Ap­ple 13in MacBook Pro (2017) re­view: bat­tery life to get through a work­ing day

The Guardian Australia - - Science / Technology - Sa­muel Gibbs

Ap­ple’s 13in MacBook Pro for 2017 now has bat­tery life that matches the power of the hard­ware and the beauty of the de­sign, even if it is still very ex­pen­sive.

When the new, re­designed MacBook Pro was launched last year it came with rel­a­tively old chips – In­tel’s sixth gen­er­a­tion Core i5 or i7 pro­ces­sor and in­te­grated graph­ics. While per­for­mance was ar­guably up to par with sim­i­lar ma­chines with the newer, im­proved seventh gen­er­a­tion Core i5 and i7, one thing the 13in MacBook Pro fell short on was bat­tery life.

A year on, a re­vised ver­sion of the 13in MacBook Pro is avail­able and while noth­ing ob­vi­ous has changed on the out­side, it now comes with the seventh gen­er­a­tion In­tel chips and the new ver­sion of MacOS High Sierra – and will get you through al­most an en­tire work­ing day with­out charge.

The MacBook Pro is a svelte, beau­ti­ful ma­chine, avail­able in sil­ver or “space grey” alu­minium. At 1.37kg it’s about 80g heav­ier than Dell’s touch-screen XPS 13, but about 160g lighter than Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Book 2. It’s a sim­i­lar thick­ness to Dell’s ma­chine at its 15mm thick­est point, but thin­ner than the Sur­face Book 2 at its 23mm thick­est point.

The screen is one of the best fit­ted to a lap­top, with good view­ing an­gles, bright­ness and colour ac­cu­racy match­ing the P3 colour space, which is im­por­tant if you’re try­ing to edit images or video. The key­board is still pretty noisy at full tilt and has lit­tle give when you de­press the keys, but is ac­cu­rate, with a solid feel. I like it, but some will hate it.

The Touch Bar will still prove di­vi­sive, with some say­ing it slows them down, but app sup­port for it has grown dra­mat­i­cally, with most high-pro­file apps ben­e­fit­ing from cus­tom keys. The Touch ID fin­ger­print scan­ner also works as ad­ver­tised, and is cer­tainly a use­ful ad­di­tion, although now that the iPhone X comes with with Face ID it per­haps feels a bit of a stop­gap for fa­cial recog­ni­tion.

The big pres­sure sen­si­tive touch­pad is ar­guably the best in the busi­ness – you’ll swear it moves thanks to the hap­tic feed­back, but try it with the power off and you re­alise it doesn’t.

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

Screen: 13.3in LCD 2560x1600 (227 ppi)

Pro­ces­sor: In­tel Core i5 or i7 (7th gen­er­a­tion)

RAM: 8 or 16GB

Stor­age: 128, 256, 512GB or 1TB Oper­at­ing sys­tem: macOS High Sierra

Cam­era: 720p FaceTime HD cam­era

Con­nec­tiv­ity: In­tel Iris 650, WiFiac, Blue­tooth 4.2, USB-C, Thun­der­bolt 3, head­phone

Di­men­sions: 212.4 x 304.1 x 14.9mm

Weight: 1.37kg

Longer bat­tery life

The 2017 13in MacBook Pro has enough power for pretty much any­thing most peo­ple will want it too, while the new macOS High Sierra sig­nif­i­cantly speeds up some func­tions such as mov­ing files. It’s at home edit­ing video, pho­tos and gen­er­ally cre­at­ing me­dia. Even a light bit of edit­ing video in 4K will be per­fectly man­age­able, but any­one se­ri­ously at­tempt­ing to use the 13in MacBook Pro to do heavy video or VR cre­ation will prob­a­bly find the in­te­grated In­tel Iris 650 graph­ics card a lit­tle anaemic.

Hav­ing said that, it was ca­pa­ble of a light bit of gam­ing, man­ag­ing to run the graph­i­cally de­mand­ing XCOM 2 on low de­tail and res­o­lu­tion set­tings with ac­cept­able frame rates.

