Hands on: 15-in. MacBook Pro delivers on speed and design – for a price

The new Touch Bar is much more than a gimmick, but its success depends on what developers do with it

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Are these the fastest cards on the market? No. But they're a good balance between capabilities and energy efficiency, and that's what is most important for Apple.

In real-world use, this computer is also faster than its specs would indicate. That has a lot to do with the speed of the internal architecture and the new storage system.

To compare, I ran a benchmark called Blackmagic Disk Speed Test and saw between 1.3GBps and 1.4GBps per second write speeds. Impressive. More impressive? The MacBook Pro pinned the needle at 2GBps for reads. Testing on the higher-end 15-in. model with a 2.7GHz i7 processor and 512GB of storage showed even faster write speeds, topping out at around 1.8GBps.

speedtest Ken Mingis

How fast is the MacBook Pro's SSD? The entry-level model hit 1.3GBps and 2.0+GBps in write/read tests. And results for the pricier model (shown here) were even faster.

I also duplicated several iMovie project libraries, and in the case of an 11GB project, a mid-2015 MacBook Pro was able to duplicate the file in slightly less than 20 seconds; this model accomplished the task in 12.5 seconds. For videographers, that's going to represent serious time savings on their work.

This amount of speed even helps a bit in offsetting the 16GB memory ceiling and would make any paging activity that occurs if you run short of RAM palatable. It also makes this laptop really fast.

My biggest complaint is, as noted earlier, that you can't update the hardware later. This laptop is frozen in time once you order it.

Trackpad touching

I love the new oversized trackpad; despite its size, it doesn't get in the way of typing. The built-in palm rejection software is choice, so the cursor never winds up being flung all over the display accidentally. But it also means you sometimes have to be careful when using multitouch gestures. I find I have to be a little bit more deliberate with some gestures. Scrolling with two fingers while resting my palm on the trackpad always works, but more elaborate gestures (like showing the Desktop or bringing up Launchpad) work more consistently when I raise my hand from the trackpad and <i>then</i> perform the gesture. That's leftover movement from using the smaller Trackpads in earlier MacBook Pros. Again, muscle memory is getting in the way.</p>

The speakers are better designed and sound good to my ears, especially for a device this thin, with robust highs and mid-ranges. You're not getting sound reproduction that will replace your living room system, but it is certainly a noticeable improvement over previous models.

When it comes to battery life, Apple says you've got 10 hours without needing a charge. That dovetails with what I've seen, though I did not do a rigorous test - largely because I haven't had to worry about battery life yet. I have been leaving the charger at work and then coming home and just using this laptop the rest of the night. Whether I've been editing video or writing reviews or browsing the web, the MacBook Pro's battery has lasted well into the early morning hours with a couple of hours of battery life to spare.

Bottom line

My biggest point of contention with this year's line-up has been that I thought Apple skimped on storage and RAM while boosting the entry price for the MacBook Pros with Touch Bar. I felt Apple was nickel and diming its customers, especially considering the company's average profit margins (over 38% last quarter).

After having spent time with this MacBook Pro -- as well as the 13-in. models with and without the Touch Bar -- I can say they offer great design, great real world speed and great build quality. You're paying good money, but at least you're paying for quality.

That said, there are drawbacks I'm not comfortable living with yet, such as the storage offered at current prices and the need for more dongles and adapters. Some users will be able to live with this; others who may not think much about their needs in two or three years could wind up regretting their purchase if they don't get enough storage. That's especially true since Apple's notebooks tend to last for many, many years. (My current MacBook Pro is four years old now and still going strong.)

I'm not quite ready to purchase a new MacBook Pro, but it's going to hurt -- a lot - not to do so. We'll see how long my resolve lasts when I go back to my old MacBook Pro. 

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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