Katie Floyd

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First Impressions of the 13" MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

My new 13" MacBook Pro arrived today. I’ve been working with the Machine for several hours this afternoon getting it setup and configured and can offer a few initial thoughts and impressions. David and I will be recording a Mac Power Users episode devoted to the new MacBook Pro and setup in a few weeks and I’ll have more to share by that episode I’m sure. For now, a few introductory thoughts:

The Overall Look and Feel:

  • The size and weight the machine feels great. I picked up a 13“ model and was concerned about it being slightly larger than the 13” Air I love. In all ways that matter, despite not having the taper, this machine feels smaller and more compact than the 13" Air. I’m very happy with the size and weight.
  • After years of Silver laptops I opted for the Space Gray finish. It’s a nice change. The machine is beautiful though probably not as dark as one would expect. Certainly not black like the MacBooks of old.
  • This is my first experience with a Retina display. Everyone warned me that as soon as I moved to a Mac with a Retina display I’d never be able to look at a non-Retina display again. The display is nice, and there is a noticeable difference from my 13" Air. However, I’m just not blown away as I expected to be. Likely my vision is not good enough (or perhaps bad enough) to appreciate the difference. This has me seriously rethinking whether I want to spend $1000 on the Apple/LG display or $500 or less on a nice 4k display.
  • It’s a beautiful machine. Of course, it would be.

The Keyboard and Trackpad

  • I’m not happy.
  • The keyboard is very different from the traditional MacBook keyboards. There is significantly less travel. I’d say this keyboard feels more like typing on my iPad SmartCover than it does my old MacBook Air, and that in my book is not a good thing. I’m a touch typist and am finding a lot more typos in my work today than normal. However, as the day has gone on, I’m slowly adapting. I’ll get better at this, but I’m not happy about it.
  • The trackpad is another story. It's too big. Because the trackpad is so wide your hands and palms naturally rest on it. I find this makes clicking and moving more cumbersome than on my 13" Air. I’m having a lot more missed clicks and having to contort my hands in odd ways to click. Maybe I’ll adapt as the day goes on.
  • I’ve long struggled with RSI and find that I am very sensitive to keyboards and mice. I’ll be curious after a day or two with this new machine how my wrists and hands feel. My feeling is that this setup will be worse - as I type this post my hands are already starting to ache, that’s not good.
  • On a positive note, the individually backlit keys are pretty.

Touch Bar and TouchID

  • I didn’t realize how often I used the escape key until today. Hitting the Touch Bar escape key isn’t bad, but it’s not as easy as a physical key.
  • Aside from the escape key and the TouchID sensor, I don’t think I’ve used the Touch Bar today. Honestly, it feels gimmicky.
  • Most of the options that appear in the Touch Bar can be easily accomplished using keyboard shortcuts. If you’re a keyboard power user, I think you’ll probably find that the easier and faster route. Additionally, in many applications I don’t find the Touch Bar suggestions particularly helpful. For example, when suggestions pop up for filing in Apple Mail they’re usually way off base. Hopefully developers will do a better job with Touch Bar support than Apple has, so far I’m not impressed.
  • TouchID I’ve found to be hit or miss. It’s very similar to TouchID on the iPhone or iPad. It can’t be used to unlock a Mac when you first power it on, you still have to type your password for that. There are also obvious system integrations where it’s missing. For example, sometimes I can use it when installing software, other times I can't. I also can’t use it when gaining access to secure system preferences. Odd.
  • Third party apps will be able to use TouchID but so far 1Password is the only App I use that has done so.
  • Here’s a tip - like iOS you can program multiple fingers for TouchD. I found it’s actually useful to program your far fingers on your right hand for TouchID support. I find I’m much more likely to stretch and hit the sensor with my middle or ring finger on my right hand than I am with my thumb index finger. (I also accidently trigger Siri more often than not!)

Power and Performance

  • Today I’ve mainly just been setting up the machine so haven’t thrown any significant tasks at it. However, I have been surprised at how quickly I was able to download apps and transfer files. Maybe it’s the newer 802.11ac networking, maybe it’s the faster SSD, but downloading installers from the Internet and syncing files from Dropbox occurred far faster than I’ve ever experienced.
  • Battery life is hard to test, especially on a brand new machine. Lots of tasks have been running in the background including Mail downloading, Photos syncing with iCloud, Spotlight indexing and more. Therefore my battery life has not been great today. About 3 hours with my initial charge and an estimated 5 hours on my second full charge. These are not representative of normal usage and I’ll know more once the initial setup calms down.

All the Dongles

  • I posted about all the dongles I picked up in anticipation for the new MacBook Pro. I’m pleased to report that so far it appears everything works. I’m even able to use my old 24" DisplayPort Cinema Display using the Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter, however I’m using an older Belkin Thunderbolt Dock as a passthrough to make this work.

After spending about 8 hours with the MacBook Pro it’s a very powerful and sexy machine. But there are a lot of compromises. After spending nearly $3000 on the machine and all the adapters, I really hope it grows on me.