Test­ing the new 13in TouchBar model with a Core i5 pro­ces­sor and 8GB or RAM, the big­gest change for 2017 is longer bat­tery life. The 2017 13in MacBook Pro gave me two hours more bat­tery life than the 2016 MacBook Pro did while us­ing both macOS Sierra and sim­i­lar with the newer macOS High Sierra, last­ing just un­der eight hours be­tween charges when used for a full work­ing day. That in­cluded us­ing screen at around 70% bright­ness and hav­ing be­tween five and 10 tabs open in

two in­stances of Chrome, as well as Ty­pora for text, Wire for chat, Mac Mail for email, Reeder for RSS feeds and Pix­el­ma­tor open in­ter­mit­tently for im­age edit­ing when re­quired.

That’s a solid im­prove­ment over the older model and nip­ping at the coat tails of the com­pe­ti­tion, such as the seventh-gen­er­a­tion Core i7 Dell XPS 13, which rou­tinely man­aged just over eight hours un­der the same us­age con­di­tions.

What hasn’t changed is the lack of non-USB-C ports. A year on the sit­u­a­tion isn’t much dif­fer­ent. Hav­ing four USB-C ports is great, par­tic­u­larly as they all sup­port Thun­der­bolt 3 and can charge the ma­chine. Con­nect­ing dis­plays and other non-USB pe­riph­er­als us­ing USB-C is fine, but it’s the odd USB-A flash drive, card reader or sim­i­lar that be­comes more dif­fi­cult. It would be nice to just have just one USB-A port.

Price

The 13in MacBook Pro with Touch Bar starts at £1,749 (buy here). A nonTouch Bar ver­sion is avail­able for £1,249 (buy here).

For com­par­i­son, Dell’s XPS 13 with a com­pa­ra­ble screen and 8th gen­er­a­tion Core i5 starts at £1,329 (buy here), Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Lap­top starts at £979 (buy here), while the Sur­face Book 2 starts at £1,499 (buy here).

Ver­dict

The 13in MacBook Pro is one of the most re­fined pow­er­ful lap­tops avail­able. There are cer­tainly cheaper op­tions that are also ex­cel­lent, but none of them have quite the same com­bi­na­tion of build qual­ity, ex­cel­lent key­board, mas­sive track­pad and ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of USB-C ports.

The newer In­tel chips mean one of the down­falls of the pre­vi­ous model has been sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved. Un­der eight hours of bat­tery life is still quite far off the ideal of at least 10 hours, but is much closer to the com­pe­ti­tion and will just about do light work for a full day for most peo­ple.

It’s still very ex­pen­sive, still lack­ing a USB-A port, there’s still a ques­tion of whether it’s “pro” enough for pro­fes­sion­als and now there are more pow­er­ful eighth gen­er­a­tion In­tel chips avail­able in ri­vals. But the 13in MacBook Pro is still one of the nicest com­put­ers you can buy. Us­ing it is a gen­uine plea­sure, and thank­fully it now lasts long enough I can fin­ish my work with­out reach­ing for a plug.

Other re­views

Mi­crosoft Sur­face Book re­view: the best Win­dows lap­top, with de­tach­able screen Mi­crosoft Sur­face Lap­top re­view: a USB-C short of the best Win­dows 10 lap­top

Mi­crosoft Sur­face Pro re­view: very nearly al­most the fu­ture of Win­dows PCs

Ap­ple 13” MacBook Pro (2016) re­view: the best com­puter you shouldn’t buy

This ar­ti­cle con­tains af­fil­i­ate links to prod­ucts. Our jour­nal­ism is in­de­pen­dent and is never writ­ten to pro­mote these prod­ucts although we may earn a small com­mis­sion if a reader makes a pur­chase.

The new MacBook Pro im­proves on bat­tery life mak­ing a much more com­plete pack­age. Pho­to­graph: Ap­ple

The Ap­ple MacBook Pro run­ning High Sierra comes ben­e­fits from a new, faster file sys­tem. Pho­to­graph: Ap­ple

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