1st February 2017 - 3 comments

Review: MacBook Pro with Touchbar

The new MacBook has been around for a little while and a lot of creatives are questioning the upgrade. Hopefully this little review (from an illustrator’s point of view) will shed some light.

My previous laptop was a 2012 non-retina MacBook Pro, slowly lacking the power to perform certain tasks, and it was about time I got an upgrade.

Touchbar

The main addition to the MacBook has been criticised and praised by various sources. Personally, I think it’s nothing ground breaking but it is growing on me.

As an artist, I rarely had a reason to use the function keys. Sure you could hot key them in Photoshop but for day to day tasking, they were pretty useless. The introduction of the Touchbar has actually been quite useful in a variety of circumstances. Changing the volume/screen brightness with a drag rather than a continuous tapping, scrubbing through videos, and the recent release of Photoshop has added Touchbar functionality which is fairly customisable but it would be nice to add actions in there.

The emoji keyboard was something I originally slated for being a useless addition. Two months later and you won’t find a single email I don’t send without a mildly stupid, yellow bald guy doing some exaggerated expression. It’s awesome!

The number of apps supporting it is rapidly growing as well. Fantastical, Spark, Spotify and Coda have all made good use of it and is much more applicable to everyday work than the damn ‘fn’ keys. I’m looking forward to what other apps will do with it.

All in all, the Touchbar is what you make of it. You can customise it to your preference and really use it how you feel is right. Does it justify the extortionate price of the laptop? Absolutely not!

Touch ID

Why was this not a thing sooner?!

Similar to iPhone 5s and above, quickly logging in when it’s been a sleep is a dream – just open up the laptop, tap the scanner and you’re in!

Purchasing online is also made easy with Touch ID (limited stores at the moment but it’s great when you find one that takes it).

Ports

“4 USB-C/Thunderbolt ports?! I’ve got to buy a bloody dongle for everything!” Touchy subject for some. I’m personally a fan of it.

I store all my files on Dropbox and my tablet can be used wirelessly so there was minimal need for many ports. I’ve only bought the one adapter (USB-C to USB-A) for when I teach and need to plug in a student’s memory stick.

I can understand the frustration with a lot of creatives having to look for docks/adapters so they can simply work (with no SD card slot or Thunderbolt 2 port for displays) so it does really depend on your setup and work flow. But hey, at least it has a headphone port…

I like the option to charge from any of the ports though I do miss the MagSafe cable (feeling edgy when some clumsy folk in a cafe come close to your laptop).

Display

Coming from a standard resolution laptop to the realm of retina was mind blowing.

The colours are crisp, the contrast is perfection and where are the pixels? No where to be seen. Plugging my iPad in for Astropad has also been a treat, halving the resolution for optimum latency, but still retaining a high quality mirror preview.

General design

The sleek profile and overall weight makes my previous laptop look like a brick, and the space grey finish looks amazing in comparison to the previous aluminium. The keyboard takes some time to get used to but it’s lovely flat keys make other computers’ feel clunky and chunky.

So to conclude, I’m happy with the new MacBook (though the price has put a heavy dent in my bank account). It is a brilliant machine and worthy upgrade from my previous one. The Touchbar is like Marmite. The Touch ID is a joy to use. And the USB ports are surprisingly functional whilst future proof (I hope). If you aren’t fussed about the operating system, then it may be worth looking into a Windows alternative – even I was tempted by the Surface Studio, where you’ll get more bang for your buck. If you are looking for an exceptionally built laptop you’ll enjoy working on, then you won’t be disappointed.

Have any questions or thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

Published by: Tommy in Tools

Comments

Kristen Boydstun
27th July 2017 at 10:59 am

Hi Tommy, thanks so much for writing up this review! I currently use a 2013 MacBook Pro plus a Wacom Intuos tablet, and my MacBook is starting to have issues so it’s going to be time for an upgrade soon. I’m leaning towards getting a MacBook Pro and eventually adding the iPad Pro to use with AstroPad, so I’m really happy I stumbled across your review.

Ideally I’d like a portable setup I can travel with, which allows me to draw directly on the screen and works with both Photoshop and Illustrator. I’ve also considered the Surface Studio, Surface Pro, Cintiq, Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro, etc, but I think the MacBook Pro + iPad Pro setup is probably the best fit for what I’m looking for.

Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

    Tommy
    30th July 2017 at 4:12 pm

    Hi Kristen! I’m glad you found this one useful. I’m actually wrapping up a review of the iPad now which I’m hoping will help a lot of people decide. So keep an eye out for that one this week 😉

    Let me know what you settle for in the end.

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