October 27, 2016

The New MacBook Pro: Thinner, Faster, and All Thunderbolt

Apple released a long-awaited update to the MacBook Pro today with a brand new touch bar interface, wider gamut display, and one port to rule them all: USB-C/Thunderbolt 3.

Go to any film set, and you're likely to see more than one MacBook Pro. No matter how hard Microsoft tries to court creatives, the MacBook Pro has a hold on film production—especially life on set. But the professional Mac line hasn't seen a major upgrade in four years, and by some measurements has gotten slower over the last few years with the switch from NVIDIA to AMD.

The newest version of Final Cut Pro, also released today, is already enabled for Touchbar control.

Needless to say, it was with great excitement that many filmmakers watched today's announcement from Apple. And for the most part, it's good news. The new MacBook Pro is a solid update with features that filmmakers will appreciate.

Macbook Pro TouchbarCredit: Apple

The most noticeable external improvement is the Touchbar, a multi-touch-enabled retina display on the keyboard, replacing the function keys. Rumors had it that the name for the new feature would be the "Magic Touchbar," but Apple opted to keep the name simple while offering magic levels of functionality. The Touchbar is fully customizable by the end user: you can add your own favorite buttons, palettes, and even emoji, and the screen will change dynamically with different programs.

Apple has stuck with AMD graphics chips, continuing its path away from NVIDIA.

The newest version of Final Cut Pro, which was also released today, is already enabled for Touchbar control, offering full timeline view and a variety of new interactive controls for zoom and navigation that should speed up editing and effects workflows.

Apple also demonstrated some nice features in Photoshop and announced from the stage that Resolve is working on integration as well.

Graphics improvementsCredit: Apple

Apple has stuck with AMD graphics chips, continuing its path away from NVIDIA. While this is probably frustrating for filmmakers, who are among the heaviest users of CUDA technology from NVIDIA for speeding up renders, Apple has done a big push for OpenCL to do the same acceleration on AMD GPUs. We should see the benefits here.

Blackmagic has also put some real engineering work into accelerating Resolve on AMD cards and claims they are at about parity with the performance they get from CUDA. As with earlier verisons, only the 15" model comes with the dual graphics cards that GPU-heavy applications like Premiere and Resolve love.

P3 is the same gamut used in the popular DCP delivery format for theatrical film projects, and the ability to preview it in full is a real plus for filmmakers.

Additionally exciting is the redesigned thermal cooling system. Every filmmaker knows the sounds of those interminable fans; it's good to hear that Apple continues to improve upon cooling efficiency.

Thunderbolt OnlyCredit: Apple

A bold—though anticipated—choice was to go to for only a single type of connector: the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port, also found on the MacBook. This is a standard that Apple is pushing hard. Expect to see a lot of solutions for GPU expansion, RAID storage, and footage download coming to these boards in the next few months.

Apple also worked directly with LG for a new 5K monitor that also acts as a docking station, charging the laptop from the monitor while allowing other peripherals to be attached directly to the monitor. No word yet on how many Thunderbolt buses this will use, but the hope is that at least two full bandwidth busses will be available: one for storage and one for download. Rest assured that we'll be testing them the moment they ship.

Improved color spaceCredit: Apple

The final key detail for filmmakers is the improved available color gamut of the monitor, which now offers P3 color space. While it'll still require some form of calibration to be accurate, it's exciting to start to see the bigger gamut available on more products, especially ones with such a following from filmmakers. P3 is the same gamut used in the popular DCP delivery format for theatrical film projects; the ability to preview it in full is a real plus for filmmakers.

The new MacBook Pro is available now from Apple.com.

Tech specs

  • 13" and 15" 
  • Silver and Space Gray
  • Core i7 intel processors
  • AMD Polaris graphics with up to 4GB of memory, 2.3x faster than previous generation
  • 2x as big Force Touch trackpad
  • 2nd generation butterly click mechanism keyboard
  • Retina display touchbar
  • TouchID
  • 67% brighter, 25% larger gamut, 67% greater contrast range
  • 4 USB 3/Thunderbolt 3 ports

13" specs

  • 17% thinner than previous generation, 23% smaller volume
  • 14.9mm thick
  • 3lb, nearly .5lbs less than previous

15" specs

  • 15.5mm thick
  • 14% thinner
  • 20% smaller in volume
  • 4lbs, .5lbs less than previous generation

Your Comment

22 Comments

I don't think it's coincidence that Microsoft released the Surface Studio video a day ahead. They've swapped roles. Apple is the every-day-joe computer, and Microsoft is targeting pros.

