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Macbook Pro 2017 long-term review: Full thoughts on Apple’s 15-inch Touch Bar laptop

We’ve spent over three months with the latest Macbook Pro model and our long-term review reveals the highs and lows of that time with Apple’s super-powered laptop.

At the end of 2016, Apple launched its latest range of Macbook Pro laptops. Featuring a snazzy context-sensitive Touch Bar and powerful specs, the 15-inch model is Apple’s most impressive creative device to date, built with more demanding users in mind. We were certainly won over in our original review, published over three months ago

We’ve used the new 15-inch Macbook Pro on a near daily basis since the beginning of 2017, for both work and for play. Here’s our long-term thoughts on this premium laptop and whether you should splash out on the Touch Bar model.

Read next: What’s new in the latest 2017 Macbook Pro?

Desirable design

Some manufacturers come close, but Apple is still the governor when it comes to gorgeous laptop design. The latest Macbook Pro is just as stunning as ever, not to mention impressively slender. Surrounding the screen you get quite slim bezels, so the height and width aren’t too imposing, while the device isn’t much thicker than your average pencil.

Certainly, three months of carrying the 1.8kg Pro in my backpack hasn’t left its impression on my spine. This laptop is lighter than many of the mid-range laptops I end up lugging around, while also remaining significantly thinner.

So far the device seems reassuringly resistant to damage too. I haven’t dropped the Macbook Pro and have tried my best to handle it with care, but by now I’d expect to see a few light scratches, scuffs and the rest. In fact, give the surface a quick polish and it’s just as fresh as the day I pulled it from the box.

A new way to interact

Apple’s fresh new enormous touchpad remains one of the best I’ve ever used, period. Switching from the Macbook Pro to any other laptop, I find I get frustrated with constantly having to lift my finger to move the cursor across the screen. With Apple’s latest laptop, that’s never an issue. And while my palms frequently stray onto the touchpad’s surface, the Pro is smart enough to ignore these unintentional sweeps.

As mentioned in my original review, I did disable the touchpad’s Force Touch compatibility after just a couple of days. My standard taps are a little on the hard side, so they were often confused with Force Touch pokes instead. I tried turning it on again a month later, but with the same result; thank the Apple gods you can tweak the gesture settings in Mac OS.

I’m still very fond of the Macbook Pro’s spacious keyboard, too. This seems to be perfectly sized and spaced for fast touch typing, with minimal mistakes as you go. However, there is one problem with the board and that’s the volume of each key press. Type at any kind of serious speed and a quiet room will be filled with a loud and disruptive clack, clack noise. This is particularly grating if you’re in a meeting or some other quiet room, attracting raised eyebrows from your colleagues as your fingers dance across the board.

The only solution I have found is to really slow down my typing and force myself to tap the keys as gently as possible. However, even this produces a louder noise than most other laptop keyboards.

One of the major new features of Apple’s latest Macbook Pro is of course the Touch Bar housed above the keyboard. I’ve already fully reviewed the Touch Bar and after three months I’m still a fan.

While the Touch Bar alone isn’t reason enough for upgrading to this model, it’s a great little tool for creative users. Interacting with the likes of Final Cut is a more pleasurable experience thanks to the ability to quickly skim through timelines. And if you’re useless at remembering shortcuts, the ability to add these to the bar is a great feature.

Read next: Touch Bar tips, tricks and how to set it up

Dazzling display

The Macbook Pro is ideal for work purposes, but also a great way to unwind on the commute or at the end of a long day. That’s thanks to the rather spiffing 15-inch display.

Visuals are absolutely stunning, with seriously impressive contrast levels and natural colours to make your movies, photos and everything else really shine. A small group can happily sit back and enjoy a film on that spacious screen, especially thanks to the wide viewing angles.

Plus, working or playing on the go has never been easier. That 500 nits display is perfectly clear, even in direct sunlight, so I’ve never once had to squint to see what was going on.

