Review: Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (Touch Bar)

So I saved up all year, pinched those pennies and finally purchased a new computer in April. I go to school for Audio Recording and wanted a high quality laptop that was light to transport, yet powerful to handle the production aspects. I got the mid-tier 15″ MacBook Pro. I paid $2440 for it (thanks education discount) and was able to get Logic Pro X, Mainstage (great for the blues ensemble performances where I had to switch between bass, keyboards, and acoustic guitar, sometimes during the same song), and the film editing apps for $200 extra.

The computer itself is super light. I had an HP that weighed almost as much as my Les Paul. It was so heavy that most days, I wouldn’t take it to school with me, instead leaving it at home and using the computers in the library if I needed to. The MacBook is looks great in space grey (I notice Apple is pushing their “Pro” lines in space grey, looking at the new iMac Pro). The screen is bright, and incredibly hi-def.

Replacing the typical USB 3.0 ports are Thunderbolt 2 or USB-C Ports, which look and function a lot smoother than their predecessors. They have 64 pins in each port, which means data transfer is incredibly quick. On my HP when I wanted to update my Line 6 Helix, I knew that it would be a 30-40 minute process. The first time I updated it with my MacBook, I was done in 5 minutes. However, I did need to buy some USB-USB C converters or else buy all new cables for my electronics (something I may do anyways). There is also no typical charging port, with the computer now charging through the USB C ports, which means that if you need to charge your computer, you have 3 ports now rather than 4 to use.

The speakers built in sound good enough for listening to music. Previously, I would almost have to have a pair of headphones on to listen to any of the computers that I used to own, but these don’t suck, and actually have a fairly nice amount of bass response. I wouldn’t use them as my primary monitors or anything, but for listening, they’re enjoyable enough.

The keyboard is nice enough. It’s a bit more shallow than I’m used to, so typing feels a bit stiff, but I’m getting used to it. The touchpad is amazing. Very large and super responsive. I used to use a mouse when working on music with my HP because the touchpad just left so much to be desired. I went to a buddy’s house to show him Logic (he’s using FL Studio) and he offered me a mouse and I said no. Once he started working on something in Logic, he saw why.

The TouchBar is the newest addition to the Mac Pro, and an addition that you need to get one of the more expensive models to have. It takes the place of the Function keys (F1-F12) and the esc key, although you can access the Functions through the fn key at the bottom of the keyboard. It also contains your volume slider, brightness slider, mute key, and whatever else you want it to display, including Siri. When you’re typing, the bar anticipates the rest of the word that you may want, similar to what most cell phones do these days. The Bar is customizable. I noticed that I would often hit the Siri button, and as I rarely want to use her except to call her bad names and watch her react, I took that button off my bar and replaced it with a “Display Desktop” function. In Logic Pro, I have it set up to allow me to adjust levels for the current track, without having to go into the mixer.

I do like the Touchbar but I often don’t even notice it, to be honest. I like that Apple is trying to allow the user to customize one of the most important aspects of a computer, the keyboard area, I just don’t know that the Touchbar is the right answer. It gets in the way sometimes, and I find myself accidentally hitting it rather than the number or backspace keys that I want, although this may change. It seems like Apple wanted a game changing user interface and this was the best that they could come up with. However, this is a new idea, so let’s see how the market and OS X updates react with it.

Overall, I like my MacBook. It looks great, works well, and I don’t dread having it in my backpack due to weight. As far as whether or not I’d recommend it, well that depends. I think of the Pro as being aimed towards the creative industry people- the studio engineer who wants to mix a project in his home studio, the CGI artist who needs to take his work with him on a plane to the next Marvel Studios meeting, the photographer who wants to edit my big dumb face out of the pictures I photobombed (it was a fun wedding).

My sister just got a 13″ MacBook Pro (the 2016 model as well) from my grandmother as a gradutation gift (she got a 4.2 GPA in high school, super proud of her). Emily is going to study history and English before hopefully (definitely) going to law school. I don’t know that I would have gotten her the MacBook Pro. Sure, she’s gonna be a professional and a damn smart one, but she’s going to be writing papers, doing research, and putting together power points, all of which can be easily handled by the standard MacBook or the Air, and at a cheaper price to boot. I would never tell someone that they can’t spend their money on something, but I would definitely question it.

Rating: 8.5/10-
Pros include the light weight of such a powerful machine, bright screen, ease of use, and Logic Pro (which is reason enough to buy any Mac cause fuck Pro Tools).
Cons include having to buy USB C adapters, charging through the USB port is cool but takes up a port, the TouchBar isn’t a game changer like most thought.

Recommended for the creative type who needs a powerful computer to work on while traveling, at home, or can’t fit a 27″ iMac Pro (I had to change my pants when I saw it had 128 GB of RAM, expect a review of that, because I’m gonna sell my kidney to get one) in their small apartment.

Not recommended for someone who plans on doing typical computer stuff like working on papers, slide shows, or surfing the web.