October 27, 2016 at 5:51PM

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microsoft announced their event before apple did. But i think you're right. Apple concentrating on the pros wasnt working out to well for them. They've become the new hp and dell. Msoft is slowly become the cool kid.

October 27, 2016 at 6:06PM

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mark d
12

Cuda is not faster than open CL dude. This is a common misconception. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mF9hF9GNL6Y

October 27, 2016 at 5:54PM, Edited October 27, 5:54PM

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Brad Jones
Director/Producer/Writer/Editor
442

Yay - no function buttons! After 14 years and some deeply ingrained muscle memory, I was getting bored of using the same old buttons for Insert/Overwrite anyway. Time to learn a new gimmicky touchbar instead. Thanks Apple!

October 27, 2016 at 6:01PM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3059

No SD card slot, no magsafe power adapter, no escape key, incompatible with 100% of the existing peripherals on the market.

The thing doesn't even work with the brand new iPhone! You'd need to carry a "dongle" to get it to charge your phone. And those headphones they ship with the iPhone are also now incompatible.

This thing is clearly aimed at Facebook users and not professionals creative users.

October 27, 2016 at 6:52PM

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BD
386

VIDEO: Top 10.3 features in the new Final Cut Pro X with Apple touchbar m.youtube.com/watch?feature=… #fcpx #FinalCutProX #apple #videoproduction

October 27, 2016 at 6:56PM

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Jonny Lewis
Self shooting editor
110

Top 10.3 features in the new Final Cut Pro X https://t.co/SRRGEFF8YX #fcpx #FinalCutProX #apple #videoproduction

October 27, 2016 at 6:57PM, Edited October 27, 6:57PM

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Jonny Lewis
Self shooting editor
110

Hell ya - an all new TOUCH STRIP - I hear it does emojis
bwaha ha ha ha sweet

October 27, 2016 at 8:42PM

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urban revolution
Creative Director
106

Touch strip is awesome. It makes up for the interface limitations editing on a laptop, and then some!

However...

Stuck at 16GB memory...stuck with single internal drive....stuck having to carry a minimum of 4 adapter cables. Um, yeah, no thank you.

I would be seriously tempted if it was less macbook air sleek and more old Mac Pro tower robust/expandable/configurable.

Disposable computers. This is what apple wants, it's what their entire hardware offering is becoming.

October 27, 2016 at 10:20PM, Edited October 27, 10:22PM

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seanmclennan
Story Teller
813

But it can do emojis!!!
Come on.
hehehe;)

October 31, 2016 at 7:21PM

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Marek Kremer
Editor & Colorist
100

the worst of all is that they made everything more expensive!!
Fuck you Apple, not buying into your shit anymore

October 28, 2016 at 2:26AM

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Jose Santos
Student/Director
213

I really don't like jumping on hate wagons, but how far can apple take their design experiments? The problem with Apple in general is that in the end this won't hurt them, they will change the market just because they have the better OS, and hoards of screaming brainwashed fans banging down the doors to buy their shiny products irrespective of their practicality. They are a design company. They are the epitome of consumer culture in many ways. PC brands like Dell and Asus will be aping this over the next six months I don't doubt that.

I've just been on the UK store and their top end 15" is now up for £2699 which is £700 more than I paid for mine back in mid 2014, but the spec is almost exactly the same apart from the switch from Nvidia to AMD, and purely cosmetic changes. Not to mention the fact that my Thunderbolt RAID now won't work with it without a precarious adapter.

October 28, 2016 at 5:06AM, Edited October 28, 5:07AM

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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
608

Someone on Twitter was complaining yesterday that the laptop they were looking at had gone up by £400 overnight... No differences, bar the price.

