Apple offers the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 with and without the new Touch Bar and Touch ID — so which should you get?
The 2016 MacBook Pro comes in two sizes: 13-inch and 15-inch. The 13-inch also comes in two versions: with and without the new Touch Bar and Touch ID sensor. Apple is aiming the non-Touch Bar version at MacBook Air customers who’ve been wanting to upgrade to a high-density Retina display for years now. The Touch Bar version, at more traditional 13-inch MacBook Pro customers.
So, broadly speaking, if you’ve always wanted a 13-inch MacBook Air with Retina display, you want the MacBook Pro 2016 without the Touch Bar. If you’ve wanted an updated 13-inch MacBook Pro, you want the MacBook Pro 2016 with the Touch Bar.
They both have the same, gorgeous DCI-P3 wide gamut Retina display, the same larger Force Touch Trackpad and dome and butterfly keyboard, the same 8 GB memory maximum, SSD storage options up to 1 TB, and silver and space gray colors, but there are a few other differences to consider!
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 without Touch Bar is less expensive than the one Touch Bar — it’s lower end, so lower price.
$1499 vs. $1799 is the difference in starting cost.
The biggest differences, aside from Touch Bar, are the chipsets.
The central processing unit (CPU) is the engine that drives the computer.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 has a 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with an option to upgrade to a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch Bar has options for a 2.9GHz or 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, or 3.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor.
- If you need processor power, you need the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.
The graphics processing unit (GPU) is what fills that P3 Retina display with images and animations, and pushes all the pixels and 3D objects around.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 has Intel Iris Graphics 540.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch Bar has Intel Iris Graphics 550.
Though the 550 is every so slightly better, it’s unlikely you’ll see much, if any, significant advantages in daily use.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 has 2x full-speed Thunderbolt 3 ports / USB-C ports.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch ID has 4x Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports, though only the two on the left are full speed.
- If you want all four high-speed ports, you want the MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch Bar.
The higher-end 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016 includes the new Touch Bar. OLED with a matte finish that matches the look of the keyboard keys, it can display Esc and function keys and system and media controls, just like the old function row. But it can also display curated, contextual shortcuts for whatever app you’re working in at the time. That includes volume sliders, content scrubbers, color selectors, and anything else a developer can dream up.
- If you want a traditional row of function keys, you want the MacBook Pro without Touch Bar.
- If you want an adaptable, multitouch display in your keyboard, you want the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.
To the right of the new Touch Bar is Touch ID. Once exclusive to iPhone and iPad, now you can have it on the Mac. It works off an Apple T1 chip, which is like a tiny, integrated iOS device embedded right in the MacBook Pro. It handles the secure enclave and secure presentation of Apple Pay information, but that fusion is hidden away.
All you see is the sensor. Place your registered finger on it and you’re authenticated! You can even use it for fast account switching.
- If you want to be able to authenticate with your fingerprint, you want Touch ID.
Who should get the 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016
Meant for people who’ve always wanted a Retina MacBook Air, Apple snuck a lower-end, and lower-cost MacBook Pro into the 2016 lineup as well. The specs aren’t as high, there are only 2x Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C ports, and there’s no Touch Bar and no Touch ID, but there is a P3 Retina Display and the fast SSD.
If you’ve always wanted a Retina MacBook Air, or you want one of the new MacBooks Pro but don’t need the Touch Bar or Touch ID, you should consider the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Who should get the MacBook Pro 2016 with Touch Bar?
The newly updated MacBook Pro is cutting edge but also cuts some things out. Gone are the legacy ports and in their place the fastest I/O possible, inside and out. It’s for those who want the bleeding edge and don’t care what it costs.
If you want a DCI-P3 wide gamut display and the best screen tech in the business, a larger Force Touch trackpad, a lighter and denser chassis, Skylake on the 13-inch, AMD Polaris graphics on all 15-inch models, and Touch Bar and Touch ID, you want the 2016 MacBook Pro.
I’m going with Touch Bar and Touch ID. Touch ID is a convenience I’ve been hoping would come to the Mac for a long time now, so I’m ecstatic to have it. Touch Bar is a bold new experiment in interface and input that I want to be part of. It’ll take a year or so to figure out whether it’s a success or failure, but if we don’t try, we don’t move forward. And I want to do both.
If you’re still having trouble choosing which MacBook Pro is for you, make sure to pay our Apple notebooks discussion forums a visit, and ask all the questions you need answered!