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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 67% brighter, 25% larger gamut, 67% greater contrast range
- 4 USB 3/Thunderbolt 3 ports
- 17% thinner than previous generation, 23% smaller volume
- 14.9mm thick
- 3lb, nearly .5lbs less than previous
- 15.5mm thick
- 14% thinner
- 20% smaller in volume
- 4lbs, .5lbs less than previous generation