13-inch MacBook Pro (Mid 2017)
A good alternative to a 13-inch MacBook Air
$1,499 From Apple, apple.com Features 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB memory (2133MHz LPDDR3), 256GB SSD storage, Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640, two Thunderbolt 3 ports
Since the end of last year, there have been two major attributes that define the high and low end of the MacBook Pro line-up. Aside from screen size (and thus weight), you must choose between high-end models with a Touch Bar and low-end ones with traditional function keys. With the latest refresh coming just seven months later, that distinction persists.
The model reviewed here is of the latter type, and though it offers a slower Intel Core i5 clock speed than its more costly siblings, its memory spec is now in line with them, risen from last year’s 1866MHz to 2133MHz. 16GB remains the maximum memory capacity you can get, as a $200 build-to-order option.
Additionally, all MacBook Pros have been refreshed with seventh-gen (Kaby Lake) Intel Core i5 processors, and newer Intel Iris Plus Graphics processors – a 640 in function key models, and a 650 in those with a Touch Bar. CPU clock speeds have been upped across the line-up too, with our review unit boosted from its predecessor’s 2.0GHz to 2.3GHz. Stepping up a generation to Intel’s Kaby Lake processor architecture delivers bigger gains from the CPU than the integrated GPU. Our HandBrake test finished seven minutes sooner than the outgoing model, even beating last year’s 13-inch, 2.9GHz MacBook Pro with Touch Bar by a slim margin. However, the GPU performed barely any differently in our Tomb Raider benchmark than last year’s Iris Graphics 540.
On both function key models, benefits from the 2016 line-up still apply. Perhaps the most appealing is the Retina display‘s 500-nits brightness and wide color (P3) gamut, which are delightful if you snap wide-color photos with an iPhone 7, because you can see more colors and edit them accurately on this Mac.
In all, you’d have to be very keen on the Touch Bar, two extra Thunderbolt ports, and perhaps the better GPU to easily justify dropping $1,799 on the next model up. Having two ports is fine for lighter demands such as a printer, a USB flash drive, or your iPhone, not necessarily all connected at once.
the bottom line. A good Mac, but the expected gains of Kaby Lake can’t overcome our concerns about cost. Alan Stonebridge