October 28, 2016 at 10:56AM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3059

My annoyance is that they get the difficult things right and the easy things wrong... as if making some style point.

Macs: Great OS, great build quality, don't degrade over time as much as PCs, and now they've given hit some much needed new horsepower and continued with a beautiful screen. Fantastic.

Bad: Oled Touchscreen is cool, but not necessary and adds to price. Rather than completely get rid of USB-A, why not add a couple of USB-C to start transition but keep one standard USB and SD card reader? Vital for photographers and DSLR videographers. The Mag PSU was great - on a busy set your port didn't ripped out the motherboard or laptop fly across the room if something caught it. Shaves mm of thickness but will despite new heat dissipation will run hot and fans used more.

The "Pro" is supposed to mean "Professional." As a freelancer, I want my computer to be able to deal with anything with as little hassle as possible, as quickly as possible. The new horsepower does the latter, but removing half the ports that are still continually used by shooting, editing, and storage accessories in this industry and forcing the purchase of flimsy and expensive adapters is crazy and simply unnecessary, especially to make room for a scanner that makes apple pay work quicker! That is not professional.

It would be helpful if the article was a little more critical, maybe a "for and against"? If more were written this way, maybe apple would listen a little more. Maybe.

October 28, 2016 at 8:14AM

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Evan Crichton
Editor
89

Dito on this. Way to much praising in this article for something that feels like a step back in so many ways.

October 28, 2016 at 9:28AM

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You are clueles, sir. Nobody uses laptop keyboard. Every editor uses external monitor and keyboard.

October 28, 2016 at 12:17PM

4
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Don Nachos
Editor / Animator / Producer
170

Not sure I understand what you're aiming at there... I've edited a dozen or more commercials this year on a 2014 MBP, with no external monitor or keyboard.

October 28, 2016 at 1:05PM

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Alex Richardson
Director
3059

Haha... yes - you're right Don Nachos, and nobody has ever shot a award winning film on a DSLR either... you sound like a mac fanboy.

October 28, 2016 at 2:47PM

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Matty Hannon
Documentary filmmaker
188

I gotta say, would've expected a little more intelligent critique from NFS here - this just smells like a press release. Not saying that these won't be great laptops, i'm sure they'll work fine, but....

I've been working professionally on Macs for quite a few years now, and although I love the OS, I despise Apple's philosophy.

I want out, but feel trapped with mac-formatted external drives of footage that I want future access to. Is there a way out of Mac once you've been sucked in...?

October 28, 2016 at 2:54PM

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Matty Hannon
Documentary filmmaker
188

You can use paragon hfs+ on windows for reading and writing mac journaled. I made the switch a year ago and I'm happy, like all the other people that switched ;)

October 28, 2016 at 3:33PM

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Thanks mate.

October 28, 2016 at 5:25PM

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Matty Hannon
Documentary filmmaker
188

Thinner and lighter? Who cares!

This is supposed to be a professional computer and the 2015 MacBook Pro is already plenty thin and light. Removing standards I/Os for tomorrow's ports today sucks. Having HDMI out and an SD card slot was always a welcome feature of the current MBP.

The features and marketing seem more tailored to the consumer market but they sure aren't shy of sticking a professional price tag on there.

I was really hoping for a second internal SDD and more focus on performance and I/O.

October 28, 2016 at 5:05PM

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Tom Hirschmann
Aerial Specialist
1

At one point, I considered buying the Mac Pro (aka, the trash can), but the insanely high price point and distinct lack of expandability were too hard to ignore.

October 28, 2016 at 5:48PM, Edited October 28, 5:48PM

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Glenn Bossik
Videographer
150

Several times I've heard people who do not work in creative fields say things like "Macs are used in creative fields" and I always laugh a little bit, and then correct them. "This is a myth" I say. This was true 10 years ago, but Apple is almost completely gone from editing houses in 2016. It's shocking how many people still believe that creative people don't care at all about price or useful functionality.

October 31, 2016 at 12:13PM

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Hey everyone,
how to know when Apple will stop selling the precious model, MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2015) ?
Apple Store sellers and the online chat refuse to answer this question.
Thanks already!

November 3, 2016 at 12:28PM

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kevin
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