MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016

After four years of iterative spec-bumps, October 2016 finally saw Apple unveil a brand new MacBook Pro. Well actually, two new MacBook Pros. Much like buses, we waited for one and two came along at once. As there is only a 15in Touch Bar MacBook Pro and not a more basic counterpart, this article compares the base 13in model with the more expensive 13in Touch Bar version.

If you’re still after a 2015 MacBook Pro 13in or 15in, take a look - they’re still available here.

If you are thinking of getting one of the two new 13in MacBook Pro models, you are probably wondering what are the differences? Besides the inclusion of the new Touch Bar on one model, there are a fair few other differences that end up affecting the price and, ultimately, your buying decision.

MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016: Design, dimensions and weight

Both new 13in MacBook Pro models, including the Touch Bar edition, are the same dimensions - exactly. Both 13in models are 1.49cm thick and weigh 1.37kg. The overall dimensions of both models are 1.49 x 21.24 x 30.41cm.

Buying advice

Nothing to call here - they are the same. If your decision was based on which model of MacBook Pro is more compact, then you’ll have to read on. If you’re after a slimmer MacBook, try the 12in MacBook

MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016: Specs

MacBook Pro

OK, here we go. The base MacBook Pro has a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz. It has 8GB 1866MHz memory as standard and comes with 256GB SSD storage. On top of that there’s Intel Iris Graphics 540 and two Thunderbolt 3 ports.

You can customise your purchase with Apple by adding more SSD storage space; add an i7 processor, 16GB memory and software like Final Cut Pro X. Of course all of this comes at a cost.

Also check out this review from our colleagues over in the US - they found that the base model compromises on graphics, ports and RAM speed.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The base 13in Touch Bar MacBook Pro sports a 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 too, but with Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz and slightly improved 8GB 2133MHz memory. 256GB SSD is also standard, with a slight bump up to Intel Iris Graphics 550 but you do get four Thunderbolt 3 ports compared to the base model’s two. If you spend extra you can double the storage to 512GB.

At point of sale on Apple’s website you can customise by upgrading the processor, memory or by adding preinstalled software. Again, this is at a reasonably high cost.

Buying advice

The lines have been blurred slightly with this generation of MacBook Pro models. Based on specs, there is not much between both models other than the inclusion of the Touch Bar with Touch ID and the extra two Thunderbolt 3 ports. If you want full integration with Touch Bar apps and the ability to plug more in (even if you need adapters) then the Touch Bar model is the way to go.

But if it’s just top end MacBook specs you need and you would prefer the standard row of function keys, then go for the regular MacBook Pro 13in. You can upgrade the storage to 1TB and the memory to 16GB if needs be, just the same as the Touch Bar model.

Neither are upgradable after purchase, soldered as the components are to each other, so what you buy is what you get till the thing dies. So pick wisely.

Read next: MacBook Pro 2016 not working: How to fix MacBook Pro hardware problems

MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016: Display

There is no need to split this section down – both have the exact same display. Both sport a 13.3in diagonal LED Retina display with 2560 x 1600 pixels and 500 nits brightness. It is one of the best displays on any personal computer ever. So, pretty good.

Buying advice

As far as displays go on your MacBook Pro buying decision, you can’t split them. They are the same! Looks elsewhere for your final decision.

MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016: Touch Bar and Touch ID

MacBook Pro

It doesn’t have a Touch Bar or Touch ID. Instead, you’ve got the tried and tested row of function keys as you would on any previous MacBook Pro, but with Apple’s new style butterfly keys rather than the traditional scissor mechanism.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The first ever Mac to feature the Touch Bar, it’s an OLED strip that replaces the function keys. In some programmes these traditional keys will still display, but the beauty is in its versatility, with certain apps bringing up customisable options that allow you to interact better with them.

Here’s our best Touch Bar apps article.

At the far right end there is also a Touch ID sensor to help with security and purchases like on the iPhone and iPad.

Buying advice

It depends what you’re going to be able to work with. The Touch Bar is kind of amazing, but if you’re buying for work then you might want to stick to function keys. Similarly if you’re upgrading and use the function row a lot for all your important software, then you might not want the change.

Then again, the Touch Bar is a new way to interact with a powerful computer. Developers will bring new functionality constantly to apps and software and it’s the only way you’re going to get close to a touchscreen MacBook. Touch ID also means added security and more tying into the Apple way of shopping.

Ultimately, the Touch Bar model is the selling point of this year's range and we’d err on the side of spending extra. If you have the cash. If. 

MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016: Battery life

MacBook Pro

The regular Pro has a 54.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery that Apple claims gives you 10 hours of wireless web use, or 10 hours of iTunes film playback. MacBook Pro devices always have absolutely brilliant battery life, but the 2015 model has a reported better span. It’s actually still available right here

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The Touch Bar model has exactly the same reported 10 hours of battery life, however its battery has a slightly smaller volume capacity at 49.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery. That means, technically, the battery life won’t be quite as good. However, all of this depends on your use and the difference will be tiny.

Buying advice

It’s always very hard to recommend products with such similar specs on their battery life. For all intents and purposes there is no difference between these models but on pure specs alone, the regular MacBook Pro has a bigger battery, so if you’re trying to eke out every last drop of juice, go for that one.

MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016: Everything else

Everything else these laptops have is, again, the same. They have the same 802.11ac Wi-Fi capabilities, same Bluetooth 4.2, same keyboard and same Force Touch trackpad that this year is an excellently large size with palm-rejection technology. There’s also a 720p FaceTime camera on both.

Both also come with the full suite of macOS Sierra software; Photos, iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers, Keynote.

Buying advice

There’s nothing to call here. Apple has packed these two laptops with all the bells and whistles, meaning your choice comes down to the Touch Bar question and the price, with a consideration for specs for power users. Read on.

MacBook Pro Touch Bar vs MacBook Pro 2016: Price

MacBook Pro

Some context – until October 2016 the 2015 MacBook Pro cost £999 at its cheapest. That same computer is still on sale, but for £1,249.

The upgraded 2016 MacBook Pro we are discussing here retails from £1,449.

MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

The cheapesrt Touch Bar MacBook Pro retails for £1,749, a full £300 more than the base version.

This is admittedly to simplify the situation a bit, but not too much: Apple is charging £300 extra for the Touch Bar, Touch ID and two extra Thunderbolt 3 ports. In daily use, for all but the most picky of us all, there is no other difference.

Buying advice

Based on price, for some it’ll be hard to justify the extra spend on the Touch Bar version. £300 could buy you a Superdrive for CD use or even extra RAM or storage on the £1,449 model. It’s already very expensive, so you might want to jack up the specs and make it the best it can be.

Of course, if you have the money you can also do that to the Touch Bar edition. If you’re already spending £1,449, it’s only £300 more to have the best MacBook Pro ever. It’s just hard to take when it’s £750 more than last year’s.

OUR VERDICT

You want the Touch Bar MacBook Pro. We do, everyone does. But if you want a MacBook Pro this year, the decision is less simple, and weirdly so. At £1,449, the base MacBook Pro isn’t a by definition ‘cheap’ alternative, it is merely ‘cheaper’. If you want cutting edge Apple tech and Touch Bar apps, there is one obvious but expensive choice. You’ll love it though.

If you want to save money and hardly compromise on specs, then get the regular version. The specs are very, very similar and for most computing needs you won’t need the Touch Bar. It’s an odd dilemma to have.

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