You don’t even need to connect any external speakers when enjoying films, music and other media. The dual blasters which run either side of the keyboard are pleasingly powerful, easily filling a kitchen or lounge with audio on top volume. That’s even counting lots of background clamour, including boiling kettles and angry cats. Sound quality is strong, even at maximum volume. Clarity is perfect and audio is accurately reproduced, shunning the need for headphones.

Smooth operator

As you’d expect from one of Apple’s Pro laptops, the latest Macbook Pro is one seriously powerful beast. We reviewed the top-end model with a Core i7 chipset, 16GB of RAM and a Radeon Pro 460 GPU. This is capable of editing 4K video in the likes of Final Cut with no slowdown whatsoever, not to mention any other graphically intensive task we threw its way.

You can also kick back with some of the latest games, in your well-earned downtime. In fact, it takes some serious resource-sucking titles to make the Pro struggle at all. Most games can be played with detail levels cranked right up and only the likes of Obduction have required a scaling back of the graphics.

That’s not to say the Macbook Pro never stumbles, of course. I’ve seen a few crashes here and there over the past three months, two of which have required a hard reboot to correct.

When I first reviewed the Macbook Pro, I was getting around four hours of mixed use on a single charge. Thankfully the battery seems to have ‘settled’ since that first fortnight and now I get closer to five full hours per charge. That includes some light gaming, a bit of media editing, Netflix streaming and other bits. Battery health is still at one hundred percent and hopefully there won’t be any issues with efficiency and charge over time.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to extend the Pro’s battery life if needed.

Still a winner

The Macbook Pro certainly isn’t cheap and most of the killer features – that gorgeous display, impressive performance and well-designed interface – will suit only the most demanding of users. If you want something for browsing the web and checking out cute cat videos on YouTube, you should look elsewhere unless you’re completely minted.

However, if you’re after a portable machine for editing video, gaming or getting creative on the go, this is a solid all-round package and one that will happily stand the test of time. Three months on we’re yet to discover any serious issues. In fact, the more we use the 2017 Macbook Pro, the more we love it.

Read next: Macbook Pro tips, tricks and best hidden features

Comments

  • Jeff Ames

    Appreciate this thorough review.

    Did you ever experience the popping issue that many MacBook Pro users are discussing online?

    • Bruce Harding

      I didn’t. But had it only for a week before sending this piece of crap back to Apple.

  • Jeff Messing

    Gotta love that NASA built reflective mirror…errr… screen. Love seeing everything behind me instead of my work. And who doesn’t love accessories? Not just accessories, a bag full of them and matching cables that give you that Christmas lights in a box feeling every time you need a port because the world hasn’t gone to USBC anymore than they’ve gone to cars that fly and run on garbage. Creative professionals love working on postage stamp size displays tryinging to edit and see what they are doing on the mirror..my bad, display…and burning their images, videos to the internal….uh…..exactly – nothing. No wonder they took away the lit logo so they can hide from saying “look at our new piece of crap”. Smart move actually to try to stay anonymous. I love the excuses. Apple shows courage going to only USB-C. They are forward thinking. Really, your screen sucks and your technology has turned over multiple generations. 4K display too much for you? But, the iMac may get 8K? And the MacBook can’t even drive any iMac. What kind of acid trip is this company on? Is there a DSM-V criterion for this pychosis? Where’s that courage and forward to thinking on display? Or are ports your favorite child? Hey, when are your new dot matrix printers coming to the market? Let’s call a spade a spade. All Apple is doing is removing hardware and downgrading their products and marketing it as some benefit and the blind losers just eat the table scraps. It’s not pro, its barely relevant, it’s a piece of crap. Hey, new colors and a touch bar! Really? And how does that help me accomplish more work and tasks? It doesn’t. It’s for Barbie Doll millenials and logo worshipping losers. Sincerely, proud owner of a Steve Jobs 2011 MacBook Pro 17″ anti-glare with 1tb SSD, 16gb RAM, upgraded to BluRay internal burner, upraded Bluetooth and native HD screen. No eye strain and say it with me….ports, ports, ports. Apple sucks and is only a skeleton of its former self. Their products are only for tech fashionistas. Real people who do real work know it’s a complete piece of useless crap and the only reason we deal with it is integration and IOS and don’t look now, Hackintosh is getting closer and Google already does more but lacks same but Apple is about to be completely irrelevant to the professional world as soon as they either or unless they A. Cut the crap and make it usable for people who work or B. the old hardware which people use is no longer supported. Either way, don’t care…there will be options. It’s not Apple or nothing. Apple is the old ASUS and HP. piece of consumer crap. Pro? Yeah, Okay. Right. Radio Shack was pro audio too. Obviously the reviewer doesn’t do real tech necessary work but wow, new color and easy access to emojis. Get a life.

