- Supremely powerful
- Gorgeous screen
- Unbeatable usability
- Powerful audio
- Limited battery life
- No bundled adapters
Macbook Pro 15-inch 2017 review: Apple’s latest Macbook Pro boasts some great new features including the adaptable Touch Bar, as well as updated specs and a seriously impressive slim and light design. Here’s our full review of the 15-inch Macbook Pro with Touch Bar.
Apple launched its latest Macbook Pro refresh at the tail end of 2016, offering a serious step up over the previous model of Macbook Pro. These all-new Apple laptops offer not just the usual boost in specs, packed into an even slimmer and lighter frame than before. You also get some very cool new features, including some incredibly powerful speakers, a massive redesigned touchpad and of course the new and adaptable Touch Bar.
So is the new Macbook Pro worth an upgrade if you own one of the earlier models, and should you stump up for the 15-inch model with Touch Bar? Here’s our full 2017 review of the latest and most powerful Macbook Pro.
Macbook Pro 2017 review: Design
At just a shade over 1.8kg and with a slender 15.5mm frame, this latest Macbook Pro is impressively slim and light considering the tech packed inside. You’ll need a decent-sized backpack to carry it around of course, unless you drop a size to the 13-inch model. But even when the 15-inch Pro is stashed in your bag, you certainly won’t be weighed down.
From the outside with the lid down, this 2017 model doesn’t look much different from earlier Pros. Not unless you squint at the ports that is, but more on that later. However, flip the lid open and you’ll immediately notice a couple of key updates.
The most obvious change is the Macbook Pro’s touchpad, which is now Force Touch compatible and absolutely bloody enormous. That surface stretches pretty much from the space bar to the front edge, offering roughly double the space compared with earlier models.
Thankfully the touchpad is also smart enough to recognise when your palms might accidentally brush the edges. So despite that boost in size, I never found myself mistakenly bumping the cursor across the screen. The spacious new design really helps with general usability too, especially when playing games and messing around in creative apps. You can easily shift the cursor from one side of the screen to the other, without having to lift your finger from the pad.
I did turn off the Force Touch compatibility after a couple of days as I generally hammer the pad quite hard, which often confused a standard tap for a Force tap. I simply couldn’t train myself to use light taps in good time. Still, at least you have the option to completely customise the recognised gesture support in the Macbook Pro’s settings, including multi-finger gestures.
Apple’s latest keyboard also takes a little getting used to if you’re a fan of boards with plenty of travel. Those keys only depress a millimetre or two, which gives a typing experience similar to the Surface Pro or iPad Pro. Thankfully the keys are also well-sized, so touch typists should build up a reliable speed after just a few days with the new Pro.
And of course it’s fully backlit as before, with the ability to boost and lower the backlighting.
Macbook Pro 2017 review: Touch Bar
Above the Pro’s keyboard you’ll find the all-new Touch Bar, which offers up contextual shortcuts and settings depending on which app you’re using. It’s a great addition for any creative users, thanks to its versatility and visual abilities.
Check out our in-depth Macbook Pro Touch Bar review if you want to know more about its functionality, strengths and weaknesses.
Macbook Pro 2017 review: Connectivity
One of the more ‘controversial’ changes with this new Macbook Pro model is the total switch to Type-C connectivity. In other words, the only ports the 2017 Macbook Pro comes with are four Thunderbolt 3 ports, positioned two on each side (left and right).
First, the bad news. If you own any older Apple monitors, or even an iPhone or iPad, you’ll need to use an adapter to connect them to your new Macbook. Yes, it’s a bit of a pain having to carry these adapters around, and yes, it’s an added expense. But we perfectly understand it.
After all, Type-C USB is the future. For a start, they’re incredibly flexible. You can attach everything from monitors and mice to external storage solutions and they’ll function perfectly. No need to stretch a cable to the far end of your laptop - just plug into any available port and you’re done.
They’re also powered ports, so your devices can take power and even charge via any of the Thunderbolt slots. And of course Thunderbolt is used to power the Macbook itself.
Then there’s the matter of data transfer. Type-C USB offers seriously impressive speeds compared with older standards, so you can copy a 4K movie from a compatible device to the Macbook Pro in seconds rather than minutes.
