The finishing touch?
In 2016, Apple released the first MacBook Pros with a Touch Bar, which replaced the familiar top row of Function keys on the traditional qwerty keyboard with a touch sensitive display. Apple said that this much trumpeted innovation would unleash our creativity - on top of the function keys that it replaced, it would provide adaptive commands for supported apps as well as customisable emojis and quick access to many areas of the OS. All in all, you have to hand it to Apple for taking the plunge, but it proved to be a largely unpopular move - Apple have now ditched the Touch Bar in the latest M1 models and returned to the land of qwerty.
For those of us that are in the market for a refurbished MacBook Pro, the question is - what are the pros and cons of a Touch Bar model? I recently upgraded from my trusty 2015 MBP, as in my job I use so many 3rd party apps that I have to stay (relatively) current. I now have a shiny 2019 MBP with a Touch Bar, and although it takes a bit of getting used to, it works fine for me. I was a little wary, though, as online is full of articles with titles like 'Apple's MacBook Pro Touch Bar is gone. Good riddance!'. Is it really that bad? In my recent experience, the short answer is a qualified 'no'.
The below is a quick look at the good and the bad - it will vary between specific models, so take it as a general overview.
- The display. It is truly gorgeous, a high resolution retina affair which really is less tiring to work with than my old MBP. Also, Mid 2018/ 2019/ 2020 models have 'True Tone technology' which adjusts the colour temperature according to ambient light. for a more comfortable experience. Bullshit? No, it works really well, and doesn't just go beige at the closing of the day. A nice touch (sic).
- The sound. It's a huge improvement, both in power and tone. I was away from home in a hotel the other day, and I could hear the radio streaming on the computer from the bathroom. The small things in life....
- The battery is good - my MBP is already three years old, but having run TechTool Pro on it, the battery report is great.
- It's lighter, it's thinner, it's sleeker, it looks and feels great.
- Performance is very good, it's fast and doesn't ever hang. Yet!
- The 'Force Touch' trackpad allows you to force click by applying more pressure on the trackpad, so lets you take advantage of added functionality in the OS and supported apps - so in essence, it has more available gestures.
- The keyboard is better - it takes some getting used to as there's less travel on the keys, but it's definitely an improvement to me.
- Internal storage is soldered to the motherboard and can't be replaced or upgraded (unless you have a degree in quantum physics). Eek. Luckily, mine has a 4tb SSD, so I should be good for the foreseeable future.
- Processor and RAM are also soldered to the motherboard. Again, 'eek'! Luckily, mine has a s*itload of RAM, but still....
- The battery is......glued in place. Aww come on, Apple, this is silly. I get that sleekness is your thing, but this continued insistence on a non-user serviceable 'ethic' is not in keeping with the times (or the planet).
- Apparently, performance is 'throttled' on some models to prevent overheating - I can't say that that's the case with mine, but it's worth pointing out.
- Connectivity. My new MBP has four Thunderbolt 3 slots, and TB3's performance is certainly a wonderful thing;- I migrated my 350gb of data from my old jalopy in about 20 minutes - speed of light. However - it has no SD card slot. Pain in the arras for me, as I'm a keen photographer. And no USB 2/3 slots, so I now have to carry around an adaptor. I got the Anker twin TB3 adaptor for that, and it works flawlessly, but it's yet another piece of kit to cart around (and worry about losing or leaving behind). I also miss the Magsafe power connector. I don't know why, I just miss it!
- Fat Finger Syndrome. I'm a guitar player by trade, so don't really think of myself as a 200lb gorilla bashing keys with my fists, but it's easy to mistakenly hit that touch bar and find yourself in a different computer universe. Very frustrating. It must be a nightmare for touch typists!
- Power suck? Does the Touch Bar compromise the battery life? Some have reported that it does.......
There's no ugliness going on here, it's a beautiful machine, but if I had one criticism it would be that the touch bar is a little....over engineered? Sure, it has its uses - in day to day use, I much prefer the touch bar for adjusting volume and brightness, and it's come in handy when using Logic Pro for pop-up app functions, but overall? I could live without the bar, and that seems to be the consensus of the majority Mac users.
So I guess that Apple do listen then. They've ditched the Touch Bar, gone back to qwerty function keys and returned the beloved Magsafe on the new M1 models. I get that in order to provide us with something as sleek and light as this that there'll inevitably be connectivity compromises - but please don't change the protocol yet again in 10 minutes time!.
So if Apple really are listening.....stop gluing and soldering things in so we can't modify and extend the life our computers and planet Earth!