    • Bruce Harding

      Totally agree. Also this review sucks equally. Chris Barraclough just made a glossy and useless marketing post while having no real idea or relevant experience on the subject.

  • Bruce Harding

    This review is entirely opposite to my experience. I have a serious doubt the author even had this laptop in his hands. I am a professional photographer and videographer. And I sent this piece of overpriced crap — MacBook Pro 2017 15″ — back to Apple after a week. And here is why:

    1. Touch bar — complete gimmick. Distracts and stands on the way while not making work any more efficient or enjoyable. Actually it contributes the most into the overall poor experience. Changing brightness or volume became a pain.

    2. Battery life — just poor. About 20% shorter than on my late 2012 MBP.

    3. Performance — on my real tasks it gives only 10–15% gain over the 5 y.o. laptop. Just unbelievable.

    4. Price. Do you still want your old laptop with nearly the same performance, poor battery life and compromised experience? Me not.

    It’s just the poorest upgrade Apple ever made.
    All the professionals I know (not silly journalists) are furious at Apple.

  • Peter

    I thought this review was fair and honest. I the only thing that has me upset about the new MBP is the 4-5 hour battery life. I think its too short, and I’m not impressed with that at all. I also have a Lenovo yoga 910 that goes twice as long. Granted it does not have a Graphics card (however underpowered and power hungry the AMD radeon 450 might be) but its just not worth the trade off .

    I appreciate that this reviewer was honest about the battery life being only 4-5 hours, and get upset when I see outlets mention the 10-12 hours, which is total nonsense.

  • Aitor Bleda

    So, not really better than a 4 year old MBP in performance, less battery time and huge trackpad with bad palm rejection= great product.

    • Max

      I would argue the 4 year old machine is a better option. Better keyboard, ports, and battery.

  • del

    major flaw with this piece of crap is the hinge and lid when any pressure is put on the back of the lid it cracks the screen at the right hand hinge point so never put it in your backpack and be careful when transporting it , apple once again deny a problem with the added cost of 700 quid to replace the lid warning do not buy its going to be a major issue

  • Max

    I purchased the 15” model on its release. I purchased the machine for use while away for an extended amount of time. It is a really nice machine, and I appreciated the large screen, however the battery was disasterous. I returned the 15” as I figured the battery life was probably due to the graphics switching, something that Apple can not seem to figure out. I purchased the 13” model in December of 2016, to replace the 15” as I was hoping the battery life would be better.

    It wasn’t, I used it, basically as a desktop computer for 3 months, then started using it as a laptop, relying on the battery, which is a constant letdown. My computer looses approximately 1% of battery life per hour while sleeping with the lid closed. I have disabled the power nap thing, and don’t have much software installed, MS Office and Panic’s Coda and Transmit as well as Navicat.

    I have compared the battery life, both operating, and standby with my 2013 13” MacBook Pro and the battery of older, heavily used computer outperforms the new computer by a wide margin. Performance of my older i7 unit is slightly better than my new i5 unit. I also prefer the keyboard and ports of the older unit.

    Overall, I have been really disappointed with the 2016 MacBook Pros, and will be putting my 2016 unit on eBay when I pick it up from the Apple Store, as I took it in to see if they could fix the battery issue. They could not find any issues.