T he new 13in MacBook Pro looks identical to last year’s model, down to the last millimetre. But looks can be deceiving: this updated laptop quietly debuts Apple’s brand-new Force Touch trackpad.
It’s a simple idea. Press gently and the pad responds with a solid click, the touchpad moving just the tiniest bit under your finger. Apply a little more pressure, and embedded electromagnets provide the feel of a weightier “Force Click”. It’s perfectly convincing, but it’s generated via haptic feedback rather than physical movement, which means it’s possible to adjust the pressure required between light, medium and firm.
This may not sound hi-tech, but it adds a new dimension to desktop interaction. Force-Click on a file and a preview springs up; try it on a link in Safari, and the linked page appears in a preview window. Force-Clicking on selected text brings up relevant Dictionary, Thesaurus and Wikipedia entries. Once third-party app developers get in on the act, we can see it becoming indispensable.
Internally, it’s a case of evolution rather than revolution, with Intel’s 14nm Broadwell processors replacing last generation’s Haswell CPUs. We tested the entry-level $1,799 model, which comes with a 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-5257U, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB PCI Express SSD. The memory is soldered, and the SSD is a proprietary one, so don’t plan to upgrade it yourself, but you can move up to a 2.9GHz Core i5 for $140, or a 3.1GHz Core i7 for $410. For the fully stacked Core i7 model with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, you’ll need to find $3,749.
As we’ve seen before, Broadwell doesn’t bring a real performance bump over the Haswell generation: in our Real World Benchmarks and games tests, performance was nigh-on identical. Gamers should definitely look elsewhere – they’re better served by Windows laptops such as the Gigabyte P34G.
The new model does feel more responsive than before, however, probably thanks to the PCI Express SSD. In the AS SSD benchmark, our 128GB drive soared past last year’s model, with sequential read and write speeds of 1,299MB/sec and 625MB/sec.
And when it comes to battery life, the 2015 MacBook Pro really raises the stakes. In our light-use test it lasted 16hrs 42mins – more than five hours longer than the previous model.
Beyond that, the MacBook Pro is much the same as ever – and that’s no bad thing. The display remains a vision of beauty, its 2,560 x 1,600 resolution providing pristine image quality across every one of its 13.3 inches. Brightness tops out at 400cd/m2, contrast hits an impressive 994:1, and the panel covers 97.7% of the sRGB colour gamut. Colour accuracy is superb: an average Delta E of 1.61 and a maximum of 4.43 confirm this as a laptop that’s ready for colour-critical photo- and video-editing duties. Our only tiny niggle is that the darkest greys disappear a little too readily into black – we’d perform a full calibration before starting a professional project.
Elsewhere, essentials such as the backlit keyboard continue to satisfy: the keys are well spaced, with a lovely crisp bounce. The speakers and webcam are surprisingly capable by laptop standards. And with twin Thunderbolt 2 ports, two USB 3 ports, HDMI output and an SD slot, there’s plenty of scope for expansion. The only small annoyance is the way SD cards still stick out of the reader slot by 15mm.
The new 13in MacBook Pro is an even more attractive proposition than before. It’s light, powerful and obscenely long-lasting. This is as good as it gets.