Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Gear Friday: Long wait for new MacBook Pros was worth it

Apple took arguably way too long to come out with new MacBook Pros, its flagship laptops, but the wait produced some innovative features as the company works on its less is more design.

Three new MacBook Pros were launched today: the two top models no longer have the physical Function or F keys on top of the keyboard. Instead, you get the Touch Bar strip, which changes according to which application is active, and can do much more than the F-keys ever could.

Add to that the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and you now have a touch screen on Apple Macs - just not the way most people expected it to happen.

A brief trial run at the launch event showed that the Touch Bar is most likely a very worthwhile and desirable feature.

There's choice though: if you're totally opposed to the idea but still need a new lappie, you can get the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro that starts at $2,499 and which ships today, but you'd be silly to buy that laptop.

The Touch Bar is a great concept, intuitive to use and even works with the Terminal command line interface. And yes, you can get virtual F-keys if you need them for existing, non Touch Bar enabled apps.

F-keys might have survived for almost 45 years, but with the Touch Bar, you're not going to miss them.

While Apple removed the function keys, much to everyone's surprise, Jony Ive and the company's engineers kept the 3.5mm headphone jack that was deemed obsolete with the iPhone 7.

Prior to the launch, there was plenty of speculation that Apple would rip out the input/output ports on the new MacBook Pros like the company did with the slimline and lightweight MacBook and replaced them with USB-C.

Close up of the Touch Bar that changes keys according to the active application. Photo / Juha Saarinen
Close up of the Touch Bar that changes keys according to the active application. Photo / Juha Saarinen

Apple did hat, but put four superfast Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports on the two top of the range MacBook Pros, and two on the entry-level model. Each port can be used to charge devices, connect to displays and external storage - you can even plug on ye olde VGA monitors to those ports but yes, dongles are required.

Add to that much faster local solid state storage (Apple says 3.1 gigabytes per second), quick 2,133MHz system memory and high-res Retina displays (2,560 by 1,600 pixel in the 13-inch models, 2,880 by 1,800 in the 15-incher), and you probably start thinking the top of the range MacBook Pro would be the one to go for.

It is, if you have the money: the 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $3,999 in New Zealand, with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor that runs at 2.6GHz (3.5GHz burst) speeds, 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

In comparison, the 13-inch midrange MacBook Pro costs a grand less - you get a lesser Core i5 processor with just two cores, 8GB of RAM and lower screen resolution and of course, a slightly smaller package. Depending on your budget, the additional $1,000 for the 15-incher buys a fair bit more hardware than what you get with the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

A full review of the MacBook Pro is in the works.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook also showed off an updated Apple TV saying it will provide a unified err, TV experience. For that you need the free TV app, and the whole thing looks Apple-slick with integration of multiple video content providers, live TV, social media and more.

Unfortunately, Apple TV is United States only for now, with no date for when it might become available for us. Knowing how difficult it is to get US content catalogues in New Zealand currently, I'd say it'll be a long wait.

- NZ Herald

Juha Saarinen attended the event as a guest of Apple.

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