New Mac­Book Pro

Can you feel the Force Touch?

Mac Format - - CONTENTS -

From £999 Man­u­fac­turer Ap­ple, ap­ple.com/uk Pro­ces­sor 2.7GHz, 2.9GHz or 3.1GHz dual-core In­tel Core i5 Mem­ory 8GB, up­grade­able to 16GB Stor­age 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB flash stor­age

Ap­ple has re­ceived a lot of crit­i­cism over the years for de­scrib­ing its prod­uct as “mag­i­cal”, or some vari­ant of it, and it’s prob­a­bly fair to say we should be im­pressed by smart tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances for the in­ge­nious constructions they are, rather than couch­ing them in terms of mys­ti­cism or sug­gest­ing that the im­pos­si­ble has been achieved (when, ev­i­dently, it was pos­si­ble).

The trou­ble is that Ap­ple, more than any other com­pany, tends to leave you pok­ing at its lat­est de­vice, shak­ing your head and mut­ter­ing, “witch­craft” un­der your breath. Which is ex­actly what hap­pens with the Force Touch track­pad in the new 13-inch Retina Mac­Book Pro.

Now, some might say that a new track­pad isn’t much of an up­grade for a lap­top. This Mac­Book also has an up­dated pro­ces­sor to boast of, along with im­proved graph­ics. That’s it – but that’s all it needs. It was al­ready one of Ap­ple’s best ma­chines, of­fer­ing more than enough speed for most peo­ple and a Retina screen for a good price.

The pro­ces­sor is still a dual-core CPU, but it’s from In­tel’s new­est gen­er­a­tion of chips, which con­sume less power. It runs at 2.7GHz in the en­try-level ma­chine we have here, which is a small bump from the 2.6GHz of the pre­vi­ous equiv­a­lent model. The graph­ics chip is an in­te­grated In­tel Iris GPU, again just like the pre­vi­ous model, though here we’re ex­pect­ing more im­prove­ment – In­tel is still aim­ing to make big strides in this area.

We’ll come to what kind of per­for­mance im­prove­ments those bring later, but the Force Touch track­pad is the thing that will ini­tially grab your at­ten­tion be­cause it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing thing. Old track­pads have a hinge at the back, and when you click the track­pad, it piv­ots on the hinge. The pad phys­i­cally moves. The new track­pad doesn’t move, yet it feels as though it clicks be­neath your fin­gers. There’s an elec­tro­mag­netic mo­tor in­side, and when it de­tects the pres­sure of your fin­ger, the mo­tor cre­ates a click. It’s such a small thing – af­ter all, it just repli­cates how things used to work – but when you know that feel­ing of click­ing is ‘fake’, it leaves you smil­ing. Witch­craft.

Use the Force, Cook

While that’s all nice, it’s not ex­actly a use­ful a change in it­self. But the Force Touch track­pad adds ex­tra func­tion­al­ity over the old style of track­pad. You’ve still got Multi-Touch ges­tures, and it’s also now pres­sure­sen­si­tive, ca­pa­ble of reg­is­ter­ing presses of dif­fer­ent strengths. If you click on some­thing, then keep

You’ve still got Multi-Touch ges­tures, and the track­pad is also now ca­pa­ble of reg­is­ter­ing presses of dif­fer­ent strengths

press­ing harder (you can ad­just how hard in Sys­tem Pref­er­ences, pleas­ingly), you get a sec­ond click from the track­pad, and some­thing dif­fer­ent will hap­pen – re­plac­ing the long click of old in some places, such as the Dock. In Quick­Time Player, the harder you press, the faster the fast­for­ward op­tion goes. In Pre­view, when sign­ing your name, it can de­tect your drawing pres­sure. It’s an­other way of in­ter­act­ing, and it’s a nice ad­di­tion, but we do think Ap­ple could have im­ple­mented it bet­ter. The main is­sue is that, though you can make use of it in all sorts of places around OS X, it’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous what it will do. For ex­am­ple, ‘Force click’ (in Ap­ple’s par­lance) on a file’s icon and it opens it in Quick Look, but Force click on the file’s name and it makes the name ed­itable. Th­ese two things don’t share any com­mon fac­tor (such as a key­board short­cut), yet you can in­voke them both by mov­ing the cur­sor just a few pix­els on one file. There’s no men­tal map you can make to pre­dict what the new in­ter­ac­tion will do in what sit­u­a­tion un­til you try it and learn it. Hardly the end of the world, but we like ob­vi­ous­ness and con­sis­tency in in­ter­faces as a rule.

Ac­tu­ally, some of Force Touch’s most im­pres­sive use is in pure feed­back, such as in iMovie. When a clip snaps to a point on the timeline, for ex­am­ple, you get a jolt from the track­pad to in­di­cate that it has snapped. It’s a lovely lit­tle touch, and we hope many de­vel­op­ers will make use of it and the pres­sure sen­si­tiv­ity.

You can’t touch this

So what about those few other changes? The pro­ces­sor is in­deed a small dif­fer­ence, of­fer­ing an im­prove­ment of less than 10% in our Cinebench bench­marks, and only about 3% in our real-world video en­cod­ing tests. Per­for­mance is pretty good (thanks in part to a solid 8GB of RAM) for all but the high­es­tend tasks, and there’s a fan­tas­tic im­prove­ment in a dif­fer­ent area: bat­tery life. In our in­ten­sive video stream­ing test, the new ma­chine lasted six hours and 45 min­utes, hugely sur­pass­ing the older ver­sion’s five hours and eight min­utes. Now, the 13-inch Mac­Book Air takes home the tro­phy for bat­tery life (see p85), but this is great for the Retina Mac­Book Pro, which al­ready of­fered good longevity un­der nor­mal use.

Sadly, the new In­tel Iris 6100 graph­ics haven’t de­liv­ered much of a per­for­mance im­prove­ment – or, re­ally, any no­tice­able change at all – over the old model in our Bat­man: Arkham City tests. But this means the ma­chine is still ca­pa­ble, if not high-end, for graph­ics. At 1280x800, you can play Bat­man at its High set­tings com­fort­ably, so most newer games should run fine with the vis­ual fidelity low­ered slightly. One ad­van­tage of the Iris 6100 is that 4K dis­plays will work at 60Hz with this ma­chine over Dis­play­Port. Ap­ple isn’t of­fi­cially sup­port­ing this at the mo­ment, but it works.

Also, you’ve still got the fast SSD stor­age (even if 128GB is rather small for a ‘pro’ ma­chine) – in fact, our re­view unit of­fered much bet­ter per­for­mance in this area than last year’s model, but we be­lieve that’s down to vari­a­tions in the com­po­nents Ap­ple uses – as well as plenty of ports in­clud­ing two USB 3.0 and two Thun­der­bolt 2 con­nec­tions, and, cru­cially, that awe­some Retina dis­play. It’s bright, it’s clear, it of­fers vi­brant colours and con­trast, and it will spoil you for any screen that isn’t at least as sharp.

This may not be a big leap for­ward for the Mac­Book Pro, but that’s okay. If you have last year’s model, you’ll still be happy with that.

There’s noth­ing about the 13-inch Mac­Book Pro’s ex­te­rior to tip you off that this is any­thing more than a mi­nor re­fresh un­til you ap­ply in­creas­ing pres­sure to its track­pad.

There are no out­ward changes to the Mac­Book Pro – un­like the up­com­ing Mac­Book, you can connect your ex­ist­ing USB and Thun­der­bolt pe­riph­er­als.

It feels like the Force Touch track­pad presses down into the Mac­Book’s body, but it re­ally doesn’t move at all.

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