Apple’s latest monitors already support Type-C, while the next generation of iPhones and iPads will do the same. So while Thunderbolt may be a pain in the arse and an extra expense for now, soon it won’t be a problem at all. Of course, it really does suck that Apple doesn’t bundle adapters considering the price of the Pro. That seems like a bit of an oversight, and possibly even a raised middle finger to loyal fans.
Macbook Pro 2017 review: Screen and media
Apple also significantly upgraded the Macbook Pro’s display for this 2017 model.
While previous Pro screens were already pleasingly sharp and vibrant, you now have an even wider colour gamut for more realistic visuals. Fair enough, you most likely won’t notice the difference unless you stick this new model and the previous Macbook Pro side-by-side and closely scrutinise, but it’s there all the same.
This latest display is also brighter than before at 500 nits, so it’s even easier to use in bright daylight. But despite that boost in brightness levels, you actually get improved contrast for seriously deep blacks (especially good news if you’re after something to watch movies on). Meanwhile that 2880x1800 pixel resolution keeps images nice and crisp.
Even more impressive is the new Pro’s stereo speakers, positioned either side of the keyboard. These blowers are ridiculously powerful, blasting out some serious audio that remains clear and crackle-free even at maximum volume. I happily used the Macbook Pro to watch movies on trips, and even in noisy environments I was able to make out every word.
Our review sample had 1TB of storage space, plenty for our needs even when editing 4K video. You can trim this to 256GB or boost all the way up to 2TB, depending on your personal needs and budget. And you can of course attach external drives when needed, while another of those Apple adapters allows you to read SD memory cards.
Macbook Pro 2017 review: Features
TouchID is one of the other big new additions in this latest 15-inch Macbook Pro. You now have a sensor built into the board, just to the right of the Touch Bar, and it’s just as responsive and accurate as the scanner on your iPhone.
You’ll need to use your Apple password to unlock the TouchID sensor when you first boot your laptop. Once that’s done, it can be used to bypass the password when you wake the Pro and also to authorise any Apple Pay transactions. And if you have an Apple Watch, you can even bypass the TouchID scanner as the Pro will automatically detect your watch and unlock your machine.
In fact the Macbook Pro works nicely with all of your other Apple gadgets, thanks to the latest version of Mac OS. You can start working on a document on your iPad and then finish it off on your Mac, seamlessly switching between the two thanks to Apple’s cloud system. And you once again get Siri support too, if you want to shout commands at your laptop.
That front-facing FaceTime camera is a basic 720p effort, which means you’ll look a little grainy in Skype chats and the rest. That said it does the job just fine and seems to adjust to changes in lighting without too much of a struggle.
Macbook Pro 2017 review: Performance and battery life
The new Macbook Pros come with a variety of specs, although the 15-inch models all pack a Core i7 chipset. Our review model had a 2.9GHz Intel Core i7 backed by 16GB of DDR3 RAM (standard for this model). You also get dedicated graphics - a choice of Radeon Pro 450, 455 or 460, with 2 or 4GB of VRAM. Our model had the Pro 460 with 4GB of memory.
Performance, as you’d expect from the Pro, is top of the line. You can run any kind of creative software without a stutter and output to a couple of 5K displays, giving you the ultimate working setup. The latest games also run perfectly, with a smooth frame rate. And even at full blast, the Pro remains relatively quiet; those fans keep the machine cool without roaring too loudly.
Sadly battery life isn’t as strong. Despite claims of up to ten hours of life per charge, I found that I usually got around four hours of work time at most before the battery was depleted. That’s with just a simple bit of web browsing, word processing and image editing too. If I tried editing video or gaming - in other words, tasks which were more graphically taxing - that life dipped to under two hours.
Thankfully there are ways to extend your battery life if you're struggling - check out our Macbook Pro better battery life guide for our tips and tricks.
Macbook Pro 2017 review: Verdict
Starting at £2349 here in the UK, the latest 15-inch model of Macbook Pro certainly isn’t cheap. This is a premium machine through and through, and obviously not aimed at anyone who just needs to get online and play the odd bit of Minecraft.
However, for creative users the 2017 Macbook Pro is easily one of the best laptops money can buy. Between the gorgeous screen, impressive performance, adaptable Touch Bar and industry-leading usability, you’ll struggle to find something better for editing video, tracks and photos on the go. Battery life isn’t great and the lack of bundled adapters is a shame, but we’d still recommend the Pro to anyone with cash to spare.