct an error signaled by a reader for three weeks ? Your comparison with XPS 15 4K gamut is grossly mistaken. XPS 15 4K has 100% sRGB and 90% AdobeRGB as measured by another site.

  • Eric T Says:

    "The Pro's 6.1 x 3.9-inch trackpad looks comically large on this new model, but I enjoyed having plenty of space to pinch to zoom or use multi-finger gestures to flip between windows."

    Exactly what I thought, but I actually found it inconveniently large intruding on where I would normally rest my hand and having to use the side of the trackpad rather than the middle for navigation.

  • Comrade L Says:

    mistake in comparation: XPS 15 the 4K version doesn't have only 72% sRGB as you said it yourself here @http://www.laptopmag.com/reviews/laptops/dell-xps-15

  • Rico Viqueira Says:

    In your "configurations" section you mention this, "...2.2-GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, Intel Iris Pro Graphics and two USB-C ports. This version only comes in Silver." when talking about the 2015 model. It does not have USB-C ports.

  • Patts Says:

    Pamm, when was the last time you bought a laptop, 15 years ago? IBM no longer makes laptops! Thinkpads do not = IBM. They're crappy Chinese products now with spyware preinstalled.

  • John D Says:

    @James it's neither. It's OLED - not LED or LCD.

  • Magnus M Says:

    One cool thing about the USB-C is that you can use a hub/dock which connects to a monitor, charger, printer, SD, and Ethernet with more. Then you only need to connect one single USB-C cable to your MacBook, and it instantly changes and is connected to all your devices.

  • Pamm M Says:

    Seem to me that they are leaving the professional people behind. We still use the ethernet port and for some things wi-fi. USB port too. We have used MAC's since 1985, but overall, I have to now re-think what to upgrade to. MAC or shudder IBM.

  • James Says:

    Great review. At the end you called it an LED strip which I think you have confused with LCD strip ;)

  • Benjamin Gaudet Says:

    You should not compare Mac Book Pro 15 Cinebench performance with XPS 13, but XPS15 i7 (GTX 960M): 147 Points (Mac Book : 79)
    XPS 13.

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